PARIS -- French libraries are said to file their nation's constitutions -- there have been more than a dozen since 1789; the current one is a relatively ancient 49 years old -- under periodicals. Now Nicolas Sarkozy, France's peripatetic new president, has created a commission on constitutional reform. The commission includes Jack Lang who, as minister of culture in 1983 under President Francois Mitterrand, staged a sublimely unserious conference on the (supposed) world economic crisis, featuring the likes of Sophia Loren, Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer.
Is Sarkozy a serious man? Some American conservatives consider him a kindred spirit and think they see in his election a heartening portent of their coming revival: He succeeded an intensely unpopular two-term president of his own party (Jacques Chirac) by promising bold reforms. Perhaps.
But Guy Sorman, a conservative writer who has known Sarkozy in politics and as, he says, a friend for 30 years, believes that like most politicians the president is not a man of culture and ideas, but unlike most French politicians "he does not pretend to be." He is, Sorman says, a "Keynesian" -- a believer in using government to regulate the economy by managing demand -- "who doesn't know who Keynes was."
Sarkozy does know of Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, who was one of Margaret Thatcher's intellectual heroes. Sarkozy has, however, said, "I don't wake up every morning asking what Hayek or Adam Smith would have done." That is, unfortunately, obvious. A fountain of suspiciously opaque formulations (he advocates "regulated liberalism" and "humane globalization"), he is pleased that "the word 'protection' is no longer taboo." (When was it ever taboo in France?) He is committed to continuing protections of the most cosseted French faction, the farmers. When calling for a "genuine European industrial policy," he asks: "Competition as an ideology, as a dogma, what has it done for Europe?" Worse, he wants to curtail the independence of -- that is, politicize -- the one institution that can save France from itself, the European Central Bank, which can restrain France's ruinous preferences for a loose monetary policy and inflation as slow-motion repudiation of debt.
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