Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The French Must Rediscover the Taste for Individual Freedom: An Interview with Professor Pascal Salin

Posted by M. C. on October 19, 2022

PS: It is true that we can consider this situation as surprising and regrettable. But it seems obvious that this is so because classical liberalism is not an objective for most French people, who, therefore, have no particular interest in classical liberal policies applied in other countries.

The same applies for US.

Matthieu Creson

Pascal Salin is an economist, professor emeritus at the University of Paris-Dauphine, and was president of the Mont-Pelerin Society from 1994 to 1996. Among the extensive list of books Professor Salin has published, mention can be made of the following titles: La vérité sur la monnaie (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1990), Libéralisme (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2000), Français, n’ayez pas peur du libéralisme (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2007), Revenir au capitalisme pour éviter les crises (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2010), La tyrannie fiscale (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2014; translated into English as Tax Tyranny [Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2020]), Le vrai libéralisme: droite et gauche unies dans l’erreur (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2019).

Matthieu Creson (MC): How do you judge Emmanuel Macron’s first five-year term economically and socially? You said in an interview with Le Figaro magazine, at the time of the 2017 presidential campaign, that Emmanuel Macron was not a classical liberal, and you wrote in 2018 that his tax policy was fiscal tinkering. Is this still the case in your opinion?

Pascal Salin (PS): Indeed, I published an article in Le Figaro-Magazine in 2017 entitled No, Emmanuel Macron is not a classical liberal (contrary to what was then the case of François Fillon—who was then also running for president). France had experienced low growth in previous years because the policies that had been implemented, far from being inspired by classical liberalism, were on the contrary based on the growth of taxation and regulations. Emmanuel Macron was appointed in 2014 Minister of the Economy by President François Hollande. It then seemed obvious to me that he was not a real classical liberal, contrary to what was sometimes claimed. Public spending represented 59 percent of GDP in 2021 (and 63 percent in 2020), a slightly higher amount than in all previous years; and public deficit has also become more significant. It is obvious that one cannot consider as a classical liberal a president who increases public activities in relation to private ones. For example, health insurance expenses are public rather than private and the choice of retirement age is the result of a public decision and not a private choice.

MC: What do you think of the assumption (from which most of the media seem to start in their coverage of current political divisions) according to which there would be on one side the “globalists” and the “liberals,” and on the other the “populists”? For a long time, the main political and ideological dividing line was that between classical liberals, supporters of economic freedom and globalization through the market, and socialists, favorable to redistribution and state interventionism. Doesn’t the current cleavage which seems to serve, particularly in the media, as the one and only interpretative framework of today’s political world, mask the real cleavage, that is to say that which opposes the authentic classical liberals on one side, and the collectivists on the other?

PS: It is true—and regrettable—that the opposition between classical liberals and socialists is generally not highlighted in today’s world by politicians and by all citizens. Thus, it is not appropriate to consider that the political parties of the Left are socialist and the parties of the Right classical liberal. Both have more or less the same ideas and tend to make the same decisions. This is also why a book I published in 2019 is titled True Classical Liberalism—Right and Left United in Error (in French: Le vrai libéralisme: droite et gauche unies dans l’erreur). The examples in this book prove that equivalent (nonclassical liberal) policies have been taken over the past decades regardless of the parties in power.

MC: I’m going back to Emmanuel Macron and his economic policy. Do you think he has a chance (and already a real will) to lead, since the start of his second presidential term, some of the structural reforms that France has actually needed for at least forty years? Or is it more likely for you that other so-called “reforms” (in the continuity of those carried out by Chirac, Sarkozy, or Hollande) will see the light of day in the years to come, against a probable background of presidential and governmental communication centered on necessary “transformation” and “modernization” of France—a transformation and modernization which should indeed be a priority for our country?

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