Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Priceless

This video, starring the young Eric Besson, is priceless. At last one understands the man.

Une droite peut en cacher une autre

One thing you can say for the American Right: no matter how nonsensical its nostrums may seem, it believes them. When Republicans say, "Cutting taxes increases revenue," they would cut off their right (left?) arms sooner than admit they were wrong. Not so the French Right. They were all for the bouclier fiscal when it was a matter of "overcoming inhibitions about money" and "unleashing entrepreneurial energy" and "allowing creative people to keep the fruits of their genius"--and of course when these slogans seemed to promise more votes. But times have changed, the votes have evaporated, the word "solidarity" is back in vogue, the poor are really, not just relatively, suffering (in good times it's an article of faith on the right that the poor bring their relative deprivation on themselves by lacking the gumption needed to succeed). Compassion is what the Right thinks it needs to sell now, the whispers against the tax shield have now turned to shouts and howls, especially since only 19,000 people seem to be benefiting from it, and it's going to be tough to persuade voters, when anticipated tax increases arrive, that folks with fortunes above 15 million euros really need the tax break that will be denied to la France qui se lève tôt.

But Sarko has seemed to be drawing a line in the sand. If he now gives in, his defeat in the regionals will have turned to a rout. The symbolic import of the bouclier has always far surpassed its economic significance. If he now drops his shield, he will be exposed to slings and arrows from all sides. But if he doesn't drop it, he may find himself a general without an army, who needs more than a shield to save him from his enemies.

Culture Wars

Frédéric Martel has a new book, Mainstream, which argues that American "soft power" has swept the world and redefined the meaning of "culture":

La patrie de Disney est celle de Google, le plus puissant moteur de recherche du monde. Reste-elle dominante?
Absolument. Les Etats-Unis conservent le leadership parce qu’ils produisent une culture qui parle à tout le monde. Un produit mainstream, universel, qui s’exporte partout. Ils ont des atouts : l’anglais, la diversité culturelle et l’immigration. Ils le font à partir d’un écosystème très particulier. Il n’y a pas un grand plan régulateur. Leurs acteurs sont indépendants et interconnectés. Ils poursuivent des objectifs privés et concurrents. Pourtant il y a une cohérence dans tout cela. Et la culture des communautés véhiculée par les canaux puissants du Net que sont Google, Facebook ou Twitter est construite sur le même schéma et rayonne tout autant.

The Mighty Have Fallen

You can almost feel sorry for her:
Froisser le chef de l'Etat n'est vraiment pas une bonne idée en ce moment. Rachida Dati en aurait fait les frais récemment, Nicolas Sarkozy la privant du véhicule que lui fournit le ministère de l'Intérieur (une Peugeot 607), ainsi que son chauffeur et ses quatre officiers de sécurité, rapporte ce mercredi le Canard Enchaîné.
Motif? Le président de la République aurait été irrité par les propos de l'ex-garde des Sceaux qui, au soir du premier tour des élections régionales, prônait à la télévision un «retour aux fondamentaux» après les mauvais résultats de l'UMP. Sauf qu'elle n'était même pas candidate. «Mais qu'est-ce qu'elle fait là, celle-là? On ne l'a pas vue pendant la campagne, et la voilà devant les caméras», aurait déclamé Nicolas Sarkozy.

Plus de 607, mais il lui reste une Prius
Ce dernier a ainsi décidé de lui retirer sur le champ ses petits avantages qu'elle ne perd pas complètement puisqu'il lui reste une autre voiture de fonction (une Toyota Prius) grâce à son statut de maire du 7e arrondissement de Paris.

Tartuffes

The Conseil d'État may see a problem with any sweeping ban on the burqa, but some French legislators are nevertheless determined to display their unshakable faith in the rightness of a ban: on the Right, Copé, Leonetti, Balkany, and on the Left, Gérin, of course, and Valls. Balkany is characteristically blunt: "Le Conseil d'État donne des conseils. On n'est pas obligés de les suivre." This is of course true, but it would be pleasant to think that, where issues of human rights are concerned, legislators at least deigned to reflect on the conseils they receive.

The French Model

Greg Mankiw compares per capita taxation:

The most common metric for answering this question is taxes as a percentage of GDP.  However, high tax rates tend to depress GDP.  Looking at taxes as a percentage of GDP may mislead us into thinking we can increase tax revenue more than we actually can.  For some purposes, a better statistic may be taxes per person, which we can compute using this piece of advanced mathematics:

Taxes/GDP x GDP/Person = Taxes/Person

Here are the results for some of the largest developed nations:

France
.461 x 33,744 = 15,556

Germany
.406 x 34,219 = 13,893

UK
.390 x 35,165 = 13,714

US
.282 x 46,443 = 13,097

Matt Yglesias says that Mankiw probably doesn't believe that this analysis makes any sense, but he likes the conclusion.