Civil war in France is likely.
The recent yellow vest protests in France are not going to be a one off event. What is surprising to us is that it was France that was first. Germany is probably much more divided and much more likely to experience a civil war, revolution, or wide spread civil unrest.
In France the reason for the protests has been largely blamed on Macron’s energy taxes. But this is certainly only part of the problem.
What’s interesting is that the taxes have been repealed. But according to the article above they are expecting more protests. That tells you everything you need to know.
Frances problems are quite similar to those in the United States and Germany. Any time you bring in a large number of immigrants you will have downward pressure on wages. That’s the point of the immigration. It is to stop wages from getting to high.
But a nation with a generous social safety net cannot do both things. It cannot provide welfare for those who don’t work, or can’t work and at the same time force wages down.
While the average Frenchmen may not understand “disutility of labor” he certainly can understand that his standard of living is not going up. Like anyone who works, the French worker realizes instinctively that for such a low wage and high burden of work, the leisure is preferable. Of course as the welfare benefit rises, the leisure becomes much more attractive when compared with the benefit of work.
France’s current debt is 100% of GDP. And, just like in the states, this doesn’t really include all of the unfunded liabilities that are facing it in the very near future. In short, it isn’t going to get better.
Further adding to the strife, France’s unemployment rate is still 9.3% (As of August) so the anger from the youth is only going to grow. As the 20 somethings hit 30 they will realize they aren’t going to enjoy the French culture or economic stability that their parents and grand-parents enjoyed.
We haven’t collected nearly the data for France that we have for The United States, but we fill pretty confident that the chances of violence against the government or against fellow Frenchmen in the next five years is approaching 80%.
France is also similar to the United States in that there is a widening gap between suburban, rural and urban residents. The Yellow Vest protests show clearly that some of this division is being narrowed. But not in a good way. A few groups that may not have many mutual interests are coming together to protest. All that’s left is a single person or issue to rally around to replace the energy tax.
While I don’t think it will be immigration, it will be part of the equation. My guess is that the rallying cry will be strengthening the social programs for France. Which means stopping immigration and will eventually devolve into kicking them out.
The banks and the businesses will fight this at first. But they will learn quickly that all politicians are populists. Money can help a candidate get from 40% to 51% to win a race. All the money in the world couldn’t get Macron reelected right now.
What to watch for.
If the police or soldiers start ignoring the protesters and letting them riot, it’s about to get worse. If the soldiers and police start joining the protesters, the fight has begun. A recent viral video showed French police removing their helmets in deference and respect to the protesters.
When this happened, Macron should have been drummed out of office almost immediately. Alas the French, like much of the rest of the world, don’t really learn much from history.
We will keep an eye on this and update after the first of the year.
Our next bigger analysis will be Germany. Historical evidence would suggest that not only are they the Western nation most likely to have a civil war, but that it is surprising that it hasn’t already happened. Germany does have much less debt and an unemployment rate that is 1/3 of what France’s is. So perhaps the stability is still enough that a populist movement doesn’t have enough momentum yet.