Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Corrective: The CAS in a Better Light

The report lampooned in the previous post is not typical of the CAS, which has done some very good work, a correspondent tells me: for example, this on urban violence (h/t Justin).

Où sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?

A mention in Le Monde of a report by the prime minister's Centre d'Analyse Stratégique sent me to the CAS Web site. I didn't find the report I was looking for, which apparently argues that the French fear a loss of class status by their children more than the statistics warrant. I did find another report, however, whose method astonishes me more than its results. This one, entitled "La crise d'après les mots, les mots de l'après-crise," attempts to evaluate French attitudes toward the crisis by asking respondents to state their feelings toward a corpus of 210 key words. This so-called "semiometric analysis" is then used to create a typology of responses to the crisis: "fighters," "retreaters," "train wrecks" (sinistrés), "reformers," and "rebuilders."

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.

Misoverestimated

Mon pauvre Bernard! Kouchner seems to have pronunciation problems of George W. Bush magnitude. Here he refers to Uighurs as "Yoghourts." Danone should sue. Well, at least he didn't call the Hans "Huns" (though the Uighurs might). There are times when I think Kouchner has been "misoverestimated," to adapt a well-known Bushism.

The European Social Model and the Long Run

Mark Thoma thinks Ken Rogoff has Europe's future wrong because he has Europe's past wrong.