In France, the socialists have won: nobody seems very happy this Christmas. Champagne sales are down, France’s top actor and its richest man have both fled to Belgium, and families everywhere are cutting back on toys for their kids. “For the first time, toys this year have become a variable [in household budgets],” Serge Papin, head of the Système U supermarket chain, told the always estimable Financial Times. “People are no longer choosing between types of toys – it’s only the price that counts.”
All that’s needed to cement the victory over the holiday spirit would be a carbon emissions tax on airborne sleighs and a new visa regime to reduce travel from the North Pole. Put those in place and the decadent bourgeois holiday known as Christmas will be a thing of the past.
Yet the triumph of egalitarianism and the dawn of enlightened social policy doesn’t seem to be spreading good cheer. The French national statistics office has released some very depressing economic statistics: no growth is expected in 2013 and unemployment will rise past 11 percent. Instead of thanking President Hollande for restoring social harmony and making the rich pay the highest income tax rates in the world, voters are turning away from as he sinks to George W. Bush levels in national polls.
Sadly, the French don’t seem to understand that utopia is more important than empty fripperies like champagne, toys and jobs. Despite the best efforts of their leaders, some of them at least cling to the idea that policies should be assessed on the basis of their consequences rather than by the nobility of the intentions behind them. One sympathizes deeply with President Hollande: how can anyone build something as noble as socialism out of human material this flabby and weak?
The FT piece quotes the head of a leading champagne producer saying morosely that “Champagne consumption follows the mood of the country. Today, there isn’t a mood conducive to celebration.” He’s right about that and, unfortunately for President Hollande, when people don’t feel like celebrating, they also don’t feel much like investing or creating jobs.