Thursday, February 21, 2008

Senescence

Thomas Philippon and Nicolas Véron make a simple but striking comparison between Europe on the one hand and US and Asia on the other: Europe has a much higher proportion of older firms among its large industrial companies. They suggest a number of possible reasons for this lack of dynamism and suggest remedies.

Choses Wues

Here we have Félix Wu, who pronounces his name "vu," just as Charlus insisted on pronouncing Swann's name "svann," except that for Charlus the point was to insist on a tinge of foreignness, whereas in the case of Wu, one suspects, the point is to connote full assimilation. M. Wu is heading a "diversity" list in the 12th Arrondissement. He describes himself as neither right nor left and says he dislikes the immigration quotas of the one and the 35-hr week of the other (he is a restaurateur, and the short week is impossible, he says). Nevertheless, he has been approached by the UMP. In any case, he does not see himself as a "communitarist" candidate but rather as a pure republican, representing the general interest, even if he appeals to voters as a candidate in sympathy with their particular interests as issus de l'immigration. He distinguishes himself and his co-listiers from "communitarist" associations because these pursue only the "well-defined interests" of a community, whereas he aspires to the broader view expected of a republican legislator. He says that he is the first "Asian" candidate to head a list in Paris and that some people are "shocked" by this.

Grunberg Says No to Front Républicain

Gérard Grunberg has a fine piece on Telos in which he demonstrates the political folly of the habitual recourse to "republican" rhetoric against supposed tyranny. His final sentence, which pungently encapsulates a point I have made several times in the past few days, is worth quoting:

"Reciprocal demonization paves the way for escape from the real world."

France Monde

The announcement yesterday of the creation of France Monde, a holding company charged with managing all French foreign broadcasting interests, was dominated by the usual clucking about nepotism: doesn't Christine Ockrent's companion have a government job? Hasn't she made a mess of other media ventures? What about her other conflicts of interest? Overlooked in all this fuss was the curious fact that Alain de Pouzilhac, who is actually to head France Monde, has no degree higher than the bac. This certainly gives him an unusual profile in the French elite (are you listening, New York Times?). The son of a "penniless aristocrat" turned public-relations man, Pouzilhac made his mark in the world of advertising.

Moscovici's Cambridge Speech

Pierre Moscovici gave a speech at the University of Cambridge in which he reflected on the causes of Sarkozy's sudden decline in popularity. Note that first and foremost he blames "the credit crunch and global economic slowdown" and concedes that Sarkozy is a victim, not a culprit. Second, he mentions the failure to deliver on campaign promises, in particular the promise to increase purchasing power. Only in third place comes Sarkozy's leadership style, overexposure in the press, personal turmoil, etc. Yet this third point has been stressed in recent interviews with Moscovici in the French press.

Moscovici's lucidity does him credit, as does his recognition that Sarko's difficulties will not go very far toward restoring the fortunes of the left, particularly since the prime cause of difficulty is beyond Sarko's control. "It's the economy, stupid," to borrow a phrase--and the economic shock would have undermined a Royal presidency as quickly as it has undermined Sarkozy's. Over the past two days we have learned that the IMF has revised its projection of French growth downward to 1.5 percent for the next year, and last year inflation rose to 3.2 percent. Caught in these pincers, no government is likely to do much to increase purchasing power.

For Sarkozy to improve his fortunes, he must demonstrate that his is not a one-act presidency. The global economic situation has changed dramatically since the election, and he must demonstrate that he is not at a loss for a policy. He must respond to facts as they develop. So must the Socialists, and for all the lucidity of Moscovici's analysis, he offers nothing in the way of policy prescriptions, only one more call for a "thorough, comprehensive renovation."

SocGen Internal Investigation Report

Here is the report of SocGen's internal investigation to date in the Kerviel affair. It makes frequent use of an abbreviation I don't see often: GEUR, or gigaeuros, an appropriate unit for Kerviel's trading. All of his transactions are detailed, and there is a running chronological tally of his real and "official" profits and losses, as well as of the various queries raised in connection with his dealings. The investigators conclude that he acted alone, with the important caveat that they offer no conclusions as to his relations with his hierarchical superiors in the "front office," whom they were unable to interview because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

No Joy On Overtime Tax Relief

Tax relief on overtime hours has not produced a surge in hours worked.

Are There No Happy Marseillais?

Jean-Claude Gaudin, the mayor of Marseille, who is up for re-election, has been embarrassed by a campaign poster featuring the faces of happy citizens pleased with way he runs his city. The problem is that the faces are those of Americans, taken from Getty Images by his ad agency. You can see some of them in the banner of this Gaudin Web site. We are the world!

Nettoyé au Kärcher

It was more than two years ago that Nicolas Sarkozy promised to cleanse la dalle d'Argenteuil au Kärcher. Today, it seems that what has been cleared out of the area is not les voyous but les commerçants.