Then you might ask a struggling expat, one who is trying to restore a crumbling shack in a bog at the end of Perpete les Eaux and set up a gite. "Bloody nightmare" s/he'd say, "it's freezing cold, can't afford to heat, can't get the workmen in, stuff costs a fortune, got the law on me over planning permission, admin's a fucking merde and our savings are sinking faster than the Titanic".
Or me, and I might say 'Country's going to the dogs, mate, I can see myself working to 70 and then having to bop a cop in the arse to get nourri-logé in prison in the warm.' I'm an optimistic little bugger...
Then you might ask a French person. What do the French think? You can find out exactly what they think by looking at the studies published by CEVIPOV in association with SciencesPo. Twice a year they publish the results of answers given by 1500 French people on the electoral role to a series of questions. It's called The Barometer of Political Confidence (Le Baromètre de la confiance politique) and I can tell you straight off that the pendulum has swung unusually far over towards 'not bloody confident at all'.
My favourite question in the study is Perception de soi et de sa vie personnelle. While 49% believe that their life corresponds to expectations (down from 52% in 2009), a not inconsequential 18% (up from 13%) say that 'Parfois j'ai l'impression d'être un raté' (sometimes I get the impression that I'm a loser). Isn't that a classic response? Nearly a fifth of respondents believe themselves to be losers. Awww bless.
Most people believe they have control over their lives (61%), so that's positive, and they consider that although you can never be too careful when dealing with others (73% up from 66%), most people (61% down from 70%) do what they can to behave properly. However, there is a marked drop in their confidence in institutions, such as the Conseil Municipal (down 10 to 56%), Conseil Régional (down 13 to 45%), the EU (down 9 to 33%) and so on.
Back in 2009 people thought a lot more highly political personalities such as the maire, deputies, president (now down 10 to 28%). In this survey, 85% believe that politicians don't give a toss about them, and are so incompetent that 66% would prefer having a bunch of experts decide what's best for the country. Unsurprisingly, in that case, 54% consider that democracy in France functions badly, which is true.
As for various organisations, 85% have faith in hospitals, but only 25% have faith in banks, and a measly 12% in political parties. Asked whether they have confidence in François Hollande, 20% (up from 7% in Oct 2011) said they had it but have lost it, while those who didn't have confidence in him but do now has plummeted from 26% to 11%. 51% said they've never had confidence in him (obviously not the ones who voted him into office then...). A staggering 60% up from 33% say Mr Hollande worries them, and only 27% think he's up to the job of President. My opinion is that he's been promoted above his capabilities and is in it hopelessly over his head. As Mr Hollande, throughout the election campaign, declared that he wanted to be the candidate de la confiance, it's all rather ironic that he inspires the least confidence of any president ever, even less than that much-maligned (and regretted) Sarkozy.
People believe that right and left in politics has become blurred to the point that no one really thinks you can tell the difference (68%), and 52% has no confidence in either side.
An unsurprising 65% (up from 19% in 2009) think there are too many immigrants, while 45% think that the death penalty should be reintroduced (a connection there do you think...?). Support for homosexual marriage has gone down now that it's on the cards, from 58% to 52%.
Interestingly, people are more and more opposed to government interference in business. 53% up from 43% think that the Government should have more confidence in business and give them more liberty. Only 44% down from 52% believe that the Government should interfere with tighter controls and more rules. This is important because people used to believe that the State should solve all problems. Now they believe they can only rely on themselves (58%), plus family and friends to get out of the crisis. Government institutions are too distant to care.
The previous year (Oct 2011), 73% thought money should be taken from the rich to give to the poor in order to establish social justice. That number is now 53%, probably as a result of all those immigrants on welfare...
Should the capitalist system be reformed? Yes, according to 92%, either profoundly or on certain points. Especially as 68% believe that their kids will have less opportunity to succeed than their parents which is a seriously pessimistic outlook.
For those who think that the system should be reformed, I wonder how many believe it should go as far as suggested in this article. Remove the 'Etat-Providence' and put in place 'un Etat de droit' where "on respecte la liberté et tout le monde le comprend : le pouvoir d’achat est plus élevé et les possibilités de s’épanouir librement sont accrues... Pour combattre la déresponsabilisation entraînée par la croissance de l’État-providence et le sentiment que tout est gratuit, je proposerais un véritable programme de sensibilisation nationale à la responsabilité, à ce qu’elle implique (assumer les conséquences de ses actes, etc.). Enfin, je réduis le nombre de députés et de fonctionnaires inutiles. Au moins 20% des fonctionnaires dans les ministères ne servent à rien. Donc, du jour au lendemain, je les mets à la porte."
That's revolutionary thinking!
One thing you can be sure of though, talk to the rose-tinted expat about all this and they'll say "eh, what?" from their own little bubble, glass of rosé in one hand, baguette-fromage in the other. Ignorance is bliss.