The Macron law: Technocracy or Abolition of Privileges?

The Macron law Technocracy or Abolition of PrivilegesThe bill for the growth and activity presented on Wednesday, December 10 for the French parliament to ponder on, it brushes on topics as diverse as work on Sundays, legal professions, employee savings or disposal of state shareholdings.

“The law for the growth and activity is to act on all levers to foster renewed growth, investment and employment.” Built on three pillars “Freedom, Investing, Working,” it will be reviewed from January 22 in public at the National Assembly. This controversial project has definitely brought a stir to the French and Europeans as a whole. To better understand its objectives, we must go back in history.

The organization of notaries, taxi profession, the legal profession, the profession of banker and others were hardly altered only under the government of Pierre Laval in 1935, or under the Vichy regime, to further strengthen their corporatism.

The Macron law stands today under the banner of free enterprise, limited by the organization and a quasi-corporation number of regulated professions. In March 1791, the decree of Allarde abolished corporations and established the freedom of trade and industry, that is to say the companies. Does the parallel deserve a comparison?

The Revolution processed brutally, by law, to an opening of regulated professions that had originated in England, but where the radical progressive transformation has been called industrial revolution.

In France, by contrast, the Revolution established equality between all citizens in the Civil Code and abolished the privileges (including tax), which made the loss acceptable in terms of social protections posed for their profit by corporations, which were found in minority, however, very powerful, especially in the cities.

Yet the Revolution led the protest, from the times of Empire in part and especially after 1815 with the return of the monarchy, the restoration of many corporations and loads more or less under their form of Old Regime. Some of them have not changed until today.

Best new corporations were built in an economic regulatory processes jointly run by the government, anxious abount industrial development, and by employers of frequently rentier mindset, as indicated by Jean-Pierre Hirsch (The Two Dreams trade, Ed. EHESS, 1991).

Convincing the French

The long depression of the 1930s generated professions that were entitled to claim the protective rules, and led to explicitly corporatist regime of Vichy. Paradoxically, the Liberation Council of Governors endorsed them for most, firstly as instruments of state power, and then to get their approval to the creation of new social rights and the universal principle, that of Social Security.

Thus, the Revolution had replaced special rights (or privileges) by a national law. Restoration and co-regulation of business then rebuilt a set of privileges, become binding and sometimes ineffective in 1789.

The challenge is now to convince the French who often hold special rights related to their profession that to abandon them is not part of a general process of “liberalization” (which also weakens the universal social rights), but can otherwise help strengthen them.

But this would require the government to be able to identify these universal and legitimate social rights, make them readable (such as an individual account rights), and not to convince the professionals that it is not trying to weaken or replace the social securities. Failure to do so quickly will bring the risk to see soon a reactionary government strengthen all corporatism and challenge the universal rights, as once the Vichy regime did.

This is because it does not draw a clear enough political line that the government considers the risk of Macron law as a purely technocratic initiative, because its main role should be first defined as the public interest.

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