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The Real Significance of the French Tax Revolt

Peter C. Earle
December 5th, 2018
American Institute for Economic Research
Comments (14)

This article was originally published by Peter C. Earle at the American Institute for Economic Research

The gilets jaunes (Yellow Jacket) anti-tax riots in France escalated over the past weekend, again citing the impact of higher taxes on fossil fuels –and high levels of taxation in general – on everyday life. French citizens, already subject to the highest taxes in the OECD, are being crushed by both new and systematically increasing taxes, and have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in a “citizen’s revolution”. Recommendations to declare a state of emergency have for the time being been tabled.

With no sense of irony whatsoever, in a press conference on Saturday French President Emmanuel Macron stated: “I will never accept violence.”

Yet violence is the core component of his chosen vocation as a statesman.

Taxation poses as an equitable transaction – goods and services provided by a government in return for a fee (more galling and Orwellian, a “contribution”) from the taxpayer – but the nature of the interaction is obvious to all but the indifferent or determinedly thoughtless. It is not voluntary and does not follow from reason; neither will even the most indefatigable defenders of state appropriation, given the choice (and confidentiality), miss an opportunity to skirt the taxman and retain their property.

The force of violent compulsion is the quintessence of taxation and tax policy, thinly ensconced behind a thin veil of platitudes regarding social goods and general welfare. In Paris, an oft-repeated phrase among the protesters is that they’re “fed up.” Ambulance drivers have joined the protests, as have both teachers and students in at least 100 schools across France.

Levying taxes on individuals to combat climate change – or for the accomplishment of any social betterment project – is unfailingly undertaken in the name of the sanctity of life. Yet if life is an invaluable state and condition, so too is that of the right of personal property. A life absent the ability to enjoy the products of our toil by utilizing them directly or voluntarily exchanging them with that of others is a life circumscribed, and thus a life forcibly, purposely denigrated in quality.

Media images depicting the tax insurrection are dominated by burning cars, graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe, and clashes with police – despite the fact that the majority of the 136,000 protestors on Saturday were disruptive but peaceful.

Yet none should doubt the long-seething precursor to this conflagration despite the impossibility of capturing winnowed domestic budgets and severe fiscal hardship on film. Furor arising over a life circumscribed by bad luck or adverse conditions is considerable; that which results from unquestionable bureaucratic decrees is ultimately incendiary.

The public reaction to the incremental repression of life’s expression by state coercion at a certain point becomes immediate and visceral. It is playing itself out in the streets of Paris right now.

Consider the larger stakes here. For more than 100 years, European governments have built their invasive states, with the public sector controlling ever more of life. The promise of combining security and prosperity through state enhancement has failed to achieve its promise. And what does the political class propose? More government power, this time in the name of green energy.

At some point, it is too much. Just as the citizens suffering under Soviet rule finally said no more, the people suffering under social-democratic rule might someday do the same. Observers have waited decades to see reforms that might forestall such a thing. Reforms haven’t happened. Now the people are in the streets, setting fires and protesting the police.

And it’s not just France. It’s spreading to Belgium and the Netherlands – the building of a European Spring.

What we see in Paris today might be the end of social democracy as we know it. What comes in its place is what the battle of ideas today is really about.


Peter C. Earle is an economist and writer who joined AIER in 2018 and prior to that spent over 20 years as a trader and analyst in global financial markets on Wall Street. His research focuses on financial markets, monetary issues, and economic history. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, NPR, and in numerous other publications. Pete holds an MA in Applied Economics from American University, an MBA (Finance), and a BS in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Follow him on Twitter. 

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Author: Peter C. Earle
Date: December 5th, 2018
Website: https://www.aier.org/

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  1. Stuart says:

    “What we see in Paris today might be the end of social democracy as we know it.”

    Don’t hold your breath. The Eurotrash loves it socialism – they just don’t want to pay for it. The bureaucrats will let them win this battle and figure out another way to tax them.

  2. the blame-e says:

    Why the devil is it only the French, and Germans, and other countries that rise up against these tyrants (Macron, Merkel, May, and the whole lot), but Americans (who are being done the worst dirt to), are nowhere to be seen?

    French President Emmanuel Macron stated: “I will never accept violence.” Yeah, well you are about to get “violenced” up the butt and down your throat. Mon Dieu!

    Here in the USA, the Ruling Class closed the stock market today, supposedly to pay their respects to George W. Bush. I’m betting, that after yesterday’s sell off, they needed to buy themselves some time.

    Bring it. I want the SHTF. I want the reset. I want the real Second Depression. Enough of the lies. Enough of this fully-rigged, manipulated, controlled and fake recovery. End the FED. End Wall Street. End GE. End Capitalism. End Socialism. End it all.

  3. Dead Meat says:

    I Was In A Hurry

    Yesterday I lost a country.
    I was in a hurry,
    and didn’t notice when it fell from me
    like a broken branch from a forgetful tree.
    Please, if anyone passes by
    and stumbles across it,
    perhaps in a suitcase
    open to the sky,
    or engraved on a rock
    like a gaping wound,
    or wrapped
    in the blankets of emigrants,
    or canceled
    like a losing lottery ticket,
    or helplessly forgotten
    in Purgatory,
    or rushing forward without a goal
    like the questions of children,
    or rising with the smoke of war,
    or rolling in a helmet on the sand,
    or stolen in Ali Baba’s jar,
    or disguised in the uniform of a policeman
    who stirred up the prisoners
    and fled,
    or squatting in the mind of a woman
    who tries to smile,
    or scattered
    like the dreams
    of new immigrants in America.
    If anyone stumbles across it,
    return it to me, please.
    Please return it, sir.
    Please return it, madam.
    It is my country. . .
    I was in a hurry
    when I lost it yesterday.

  4. Maranatha says:

    Historically fuel taxes harm the lower classes more as they have so little pay to begin with. That’s like scratch off lottery tickets. What is the genuine cost of fuel without all the taxes that are hidden? You can see why people in Europe are upset as they have outrageous fuel prices.

    Globalism makes no sense. It largely benefitted communist countries and destroyed any future for western civilization. Germany for example has terrible stagnant wages but that allowed low unemployment coupled with low births. Now the very immigrants (truly economic migrants) who were supposed to bail out the pensioners are actually causing massive budget issues on public services that they are paying “immigrants” to return to their home countries by offering DOUBLE incentives to do so!

    Europeans are insane.

  5. Beaumont says:

    When I see thousands of miles long pipelines, rather than domestic production, it occurs to me that you are keeping people from the fuel — not delivering it.

    I think, mercantilism caused the Potato Famine.

  6. Mountain man says:

    Keep your powder dry!! 😩

  7. The people in the USA have risen up too. They took to the streets a few years back in almost every major city. Then again in Charlottesville to protest taking away the monuments and historical statues of American iconic figures from the past.

    We have guys like the Fields young man being punished like major criminals for simply defending themselves or others.


  8. moses strongbear says:

    I love it go yellow jackets Time for yellow jackets in the US. Stop the theft of the peoples money for social engineering

  9. Maranatha says:

    The rumor is a major protest on Saturday and the gendarmes are gearing up for it. Macron have to step down as his approval rating is 18%. Not only that, the yellow jackets are spreading to nearby countries.