Susie and I had dinner Friday evening with Anne Berry and Philip Minns, two old friends who live in the Paris suburb of Sevres. Anne and Philip are both professional simultaneous translators, a profession which I cannot even imagine being able to pursue. We were discussing the Socialist Party victory in the parliamentary elections, and I remarked that France once again had a socialist government after two decades. Philip then told me something of which I was completely unaware.
France, like America, has four levels of government -- the city or municipal level,what we would call the county and state levels, and then the national level. As in America, elections at the various levels are staggered, occurring in different years. When Francois Mitterand, the last Socialist President, was in office, he actually faced a hostile majority in the National Assembly and right wing administrations at the lower levels, right down to some of the major cities. But Francois Hollande not only now has a majority in both the National Assembly and the mostly ceremonial Senate, he also has Socialist governments at every other level of the French political system. France is, at least for the next several years, officially a socialist country.
So what is it like living in paradise? Well, the weather has been awful for months, putting a damper on Fete de la Musique, and last nignt Spain eliminated France from the quarterfinals of the Europe Cup, so the sans-culottes are not dancing in the streets. Indeed, Susie has observed, as we sit in our little cafe, that the current fashion among French women is skin-tight leggings under very short skirts, so perhaps "sans culottes" is not an entirely appropriate term.
It is, of course, a trifle early to form a reasoned judgment concerning the new government. The second round of elections for the National Assembly was only seven days ago. But as one who has spent most of the last three-quarters of a century having private fantasies of democratic socialism, I cannot help but have hopes.
The local opinion is that taxes will go up. If they are imposed on the more affluent to pay for social services for the poor, I say let them go up. I pay two sorts of taxes on my little apartment, and I consider every Euro of them a Euro well spent. Now, if Holland can only somehow browbeat Angela Merkel into allowing a modest rate of inflation and moderating her calls for austerity in the face of economic recession. That really would be something to cheer about.