I was fortunate to come across this book just before Nicolas Sarkozy was to be elected the next French president. Both Intrade and NewsFutures (prediction markets) were assigning a probability over 80% that Sarkozy would win. When both these different prediction markets agree on such a high probability; you can truly deem it a sure thing.
Nicolas Sarkozy is a unique French politician as he is the first pro-American one ever. Also, he is most critical of France on most counts. And, he views himself as a positive agent of change that will change France's course. This renders this book unique in the history of French politics. Such an unabashed pro-American tack has never been undertaken by any other French politician.
In foreign policy, he observes that France main identity is one of anti-Americanism at every turn to present a counter force to American hegemony. He does not see this position as serving France's own interest over the long term. This antagonism for one thing has rendered the UN Security Council completely dysfunctional. It has also impaired many other supranational institutions such as NATO. Thus, his book is part of his political effort to reduce the political distance between the two countries. If the future French President can be pro-American at a time when our current administration is most unpopular both domestically and overseas since Nixon's, it bodes extremely well for the prospect of Franco-American relations.
Culturally, he feels France has been too obsessed about protecting its own language. Instead, he feels it is critical for the French to all become more fluent in English so as to more readily adopt technologies associated with this language. He recognizes that English (and not French) has become the de facto Esperanto of commerce, technology, and science. And, he feels French citizen should take this opportunity to participate in all the mentioned domains more actively by accepting this fact instead of becoming more isolated from the rest of the World.
Sarkozy considers France to be in a fiscal mess. France flavor of socialism (very high tax rates, even higher social entitlements and government expenditures resulting in large chronic deficits) is not sustainable. Mixed with a rapidly aging society, France has a fiscal social entitlement problem that makes the U.S. counterparts (Social Security, Medicare) look like a fiscal walk on the beach. Indeed, social entitlements grab a significantly larger portion of tax revenues and GDP in France than they do in the U.S. As a result, Sarkozy feels that France economic climate has really hurt business, and more specifically job creation. He has a point. Job creation has been very weak for decades. Similarly, the unemployment rate has remained stuck between 8.5% and 12% for decades. In France, you have more economic incentives (overly generous unemployment compensation) to remain unemployed vs working. Businesses have very strong incentives not to hire people (nearly impossible to let go of employees). Sarkozy wants to change all that by reducing tax rates, reducing unemployment benefits, and reducing labor law restrictions such as the 35 hour work week limit (the lowest on the planet).
Sarkozy's ambition and political vision remind one of Margaret Thatcher in the eighties. Will he be as successful as she was? Can the French truly be steered in a pro-American, pro-business, anti-socialist fashion? Sarkozy's political challenges are immense because the French are so much more entrenched in their views than the Brits were at the time. Although Thatcher's political steering was remarkable it was not impossible.
Is Sarkozy setting himself up for an impossible mission guaranteeing his failure? There is a good possibility of that. But, there is no question that he really gets what the 21st century challenges are. He is ready to tackle those head on. Whether the French are ready remains to be seen.
He has written a unique, courageous, and iconoclastic book. He now has his manifesto in hand. His implementation will tell whether history remembers him as France's turning point or forgets him as just another failed French politician.