Legislative elections 2024: “Our country is in danger”, warns Nobel Prize winner Jean Tirole

Legislative elections 2024: “Our country is in danger”, warns Nobel Prize winner Jean Tirole

Jean Tirole est prix Nobel d'économie. ANSA – TINO ROMANO

Nobel Prize winner in economics in 2014 and honorary president of the Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), Jean Tirole is considered one of the most influential contemporary economists of our time. Before the second round of legislative elections, Sunday July 7, 2024, he analyzes the economic programs of the National Rally and the New Popular Front and expresses his concern about certain measures.

What are the economic issues of the programs of the National Rally and the New Popular Front ? These programs claim to respond to the discontent and concerns of citizens.

But it is a lack of respect for them to resort to magic money and old ideas with harmful consequences in the short or long term, such as freezing prices and rents or resorting to a command economy. ; it is a lack of respect for them to invoke sources of financing that yield little to hide the coming explosion of debt. What could result from the application of these programs can only worry any citizen concerned with preserving our social system and our liberal democracy.

We cannot increase purchasing power without growth

The two programs, although different, mainly focus on sharing wealth, the pie, and contain very few measures leading to the creation of wealth, increasing the size of the pie. However, the too slow growth in the purchasing power of the French comes precisely from the short-term policies followed for five decades, gradually eroding our education, our universities, our public finances, our innovation and our industry. Let us be clear: inequality, and first and foremost inequality of opportunity, is an existential problem, and we can do more to reduce it; but the lack of a lasting response to the demands of the French will not solve the problem of purchasing power. We cannot redistribute money that we do not have.

Debt is expensive

France is living beyond its means. Its deficits are sometimes justified: significant state spending during Covid saved many traders and businesses. But overall, they serve to finance consumption, doing little to prepare for the future. Ultimately the public debt – our debt to all – went from 30 to 110% of GNP in 40 years. Its reimbursement is costly to our fellow citizens. In the event of a victory for the RN or NFP, it will put a much greater burden on the purchasing power of the French, for two reasons.

First of all, the large budget deficits created by the application of these programs will quickly inflate the debt, mechanically increasing its repayment. Then, lenders will charge higher interest rates. Today, France borrows with a maturity of 10 years at a rate of 3.2% while Germany pays 2.4%; the difference in borrowing rates between the two countries (the "spread") will seriously increase. A lot of money burned for nothing, which could be used to finance education, health or the ecological transition…

Both programs support demand, and expect new tax revenues to limit the increase in debt. This is forgetting two facts: first of all, employment is at its highest level for a long time and there is not much to revive. Then, France is an open economy and it is our trading partners who will benefit from our recovery, increasing an already dizzying balance of payments deficit.

The risks in Europe of our headlong rush

Unlike Covid-related spending, the massive increase in state spending is a political choice: this French pathology of over-indebtedness will be perceived from the outside as a solitary and inconsequential experience that ;It is advisable not to accompany anyone. The European Central Bank will probably not intervene to save France, and moreover, it has no right to do so in such a situation.

As for the other Member States, they will not accept opportunistic behavior that we would never accept from them. Furthermore, the non-compliance with European rules proposed by the two programs could well mark the end of European construction with the associated risks and the economic and geopolitical downgrading of France, too small to act on global regulations or to prevent autocratic leaders, such as Putin, to lay down the law.

Companies are not taxable

The NFP program places a heavy burden on businesses. French and foreign companies will invest abroad rather than in France, depriving our fellow citizens of sources of employment and income. In addition, the sudden increase in the minimum wage will reduce the hiring of the least qualified.

More generally, unemployment, which had fallen thanks to unemployment insurance and apprenticeship reforms and the fact that foreign companies trusted our country to invest, will rise again. To hide this development, the NFP wants to create subsidized jobs in associations and communities, while studies show that these jobs are most often not real jobs and are harmful to the future of their holders.< /p>

The RN maintains the fanciful idea that penalizing immigrants can enrich the country. All studies show that the cost of immigration for public finances is close to zero (immigrants contribute slightly less, because they are more unemployed, but receive significantly less social benefits than the French because they are younger on average), and that ultimately, immigration benefits our economy (by providing workers in professions in shortage in particular).

Let us respect our fellow citizens

Let us take two emblematic and demagogic measures of the two programs: the abolition of the pension reform and subsidies for energy prices. Many French people were dissatisfied with the pension reform; the latter, it is true, could have been more ambitious and more balanced at the same time. But they also know that a reform is necessary: ​​the balance of the system requires either higher contributions (but they are a burden on the active), or lower pensions, or an extension of the duration of the work. The choice between these three is a societal choice. Quite simply, we cannot have it both ways. Going back on this reform, already insufficient two years later, is madness.

The massive increase in fossil fuel subsidies will have serious consequences for our climate goals (any discount on the price of gasoline is a subsidy to oil). The RN does not seem without concern. The NFP, torn between three components with irreconcilable philosophies, offers an ecological policy that is either incoherent (massive subsidies for oil and renewable energies!) or indeterminate (no position on nuclear power, although it is essential to avoid polluting too much in the coming decades). come). Beyond poorly thought out climate policies, let us also note that the drop in the price of gasoline will benefit wealthy categories much more!

Why not try ?

Apart from those who make it their priesthood to attack the market economy, liberal social democracy, and Europe, many of those who are preparing to vote RN or NFP do so out of dissatisfaction and because’ « we haven't tried it yet, so why not ? ». Trying, however, must not plunge the country into downgrading, which will necessarily affect the less well-off, but rather prepare for its future.

Some in the case of the RN say they are reassured by the fact that Jordan Bardella is backpedaling. Certainly, and my opinion is that the RN is focused on the 2027 presidential election and wants to avoid an economic crisis before then. But then what is the point of voting for a party which will only implement its program later and in the meantime will plunge the country into political chaos unprecedented in recent French history ?

Our country is in danger. Moderates make unnatural alliances, neglecting that entrusting the country to the demagogues who built both programs endangers our social democracy. Our compass should be investment in our collective future.

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