Bulldozing into Trouble

Letter From Paris

Dubious parallels, like old prejudices, die hard. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt unleashed his legislative whirlwind in the winter and spring of 1933, and more particularly in France since 1986, it has become a standard cliché to judge a new government's performance on the basis of its achievements during its first 100 days in office. If this yardstick was not employed in 1981, after François Mitterrand's two electoral victories (presidential and legislative), it was simply because the Programme Commun, on which his Socialist Party and its Communist allies had swept into power, contained no less than 102 projects which this shortlived mésalliance of left-wing rivals pledged itself to carry out. Even a socialist Napoleon could not have carried out anything so outlandishly ambitious in such a short span of time.

When in 1986 a right-wing coalition won the parliamentary elections and Jacques Chirac was appointed prime minister for a second time, his Caullist party's leading philosopher, Jean-Marie Benoist, warned that if the new government didn't push through an urgent program of reforms within the first 100 days, it would lose its initial élan and soon bog down in a quagmire of bureaucratic sloth and institutional paralysis. The combined forces of left-wing conservatism—a solidly entrenched bureaucracy, workers always prepared to go on strike for higher pay...

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