Okay, so: I started working here a year ago this week, leaving a job I loved (The Guardian), working for one of the great editors of our time, but deciding on balance that I might try scribbling for an American outlet (and also working for another one of the great editors of our time). But I did have this blog there, and I missed having a blog, so fade in out, fade out, and now I have a blog here.
I’ve been writing three columns a week, and I will continue producing those. They’ll appear Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is just adding more musings, and even some reporting, in between. The fact is, more than three interesting things happen most weeks, and now I’ll have a chance to weigh in on all that and more besides. In addition to politics, we’ll talk about books and old movies; why The Godfather is overrated; why the restaurants of Paris are also overrated; guitars, from time to time; pop culture history, especially of the American pop-culture golden age (funny how it happens to coincide precisely with the years during which I was paying close attention!); college football, especially the Big 12 Conference to which I’ve been ardently committed for a good three or four months now.
More: golf (I shot a 96 Saturday, foiled as usual by my putter); the Times crossword, but only the puzzles on Saturday, which is the day reserved for the true snobs (yes, more than Sundays; last Saturday’s, by the way, seems pretty challenging from the looks of things). There will be occasional excursions into the realms of political philosophy and the social sciences. In time, I seek to assure my old Guardian friends, the Friday quiz will reappear, when the moment feels right. And I’m gonna read the threads and respond every so often, and there will materialize polite (and sometimes impolite) dressings-down of those of you aren’t playing nice. But mostly, the blog will attempt to tell a running story of our times, with jokes.
So there you are. Now, the news. France. The big question emerging from M. Hollande’s victory is whether the bankers and the ECB are going to let him impose his program. As to what program, exactly, he seems to have left that sort of vague during the campaign, but at the very least, he did campaign on pushing back hard against the German-led, David Cameron-assisted austerity and low-inflation regime. The temptation is to say that Hollande will assemble and lead a broad European effort—including Spain, Italy, and Greece, which also held elections yesterday (parliamentary) whose results gave the belt-tighteners the boot—in favor of bold anti-austerity policies.
I’m not sure, alas, that that can succeed in this day and age. There was a time, back in the days of Pierre Mendes France, or even up to Francois Mitterrand, when governments of the left came in and the capitalist class more or less adjusted. But the markets have a tremendous amount of power these days. Watch the European bond markets in particular, and of course the stock market today. The bankers have ways to make sure the government doesn’t go “too far.” And if we’re being honest, let’s remember that Mitterrand advanced all sorts of reforms in his first year—nationalizing the banks, lowering the retirement age, shortening the work week, increasing workers’ councils’ powers—designed to invigorate the economy, and they did not. Can you imagine if Hollande said he was nationalizing the banks? That power wouldn’t even exist today if he wanted to do it.
I’m glad the people of France made the decision they made. And it’s not as if austerity has produced roaring results, so maybe Hollande will surprise us. But it’s probably best to keep expectations low.