Free Minds & Free Markets

France’s High Taxes Breed a Populist Revolt, Again: New at Reason

Politicians seem unable to learn from a history of grabby tax policies fueling populist anger.

Jean Baptiste Quentin/NewscomJean Baptiste Quentin/Newscom

For all of its reputation as a rule-bound society in which liberal democracy shares the stage with an intrusive state, France has a healthy history of grassroots revolts, too. President Emmanuel Macron probably should have remembered this before he pushed his plan to intentionally tax fuel into unaffordability, writes J.D. Tuccille.

The gilets jaunes—yellow vests, named after the high-visibility garments protesters donned as a symbol—were brought into the streets by the French government's environmental push as implemented through big and continuing hikes in carbon taxes. For fuel, this means a 23 percent increase in taxes just this year, hitting popular diesel especially hard, at a time when taxes already make up about 60 percent of the price.

The protests could have been predicted by anybody who remembers the reaction to France's fuel taxes in 2000—although the current situation is far more serious, Tuccille warns.

Photo Credit: Delphine Goldsztejn/ZUMA Press/Newscom


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online