Daniel Hannan, como quase sempre, spot on: Marine Le Pen is winning votes by pushing rhetoric that caused France’s problems
Protectionism inflicts the greatest harm on the least well off – who are often, paradoxically, its supporters.
When it comes to economics, Marine Le Pen is well to the Left of the French Socialists. She wants wealth taxes, nationalisation, higher social spending and tariffs.
Globalisation, the National Front leader told the crowd at her campaign launch in Lyons, meant “manufacture by slaves for sale to the unemployed”. This is almost the precise opposite of the truth. Globalisation – free trade, to give it its less loaded name – always brings net benefits to the countries that practice it. There are losers as well as winners, true; but the losers are necessarily outnumbered by the winners. And those losers are generally not skilled manufacturing workers. Rather, they tend to be the lowest-paid immigrants, often in the textiles sector. Madame Le Pen would have been more accurate to describe globalisation as “a way to tackle France’s chronic unemployment by creating many more well-paid jobs in exchange for exporting a smaller number of badly paid jobs”.
In fact, though, Mme Le Pen is offering more of the medicine that sickened the patient. Protectionism and welfarism are the causes of France’s troubles. The French budget has not been in balance since 1974. In order to defend the privileges of state employees, successive governments have allowed the country as a whole to become less competitive, more strike-prone, more sclerotic and poorer.
It’s the same story every time. Protectionism inflicts the greatest harm on the least well off – who are often, paradoxically, its supporters. The Corn Laws were a massive wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs brought misery to America’s workers. Today’s anti-market agitators – the Trumps and the Tsiprases as much as the Le Pens – will find the same thing.
The true solution to France’s malaise is the one thing that hasn’t been tried there – at least, not since the mid-nineteenth century – namely a free market. Sadly, no candidate is seriously proposing it.