Monday, October 22, 2007

Television and the Voters

Who watched the candidates on TV? Not the young, apparently. A new survey shows that on April 20, the last day of the campaign, more than 40 percent of seniors saw at least one of the leading candidates on TV, while younger voters were less than 1/4 as likely to have caught a televised glimpse of a candidate.

Signs of Change

The vocabulary hasn't quite caught up yet, but the signs of change are there. Is it une géneration issue de l'immigration that is beginning to assert itself, or des représentants de la diversité? Le Monde uses both phrases. What the article makes clear, however, is that the second, third, and fourth generations are no longer content to be represented by those who purport to speak for them. They are offended, as Bagdad Ghezal was, to be told that their presence at the top of the ticket would risk driving away voters. And so they are running not merely to be counted but to gain and wield power. If successful, they will begin the needed reform of the Socialist Party from the bottom up. The municipal elections will be very interesting to watch in this regard.

On emmerde tout le monde ...

François Chérèque says that the strike, which continues to disrupt rail traffic, especially in the Île-de-France, ought to be called off:

Aujourd'hui, excusez-moi l'expression, mais on emmerde tout le monde pour pas grand-chose, on rend désagréable la vie de dizaines de milliers de personnes qui vont travailler, alors qu'en restant plus unis on est plus forts.

The difference in tactics and general assessment of the situation that separates the CFDT and CGT could not be more succinctly expressed.

LATE ADDITION: SUD-RATP will lift its strike notice as of 7 AM Wednesday. The union notes that the mobilization, initially quite strong, has dwindled to the point where it is no longer effective. Its demands have not been met, however.

The Art Market

I owe this item to a reader and fellow blogger--thanks, Polly. It seems that the same "declinist" rhetoric that has been applied to the economy at large is now being applied to the art market as well. In the globalized business of selling art, France is down, down, down--losing ground to the United States, of course, whose superiority is écrasant (the word appears three times in the interview with sociologist of art Alain Quemin), but also to hereditary enemy Germany, "the only serious challenger" to Yankee hegemony. Drouot, which once rivaled Christie's and Sotheby's, now commands only a tiny market share.

This is an old story, earlier stages of which are recounted in books by Serge Guilbaut and Raymonde Moulin, both of which I translated.

Export Makes the Hartz Growth Fonder

Economist Michael Burda links the recent German growth spurt directly to the "painful labor market reforms" known as the Hartz Laws. He notes what appears to be a "confidence effect." As soon as the Hartz Laws were announced, the German DAX stock market index started to rise, and increased foreign and domestic investment followed. This was unlike previous German recoveries, in which consumption, not stock prices, led investment. The implication is that the labor market reforms raised investor expectations of future profits and revived flagging investment. If so, the news for France is not good. Sarkozy's proposed labor market forms in many respects resemble Hartz I-IV and follow conventional wisdom about what is wrong with the French economy. But compare the performance of the French CAC40 index with the DAX over the past year. The CAC did respond to Sarkozy's election with a strong uptick, but it plunged in the subprime crisis more than the DAX and has since recovered only to pre-election levels. If Sarkozy's election did briefly enhance investor expectations, the gloomier post-crisis outlook for the global economy seems to have made them cautious again. Labor market reforms do no good in the absence of investor confidence, and the political backlash against reduced unemployment benefits can then be expected to be even worse than in Germany, where the SPD is currently split on the issue despite the improved performance of the Germany economy.

Trust the Students

As I said yesterday, young minds are not as easily manipulated as old heads sometimes fear, or desire. After Xavier Darcos, education minister, read the Guy Môquet letter at a lycée in Périgueux, a student rose to ask, "Don't you think that the president's wish both to put an end to repentance for the past and to have this letter read in all the lycées of France--don't you think there's a strange paradox there?"

Darcos's response: "The president wanted to perpetuate the values of the Resistance, but he didn't want it to be a political occasion."

Trust the young.

Darcos received a chilly greeting from some teachers and Communist militants outside the school. A special edition of Humanité was handed out, and demonstrators told Darcos that his "values" were not those of Guy Môquet. No doubt true, but neither are Sarkozy's values those of Pétain. It seems to me that both sides want to wrap themselves in the mantle of the Resistance, to which neither side has a rightful claim. The "Vichy syndrome" continues.