17 March 2023
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
This journal has, by and large, been supportive of Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic. A competent technocrat of the center, he has done things that make perfect sense for his country. In his latest move, though, he has lost the thread. Yesterday, he raised the retirement age of French citizens to 64 from 62. That is not the problem, though. What one finds irksome is his decision to do it by decree rather than letting the National Assembly vote on it. This was a perfectly sound move constitutionally, but as a political maneuver, it undermines the credibility of the government. Fires in the Place de la Concorde and 120 arrested protesters (so far) are just the beginning one fears.
Mr. Macron has had pension reform on his agenda since he was campaigning for re-elections, and quite possibly before that. He claims to have run the numbers and discovered that the change to 64 years from 62 was necessary. Perhaps, he is right. With any mathematical model, though, the result is only as good as the assumptions one makes about the future. Different assumptions will yield different results. So the case is not as clear-cut as he would like the public to believe.
Worse, there is a nasty clause in the law that says one can retire at 64 if and only if one has worked for 43 years. That is an incredible burden on anyone who went to university and graduate school or who took time off from work to raise children (read: women). The average graduate student may not enter the workforce until his or her mid-twenties. Caregivers can easily be out of the workforce for 10 years. Each year spent doing those things is a year that does not count toward a pension.
There is significant opposition (as one would expect) from both the left and the right, and plain old normal people who want to enjoy their golden years. The opposition was so strong that minutes before the National Assembly was to vote on it, the president invoked Article 49:3. This allows him to simply declare that a bill is a law. The government then faces a vote of confidence. This may or may not pass.
Historically, the Fifth Republic has been around for about 60 years. In those decades, the article has been invoked about 100 times. It is not a new development. Most of the time, the bill in question had to do with funding matters and not basic changes to the social contract. So, while technically permissible, the move seems to violate the spirit of the matter.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne did not pull any punches in expressing the view she shares with Mr. Macron. "We cannot bet on the future of our pensions and this reform is necessary," she told the lower house.”
Marine LePen, of the far-right and who challenged Mr. Macron for the presidency last time around, argued that the failure to muster a majority in the lower house was a personal failing of Mr. Macron. "It\'s his reform, he\'s the one who proposed it and defended it during his campaign," she said.
The BBC reports The unions, which have already masterminded eight days of protests across France, earlier appealed to MPs to reject the reforms.
The law may or may not be good for France in the long run. Right now, it was pushed through in a most unseemly way. This will come back to haunt the remaining years of the Macron administration.
© Copyright 2023 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.