Ezra Klein is having a bit of fun with Rudy Giuliani’s assertion that the U.S. “will be to the left of France” if the American electorate is “not careful” and doesn’t elect him:
We could elect Dennis Kucinich and 10 more Democratic senators and we wouldn’t get anywhere near France. France is a country where the rightwing reformer won’t touch the 35-hour workweek, where all sorts of powerful politicians call themselves socialists, where there’s over a month of legally mandated vacation and unlimited sick days.
Well, France is also a country where insulting the flag is a criminal offense, where the level of opposition to affirmative action would delight any card-carrying Republican, where about 20% of the student body attend religious schools (double the American percentage) and where capital income is much less heavily taxed than in the U.S. (see this pdf).
Not that I’m defending Giuliani’s idiotic statement, mind you. Especially one in which he equates caution with voting for his crazy self. But the idea that France is some sort of liberal wet dream doesn’t jibe well with the facts either.
For sure, French economic and social policies would generally be considered as strongly liberal from an American perspective – though you tend to get some surprises once you peruse the minutiae of fiscal policy. But in other areas, say immigration, trade or, yes, counterterrorism, it is not quite clear who’s to the left of whom between France and the United States. Indeed, the French electorate favor many policies that would be regarded as downright conservative or illiberal by American Democrats : to take one recent example, the New York Times editorial board certainly didn’t look too happy about the infamous French “DNA immigration bill”.
My larger point is that any attempt to pinpoint a politician, a political party or a whole country on a foreign political axis is usually worthless. And that the most sensible reply to a claim “that politician X of the Y country would be regarded as a leftist/fascist/weirdo in the Z country” is simply: “well, X isn’t trying to get elected in Z. So there”.