Note : whenever the word liberal shows up here, it means classical liberal, not modern american liberal

If you’re a libertarian, politics here in France have nothing to offer short of complete despair. A belgian joke says that God did such a spectacular job at creating France, he had to create frenchmen to balance it out. It reflects perfectly on our politics. There’s a reason I call this country Socialistan. So, shall we begin?

Let’s start with the current party in power, the Socialist Party(PS). In the opposition since 1995, before winning the 2012 election with François Hollande as candidate, in what is the definition of a victory by default. Hollande was chosen as the PS candidate only because Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced out of politics by the New-York Sofitel scandal, and defeated Nicolas Sarkozy in the second turn basically because the country was fed up with the former President. As such, Hollande’s legitimacy has always been seen as flimsy, and he’s quickly become the most unpopular President in recent history.

The party displays a wide variety of stances, as far as shades of socialism can be called varied, from Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who routinely gets called a right-winger, to Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who describes himself as “the marriage of Colbert and Obama” and made himself famous for his disastrous interventions in the economy, to Gérard Filoche, a trotskyite who’s become an Internet sensation by spewing what is basically negationism of the communist crimes(“communism never killed anyone”, “the USSR was a right-wing, anti-communist anti-revolution regime” and such), and prompted the french libertarian community to create the “Filoche game” : get in an argument with him, and you’re awarded points according to what insult he’ll throw at you, like the infamous fascist libertarian cro-magnon.

Besides how terrible its policies for the past two years have been, the most impressive thing about the PS is how hypocritical it can be. These guys made fascists out of the previous right-wing governments for throwing illegal immigrants out of the country, yet have increased the expulsions to new records. They claim to be anti-war while in the opposition, yet the Hollande administration has launched two wars(Mali and Central African Republic) and would have committed to the war against Syria had Barack Obama gone through. The last time they were in power, with François Mitterand(1981-1995), they got us into the first Iraq conflict and the Djibouti civil war.

Then we have the other government party, the mainstream right-wing one, the Union for a Popular Movement(UMP). Former Presidents Jacques Chirac(1995-2007) and Nicolas Sarkozy(2007-2012) hail from this party. Right now, it’s in complete disarray. Current leader Jean-François Copé cheated in the last elections to steal the party away from former Prime Minister François Fillon, multiple scandals involve prominent figures such as Sarkozy and Copé, they have no clearly defined stance, hesitating between a socially progressive, moderate, pro-EU line and a socially conservative, hardline, anti-EU one. The hardliners are gaining traction, and that’s not a good news, given that they claim their admiration for figures such as Putin and write garbage such as “Individual liberty doesn’t matter, prosperity does”, or “Liberalism and socialism have failed, let’s try statism”.

The UMP policies are hard to differentiate from those of the PS, which is why the term UMPS has become so widespread. They also favor Big Government, high taxes, huge deficits(I should point out that the last time France had a balanced budget was in 1974) and lots of regulations and EU integration. I’m pretty sure it would be considered a leftist party in a lot of countries. Their foreign policy has been the same, meaning they’re also warmongers. Chirac got us into Kosovo and Afghanistan, even if he surprisingly sit out the second Iraq war, Sarkozy launched the Libya war, and the party establishment was backing Hollande on his choice to follow Obama on the Syria issue.

The third important party is the National Front (FN). Because of how inept the left has been on this subject, it has become cliché and ridiculous to call the FN a fascist party, but I honestly think that’s the right label. It used to be what we call poujadiste : hardline conservative, claiming to protect the middle class and the national identity against everything they identified as a menace, be it immigration, Europe, or the government, but it morphed into a different beast when Marine Le Pen took over. Now, it appeals mainly to the working class, denouncing ultraliberals(more on that later) and socialists as traitors and destroyers of the country, you can hear lines such as “I’ll put the State back everywhere : in the streets, in the schools, in the banks…” when you listen to Le Pen’s speeches, and their economic program is filled with corporatism, protectionism, and heavy government intervention such as nationalizations, so I think the label fascist is deserved. This is the rising force in french politics, expected to end up first in the upcoming european elections.

Then you have the FN’s alter ego, the Left Front(FdG), which is a far-left coalition uniting parties such as the French Communist Party, the Left Party(an offspring of the PS led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who’s the FdG’s leader) and multiple trotskyite movements. Their policies are pretty much what you can expect of a bunch of marxist-leninists, but recently they’ve added the nationalist arrow to their bow, in a desperate attempt to steal the FN’s thunder. Contrary to their alter ego, they’re not really gaining any traction, which is to be expected, you’re not really gonna convince a lot of people that a country which has one of the highest public sector jobs per capita number will solve all its problem by creating even more.

Other noticeable political parties include UDI, a centrist coalition, EELV, which is the Green party, and DLR, a gaullist, anti-EU, protectionist offspring of the UMP. One interesting newcomer is the Nous Citoyens movement, a pro-business party led by successful entrepreneur Denis Payre, which stands up against the professionalisation of politics.

But Cédric, where is the liberal party? The libertarian party?

Well, that’s the problem. There’s a liberal party, the Parti Libéral Démocrate, which is a member of the UDI, the centrist coalition. Here’s the catch : centrist, in a left-leaning country such as France, means soft-socialist, and the UDI establishment loathes the PLD and have been trying to kick them out. So the PLD is a little irrelevant at the moment, even if it does a good job at being a liberal party. There is a Libertarian Party, but it’s has no presence.

So you see, you kinda lack representation when you’re a liberal or a libertarian. But it gets worse, way worse.

Remember, when I introduced the FN, I mentioned the term ultraliberal. This is the go-to insult in french politics, with its variants neoliberal or sometimes liberal. Basically, the only people who never get called that are the far-left, and the only people who never use this term are the liberals and the libertarians. The far-left calls everyone ultraliberal, the FN and DLR call everyone but the far-left ultraliberals, the PS calls UMP ultraliberal, the UMP hardliners call the PS ultraliberal and so on. I think it’s considered worse than being called a fascist. So we have this schizophrenic situation where every party advocates Big Government and swears to fight the evil liberals/ultraliberals, yet if you listen to each party individually, the liberals/ultraliberals have all the power and the media, are ruining the country, and you have to vote them in to stop the damn bastards. The french politics version of the “better than average effect”. Somehow they can’t stop for two seconds and wonder how the country could have ended up with a bloated public sector, the highest tax rates in the world and an overregulated private sector if the ultraliberals had been in power for forty years.

If you listen to the average french politician or editorialist, the archetypal liberal is Georges W Bush and economic freedom means poverty and serfdom. Nevermind we share a border with Switzerland.