Religion & Liberty Online

The Acton Institute encourages 275 million people to embrace liberty

From the Enlightenment to the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, the power of French ideas has radically altered the rest of the world. The Acton Institute has engaged France’s long history as a global thought leader in two new French-language articles, which discuss contemporary French influence on U.S. and Spanish leaders.

The first translation discusses what politicians in general, and one senator in particular, could learn from French efforts to pare back their notoriously inefficient welfare state: “Elizabeth Warren pourrait s’inspirer d’Emmanuel Macron”(originally published as “What Elizabeth Warren could learn from Emmanuel Macron”), translated into French by Benoît H. Perrin.

French President Emmanuel Macron, despite his profligate spending and ambition to further concentrate power in the European Union, has one silver lining: his desire to reinvigorate the economy. He moved the nation’s Overton Window when he proposed raising the retirement age from 62—the second-lowest in Europe, behind Luxembourg—to 64 and setting out a plan to streamline dozens of separate pensions.

At the same time, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, then a leading contender for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, “had a plan” to vastly expand the size, scope, cost, and tax footprint of the U.S. Social Security system. My article contrasted the two:

Emmanuel Macron a proposé que les travailleurs cotisent plus longtemps au système avant de prendre leur retraite. Le système « à points », qui serait plus proche du modèle américain de Social Security, pourrait encourager les Français à entrer plus jeunes sur le marché du travail. À noter que le taux de chômage de la jeunesse en France est supérieur de dix points à celui de l’Allemagne.

Le programme de Warren, à l’inverse, propose d’augmenter les cotisations de Social Security de 200 dollars par mois, de supprimer le plafond d’imposition pour les contribuables les plus riches et, pour la première fois, de taxer les revenus d’investissement pour contribuer au financement des retraites. Cette mesure ferait passer le programme de Social Security d’un fonctionnement proche de celui d’un fonds de pension, adossé sur les cotisations des travailleurs, à un système d’État-providence plus explicite visant à redistribuer les richesses. …

Les chrétiens doivent aller au-delà des promesses de campagne. Ils doivent comprendre le rôle douloureux et paralysant que l’État-providence a joué dans l’histoire de l’Occident. À ce moment-là, lorsque nous réfléchirons à notre avenir, nous pourrons exercer « la mère de toutes les vertus » : la prudence. Sinon, les États-Unis risquent de croiser le chemin de la France, en marche vers la stagnation économique.

In this instance, French political influence could help the United States avoid the inevitable stagnation of the social assistance state.

However, the most consequential French political movement of the last year has been the “yellow vest” protesters, the gilets jaunes. Their highway-clogging demonstrations, originally spontaneous explosions of outrage at France’s skyrocketing fossil fuels tax, in time allowed labor unions and Marxists to graft their message of class envy onto populist, anti-tax sentiment. This later stage of the movement inspired farmers in neighboring Spain to stop traffic weeks before the coronavirus left us all sheltering in place. Ángel Manuel García Carmona analyzes the influence of this French movement in the article “Paysans espagnols : les nouveaux gilets jaunes ?” (originally published on Religion & Liberty Transatlanticas “Spanish farmers: the new ‘gilet jaunes’?”), translated by Dominique Perrin.

Farmers, he notes, protested the fact that they receive far less than the full retail price of their produce. Carmona notes that they represent one of many indispensable links in the supply chain:

Les manifestants semblent oublier qu’ils font partie d’une chaîne de distribution qui comprend la production, la transformation, le stockage, l’emballage, l’expédition et la distribution au détail. Les chiffres du ministère de l’Agriculture montrent que près de 46  % du coût final peut être attribué aux producteurs, alors la distribution au détail ne pèse que 1,5  % de ce coût. C’est le cas par exemple pour les principaux supermarchés en Espagne, tels que Mercadona, DIA et Carrefour.

French ideas continue to influence Europe and the rest of the world. Prudent Christians must assure that their impact makes the world better. The Acton Institute has made these translations into the language of the world’s 275-million Francophones in that spirit.

(Photo credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Editorial use only.)

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.