All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Blast from the Past

An extract from a letter.....

1774 August 24

Louis XVI, King of France ,

Having just left Your Majesty's room, still full of the anxiety produced by the immensity of the burden you place upon me, overcome by the touching kindness with which you have deigned to encourage me, I hasten to convey to you my respectful gratitude and the absolute devotion of my whole life.

Your Majesty has been good enough to authorize me to put in writing the promise you have made to uphold me in the execution of those plans for economy that are at all times, and to-day more than ever, of an absolute necessity . ...
At this moment, Sire, I confine myself to recalling to you these three phrases: No bankruptcy; No increase of imposition; No borrowing.

No bankruptcy either avowed or disguised by arbitrary reduction (of interest on public stock).
No increase of impositions; the reason for this lies in the plight of your subjects, and still more in Your Majesty's heart.
No borrowing; because every loan always diminishes the unanticipated revenue and necessitates, in the long run, either bankruptcy or an increase in taxes.

There is only one way of fulfilling these three aims: that of reducing expenditure below receipts, with a view to the redemption of long-standing debts. Failing this, the first gunshot will drive the State to bankruptcy.
It will be asked, “On what can we retrench?” and all officials, speaking for their own departments, will maintain that every particular item of expenditure is indispensable. They will be able to put forward very good reasons; but since the impossible cannot be achieved, all these must yield to the absolute necessity of economy.

Your Majesty is aware that one of the greatest obstacles to economy is the multiplicity of demands by which you are constantly besieged, and which have unfortunately been sanctioned too indulgently by your predecessors.

It is necessary, Sire, to arm yourself against your kindness by a greater kind-heartedness, by considering whence comes this money which you are able to distribute to your courtiers, and by comparing the wretchedness of those from whom it is extracted (sometimes by the most rigorous methods) with the condition of those people who have the greatest call upon your liberality.

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot



But Louis XVI failed to give his minister his support....the courtiers attacked him for cutting the sinecures available to them, the financiers were against him for his support of free trade, the trade guilds were against him  for his policy of allowing people to pursue whatever trade they wished without restriction...in short, vested interests achieved the downfall of Turgot within two years.

The situation in France is as parlous now as it was in the time of Turgot....and vested interests are equally strong

Louis XVI lasted another nineteen years before going to the guillotine.....Francois Hollande will be lucky if he lasts out the five years of his mandate, but whoever replaces him will be another tool of vested interests...not another Turgot.

The French Revolution arose in great part  from the calling of a national assembly....which was enabled to voice the concerns and demands of the population.
These days there is a national assembly which claims the legitimacy to do the same....while it plays the part of the courtiers and guilds of the age of Louis XVI.

How long will our 'Ancien Regime' last?
Whence will the new legitimacy arise?
And what bloody form will it take?





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26 comments:

  1. Now that's what I call a government advisor, Fly. What an acutely intelligent and accurate analysis. Shall we send it to all our so-called rulers?

    As George Santayana wrote: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Your questions imply the smae.

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    1. A real child of the Enlightenment.
      Do you think our rulers would be capable of understanding...so far outside their tenets as it is...?

      I gloomily consider the quote from Hegel:
      “What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it”

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    2. And the quote continues even more gloomily, offering no respite for us:
      'Each period is involved in such peculiar circumstances, exhibits a condition of things so strictly idiosyncratic, that its conduct must be regulated by considerations connected with itself, and itself alone. Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help. It is useless to revert to similar circumstances in the Past.'

      Thus the lessons we could learn from the past would be of no assistance. Because our present is so uniquely ours.

      Mind you, I've been reading Richard Murphy - and he sounds as though he has a fair few solutions. Find him here if you're interested:
      http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/

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    3. Yippee..more from Hegel!

      Yes, I've come across Richard Murphy before and will take another look now you prompt me....
      Though the admirer in me of the proponents of social change in mid seventeenth century England gives a mighty
      'Humph' at their use of the name of the Putney Debates for their gathering!

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  2. Could we translate it into Greek and send it to the Greek people?Maybe Spanish, too.
    Poor Turgot. And some might say poor Louis, but he was the King and could do what he liked.I guess he didn't like his "alternative" as much as continuance!

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    1. If I only could network!

      And when you think what the heirs of the Revolution did with it...

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  3. How comforting to know that the same old problems have been raising their ugly heads for centuries. How people have not changed!

    Hegel was right, because basically people think that they are different and what applies to others does not apply to them. Just like the 'exception Française' economy where measures are taken to bankrupt the country but no one expects the country to go bankrupt because it is France, and France is different.

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    1. And France will see the Clubmed reduced to grinding poverty quite happily as long as it can keep Credit Agricole afloat....

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  4. But they're not planning to retrench, are they? That was Hollande's election promise.

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    1. Just as he promised to renogotiate the Merkozy....and took the treaty word for word...

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  5. In The History Boys one of the lads says 'History is just one f*cking thing after another'. Of course, he's wrong, its just the same things going round and round and round

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  6. Big question: are they bringing back the chopper for the politicos and the priviledged?

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    1. If they're not, I am.
      I'm learning to knit....

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  7. What an excellent and interesting post. Bravo.

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    1. Thank you...amazing how the voice of reason always gets shouted down.

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  8. Plus ça change . . . Great blogpost!

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    1. And the only candidate to come out with anything like this lost by goodness onlty knows how much.
      Where are peoples' brains!

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  9. There is a slight difference. France voted for Hollande but they did not vote for Louis XVI.

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    1. I'm trying to work out whether that makes it better or worse!

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  10. Same old; same old - that's politicians of any age or any country I think.

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  11. We always seem to be spiriling out of control until at the last minute someone comes along to save our bacon...hoping Mitt Romney will be OUR bacon saver...

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    1. I wanted Ron Paul....but there was no chance he'd be nominated with his policies....they would overturn too many applecarts.

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  12. the more things change, the more they are the same (I can’t be bothered to unearth the cedille, hence the translation)

    Politicians are an abomination; they might start out as decent human beings (yeah, right), even idealists, but power very soon turns them into self-seeking hypocrites.

    Thanks for sending me to gappa.

    Another thing: your posts both from France and Costa Rica are always fresh and up to the minute; do you fly back and forth?

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  13. I did know some decent politicians...but that was long ago.
    The forces behind the modern party machines soon got rid of them.

    I'm glad you like gappa..always something interesting and a view on a society i don't know except by the cliches.

    I do move between the two....but in both cases friends keep me up to date!

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