Impromptus today is a typical mélange, beginning with Burma, traveling through Iran, Russia, and Britain, and ending in New York. One of the stops along the way is France, where the new president, Emmanuel Macron, is trying to do something semi-revolutionary. A report in the London Times was headed, “Macron gives bosses new powers to hire and fire in a bid to jump-start French economy.”
In my column, I quote the first paragraph of this report: “President Macron began a high-stakes gamble to liberalise the French economy yesterday, loosening labour laws to encourage employers to recruit and easing curbs on smaller businesses.” That phrase “high-stakes gamble” reminded me of a famous phrase from 1981: “riverboat gamble.” That’s how Republican senator Howard Baker, the majority leader, described Reagan’s economic package. (As you know, Baker would later serve as Reagan’s chief of staff.)
Millions of Frenchmen are screaming in anger at Macron. Will the country at large thank him later? That’s a big question. I am reminded a bit of the years 1981–83 in America. That was painful, as some people remember. It all turned out okay.
Since I wrote my column, Macron has found himself in hot water for saying, “I will not yield in any way, not to slackers, nor to cynics, nor to the extremes.” People are saying that he called French workers lazy. I think he is phenomenally bold, allowing his popularity to plummet in order to do something that he regards as right, necessary, and long overdue.
Also in my column, I mention Vladimir Luzgin, the blogger in Russia who got fined 200,000 rubles (which is about $3,500). He was very lucky. He could have been imprisoned. What did he do? He wrote that the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. (That’s like writing that Wednesday follows Tuesday.)
I do not discuss — but will here — Yulia Latynina, the Russian journalist, who has now fled her country for her life. In July, she and her household were subject to a gas attack. Earlier this month, her car was set on fire. That was enough. She has fled.
They are incredibly brave, Russian journalists (real ones). But they should not have to sacrifice their lives. Some of them do it anyway.