Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Answering Questions

A number of readers have posed questions about one post or another, and in most cases I've tried to answer, either in the comments section or in a new post. I should say, though, that, much as I would like to, I won't be able to answer all questions, in many cases because I don't have ready answers, in some because I can't take the time that would be required. I'll try to be as forthcoming as I can, but please be forbearing: this isn't the only thing I do! Thanks for your understanding.

Incidentally, I've received several e-mails from people who would like to comment but don't know how. Beneath each post there is a link to "comments." Just click on the link, and you can read other comments and/or post your own. You can also see each post with its comments on a separate page by clicking on the title of a post on the main page. You can then navigate through the site by clicking on links for previous and next posts.

Some readers of this blog are new to the blogosphere and aren't aware of such things as news aggregators, RSS feeds, and the like. One convenient way to read this and other blogs is to use Google Reader (see the Google site). This allows you to consolidate all the blogs you read in one place, informs you of new posts, and provides easy navigation. There are many other options as well.

Memory Politics: Le Cas Klarsfeld

In a previous post, I considered Pres. Sarkozy's memory politics and noted that he had chosen to repudiate his predecessor's apology for French complicity in the deportation of Jews and to reinstate the "resistantialist myth." In that connection it's interesting to note that the UMP candidate for deputy from the 12th arrondissement of Paris is Arno Klarsfeld. Klarsfeld, the son of famed Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, served as lawyer to the parties civiles in the trials of milice killer Paul Touvier and collaborator Maurice Papon. The publicity surrounding these two cases was surely among the most important factors in Chirac's decision to issue an apology in the name of France. Historian Henry Rousso called Klarsfeld the "attorney for the truth."

So it's interesting that Klarsfeld, who was so deeply involved in both cases, chose to support Sarkozy despite his retrogression on the memory of Vichy, and that Sarkozy apparently approved the parachutage of Klarsfeld as candidate in the 12th, where he had not been a resident. To explain this rapprochement would require a lengthy essay on the politics of immigration, French Middle East policy, and the sequelae of the Vichy syndrome. It's also worth noting that Klarsfeld, like Kouchner, was a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq.

The State in the Bedroom?

This post may be in questionable taste, but every blog needs to sex up the news once in a while. A Le Monde piece on "sarkomania on eBay" reports (picture included) that one can buy condoms stamped "UMP-Nicolas Sarkozy" for 3 to 7 euros. Does this foray of the state into the bedroom portend an imminent end to the SNCF's policy of reduced fares for large families?

The Next Labor Front

Sarkozy's proposal to exempt so-called supplementary hours (above the legal 35 hours per week) from the usual payroll taxes has been analyzed by three leading labor economists, Patrick Artus, Pierre Cahuc, and André Sylberger. Libé reports that they warn of possible perverse effects: substitution of hours for workers, cheating by firms (a "moral hazard" created by the incentive to misrepresent ordinary hours as supplementary hours), and costs to the public treasury.

Of course there is a metatheorem of economics, often attributed to Larry Summers, according to which a clever economist can come up with a model to support or oppose any public policy.

Nevertheless, I find Cahuc's work thought-provoking. At the time of the CPE controversy he produced a widely-cited report purporting to show that the effects of the CPE on job creation would be minimal. There's also this interesting paper (with Yann Algann) on why different countries adopt the job protection systems they do: "Job Protection: The Macho Hypothesis." For a very different and to my mind more persuasive view, see Torben Iversen's book Capitalism, Democracy, and Welfare (Cambridge, 2005).

The Uses of Contempt

Contempt was on display left and right yesterday. In Nice François Fillon brought out the long knives: "No longer will there be on one side a President of the Republic who expresses himself on Bastille Day and New Year's Eve and on the other a prime minister who governs from day to day." He and Sarko would stand, or rather jog, shoulder to shoulder. "We not only run together, we work together." The contempt for Chirac was unnecessary, if comprehensible from a politician still smarting at having been sacked by the dying old regime.

Meanwhile, in Paris, François Hollande poured his scorn on the very tandem of which Fillon was so proud: the president, he said, had wanted "an aide-de-camp, an orderly, a flunky, and he found one. He's there to bow, to obey, and when the time comes to resign."

"The perfect contempt," said Henry de Montherlant, "craves the scorn of what it scorns, in order to justify itself."