The French disconnection

Published February 22, 2024

WORLD Opinions

As conservatives warily eye a future cultural and political environment that is likely to be increasingly hostile to our priorities, we can gain some sense of what to expect by looking across the pond to western Europe. With an Overton window always a bit to the left of America’s on most issues, British and French politics give us some clue of what the range of political possibilities may look like here a few years hence. It’s instructive then to consider the recent hullabaloo that greeted France’s President Emmanuel Macron when he announced a raft of proposals to strengthen France’s civic fabric.

The new policies included measures to introduce uniforms and teach the national anthem at public schools, as well as unspecified proposals to limit children’s screen time. By far the most controversial, however, was a promise to combat France’s plummeting birth rate, which in 2023 fell to historic lows. After spending most of the early 2000s just below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman (extremely high by European standards), it has fallen precipitously in recent years to 1.86, endangering not only France’s economic vitality but the viability of its social security programs. Macron thus proposed fresh investment in fertility treatments as well as more generous publicly-funded parental leave.

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Brad Littlejohn, Ph.D., is a Fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping public leaders understand the intellectual and historical foundations of our current breakdown of public trust, social cohesion, and sound governance. His research investigates shifting understandings of the nature of freedom and authority, and how a more full-orbed conception of freedom, rooted in the Christian tradition, can inform policy that respects both the dignity of the individual and the urgency of the common good. He also serves as President of the Davenant Institute.

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