Friday, July 31, 2009
The IMF staff report is available here.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Un week-end qui s’annonce chargé sur les routes de France dans le sens des départs comme celui des retours. Pas de vert à l’horizon.
Vendredi, les départs sont classés rouge au niveau national et les retours restent classés orange.
Samedi, bison futé voit noir pour les départs du 1er août sur l’ensemble des routes de France. Dans le sens des retours ce sera orange au niveau national et rouge dans le sud-est France.
Dimanche sera orange d’un point de vue national et rouge dans le sud-est de la France. Les retours resteront orange sur l’ensemble du territoire.
So it has been forever, and so it will be until kingdom come. Sarko himself is off to Cap Nègre, where he will find medically prescribed repose in the bosom of the Bruni-Tedeschi family.
The seasonal transfer of grazing animals to different pastures, often over substantial distances.
Reste, en fait, une seule solution raisonnable : restaurer la liberté de circuler qui permettrait aux étrangers qui veulent venir travailler chez nous de le faire mais qui permettrait aussi à ceux qui ne trouvent pas de travail de tenter leur chance ailleurs. En d’autres mots, il faut laisser le marché du travail fonctionner sans contrainte. C’est la meilleure régulation que l’on puisse imaginer. C’est ce qui se passe en Europe et on n’a pas vu d’afflux de travailleurs des pays les plus pauvres (la Grèce, le Portugal…) chez les plus riches. Il n’y a pas de motif qu’il en aille autrement avec le reste du monde.
In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, it is widely believed that the quality of university-industry linkages is important for growth. On several occasions, the European Commission has argued that while European research institutions are good at producing academic research outputs, they are not successful in transferring these outputs to the economy – the so called ‘European Paradox’ (European Commission 2007). Reforms in the organisation of technology transfer are thus needed to improve knowledge transfer from public research institutions to firms.
Initial fiscal conditions matter for fiscal performance during shocks. In countries with high precrisis ratios of public sector debt to GDP, lack of fiscal space not only constraints the government's ability to implement countercyclical policies, but also undermines the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus and the quality of fiscal performance. In countries with high debt, crises lasted almost one year longer. The effect of high public debt on duration completely offset the benefits of expansionary fiscal policies in these countries.
The composition of fiscal expansions matters for crisis length -- a point that has not been studied in the literature. Stimulus packages that rely mostly on measures to support government consumption are more effective in shortening the crisis duration than those based on public investment. A 10 percentage point increase in the share of public consumption in the budget reduces the crisis length by three to four months. Reducing the share of income taxes is less effective than consumption taxes in shortening the length of a banking crisis. These results suggest that tailoring the composition of fiscal response packages is important for enhancing the effectiveness of countercyclical fiscal measures in both advanced and emerging market economies
Fiscal expansions do not have a significant impact on output recovery after the crisis though. Crises can have long-term negative effects, damaging human and physical capital with negative implications for productivity and potential output growth. Early recovery from a crisis is therefore important, to minimize output losses in the short term and enhance medium-term growth prospects. This calls for timely fiscal responses during downturns. However, fiscal policy responses may not be effective when initial fiscal conditions are poor and fiscal space is limited. High public debt levels and past macroeconomic instability limit the scope for countercyclical deficit expansions and hamper the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus measures as markets perceive the higher future fiscal risks entailed by larger deficits.
The paper is "How Effective is Fiscal Policy Response in Systemic Banking Crises?", by E. Baldacci, S. Gupta, and C. Mulas-Granados
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Awfully precise information, considering how little was supposedly known about the burqa when controversy erupted a few weeks ago. But if the number 367 is anywhere near accurate (does it include the investigative journalist for Rue89 about whom I reported a few days ago?), I think that France will survive even if women are permitted to wear the burqa in the street. And since most are said to wear it voluntarily, the supposed justification for a ban--that it is a symbol of the oppression of women by men--would seem weakened.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Now that it turns out virtue has a cost--the carbon tax is, horrors! a tax!--the bandwagon has fewer passengers. Cohn-Bendit called the tax "revolutionary," and he's right. But not everyone wants to make the revolution. Michel Rocard, vieux routier, is taking it all philosophically. This is the stage at which Sarkozy gets to show what he's made of. Is reducing greenhouse gas emissions as important to him as stopping kids from downloading the latest Orelsan?
Monday, July 27, 2009
Au moment de sa sortie, l'Elysée publiait un communiqué expliquant qu'avait été diagnostiqué "un malaise lipothymique d'effort soutenu par grande chaleur et sans perte de connaissance, dans un contexte de fatigue liée à une charge de travail importante".
Uh, pardon me, Elysée press flacks, but "lipothymia?" Isn't that something straight out of Molière? Remember la vertu dormitive? Well, here we have "the fainting spirit." Sarkozy fainted because he was suffering from the fainting spirit:
[ad. and a. mod.L.
Fainting, swooning, syncope; an instance of this.
Come on, fellas. Yesterday's "vasovagal syncope" was much better than today's "travailler plus pour s'évanouir plus."
Sunday, July 26, 2009
UPDATE: Nicolas Sarkozy appears to have suffered a vasovagal syncope. There is "no danger and no treatment," according to Libération.
Plus ça change ... Cécilia, in her day, also dressed her man and was said to be a civilizing influence. Which intellectuals, exactly, is Sarko supposedly wooing with this eclectic mix? Houellebecq will drive away more than Dennis Hopper entices, and Patek Philippe and Hilditch & Key merely raise the level of bling to that of, say, the Financial Times Weekend supplement rather than stargazing fan magazines. BHL and Glucksmann already dined with Sarko the Vulgar, while a raft of economists supported him the first time around and, though somewhat disappointed with the way things have turned out, aren't likely to abandon him in Round Two. But it's the summer silly season (blog traffic hit an annual low yesterday), so we are reduced to filling newsprint and bandwidth with Sarko makeover stories.
There is one delicious anecdote in the piece, however:
[The president] dragged out a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s autobiography with passages underlined, including, “Progress, this long arduous path that leads to me.” He read the passage to several journalists, L’Express said, and he commented: “Someone who is capable of writing that. ... It’s impressive, no?” It was not clear that the president caught the irony in Sartre, though it is just possible that L’Express did.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
A party short of innovative policy prescriptions can still distinguish itself by proposing internal reforms. There has long been anti-cumul and pro-parité sentiment in the PS, and the Finistère federation has finally acted on it. Is this a Great Leap Forward? I think not, though less multiple office holding and more women on the ticket would both be healthy developments. Still, in today's PS, we have to take signs of life where we find them.
(For the record, I think the cumul des mandats should be ruled out as a matter of law, whereas I have always been opposed to legally mandated gender parité, even in the limited form that now exists. The parties should actively seek to promote candidacies by women and minorities, but not under legal mandate.)
Friday, July 24, 2009
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Thursday, July 23, 2009
The government's ploy seems to be to sit quietly and hope the movement goes pschitt. But radicalization (of a sort) seems to be spreading about as fast as the swine flu. To be sure, nothing has actually blown up yet (although there has been some machine-breaking). But if and when it does, the government will undoubtedly come down hard, and then--on verra.
As Raymond Aron said in 1978, "Ce peuple, apparemment tranquille, est encore dangereux." [quoted in this article by Perry Anderson]
Despite this, a close advisor of Martine Aubry informs me directly and unequivocally that "Martine is a rock" and "will win in the end." Pay no attention to all those "wretched French journalists" who "understand nothing about politics." You read it here first, folks.
Réorganiser les cursus pour, notamment, placer l'université au centre de l'enseignement supérieur, réorganiser les disciplines dont le nombre serait restreint, avancer vers un statut commun aux chercheurs et enseignants-chercheurs, revoir l'organisation et le financement universitaire forment un corpus modérément original. Mais c'est sur ce socle qu'ont été rédigés un manifeste puis un appel largement contresignés, qui représentent, dans la morosité ambiante, l'une des rares démarches constructives aujourd'hui proposées pour bâtir l'avenir de l'université
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Si, malgré des budgets de défense très inférieurs aux budgets américains, les armées européennes persistent à se doter d'équipement de norme technologique américaine, il y a fort à parier que, dans peu d'années, les forces européennes dans leur ensemble devront abandonner des pans entiers de leurs capacités militaires. La cohérence d'ensemble ne pourra donc être rétablie que sous parapluie et leadership américain.
For a previous comment on Gen. Desportes's ideas, see here.
"We have the rules now. It is not a question of -re-inventing the wheel or procrastinating about them. It is a question of applying a set of rules that have now been agreed by the Financial Stability Board. The utmost priority should be given to their implementation," she said. "If operators are not prepared to play by those rules, then make sure we have prudential rules that strongly encourage them to do so."
Ms Lagarde acknowledged that it was "tough" imposing higher standards on French banks in terms of pay that could put them at a competitive disadvantage in recruitment.
"It is not fair that some players are playing by the rules and that some players - especially when they are highly subsidised - are simply ignoring the rules."
But she said Paris as a financial centre stood to benefit from the enhanced reputation of its universal bank business model - combining investment banking with retail operations - and of its regulatory system, and from London's tarnished image. "I don't think we have been guilty of the same excess, not to say that we have been paragons of virtue," she said.
A half-hearted and unconvincing attempt at an explanation here.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
It was a briskly paced concert of songs with messages — protests, exhortations, laments, rallying cries — and a few pop love songs on the side. Top billing went to American musicians, who also included Alicia Keys, Josh Groban, Will.i.am, Gloria Gaynor, Queen Latifah, the improbable duo of Cyndi Lauper and Lil’ Kim, and Jesse McCartney, a 22-year-old would-be Justin Timberlake, who proposed “Body Language” as a path to multicultural entente. Europeans were also on hand, including the chanteuse who’s now the first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy — breathily singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” with the English rocker Dave Stewart — and the Italian rocker Zucchero.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
It's hard to fault the president for making the right call in the end, but it would have been better if he'd avoided the need to renege on an impossible promise.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
One can understand the lads losing their jobs going after a bigger severance package by any means available, but hasn't it occurred to their union leaders that the threat of midsummer bonfires isn't likely to prove enticing to new capital?
Dispatch from the front. And from Le Monde. And this on the Nortel plant, another site of threatened violence.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I would say that I'm shocked, shocked to discover that this sort of thing is going on, but it happens that when I served in the U.S. Army, many moons ago, the military intelligence outfit I was with had placed a spy undercover among American journalists in Saigon. It took about a week before our rather inept secret agent managed to give himself away (he didn't know the journalists' secret handshake). The French agents seem to have been captured by renegades within the very military unit they were training. The secret agent's life is full of hazards.
So, to sum up, the PS alleges that Sarko was polling the public in order to persuade the same public that it liked him better than it actually did like him, whereas OpinionWay is claiming that the polls it did for the media weren't necessarily telling the same story as the polls it did for the Elysée.
I guess it's a good thing I don't put much stock in the polls.
The president is back in the US, but instead of chowing down on hot dogs with the Bushes he's having a "political lunch" with Ban Ki-Moon at the consulate. Carla will be joining Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin in a memorial concert for Nelson Mandela. It's all so very international. What happened to "Sarkozy l'Américain?" And no meeting with Obama? Truly, there seem to be no atomes crochus between these two, although Matt Drudge and Gawker did try to make it seem as if they shared at least one passionate interest in common. The film of the occasion proved, however, that Obama got a bum rap (forgive the pun). Sarko's interest appears to have been genuine, however (sorry, you'll have to bear with the commercial before getting to the point).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Gauchet, it seems to me, has articulated a real problem with Tocqueville's much-discussed admiration of "association" as a palliative to some of the inherent flaws of democratic society. Tocqueville believed that associative skills were learned and that a society that had many associations could foster the sorts of traits (readiness to compromise, reciprocity, long-term thinking) that successful democracy required. But perhaps there can be too much of a good thing: a penchant for association encourages the "exit" option over "voice" and "loyalty," to borrow Albert Hirschman's terms and thus corrodes the very traits it is supposed to foster. This is a problem that Tocqueville failed to foresee.
Given the almost total abidcation of the opposition, the French media have been finding it difficult to cover politics in recent months. Sarkozy is no longer the whirling dervish of the first presidential summer, so there are fewer supreme interventions to cover. The day-to-day business of dealing with the economic crisis is soporific to most readers.
L'Express, it seems, has hit on a new ploy. According to the latest dramaturgy, Sarkozy has assembled the "team of rivals" made famous by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book about Lincoln, which has already served the American media in their coverage of Obama's presidency. At the bottom of our drama remains the supposed distance between Sarko and his prime minister, Fillon. Fillon is typecast as the dour and recessive fiscal conservative. His hothead foil of the hour is no longer the president, however, but his "special advisor" Henri Guaino. Once a speechwriter, notoriously described by Sarko as un fêlé (according to Yasmina Reza), Guaino has supposedly expanded his role to that of Rasputin, the energumen behind the throne, whose feverish brain the chief finds useful to exploit but constantly in need of careful surveillance, lest it run amok.
Enter Xavier Musca (pictured), the new deputy secretary general of the Elysée. Conveniently, Musca participated in the drafting of the Maastricht Treaty way back when, and Guaino strenuously opposed it, so we have that essential ingredient of all good "team of rivals"-type drama, the festering grudge. Yet hovering above this seething cauldron of passions is the ingenious head of state, calmly manipulating his pawns for the greater good of the Republic. Here is the way L'Express describes the action:
Dans l'équipe, Henri Guaino côtoie Xavier Musca, le nouveau secrétaire général adjoint: le premier a fait campagne contre le traité de Maastricht, le second, alors haut fonctionnaire au Trésor, a participé à sa rédaction. Le chef de l'Etat joue de ces sensibilités comme des touches d'un piano : il instrumentalise ses conseillers pour composer sa petite musique.
Well, I suppose political journalists, like political bloggers, have to find their copy where they can. But I find this new dramaturgy rather thin gruel. Note, by the way, that Musca is an énarque. An early theme of this blog was the relative absence of énarques in Sarkozy's government. That is less true than it used to be. Les grands commis de l'État have been finding their way back in for some time and have been displacing the lawyers and political cronies in the process. L'Express makes a point of noting Guaino's increased presence in the media in defense of his emprunt national. Indeed, publicity is essential in what is, after all, fundamentally a publicity stunt. Far from the klieg lights the sausage will be sliced, and it won't be Guaino who wields the knife.
Other signs. Laurent Bouvet's take.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The stupidity of this move cannot be overstated. It is a confession of impotence by the party leader and yet another sign that the much-awaited "renovation" of the party is never going to happen. Perhaps Aubry is right, though: maybe it is time for the party to admit defeat and see if something new emerges from the rubble.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
UPDATE: For a caustic comment on the unions in all this, see Marc Cohen.
Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and, to a lesser extent, Spain are all in denial about the extent of their banking problems, although the Dutch, Belgians and French have had to spend billions of euros of taxpayers’ money to save Fortis, ABN Amro, ING and Dexia.
But there is a puzzle here. Germany is said to be concealing the extent of its banking problems for fear of spooking voters before the upcoming September elections. What is France's excuse? And if the denial of banking problems is such common knowledge that the Times can print it as fact, why aren't French journalists probing more deeply into the alleged difficulties of the country's banks? Why isn't the opposition raising the issue?
Monday, July 13, 2009
I don't know the facts of the case well enough to comment on the severity of the sentences, but Bilger's remarks do raise an important issue. The point, in my mind, is not whether "banal" anti-Semitism is "comparable" to the lethal variety but rather whether it is an enabling condition. Fofana apparently found any number of people in his neighborhood sufficiently persuaded of the truth of the "banal" prejudice that "all Jews are wealthy" that they were willing to go along with his kidnap-for-ransom scheme. Some number of the defendants knew where the victim was being sequestered and what was being done to him yet did nothing to stop it. Perhaps it wasn't "lethal" anti-Semitism that made them indifferent to his suffering but "merely" a generalized moral callousness. Call it what you will. Its prevalence in at least one Paris suburb seems to me to warrant an adjective slightly more censorious than Bilger's préoccupant.
If the prosecutor hadn't offered his distinction between two kinds of anti-Semitism, many people would probably still have been disturbed by the sentences in the case. It may indeed be true that the sentences requested by the prosecutor were appropriate, but to justify leniency by introducing an invidious distinction between two kinds of anti-Semitism seems to me to beg all sorts of questions that would better be posed in some place other than a court of law.
M. Mitterrand has thrown himself into the task with gusto, apparently. His eagerness to cater to the whims of his master shows that he was, truly, the man for the job. Christine Albanel had demonstrated some reluctance to go along with the ukase from the palace. Not Mitterrand. And anyway, the cleanup costs will be deferred to the city of Paris, which happens to be run by a Socialist, while Sarko gets to demonstrate the wisdom of his enlargement of the tax shield, which was generous enough to lure Johnny back from his vacation in tax-shelter country. Win-win.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
To take just one of these categories, "rebuilders" are people with "voluntaristic" and "dynamic" personalities, as exemplified by their positive evaluation of words such as "construct," "effort," "ambition," and "commerce," while they tend to distance themselves from "anxiety-generating threats so as to construct a serene and reassuring framework," signified by their favorable rating of words such as "tenderness," "feminine," "blue," "intimate," and "sublime."
May I venture to suggest that France's First Rebuilder is its president, who has always been voluntaristic and dynamic and who, since his remarriage, is in closer touch with his previously suppressed tender, feminine, blue, intimate, and sublime instincts?
If this were the United States, I would nominate this study for the late Sen. Proxmire's "Golden Fleece" Award. But this is France, so I will simply suggest that the work is probably an employment support scheme for jobless sociologists. It's a good example of the way in which crises not only make it profitable to dig holes in order to fill them up again, as Keynes suggested, but also provide their own holes, there for the filling by anyone with a personality dynamic enough, or shameless enough, to seize the day.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Maybe this can help us understand attitudes toward the burqa. In America we can cover our faces in public and keep our SAT scores to ourselves, if we so choose. In France, both your face and your scores must be available for public scrutiny. (Insert smiley face here.)
And as everyone knows, the only thing stopping Europe from getting right in there and mixing it up with bad guys around the world is the lack of a heavy-lifting capability ... right? Of course depriving oneself of capabilities with the potential to make trouble down the road is also "always a political" matter. Remember Ulysses and the Sirens? Europe has perhaps tied itself to the mast lest the Sirens tempt it into unleashing the dogs of war.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
She apparently missed this item, which appeared a couple of months ago:
"The latest industrial production figures were dragged lower by a weak Italian, Spanish and French performance."
And this one:
The French economy may lose 350,000 jobs in 2009 as it faces the worst recession since World War II. The number of unemployed seeking a full-time, permanent contract increased by 90,200 in January to 2.2 million, the biggest gain since the start of available data in 1991 and the ninth straight monthly increase, the government said on Feb. 25.
Mark Thoma takes a somewhat more positive view than I do:
While the scale, $37 billion versus close to $800 billion, is a bit different and probably ought to be accounted for in the comparison, there does seem to be a difference not just in the speed of deployment, but also in the focus of the policy. It will be interesting to see how that difference, which seems to place somewhat more emphasis on boosting employment and aggregate demand immediately than on long-run growth in France as compared to the U.S., translates into a differential response to the fiscal policy boosts in the two countries.
And an interesting comparative comment from Matt Yglesias.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
... les gouvernements européens et le gouvernement français en particulier ont l’habitude de céder à des groupes de pression bien organisés tels que les pêcheurs et les camionneurs, les agriculteurs n’étant pas loin derrière.
...En dernière analyse, on peut donc s’attendre à une application très sélective de la taxe, en fonction de la puissance des groupes de pression. Le consommateur moyen, non membre d’une organisation importante, risque d’en faire les frais. En d’autres termes, l’effet d’une telle taxe sera probablement minime à cause des exemptions qui pousseront à la consommation et favorisera les grands groupes et les lobbies les plus puissants.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Could this alliance force the PS to clarify its thinking? Are there more votes to be gained in the center (as I believe) than on the left? In any case, the European elections seem to have galvanized the left of the left. The left front turned out to be little more than the rump of the Communist Party with a trickle of new votes from Mélenchon and friends. And the NPA didn't break out of the LCR ghetto. My guess is that combining forces won't win them many votes over their combined total and may even lose a few (what will the hard-core Trots in the NPA make of an alliance with the PCF?). This is electoralist politics of the sort that Mélenchon et cie. left the Socialists in order to leave behind them. Its only virtue is to strengthen the hand of the extreme left in negotiations with the PS. And who in the extreme left really thinks that's a goal worth winning?