President for the Rich

There have been many recent reports of the generosity of several of France’s richest families giving to the fund that has been set up to rebuild Notre-Dame. Bernard Arnault of LVMH gave €200m and even put his own creative, architectural teams at the state’s disposal.

His son, Antoine, was quoted as saying “As caretakers of these big French names” (I imagine he means Louis Vuitton, Moët, Hennessy) “…Given everything that France has given us, we try to give back when something catastrophic happens.” How extraordinarily generous and such a contrast to when nothing catastrophic happens. Of course in neoliberal capitalism catastrophe is an everyday event for someone in society but it is not usually in public view. In response to criticism, Bernard Arnault said ” It is pretty dismaying that in France you are criticised even for doing something for the general interest.”

Total and L’Oréal have also donated. And when it was pointed out that for such charitable donations there was a 60% tax allowance in any case, most donors pledged, in response, not to use it.

Everyone appears to like the cause and even Mouton-Rothschild is contributing. So much so that now it seems, according to the chart below, they’ve got too much money anyway!

This ‘Forbes’ article asks ‘Why the[se] attacks on the custodians of wealth creating private sector companies?’

Let me suggest a reply. When all is said and done even in Euro land the government actually prints money (albeit by agreement with the European Central Bank) so we can suggest that the rich may be temporary custodians of wealth but they are not the wealth creators, that is a joint project using the resources of the nation including its people.

Additionally the French state has historically been one of the highest spending (as a proportion of GDP) in Europe although Macron is trying to reduce it (which might please the European Commission but definitely not his own people). Thus when the rich give this money for some iconic project it looks as though the state is reduced to accepting charity. And all because it has not ordered things sufficiently well so that the French state can look after its own heritage by raising sufficient funds (as being part of the Euro, it must) through properly levied fair taxation.

Indeed failure to properly enforce taxation for captains of industry is one of the ‘gilet jaunes’ complaints. So the Notre-Dame fund undermines the agency of the French state and draws attention to the idea that taxation is for little people, whilst demonstrating simultaneously that money grows on rich people.

Even if the cathedral font were to flow continuously with (LVMH) Dom Pérignon this is not a good look for the French President.

It makes his President for the Rich moniker all too apt.


  1. Graham -

    Well said, Peter. I too thought how quickly the obscenely rich rushed to offer funds for a building, while the poor, if not reduced to “eating cake” (allegedly), are still poor and the billionaires keep their hands in their pockets for them.

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