In an effort to reply to demands from the Yellow Vest movement, Emmanuel Macron has launched a major national debate that has so far had some success. The initiative is similar to one suggested by Louis XVI before the French Revolution, when citizens were invited to present “grievance books” to the king.
The French have a soft spot for revolutionary experiences. This time around, the grievance books of 1789 have been restored under the name “free expression books” that can be accessed in town and city halls and online. There are also public debates generally organized by mayors, during which anyone can speak out against the present and suggest the future. Four million French citizens have already taken part in this exercise in direct democracy set to finish on March 15. The government will then be responsible for producing, as best as it can, a summary of propositions and a list of conclusions.
Before we receive this national report and the reforms it will — or will not — inspire, allow me to paint a simplified picture of this country-wide debate based[...]