Monday, May 07, 2007

The French 'Cozy Up

Mark Steyn discusses the meaning of Nicolas Sarkozy's as French Grand Poobwah and its likelyhood of national course change. Could Sarkozy become France's Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan? of those small anecdotes that seems almost too perfect a distillation of Continental politics. It was a news item from 2005: A fellow in Marseilles was charged with fraud because he lived with the dead body of his mother for five years in order to continue receiving her pension of 700 euros a month.

She was 94 when she croaked, so she'd presumably been enjoying the old government check for a good three decades or so, but her son figured he might as well keep the money rolling in until her second century and, with her corpse tucked away under a pile of rubbish in the living room, the female telephone voice he put on for the benefit of the social services office was apparently convincing enough. As the Reuters headline put it: "Frenchman Lived With Dead Mother To Keep Pension."

Think of France as that flat in Marseilles, and its economy as the dead mother, and the country's many state benefits as monsieur's deceased mom's benefits. To the outside observer, the French give the impression they can live with the stench of death as long as the government benefits keep coming. If that's the case, the new president will have the shortest of honeymoons.

Obviously, Steyn predicts that Nicolas Sarkozy will not be allowed to be a Thatcher or Reagan, but instead an Angela Merkel:

[...] Just as Frau Merkel proved not to be Germany's Thatcher, I would be surprised if Nicolas Sarkozy turned out to be France's Reagan. Not because he doesn't have Reaganite tendencies but because the French electorate, like the Germans, aren't there yet.

Steyn is probably right, although I would hope that his election would at least prove to be baby steps forward in French rehabilitation.

John Fund: "With Mr. Sarkozy's victory, France's government looks like it will finally have some energetic adult supervision."

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