Tuesday, January 13, 2009

France-Bashing Is Back at Bloomberg

Boz has the story. Here's the Bloomberg editorial. Michael Sesit, the author, allows the much-discussed irritants of Sarkozy's personality to color his judgment of French foreign policy under Sarkozy. He fails to appreciate how problematic the Euro-skepticism, to put it mildly, of the current Czech leadership makes the Czech presidency of the EU. He refuses to see that Sarkozy's very flaws can sometimes play a useful role: his egotism encourages him to run risks that others might avoid, and he seems to be undeterred by the prospect of losing face. This can be helpful when other actors are too cautious and unwilling to take chances and explore remote possibilities. Yet while he can be as brash and overbearing as Bush, he has never been as reckless. Thus Sesit's closing advice, that investors had better be "wary about owning European assets" until Sarkozy sends the Foreign Legion into Gaza--well, it quite takes the breath away. We are back, it seems, to the depressing days of 2003, when the French were wimps and men were men (as well as American). This is foolishness (as is this Post editorial).

Trust

Last year, Yann Algan and Pierre Cahuc attracted a good deal of attention by diagnosing France as a "society of distrust." An endemic lack of trust, which they claimed to have measured empirically, was, in their view, blocking progress toward necessary reform of the French social model. Now Eloi Laurent has produced an important and persuasive critique of the Algan-Cahuc thesis. You can read his analysis here. Highly recommended. (For additional comment on the Algan-Cahuc thesis, see these earlier posts.)