• Peter Lyons teaches Economics at Saint Peters College in Epsom and has written several economics texts.

For those of us who believe in humanism and the destructiveness of rampant nationalism the outcome of the French presidential election is a huge relief.

The numerous terror attacks in France in recent years raised the possibility of a far right victory. There was fear the French electorate would vote to put the shutters up like the British and Americans did last year.

Political scientists would describe the votes in Britain and the United States as indicative of a belief by many voters that their country is exceptional to other countries, that they can tear up the rule book and go it alone.


What is exceptional is the willingness of the French voters to turn their back on this trend, particularly because the French have never been noted for their cultural or national humility.

The big question is why the French voters responded so differently to those in Britain and the United States?

The answer may lie in a greater awareness of their history.

Neither Britain or the United States have experienced the trauma of invasion in recent centuries. Many people in both countries believe it was their country that was responsible for winning the world wars of the last century.

European countries such as Germany and France have relatively recent experiences of invasion and occupation by foreign powers.

It was the traumas of World War II that prompted the formation of the French-German coal and steel agreement that provided the basis for the European Union. It was believed that greater commercial integration would reduce the likelihood of future conflict.

Both France and Germany have experienced the horrific and destructive outcome of policies based on a false ideology of national superiority. The French under Napoleon in the 19th century and the Germans under Hitler. They have learned the hard way that foreign policy based on the illusion of national superiority is likely to end in ruin and impoverishment.

Many of the voters in these countries are well educated in the history of their countries. For this reason they are far more internationalist in their outlook.

Many British voters for Brexit seemed to hark back to Britain' s glory days sometime before World War I.

What they fail to appreciate is that even before this war Britain's relative economic decline was already evident. Both Germany and the United States had already overtaken Britain in many areas of industrial production.

Ironically Britain's success as the first country to experience the industrial revolution may have had something to do with its geographical and political isolation as an island nation.

Unlike its counterparts in mainland Europe it had less fear of invasion. For that reason it could concentrate more resources on commerce rather than national defence.

Those voters for Brexit who believe such splendid isolation will bring a return to former economic glory are likely to be bitterly disappointed.

The exceptionalism of the United States has been a key feature of the past century.

The election of Trump has created a bizarre irony to this exceptionalism. Trump was elected on a platform of America First. The delicious irony is that The United States has always put itself first in the past century.

The delusion Trump has peddled is that the US has paid a huge price for being the "good guy" in international affairs and he intends putting a stop to this. Yet the whole architecture of global commerce and finance has largely been shaped by American interests in recent decades.

Free trade, free flows of capital, protection of intellectual property rights and the adoption of market-friendly policies in many countries have all been promoted to suit American corporate interests.

This is exactly what Britain did in the 19th century when it was the dominant world power.

When Trump says he will bring high-paying jobs back to the factory workers of the Midwest he is saying he will stop corporate America from being able to produce their output at least possible cost in other countries. He will stop corporate America from being able to seek the most profitable ventures off shore.

This is never going to happen.

The average French voter has shown they have a greater awareness of their history and the need to stay connected with the rest of world.

The French voters have shown that simplistic nationalist solutions to complex global problems will not provide the answers. They will likely make the problems worse. The French have shown real resilience in the face of real threats.

Viva la France.