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France Rolls Back Gas Tax That Sparked Riots

Is it a victory for the people or caving in to the mob?

In case you missed it—and given the American media’s curious reluctance to cover the story, chances are good that maybe you did—a series of riots have basically turned France into a war zone over the last couple of weeks. The epicenter of the violence has been Paris, where protesters known as the gilets jaunes—named for the bright fluorescent vests they wear, which are required under French law for all motorists to have in their cars—have been venting their anger over a gasoline tax imposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Why would they riot over a gas tax, you might ask? Well, for one thing the tax is part of Macron’s various green initiatives, which are meant to discourage people from burning fossil fuels by making it more expensive for them to do so. In other words, its very purpose is to make driving less affordable—which kind of sucks if you happen to live in a more remote area where public transportation isn’t really an option, or if you drive a truck for a living. Oh, and did I happen to mention that the tax would also spike the price of gasoline to north of seven bucks a gallon?

Yes, you read that right: Seven DOLLARS a gallon.

Given that France has some of the highest taxes in Europe as it is, Macron’s attempt to save the planet by making it too expensive for ordinary folks to live there was the match that lit a fire than had been primed to burn for a long time. And burn that fire did—to the tune of millions of Euros in property damage, not to mention the hit taken to tourist revenues. I mean, I love gay Paree as much as the next Francophile, but there isn’t enough absinthe in all of Montmartre to get me anywhere near that place these days.

Well, it seems as if the French government has finally gotten the message and abandoned—at least for now—Macron’s ill-considered attempt at social engineering:

In a major concession. . .France will suspend for six months a tax increase on gasoline and diesel fuel that had been slated for January, in an attempt to quell weeks of protests and rioting by the so-called Yellow Vests movement.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced the move on Tuesday after briefing lawmakers in a closed-door meeting in Parliament.

“No tax warrants putting the unity of the nation in danger,” Mr. Philippe said.

Not to mention your cushy government jobs, wouldn’t you say Monsieur Philippe?

He added, “This anger is rooted in a profound injustice, that of not being able to live decently from the fruits of its work, of not being able to provide for the needs of its children.”

The tax increase was one in a series of increments meant in part to help finance the transition to cleaner energy.

The people actually picking up the tab saw that transition a little differently, however.

To the protesters, Mr. Macron, a 40-year-old former banker with no political experience before he was elected, is concerned about “the end of the world,” while they are worried about “the end of the month.”

So it seems that artificially jacking up energy costs at a time when fossil fuels are in abundant supply at very low prices doesn’t sit that well with folks, especially when they’re already paying through the wazoo for every other kind of tax imaginable. Who knew?

Still, the law and order stickler in me doesn’t much care for how the French hoi polloi went about making their frustrations known. The rule of law and the rule of mob are mutually exclusive, which gives rise to a new worry neatly encapsulated in this tweet:

Just so. The problem, however, isn’t so much the “adventurous reforms,” but the way that Macron—and indeed, the European elites in general, given their disdain and attempted thwarting of the majority in the UK who voted for Brexit—are ignoring the will of their own citizens. Insulated from the consequences of their decisions by their wealth and power, they have little appreciation for the hardships borne by those who aren’t. Even worse, time and time again the elites have ignored these concerns, whether the issue is economic policy or mass immigration.

And when the government willfully ignores the governed—well, we’ve seen how that works out, haven’t we?

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