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February 13, 2017

What decides the French elections: cult or programme?

One of the questions we are asking ourselves this morning is whether Emmanuel Macron's admission that he wants to respect the 3% deficit rule will play into the hands of Marine Le Pen. Before, the media portrayed him as a saviour, and as anti-establishment, but the cult becomes harder to square with his programme. 

Le Pen seems to have concluded that now the party’s programme is out there, it is time to launch herself as the French heroine, a sort of modern Jeanne d’Arc. True to her fundamentals, she lashes out against global finance and mass immigration, and presents herself as a saviour of a dispossessed France in image and sound. 

Macron chose to move into the other direction. Responding to the critics who accused him of cult without substance, he is now giving out some hints about his programme. The latest is that he will respect the 3% deficit rule from the Maastricht treaty as outlined by Jean Pisani-Ferry in an interview with JdD. This puts him between Benoît Hamon, who wants an end to the 3% dogma, and Francois Fillon, who promised a balanced budget by 2022. A more detailed programme will be presented February 22. We think that this dents his anti-establishment credentials. And it is risky if he is to face Marine Le Pen in the final round. The magazine Marianne finds that Macron does not promise enough to respond to those who consider themselves the losers of globalisation. To talk about their anger will not be enough, and they might end up backing Le Pen.

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February 13, 2017

Sense and nonsense on globalisation

Dani Rodrick once pointed out that the economics profession is guilty of exaggerating the case for free trade. His point is not that the opposite is true, but that the argument for free trade is a lot more subtle than the certainty expressed by the profession in its public discourse.

Yesterday we came across what must surely be the mother of all exaggerations by an economist. This from Mark J Perry:

“It’s a scientifically and mathematically provable fact that all tariffs, at any time and in any country, will harm economic growth, eliminate net jobs, destroy prosperity, and lower the standard of living of the protectionist country because tariffs are guaranteed by the ironclad laws of economics to generate costs to consumers that outweigh the benefits to producers.”

It is hard to begin listing what's wrong with assertion. For a start, this is not science. Nor is the assertion "mathematically provable" - we are talking about models! - and no statement in economics is ever "true at any time and in any country". 

Why not say that the benefits of free trade are large and persistent across time and regions while acknowledging that free trade can also disadvantage some groups in society, who will thus have a rational reason to oppose it? 

Rodrick himself has been one of the few economists critical of his own profession, particular of the way it chooses to communicate. In his latest column, he comes to the defence of Theresa May’s assertion that "if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” He says that he himself could fit this category (as would we). 

“And yet May’s statement strikes a chord. It contains an essential truth – the disregard of which says much about how we – the world’s financial, political, and technocratic elite – distanced ourselves from our compatriots and lost their trust.”

He then goes on to ask what do global citizens really do?

“Real citizenship entails interacting and deliberating with other citizens in a shared political community. It means holding decision-makers to account and participating in politics to shape the policy outcomes... Global citizens do not have similar rights or responsibilities. No one is accountable to them, and there is no one to whom they must justify themselves.”

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February 13, 2017

Towards the next European crisis

The choreography of European crises is always the same. A long period of complacency is followed immediately by panic, without transition. The Greek crisis is now back on everybody’s agenda, as European officials are slowly realising that the IMF is digging in its heels. And Alexis Tsipras is now screaming at Wolfgang Schäuble, and is calling on Angela Merkel not to allow her finance minister to wreck the EU.

The same camplacency-to-panic transition is now occurring over Brexit. We noted a report in Frankfurter Allgemeine according to which Jean-Claude Juncker believes that the UK will find it easy easy to split the EU, by promising different things to different countries. The EU would have show unity in view of Brexit and Donald Trump, but he said he doubted that it would do that. 

In his FT column on the re-emerging Greek crisis, Wolfgang Münchau argues that the underlying problem is a failure to speak truth to power. This failure is noticeable now when somebody actually speaks the truth - like the IMF did when it said that Greek debt is unsustainable, and that debt relief is needed. The problem is that everybody lied when they crafted the third Greek bailout. The Germans lied when they accepted the principle of debt relief, knowing full well that they could never agree to it. The Greeks lied when they committed themselves to reforms they would never implement, and fiscal targets they could never reach. And everybody else is lying when they say that Greek debt is sustainable. The Greek crisis is ultimately a failure to tell the truth. This is his conclusion:

“When the truth dies, we should not be surprised if alternative facts are put in its place.

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  • The threat of Frexit
  • Fear and loathing of a referendum in Spain
  • How to get around Theresa May’s little ECJ issue
  • Solve the problem
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • June 11, 2019
  • Politics and the new sense of urgency
  • Ten little monkeys jumping up and down - down mostly
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • November 13, 2017
  • A pro-European list: Wauquiez' nightmare
  • Catalan separatism isn't going away
  • Why oh why does Germany behave the way it does?
  • Why the four freedoms matter
  • February 02, 2017
  • Will it come to the use of force in Catalonia?
  • The day Brexit became irreversible
  • Can Trump and May succeed?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • February 13, 2019
  • What to make of the man in the pub - and other tales
  • Macron loses more early advisers - or cuts them loose
  • June 01, 2018
  • Will France and Germany stick together in their response to US trade tariffs?
  • From a eurozone budget to a slush fund
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 09, 2019
  • The EU's impossible dilemma
  • The horsetrading starts in Sibiu
  • May to bring withdrawal bill to Commons week after next
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 16, 2019
  • What next, after EU sanctions Turkey?
  • What to make of Johnson’s four-point Brexit plan
  • Galileo fails, and nobody notices
  • March 04, 2019
  • Macron's two-month sprint
  • May's numbers are not there yet
  • Greening QE
  • On the "hope" of a rate raise
  • October 22, 2018
  • A week of intense political tension in the UK
  • Poland's local elections reveal deeply-split country
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • September 21, 2017
  • Time to get serious about Brexit
  • Would the FDP claim the job of finance minister?
  • The return of the ultra-right to German politics
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • August 05, 2019
  • No deal first, elections later
  • Free movement of labour? Not for politicians
  • Europe already lost the digital battle
  • June 24, 2019
  • Economic reform has torn up the SPD - climate policy does the same for the CDU/CSU
  • Not intruding, not really
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • April 02, 2019
  • Meaningless II
  • What will come out of the grand débat?
  • February 22, 2019
  • The maths of a Brexit deal
  • Does public protest crowd out of climate change?
  • January 16, 2019
  • And now think about this standoff from the perspective of the EU
  • What can the French learn from Brexit?
  • December 10, 2018
  • ECJ says UK free to revoke Article 50, even inside extension period
  • A turning point in Macron's presidency
  • China has added Portugal to the list of its key EU partners
  • Belgium's coalition implodes over Marrakesh pact
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 01, 2018
  • After the referendum, more turmoil in Macedonia
  • What will happen if the UK parliament votes No?
  • Barnier's no-thanks works much better than a yes-please
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • July 27, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - trade edition
  • A test of Pedro Sánchez' majority
  • June 25, 2018
  • Trump's car tariff to come early
  • On the lack of a sharp focus in the eurozone debate
  • May 23, 2018
  • Mattarella’s limited options
  • April 23, 2018
  • More bad news for the SPD
  • Will Theresa May accept a customs union? The Times says yes. We think so too.
  • A comeback for Marine Le Pen?
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • January 30, 2018
  • Will Puigdemont be Catalan premier today?
  • Some thoughts about the German car industry
  • A short note on Italian coalition maths
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 08, 2017
  • Schulz' Europe
  • November 15, 2017
  • A Christmas bonus for poor Greeks
  • Dim prospects of negotiated de-escalation on Catalonia
  • Macron's favourite to succeed Juncker - first round
  • On sovereignty
  • Gli Azzurri
  • October 24, 2017
  • Is Kaczynski tired of ruling behind the scenes?
  • An era of movements instead of parties?
  • On the decline of the traditional parties
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • August 23, 2017
  • Is Macron neo-protectionistic?
  • No, it is not easy to get rid of the stability pact
  • August 04, 2017
  • What the diesel saga tells us about the EU
  • July 17, 2017
  • What Tony Blair's Brexit confusion tells us
  • Schulz advocates compulsory investments
  • Italy’s government has effectively lost its majority
  • June 30, 2017
  • Recurring Brexit myths
  • On EU citizen rights
  • On Brexodus
  • June 14, 2017
  • Minority governments can be stronger and more stable than you think
  • The anti-Corbyn
  • Watch out for Berlusconi
  • May 30, 2017
  • Beer tent politics - Merkel edition
  • Brexit arrives in UK elections
  • Rajoy clears budget hurdle
  • May 15, 2017
  • SPD and CDU disagree on how to respond to Macron
  • Was Rajoy blackmailed?
  • The rise of the re-leavers
  • May 02, 2017
  • An accident waiting to happen
  • Matteo Renzi wins PD primaries
  • So much for the Schulz effect
  • April 21, 2017
  • Are the elections the result of Bregret speculation?
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • March 29, 2017
  • B-Day
  • Wargaming Catalan independence
  • Macron's strategy for the legislative elections
  • March 21, 2017
  • Is Merkel going to say something?
  • On how to think about Brexit and defence
  • March 13, 2017
  • Poland and the future of the EU
  • Polls show 40% support for Costa's Socialists
  • Council of Europe questions Spanish constitutional court reform
  • March 05, 2017
  • Poland vs Tusk
  • Juppé - a recovered candidate?
  • Will Italy leave the euro?
  • February 28, 2017
  • Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?
  • Something we just don’t understand
  • Solve the problem
  • February 24, 2017
  • Schulz effect stabilises
  • Wilders security breach becomes campaign issue
  • Kenny wants Ireland clause in Brexit deal
  • On why Europe should not overreact to Trump
  • February 20, 2017
  • SPD ahead of CDU/CSU
  • Fillon bounces back
  • The Brexit timetable
  • February 15, 2017
  • Fillon under fire
  • More headaches for Rutte
  • Who are the bigots now?
  • February 14, 2017
  • Elites vs underdogs - French edition
  • A rock on the road to Brexit
  • A short note on politicised forecasting
  • February 13, 2017
  • What decides the French elections: cult or programme?
  • Sense and nonsense on globalisation
  • Towards the next European crisis