Friday, October 31, 2008

7th Art: De Gaulle intime (2005)

"De Gaulle intime" (2005) is a documentary about the private life of French general and political leader Charles de Gaulle, based on statements by members of his family.

De Gaulle was a man of the early 20th century, a time when authoritarianism and fascism became the norm across the political spectrum, and the state was seen as the solution to all human problems. De Gaulle, as most political leaders of that time, including FDR, believed that the state should control economic choices. Ordinary people could not be trusted to choose what's best for them.

Sorman describes de Gaulle's political ideas and the problems they created in France in this post (in French). De Gaulle believed for example that the state should direct the economy using central planning and large industrial projects. According to de Gaulle's son Philippe, his father once said that "the French people cannot be trusted; if they are allowed to do things, they will only do what is easy; instead of producing steel beams to make boats, buildings and railways, they will produce key chains, because that is what sells."

A young economist may be shocked by this authoritarian and bizarre statement. After all, we know that central planning doesn't work and we know that it hurts freedom of choice. That's however how government leaders viewed the world back then.

Unfortunately we're seeing some dangerous signs that this kind of ideology is making a comeback. I hope it stays where it should always have been: in the trash heap of history.

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