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French weekly magazines review 1 October 2017

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President Emmanuel Macron's tax concessions to the very rich, the new fashion for sleeping more, and the manipulation of history by politicians are some of this week's top topics.

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There's good news and bad news. The good news is that the magazines have managed to avoid repeating the same story on their covers; the bad news is that the various topics chosen for coverage are enough to make your eyes glaze over.

Le Nouvel Observateur wonders why French president Emmanuel Macron has decided to give to the rich in his first budget. The magazine describes as a risky bet the technocrat-leader's decision to hand back 4.5 billion euros to those who have most, in the hope that they will re-invest said euros and thus create jobs and wealth, or at least bread and water, for the rest of us.

It worked in Sweden, says Macron. The Swedes and the Danes are the young president's great models, Sweden for taxation, Denmark for labour legislation.

The crucial problem, according to L'Obs, is to re-establish investor confidence in the French economy. Otherwise the well-heeled will simply squirrel away their spare cash in foreign fields... Sweden or Denmark, for example... and we'll all be worse off since, in the long run, ordinary taxpayers will have to pay for the failure of the presidential prognostications.

And there's a social difficulty as well. The return on investments is always more rapid and more spectacular than wage increases. So, even if it works and we all start getting richer, the rich will be doing it much faster than the rest of us and that's likely to cause a certain amount of ill-feeling.

More sleep is the key to success

Weekly magazine Le Point devotes its front page to sleep.

Basing its coverage on the latest scientific discoveries, yawn, it tells anyone who can stay awake long enough to read through a 14-page section that lack of sleep is bad for your health and for your wallet. Snore.

Lack of sleep is estimated to cost the US economy 63 billion dollars every year, either because employees are worn out and absent or worn out and present but virtually asleep on the job.

The idea that the world's decision makers get to their positions of power by rising early is now out of fashion. The new rule is sleep more to earn more. Former White House resident, Bill Clinton, admits that every big mistake he made in life was the result of fatigue. Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, gets eight hours each night. Donald Trump claims to get by on between one-and-a-half and 4 hours. You have to hope that the haircut in Pyongyang does better.

Modern western humans have come to regard sleep as an option, says Le Point, something they can do without when there are vital tasks to be accomplished. They are wrong. If you don't sleep enough, you are going to be tired, fat, diabetic, stupid, have a heart attack, develop cancer and suffer from Alzheimer's. Go back to bed right now!

Leave history to the historians

The weekly Marianne wants French politicians to stop manipulating history.

It is not true that the French regret the passing of the monarchy. Or that Catalonia is re-playing the Spanish civil war. Or that Nazi deputies are, one again, sitting on the benches of the German Bundestag.

These and other even more imaginative claims have all be made in the recent past by members of the political class. Marianne wants them to stop and leave history to the historians.

Apart from the fact that such manipulators are wrong, they make the understanding, and resolution, of today's complex realities even more difficult by comparing them to the supposed simplicities of the past.

The return of the far right to the German parliament is bad enough without falsely comparing the current threat to the emergence of fascism in the '30s.

When Jean-Luc Mélenchon recently said that the Nazis had been beaten by street protest, he was worse than wrong. The Nazis came to power through street protest; they were defeated by a massive military alliance.

Politicians have always used history to govern, says a specialist interviewed by Le Point, and that's not going to change anytime soon. The danger is in allowing them to develop their partisan versions of the past, which invariably justify their present policies, without understanding how false history can deepen contemporary divisions. And make those divisions appear inevitable.

History is a debate, not a body of fact. But the debate has rules which some politicians appear to have forgotten.

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