Benoît Hamon and Emmanuel Macron don’t have a lot in common. The former wants to raise taxes in France in order to finance a universal basic income. The latter wants to cut taxes and reduce public spending.
Polls put François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron neck and neck to qualify for the second voting round of the French presidential election in May. Whoever gets the most support in the first round would face off with the far right’s Marine Le Pen in the second.
By picking Benoît Hamon, a relatively inexperienced far-leftist, over the reformer Manuel Valls on Sunday to lead the French Socialist Party into the elections in April and May, the left may have thrown away what little chance it had of retaining the presidency.
Emmanuel Macron must be smiling. The defeat of his former boss could have hardly come at a better moment for the former economy minister, who is running for president independently.
The triumph of the relatively unknown Benoît Hamon in the French Socialist presidential primary last weekend has inspired comparisons with fellow leftists Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom and Bernie Sanders in the United States.
The comparison is imprecise. Hamon’s vanquished primary opponent, Arnaud Montebourg, had more in common with Corbyn. Both are nostalgic for the times when blue-collar jobs paid well, trade unions were powerful and the welfare state was at its most generous.
Hamon is more forward-looking. His signature policies are a universal basic income funded by a tax on robots. Neither would be implemented overnight — if ever — but he is thinking about novel ways to preserve France’s high living standards at a time when many jobs may be automated or outsourced.
Low-skilled workers are already struggling to make a living under globalization. What if high-skilled, white-collar professionals are next? The solution is surely not a return to the 1970s.