French Technocracy Is No Match for the Pandemic

French Technocracy Is No Match for the Pandemic

Vaccine Logistics Get the Better of Macron

When it comes to the state, the French attitude has long been “We can’t live with it, we can’t live without it.” But that old chestnut has taken on a new and unsettling meaning of late. President Emmanuel Macron came to power three years ago in part on the promise of creating a more agile and responsive state. The pledge of renewal was both paradoxical and credible, coming from a graduate of the elite École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) who was reputed to be a brilliant technocrat but whose campaign had released a biography titled, quite simply, Révolution.

Three years later, the revolution has yet to happen. Instead, the man who fashioned himself as a revolutionary found himself in the role of a reactionary. Sparked by a gasoline tax hike, the protest movement now known as the gilets jaunes (“yellow vests”) exploded in 2019, fueled in part by the perception that the president was supremely indifferent to ordinary people’s financial and material struggles. Macron cut taxes and toured the country so that he could “put his ear to the ground.” By the end of 2019, the rip tide of protests had reduced to a ripple. But the arrival of a new coronavirus in early 2020 gave Macron’s government little respite and less time to reinitiate its bureaucratic revolution. Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Macron to fall back on l’état providence that he had promised to fell.