French Government Echoes Past, Demands Residents Show 'Papers' To Leave Homes

P. Gardner Goldsmith | March 22, 2020

From July of 1940 to September of 1944, the nation of France was ruled by a cadre of politicians and bureaucrats who followed the orders of Nazi Germany. Under the command of Philipe Petaine, who was “granted extraordinary powers” by the National Assembly, the Vichy government locked-down most of the nation (one portion was under Italian occupation), imposing controls over businesses, shutting down newspapers, conducting mass arrests, seizing firearms, and deporting and killing people who either disobeyed or were deemed “problematic”.

And, of course, as it was in Germany, the Vichy authorities imposed a curfew, using military threat of arrest to force people to stay inside, and demanding, “Papers, PLEASE!” of anyone caught in public.

Now, as a “response” to the COVID-19 virus, the French government has imposed a lockdown on private homes and businesses.

As Reuters reports, via The National Post:

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide lockdown for the next 15 days, saying that people’s ability to go outside will be “greatly reduced”. Now, if someone wishes to leave their house, they must fill out a form with their name, birthdate and check off one of the given reasons for going outside — work, essential errands, healthcare, family reasons and/or individual exercise.

If this sounds familiar, it should.

Police patrolling the boulevards can stop drivers and pedestrians and demand that they present their forms.

Evidently, Mr. Macron is a fan of history.

If they fail to do so, police can issue fines of €38 to €135 ($40 to $150). The form can be downloaded on the ministry website and citizens can present an electronic version on their smartphones.

How nice.

One might ask what happens if a proud French citizen who has no computer/printer or “smartphone” would like to leave his own home.

Macron’s government is deploying more than 100,000 police nationwide to enforce the restrictions. Those who breach the conditions will be fined, although police were showing leniency in the first hours of the lockdown.

All coming from a government that doesn’t have the money to do this:

(Finance Minister Bruno) Le Maire said the unexpected strain on public finances meant he would have to tear up his 2020 budget. With the economy now forecast to shrink 1%, the state deficit is expected to blow out to 3.9% of gross domestic product from a target of 2.2%.

But that’s not stopping the government from crushing civil liberties and mimicking the Vichy authoritarians. And, should anyone think it unfair to compare these actions to the diktats of Nazi Germany, there’s this sweet confection of contemporary French government policy.

…Le Maire said France might nationalize big companies reeling from the market fallout.

And if American’s are ready to say, “it couldn’t happen here”, they might want to think again.

Asked whether he would support the US Government taking “an equity stake” in some US companies, President Trump replied, “I do. I do.”

That is, by definition, economic fascism, the nominal "in name only" ownership of business while the government tells it what to do.

Even if the idea of government taking ownership stakes is discarded, measures to mitigate the economic fallout from coronavirus seem inevitable. What will they look like?

A renewed discussion on the value of individual freedom vs. safety and security is worth having, especially at this time.

It's a discussion that’s reminding Americans that we can’t necessarily say, “It couldn’t happen here.”