Wilbur Ross's and Charles de Gaulle's Common Idea
By Pierre Lemieux
One might think that Wilbur Ross, the current U.S. Commerce Secretary, and Charles de Gaulle, the President of the French Republic from 1958 to 1969, do not share much. But they do share nationalist convictions and the belief that politics should rule over the economy.
On July 2, Mr. Ross was asked by CNBC what percentage of stock market downturn would change the administration’s protectionist drive. He replied (the video is worth watching too):
There’s no bright line level of the stock market that’s going to change policy…. That’s not how you make policy.
At a press conference in 1966, a time when the French stock market was low, General de Gaulle declared:
You know, French policy is not made on the stock exchange floor.
(Vous savez, la politique de la France ne se fait pas à la corbeille).
The répartie became famous as a reminder that a great state is not going to yield before the opinions of petty investors. De Gaulle’s formula is a bit clearer and more majestic than Ross’s declaration. In matters of dirigisme and rhetoric, as in some other matters, “they order these things better in France,” to borrow a sentence from Thomas Paine in a different context.
The stock market is not always right, of course, but it does incorporate all information that is known about the state of the economy. It is often a useful voice against what the rulers want their subjects to believe.