Sunday, May 20, 2012


I guess we'll soon need a word for it, so I propose "Montebourgisme." Montebourgisme consists in the ringing proclamation of thumping banalities, yoked together in illogical clusters (full interview here). For instance:
"Ensuite, il faudra inventer des soutiens de toute nature : recherche et développement, financement, fiscalité, réglementation, prix de l'énergie", a poursuivi le nouveau ministre avant de rappeler que la future banque publique d'investissement "sera le bras armé du redressement productif, avec la création du livret épargne-industrie qui financera des projets".
Yes, indeed: we must "invent" R&D, because, otherwise, you know, like, no one would ever have thought of the idea that research and development might contribute to le redressement productif. And just having a public investment bank isn't good enough, it will have to be a bank that is "le bras armé du redressement productif," because, like, you know, military metaphors make it sound as if you mean business, whereas the "creation" of a "livret épargne-industrie" means, like, you know, it's going to be everyman who's doing the financing, rather than le monde de la finance, which, as we know, is "the enemy." If it's everyman's passbook that's paying the bills, then it's socialism, and all is right with the world. Except, of course, when the financed venture fails, as many do, in which case le livret épargne-industrie will have to be topped up by the government, because ordinary citizens can't be allowed to lose money on the mistakes of "capitalists."

And just to make sure that there will be losses, we are advised that the first investments of The Ministry of Productive Reinvigoration (how's that for a translation?) will go into sectors that have resisted all efforts to revive them to date:
Pour des secteurs en difficulté comme le raffinage ou la sidérurgie, M. Montebourg a plaidé pour des "solutions viables et durables". "Je ne considère pas que les batailles sont perdues d'avance. Elles n'ont encore pas commencé", a-t-il affirmé.
Yes, "the battles have only just begun." The French steel industry has been shrinking for 40 years, but we have not yet begun to fight. With state aid, we can ensure that it will go on shrinking for another 40 years.

Of course Montebourg is in the government to remind us that, if the Right is néolibéralisme décomplexé, the Left is néolibéralisme complexé. If Montebourg represents the id, then the prime minister is the superego, who will effect the necessary arbitrages to ensure that not too much money is poured down the drain. Only just enough to keep vain hope alive. Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer.

I think French social democracy would be stronger if it could cure itself of Montebourgisme, which, if it had existed at the time, I'm sure Flaubert would have included in Bouvard et Pécuchet.


Anonymous said...

Art: touché! You nailed it. As for AM's Ministry of Productive Reinvigoration, it looks like it won't actually have a budget (except for a couple of secretaries, telephone, that sort of thing). In other words, it will just be a platform for AM to run his mouth (and for others to politely listen to or ignore).


Kirk said...

You said:

"Except, of course, when the financed venture fails, as many do, in which case le livret épargne-industrie will have to be topped up by the government, because ordinary citizens can't be allowed to lose money on the mistakes of "capitalists.""

That's actually not true, and it's not a new idea. The CODEVI was created in 1983 (éveloppement_durable), and its name was recently changed. It offer reduced taxation and the money is earmarked for research. There is a cieling in this account, but it is a guaranteed savings account, and, with its reduced tax status, pays much more than a regular savings account.

Art Goldhammer said...

So what's not true? If the deposits are guaranteed, then the government is compensating for any losses. Indeed, the whole purpose of "the world of finance" is to do the necessary intermediation, hedging, credit-checking, and price-setting that apportions capital efficiently and distributes risk to those willing to bear it in return for an appropriate premium. That the private capital markets screwed this function up in certain ways is no guarantee that a public capital market is going to do better, and there are some reasons to believe that it would do worse. A better arrangement is to have public monitoring of private agents. But a comment box is not the place to argue this point.

Anonymous said...

You perhaps forget the political clout that such funds provide their overseers through the funding of cronies and the politically well-connected. Achieving an economically viable and sustainable business is often secondary. What counts is the photo opportunity and the press release. For example, the Caisse de Dépôts et de Consignation (Consternation?) is often used like a giant piggy bank for the "copains et coquins". Here is a perfect example of what one could probably expect from "Productive Reinvigoration": Luc Besson has been striving for a decade to created a "Hollywood sur Seine" at the distressed banlieu town of Seine-Dénis by pulling all the political strings at reach. The result: naught. A big scandal in the making when the details of the story are exposed. As cautiously reported in the NouvelObs:

sushi105 said...

hilarious. laughed out loud.

Boris said...

Art, the reference to Bouvard et Pecuchet when describing Montebourg is pure genius. Spot on.

I think he should have a brass plate engraved and put on the door of his ministry. It would read:

"Tout savoir, ne rien comprendre"

Massilian said...

Je ne résiste pas au plaisir de citer un extrait des célèbres discours Montebourgiques du maire de Champignac (personnage de Spirou, oeuvre de Franquin) :
" Jamais, vous m'entendez, je ne laisserai la dent des démolisseurs fouler au pied ces vieilles pierres dont le front chargé d'Histoire a bercé le cadre où nos pères ont fait leurs premiers pas et dans le sein desquelles dort un passé glorieux qui tient l'oeil fixé sur ses fils respectueux... Dites-leur qu'à Champignac nous n'avons pas besoin de poids lourds ! (...) Ce rétrécissement, véritable épine dans le pied de notre commerce, lui coupait les bras en étranglant la place du marché ! Repoussant d'une oreille sereine les objections de certains, nous avons hardiment tranché la question et décidé d'amputer ! Ainsi, le champignacien, poursuivant son droit chemin, tourne délibérément ses pas vers l'avenir, car il sait qu'agriculture, commerce et tourisme sont les deux mamelles qui sèment le pain dont il abreuve ses enfants !

Anonymous said...

I think that French social democracy would be stronger if it rid itself of the likes of Kucheida and the "barons" from the North.
The fact René Dosières was not endorsed by the PS is as much of a scandal as is Kucheida's endorsement. With Martine Aubry's petty shenanigans this is a much more urgent problem than Montebourg running his mouth.