Monday, September 3, 2007

The Socialists' Summer University

Reports of the various seminars can be found here. I haven't had time to read these and probably won't, but if anyone has the patience and discovers anything interesting, please post a comment.

While I Was Gone

When I was a kid, I remember reading about "austerity plans" being imposed by governments in far-away places like England and France. We never seemed to have austerity plans in the United States. Occasionally we might be asked to do a little "belt-tightening," but "austerity" was reserved for mischievous governments, which were forced to swallow it as naughty children were once asked to swallow castor oil, for their own good. It seems that austerity is now to be banished from the French lexicon as well, since Christian Lagarde has now been publicly rebuked twice for speaking of un plan de rigueur in reference to the plan to eliminate 22,700 civil service posts. This isn't austerity, because the plan is not to replace a fraction of the public servants who retire; no heads are supposed to roll. Instead of an austerity plan, then, we have a "continuing effort to reduce public expenditures." This language is much more in keeping with Sarkozy's preference for the power of positive thinking, or la méthode Coué.

And GDF and Suez did merge, as predicted. In 2004, when Sarko was at Bercy, he promised that the state's share in GDF would never be allowed to fall below 70 percent, but now he has agreed to a deal that will cut the state share to 35 percent. Thus Dominique de Villepin's initiative of "economic patriotism" comes to its conclusion. Le Monde issued a suitably patriotic cocorico in its editorial, crowing that France now boasts four world-class energy giants: EDF, Suez, Total, and Areva. Whether the national triumph will serve the citizens of the nation remains to be seen.

Some good information and an amusing video here.