Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FN Discussed on C Dans l'Air

The program starts with a shocker: polls show Marine Le Pen capturing 40% of the working class vote, more than twice the score of the PS (15-18%) and three times that of Nicolas Sarkozy (~13%).

Stimulus in a Time of Austerity

Who says you can't have stimulus in a time of austerity? François Fillon has found a way to inject €36 million into the economy of his home region via an infrastructure project known as "the comma": a jog in a new TGV line that will serve his hometown fief, pop. 12,000.

Parliamentary Absenteeism

Montebourg and Balkany are the champs. (h/t KirkMc)

Union-Busting at Le Monde

The Economist reports that Xavier Niel, the Internet billionaire who is one of the owners of Le Monde, will try to break the Syndicat du Livre, the printers' union that he holds responsible for the paper's uniquely high print costs and late delivery in the provinces. For The Economist, the shining example that Niel is following was set by Rupert Murdoch, of all people, in the UK in the 1980s. This might seem an ill-chosen moment to follow Murdoch's lead, given where he has ended up, but the situation at Le Monde is dire, or so they tell us. Yet it has also been announced recently that The New York Times has managed to pay back its debt to Carlos Slim early and has been doing rather well with its new paywall formula. Why bust the union to reach the provinces a day sooner when provincial readers eager for the news can read it on the Internet? Is Niel--who, as an Internet billionaire, surely knows how technology has changed people's reading habits--chasing the wrong quarry? And if so, why? What's really going on at Le Monde? Somehow the definitive story of the paper's travails seems to elude all French journalists--even the intrepid Edwy Plenel, who must know a thing or two about the finances of his former employer. Mediapart ought to lay off Christine Lagarde for a while--today's story really is a sad example of indictment by analogy--and look into Xavier Niel.

UPDATE: Arun Kapil sees it differently.

Europessimism

Paul Krugman and Ryan Avent sing in chorus: the European monetary system has imposed on Europe constraints similar to the gold standard and is therefore having now consequences similar to those produced by the latter in the 1930s. A cheery thought. Of course it won't be so bad this time around, Krugman adds, because Greece isn't Germany. Still, with Spain now in the markets' line of fire--and "too big to save" (to borrow Krugman's bon mot of yesterday)--it's only a matter of time until unrest spills into the streets (as it already has in Greece and Spain), topples governments (as it already has in Greece), and panics markets with images of uncontrollable chaos. The disastrous US turn to austerity only makes a bad outcome all the more inevitable. Only a fool would dare to predict how bad.

When I spoke at IFRI in Paris 14 months ago, I predicted that Europe would head down this road. In the meantime, I have listened to many commentators warn me that my pessimism was characterological rather than analytical. Perhaps it is. Let's hope so. Today I'm with Krugman and Avent.

Védrine, the Anti-Federalist

My friends at The Current Moment call attention to an article by Hubert Védrine in yesterday's Le Monde. Védrine suggests that the call for greater federalism in Europe as a response to the crisis of the euro is misguided: it is not what the people want, he argues, and not what is needed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 debacle, which was arguably a consequence of a relinquishment of sovereignty by states responding to the market's siren call for greater "efficiency" through deregulation.

There's much to ponder here, but the opposition of "national sovereignty" to "market" seems overdrawn to me. The call for deregulation succeeded in part because institutions could go shopping for the least constraining regulatory environment, setting up a race to the bottom. The solution is not necessarily to tighten regulations at the national level but to harmonize regulations at the international level in order to prevent a race to the bottom. What really underlies the argument advanced by Védrine and The Current Moment is a belief that EU politics is more dominated by market actors than national politics. At times this is true, but there is certainly no reason to believe that it is true in general or that a more effective response to the influence of market actors cannot be mounted through concertation at the international level.

Candidates on Twitter

Bernard Girard counts up the Twitter followers of each candidate.