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FRANCE: Esthetic Pleasure

2 minute read

Walking into the Assembly one day last week, Premier Edgar Faure was heard to mutter: “What a rotten job I’ve got! It requires so much patience.” Faure had asked the Assembly for special decree powers to tackle France’s complex fiscal problem. Many of his predecessors, including Pierre Mendès-France, had had such special powers, but now a sizable portion of the Assembly was bewitched by the down-country strength of Demagogue Pierre Poujade, who had organized a tax strike among thousands of France’s little shopkeepers (TIME, March 28).

In order to get his special fiscal powers, Faure had to promise to:

¶ Remove the hated transaction tax for businesses grossing less than $43,000 yearly, substituting a lump sum payable over a two-year period. For some 1,200,000 small merchants and artisans, this would mean no more inspection, no control, no declarations.

¶ Review penalties imposed during the past six months on “taxpayers of good will.” For collective resistance to tax control, i.e., Poujadism, there would still be fines and jail sentences, but less severe.

¶ Free retail businesses grossing less than $170,000, and service enterprises grossing less than $43,000, from the harassments of the Polyvalents (the Finance Ministry’s roving tax inspectors).

Thereupon, Faure got his decree powers, by votes of 330 to 245 in the Assembly, 204 to 90 in the Senate. Although Poujadism was still going like sixty, Premier Faure seemed to feel, for a moment, that his job was not so rotten after all. Said he to a friend: “Winning first the Paris accords and now the special powers without a confidence vote gives me esthetic pleasure.”

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