Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Housing Bubble


Germany, it seems, had no housing bubble of its own, but German banks partook heavily of credit derivatives built on housing bubbles elsewhere. By contrast, France experienced a fairly substantial increase in housing prices, but its banks, as far as we know to date, were much warier of exotic derivatives. I haven't yet seen any good explanation for the differences in bank behavior. The difference in housing prices is partly a matter of demographics and partly due to the size and composition of the housing stock.

Health Care Around the World

Paid sick days and sick leave in various countries (h/t James Kwak and Ezra Klein).

Sarko at 2 in World Politics Review

After saying that I found the spate of "two-year anniversary" reviews of Sarkozy's presidency somewhat tiresome, I was commissioned to write one by World Politics Review. Regular readers of this blog won't find anything new, but I thought I'd let you know that it's out there and give the link to WPR, which in my mind stands out as one of the best of the new Web news sources.

Movement?

The other day a group of academics published a manifesto in Le Monde concerning the university reform and the reasons for the impasse. It is an interesting document. Among the most important points is this observation:

Une des principales raisons du marasme de l'Université française est qu'elle se trouve en situation de concurrence déloyale avec tout le reste du système d'enseignement supérieur (classes préparatoires et de BTS, IUT, écoles de tous types et de tous niveaux), toutes institutions en général mieux dotées per capita et davantage maîtresses du recrutement de leur public.

On touche là à un des non-dits récurrents de toutes les réformes qui se sont succédé en France. Cette situation est d'autant plus délétère que la gestion de l'enseignement supérieur dans son ensemble dépend d'autorités ministérielles et administratives distinctes (l'enseignement secondaire pour les classes préparatoires et les STS, les ministères sectoriels pour les écoles professionnelles diverses), voire échappe à tout contrôle politique. Imagine-t-on un ministère de la santé qui n'ait que la tutelle des hôpitaux publics !

Valérie Pécresse responded to this manifesto yesterday. She made a point of noting "convergences" between the government's position and that of the refondateurs and seemed to indicate that she was prepared for "constructive" dialogue. But consider her response to the point raised above:

L'université, c'est vrai, subit durement la concurrence de filières de formation et d'écoles sélectives. Alors est-ce une faiblesse irrémédiable pour notre service public d'enseignement supérieur ? Je ne le crois pas. C'est notre héritage. A nous de savoir en faire une force. Construire, pour les étudiants, des passerelles entre écoles et universités, permettre aux universités de mettre en place des classes préparatoires en leur sein, développer les cohabilitations de diplômes, créer des écoles doctorales communes : voilà ce que les universités et les écoles sont en train de bâtir, voilà ce que je souhaite et ce que j'encourage.

In the courts this would be called a "nonresponsive" answer. It is a good example, I think, of why the government's interlocutors claim that there is no dialogue while the government insists, or pretends, that there is.

Today, three of the refondateurs reject the notion of "convergence" as a transparent attempt at récupération:

Ces trois universitaires, impliqués dans le mouvement et désireux que le problème de l'université soit posé autrement dans la société, ajoutent que "pour dissiper tout équivoque, comptant parmi les initiateurs de ce manifeste, nous croyons pouvoir dire au minimum qu'il n'aurait pas recueilli 3 500 signatures à ce jour si nos collègues s'étaient aperçus de telles convergences

Le Maire and Moscovici Debate Europe

Here. These are two able debaters, but it's more amusing than enlightening to see them attempt to wield the names "Sarkozy" and "Barroso" as symbolic markers of deep differences of political philosophy.

Ironies

Le Figaro today fairly licks its chops at the prospect of a serious reversal for the Socialists in the European elections. Ironies abound. Benoît Hamon, who is one of the few baby elephants to have bulked up under the Aubry regime, risks being the only major figure to be knocked out if things don't go well (he is no. 3 on the Francilienne list led by Harlem Désir). The PS could lose in Aubry's home region, largely owing to opposition from other left parties as well as MoDem. The dissident left is driven in part by opposition to Europe, and Hamon of course owes his rise in PS ranks to the persistence of anti-European sentiment there and the need to mollify and reassure that the party hasn't sold out to Eurocrats. So Jacques Delors's daughter has the less than Euro-enthusiastic Hamon as her spokesman. Among those voters who aren't sitting out the election altogether (and turnout is expected to be quite low), some may well look for more forthright alternatives.