Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I am struck at the resonances between the voices of young people in contemporary France and the cries of those who rebelled in U.S. inner cities in the 1960’s — arguably the last time we had nationwide un-civil unrest. French youth in the suburbs are mostly North African in origin — or from other parts of Francophone Africa. They are also mad as hell. Decades of poverty and social exclusion have created a growing cohort of teenagers and 20-somethings who feel no investment in their nation.The indifference of the French government toward such frustration is truly remarkable. The state of national denial is best exemplified by the refusal of the French government to allow either private or government bodies to gather statistics based on race or ethnicity. The French tell us that in their “republic,” everyone must be content to be (simply) a “citizen”; acknowledging attributes like race or ethnicity — or religion — would affirm differences, foster inequality, and thereby lead to threats against the national ideal of a brotherhood of Frenchmen.
... both increases in taxes and increases in government spending have a strong negative effect on private investment spending. This effect is consistent with a neoclassical model with distortionary taxes, but more difficult to reconcile with Keynesian theory: while agnostic about the sign, Keynesian theory predicts opposite effects of tax and spending increases on private investment. This does not appear to be the case.
Mankiw: "I am especially attracted to the goal of robustness: we should try to find a stimulus plan that works under a variety of alternative business cycle models." A pious wish, but does such a beast exist? Still, it's good to have the caution flag raised as we prepare to spend on the order of a trillion dollars. One of the problems with Europe's balkanized system of economic management is that the complexities distract from the essential question that Mankiw raises.
On Friday there will be a colloquium at Harvard in honor of Stanley Hoffmann, the doyen of French studies in the United States. You can see the program here. Stanley was born in Vienna 80 years ago, spent the war years in France as a Jewish child hidden in a Catholic school (the film Au revoir, les enfants parallels his story), and wrote his thesis on Pierre Poujade before coming to Harvard in the 1950s as part of a distinguished group that included Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. He has been a beacon to generations of Harvard students, as well as my mentor and friend for thirty years. Stanley has kindled a passion for France and for Europe in more Americans than probably anyone else in the world. His erudition is exceeded only by his wisdom and wit.* François Furet once said of him that "he is one of the great professors of the twentieth century." His greatness continues to enlighten us all in the twenty-first. Happy Birthday, Stanley.
* Stanley is also the kindest, gentlest, and most generous critic imaginable. I once wrote a paper in which I referred to a book that "Paul Hazard published in 1954." Stanley wrote in the margins of the draft I sent him: "If Hazard published that book in 1954, I must be mistaken in thinking that I read it in 1949, but you might want to check on the date."
Ca fait déjà un bout de temps que je me dis, en rigolant, "vivement que la gauche revienne au pouvoir, qu'on puisse avoir une politique économique un peu libérale". Aujourd'hui, je ne rigole plus.