Thursday, October 25, 2007

Special Regime: For Lawyers?

BernardG reports that the government has discovered a category of workers so overtaxed that they do after all need a special retirement regime: lawyers who are about to be deprived of courts to practice in by the reform of la carte judiciaire. Incredible.

Carbon Tax: Sarko Punts

I haven't had time to read the whole speech, but here's the somewhat disappointing passage on the carbon tax:

Je ne veux pas refermer ce dossier au prétexte qu'il serait compliqué. Nous le traiterons au niveau communautaire. Il faut, Monsieur le Président de la Commission européenne, étudier très rapidement la possibilité de taxer les produits importés de pays qui ne respectent pas le Protocole de Kyoto. Nous avons imposé des normes environnementales à nos producteurs. Il n'est pas normal que leurs concurrents puissent en être totalement exemptés. Je vous propose que ce sujet soit débattu au sein de l'Union européenne dans les six mois.


Bottom line: Pass the buck to the EU. Study the question some more. Tax imports from non-Kyoto countries.

Is this an ecological measure or a protectionist measure? A little of both, of course, like most fair-trade proposals, and none the worse for that. It's by no means a preposterous idea. But it avoids the heart of the issue, which the carbon tax is meant to address: force firms to internalize the externality of greenhouse gas emission; use the market mechanism in all its microeconomic splendor to alter the incentives facing economic actors. The carbon duty as opposed to the carbon tax does not accomplish this. Perhaps Sarkozy looked closely at the costs of "ecologism in one country" and decided that they were too high; that may even be a correct judgment. But I can't help feeling that there was a certain failure of nerve, despite the many laudable achievements of the environmental Grenelle, which are addressed in the remainder of the speech.

On the Origins of French Anti-Liberalism

See this interesting blog.

Scandal Brewing?

L'Express alleges that Rachida Dati was admitted to the École de la Magistrature on the basis of a dossier claiming a degree she had not been awarded from HEC. Dati concedes that her diploma was "not validated" owing to a dispute with the school.

DNA to Constitutional Council

The DNA testing provision of the Hortefeux Law will be submitted to the Conseil Constitutionnel by the PS and MoDem. For those who may have missed the debate in the comments to a previous post, my colleagues Mary and Judith take issue with my position here. I've said my piece on this amendment and will confine myself to only one further remark: all of my arguments are directed at defending the amendment against the charge made by The New York Times that the legislation is a form of "high-tech bigotry" and akin to the Nürnberg Laws. On that point I remain unconvinced by my critics.

The appeal to the CC alleges that the legislation is a "violation of republican principles" in that it distinguishes between two classes of family, biological and non-biological, and treats the two unequally. I concede that it does these things but ask how that flaw might be remedied so as to provide equal protection of the law. If proof of kinship is to be required of all families seeking reunification, then perforce the nature of the proof must be different in each instance, since the origin of kinship is different. I rest my case there.

Whether the law is good public policy or not is another matter. Legislation can be ill-conceived or ill-motivated without being evil or "unrepublican." I think the DNA amendment is probably unnecessary and tactically maladroit. But I don't think it will do any harm and might do some good. I suspect it will be ruled unconstitutional, leaving me even more uncomfortable than I already feel standing with MM. Mariani and Hortefeux and against my learned colleagues and much of the French left, as well as M. Charles Pasqua, as I learned from one of my critics. This seems to be one of those issues that make strange bedfellows.

Hamon on the European Treaty


Benoît Hamon missed his calling: he should have been a seventeenth-century Jesuit. No jesuitical casuistry was ever more sinuous than Hamon's position on the European Treaty. He is "faithful to [socialism's] historical commitment to Europe," but the treaty is a "mediocre text" and "so far from what is needed to relaunch Europe that it does not allow us to accept it." Yet the PS is part of the "European social-democratic family," which has decided to do just that: accept a not fully satisfactory text. Nevertheless, a similar text having been rejected by the French in a 2005 referendum, it would be "disrespectful" to the French people to ratify such a text "behind its back." To square this circle, there is no choice for the Socialists but to abstain.

Clear? A latter-day Pascal may well be pondering even now a Lettre provinciale on the Socialists' position regarding Europe.

Stirrings in Lyon


Libé has an interesting piece this morning on the constitution of the Socialist list for the municipals in Lyon. As I've noted in previous posts, "visible minorities" are beginning to organize at the local level and are agitating to have their leaders given places on the ticket. The party wants to appeal to this electorate but is reluctant to cede power to the movements. It wants to name its own candidates--those who, according to the mayor, "have proven themselves on the ground or in associations"--read, loyalists to the existing power structure, not upstarts with independent bases. The confrontation is classic, but no less interesting for that. Like the national elections this year, the municipal elections are going to reflect sharp changes in generational perceptions and agendas.