Harry Wilkinson delivers a harsh verdict on Emmanuel Macron’s “cunning plan” to deflect yellow vest anger at rising gas prices by summoning a Committee on Public Safety, aka the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat” to give Macron’s radical climate plans democratic legitimacy by bypassing democratic institutions in favour of 150 randomly chosen citizens. As anyone with an ounce of understanding of the public policy process would have guessed, the organizers first decreed that these well-meaning Jacques and Jacquelines need to “learn about” the issues… and guess who’s doing the teaching in France (and in Britain). But the deck was stacked in advance anyway: the Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat proudly declares that “The Citizen’s Convention on Climate, an unprecedented democratic experiment in France, aims to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against climate change.” So if the conclusion was known in advance, why bother with the consultation? It was the wrong solution to the wrong problem done the wrong way and guess what? It went wrong.
The same thing happened in Britain. We do not need to get into the clichés about politics and sausages. But there’s a reason representative democracy is cumbersome and filtered. Without knowing it, but based on long experience, Anglosphere nations incorporated the insights of The Wisdom of Crowds about how ordinary people are very good indeed at choosing between alternatives but much less good at devising them. The French have long struggled to reconcile liberty with order and generally made a mess of it, and even the Gilets Jaunes may have had some legitimate concerns but offered little in the way of practical solutions. But Macron is now hoist with his own petard.
If he says phooey to this random collection of clowns he won’t just be asked why he convened it. He’ll be back where he started. (Or would have been if the pandemic quarantine had not done vast economic damage before his climate policies really even got started.) And if he doesn’t, he’ll still be the one implementing their drastic proposals, like getting rid of supermarkets and the 5G network, banning most cars and also forbidding billboards that make people drive long distances to buy stuff they don’t realize they don’t need.
So he’ll still get the blame because the buck, franc or Euro does stop with him, while further undermining the shaky legitimacy of modern democratic institutions. Which isn’t bad for a day’s work. It’s terrible.