Thursday, December 10, 2009
Goulven Boudic of the University of Nantes is organizing a "counter-debate" on national identity. This is to be an international forum, with participation solicited not only from Nantes but around the world. I have submitted a short written intervention, which I will post here tomorrow.
Dominique Nora reports on the "cleantech" revolution in Silicon Valley. I was struck by this sentence in the review: "Chez nous, l'écologie, c'est surtout la loi. Là- bas, c'est des gens." It takes us back to the 50s and le défi américain. That was of course Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber's notion that the Yanks had found the high road to modernity and that Europe had better follow the same route or risk oblivion. Then as now, perhaps un juste milieu would have served both sides. And it's not clear that Europe--with its lead in wind and nuclear power and research on solar power--actually lags in technology, even as it leads in regulation. But the American entrepreneurial machine is a formidable generator of energy and shouldn't be underestimated. And technology has often proven to be a less painful means of altering human behavior than government intervention--albeit, to be sure, for the worse as well as for the better.
The "moralization of capitalism" has been given a symbolic fillip by Sarkozy's decision to tax banker bonuses 50% this year only. Since Britain took this step previously, Sarko feels safe in following suit: he doesn't risk losing financial services business to the City. On the other hand, he also promised yesterday "never" to reconsider his broadening of the tax shield for the wealthy. It seems that the moralization of capitalism is sometimes a deterrent to excess and at other times a disincentive to animal spirits. Trust the government to know which is which.