Emmanuel Macron and the Estates General
French President Emmanuel Macron will not be going to Davos to meet the billionaires that control the world. Instead Macron asked some of them to meet him in France.
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the world’s Davos-bound business elite at the Palace of Versailles on Monday in an effort to mend France’s image, badly bruised by the yellow-vest protests.
Some 150 executives, including Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive James Dimon, and Coca-Cola Co. chief executive James Quincey, met with Mr. Macron at the sprawling palace just outside Paris.
“A lot of people thought it was not a good date to gather here,” Mr. Macron told his guests, in reference to the French King Louis XVI, who was executed by means of the guillotine on Jan. 21, exactly 226 years ago on Monday. “But when you look at French history, if at the end they finished like that, it’s because a lot of leaders decided not to reform,” he added.
There are two key takeaways from this quick quote.
1) Did you notice how many American companies (plus Mars, Procter & Gamble, Cisco) are mentioned?
2) The HUBRIS!
The French working class have been protesting the "president of the rich" for months, and he just essentially told them to Eat Cake.
It's from this gilded room, with the gold desk, that he decided was the best place to address people protesting inequality?
... There had been outrage among gilets jaunes when an MP from Macron’s party, La République En Marche, was recently unable to state the minimum wage on TV or when a cabinet minister trying to show the gulf between the working poor and the political elite appeared to complain that Paris dinners cost “€200 without wine”.
The real kicker is Macron's solution to the protests - a national debate.
First of all, there is no debate because Macron is completely tone deaf to anyone outside of the wealthy elite. Macron is following a very well-traveled path.
“Too many of our citizens think they can get what they want without hard work,” Macron imperially lectured the nation last week...
Indeed, Macron’s boxcar load of belligerent responses to the disenfranchised is nothing new in France. Back in the 15th century, gangs of coquillards, the economic and social casualties of the Hundred Years War, terrified the crown. The government commonly described them as “dispossessed, deserters, destitute or those who simply refuse to work.” And, when they eventually did find work, Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert advised his sovereign King Louis XIV that “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.”
King Louis XIV may give us important lessons, but the man of the hour is King Louis XVI. Not just because of Macron's intentional reference, but because of his unintentional reference.
You see, a French leader calling for a national debate is not something new.
Macron’s decision to call upon his citizens to prepare for a national conversation recalls Louis XVI’s decision to call upon his subjects to, well, prepare for a national conversation. In the king’s case, this led to the cahiers de doléances, or lists of grievances, which locally chosen representatives wrote up and sent to Versailles before the convening of the Estates General in 1789. Given the world-altering events that followed later that year, the seismic rumble of the cahiers de doléances is often overlooked. Yet it was an unprecedented exercise, not just in 18th century France but throughout Europe, in uncensored and unbound popular expression.
Macron has learned nothing from Louis XVI.
Louis XVI badly underestimated how unhappy the commoners were because they were completely out of touch.
Louis XVI thought that he could pacify the unrest with minor concessions.
Macron is guilty of all the same mistakes.
When all of these people get together to discuss their problems in the more than 5,000 city halls, they are likely to discover that they have much in common. Who knows what they might decide to reform. And what will they do when Macron inevitably decides not to reform?