Monday, December 10, 2007

Tirole on University Reform

The eminent economist Jean Tirole, who teaches in both France and the United States, makes a powerful plea for reform of the French university system.

Current fantasies about the "privatization of the universities" are based on ignorance of existing practice and refusal to compare and evaluate. They will perpetuate an undemocratic, underfinanced system that offers students substandard training and the nation a level of research below what it could potentially achieve. They will further increase inequalities among students and increase the gap between the universities and the Grandes Ecoles and between French and foreign institutions. Future employment and growth are at stake. Let's have the courage to break the taboo.

I couldn't agree more.

Rumor Made Scientific

I have said nothing thus far about the lively rumors regarding the beautiful Laurence Ferrari and the recently divorced president of the Republic. The gossip has now been raised to the level of science, however, and thus made worthy of notice in this "influential blog." Here, thanks to the ever-resourceful Jean Véronis, we can witness the propagation of the rumor over the course of the past several weeks. Of course we also know that Sarko's mom has let it be known that she hopes he won't marry again, though it must be said that the thought of making a royal couple of the French president and France's loveliest speakerine would somehow be the perfect symbol of the extraordinary symbiosis of press and politics in la Grande Nation, which already features any number of morganatic media marriages: Borloo-Schönberg, DSK-Sinclair, and Kouchner-Ockrent, to name only the most prominent. And that's not even counting extramarital affairs, beginning with Hollande's ...

An "Official" Visit

Kadhafi is in Paris, Élysée spokesman David Martinon has made clear, on an "official visit" but not a "state visit." If you're fuzzy about the difference, see this lucid explanation. At the Quai d'Orsay, however, the nice distinction doesn't seem to have allayed qualms about the presence of the Libyan "guide" in Paris at all. Both Bernard Kouchner and Rama Yade have protested, and Yade is particularly upset that the visit coincides with International Human Rights Day. "France is not a doormat," she said, for the dictator to wipe his "bloody feet."

Of course there is probably no choice but to greet Kadhafi with this high political version of the "good cop-bad cop" routine. The effort is under way to lure him back into the comity of nations by treating him as a dictator like any other rather than a demonized pariah, so the usual contradictions are in order. If one wants to sell airplanes and nuclear reactors and free hostages, one has to shake unclean hands. But whose hands are clean in these days of extraordinary renditions and videotaped "harsh" interrogations? So absolutes become relativized. Hence the usefulness of protests like Kouchner's and Yade's, however ineffective or even hypocritical they may seem.