The end of liberalism, the return of France

Posted November 25, 2022, 8:00am

What a great idea to find reasons for hope in economic news! By itself, exercise is necessarily beneficial. But don’t think it’s contrived, and that François Lenglet has tried to list a series of joyful epiphenomena in a world that is less so. On the contrary, he lists all the rather obscure events that make up our daily lives in his book. But the thought of him is systemic. Like a puzzle whose pieces, without meaning or beauty when taken separately, finally form a sublime picture, it shows that the current scourges are perhaps the trees that hide the forest. For him, the succession of crises we are experiencing are just the convulsions of a dying world. A world that has brought too many dysfunctions, over four decades, to regret it. A world that could be that of a corrected, amended, renewed capitalism.

What is brewing before our eyes is exact magic: 1) improvement in purchasing power; 2) a world in which inequalities between capital and labor would be reduced; 3) a France that rediscovered the labor market of the 1960s; 4) a reindustrialized Hexagon, at the forefront of new technologies; 5) a powerful made in France; 6) a more assertive France in Europe, on a par with Germany. Too good to be true ? Not necessarily.

We live in an in-between period

We live, explains François Lenglet, in an intermediate period. We discover his scourges day after day. In bulk: the return of war to Europe, which was thought impossible. The decline of international institutions. The outbreak of global pandemics, Covid in the lead. Inflation, “which has taken, like summer fires, to become, like them, impossible to contain despite central bank action around the world.” The weaknesses of growth. The threat of an explosion of monetary union. Electricity rationing on the horizon. Climatic disturbances. The political crisis that puts diplomacy to the test. “Wherever you turn, it’s regression. The confusion. The tensions. For the distant children of the Enlightenment that we are, who mildly imagined that the march of the world was marked by the arrows of Progress, the accumulation of disasters and failures raises doubts. How to explain this fatal synchronicity of geopolitical, macroeconomic, climatic and epidemic calendars? »

In reality, the plates move. We go from one model to another. Definitely in pain. “Some of these events boil down to a single cause, of which they are the expression each in its own field, explains the columnist: the transition from one model to another, as the world experiences at regular intervals – roughly one turn a century. And then a new pattern emerges, on the ruins of the one that disappears before our eyes in sometimes frightening convulsions. »

The consumer loses, the employee wins

After forty years of liberalism, we are seeing the return of borders and public power in the economy. The war in Ukraine and the Covid epidemic forced us to immediately rethink, a “reset”, in short. It was Germany that ended forty years of procrastination on its military spending. It is France that has pulled the word “planning” out of the drawer for the ecological transition, given that the climate crisis installs the state as a supplier of basic necessities. Less market, more State. Less globalization, a fragmentation of the world into large slabs. Without a single power to dominate the planet, trade falls within regional zones. The liberal cycle gives way to the protectionist cycle.

The consumer is less at the party when low-cost products no longer come from China. But the employee wins: less competition from his Asian colleagues, he finds room for negotiation. “Yesterday’s world preferred to produce cheaper even if it was abroad, tomorrow’s world will prefer to produce at home even if it costs more. In such a universe, it is capital that will foot the bill; the shareholder has been, it is true, since the 1980s, the great winner of the liberal cycle and of the financialisation of the economy.

A world that fits us perfectly

This new world should suit France better than the previous one. Because the State is essential there. Because industrial policy is back. Because competitiveness will be less important than state intelligence. Because we are better diplomats than economists. Because the imprisonment of Russia or China penalizes us less than the Germans. And because inflation will allow us to pay off our debts in monkey money. It will also reduce the share of pensions in relation to wages, provided that the former are less valued than the latter. “That’s how the French reform goes, slips François Lenglet: it must not be said that it is successful. »

Nothing is right but… 2023, the year that can save us

by Francois Lenglet. Plon Editions, 252 pages, 16.90 euros.

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