Thursday, June 26, 2008

Overreaction?

Commenting on the previous post, kirkmc wrote:

Regardless of what finally happens, this situation [the confusion surrounding changes in the reimbursement for certain drugs] points out a serious problem in France. There is such paranioia that whenever any reform is announced - especially when things aren't clear, which is the case here - the French go rampant with conspiracy theories, and you read and hear, in the media, tons of conflicting reports of what is going to happen. (The politicians - especially the "opposition" help fuel this fire.) It's like during the university reforms, the students were demonstrating because the state was going to "privatize" universities.

I think this kind of speculation is very dangerous....


I can agree with this observation up to a point. Suspicion and distrust pervade French political life, and this is not a healthy situation. But if a government wishes to reduce such suspicion, it has to explain what it is attempting to do. It has to provide a plausible rationale for reform and a credible financial logic. To that end, it needs to consult with a variety of interested parties. In the case in point, we see a policy conceived without consultation with a major player, the private insurers who are to pick up the cost of medications no longer supported by the government. Read the remarks of Jean-Pierre Davant, the head of the Fédération Nationale de la Mutualité Française, here: "There was no consultation with the various actors concerned with health policy." This is not a matter of distortion by "politicians" for self-interested reasons. Davant goes to the heart of the matter. It is true that, compared with other European countries, the French consume a lot of drugs and that these costs need to be brought under control, but there is nothing in the logic of the current proposal that would obviously contribute to that goal. Costs are simply being shifted from public to private funding. Unless, of course, the private funders ultimately deny reimbursement for some of the drugs. So it's reasonable--and not at all "paranoid"--to ask what the motive of the reform is. And it's not only the opposition that has raised the question. Deputies of the UMP and Nouveau Centre have also expressed puzzlement about what the government's real intention might be. The problem is not simply, as kirkmc suggests, a lack of clarity; it is rather a lack of plausibility in the aim of the reform, however generously its terms are construed. I am willing to grant a government, any government, the benefit of the doubt if I can make sense of its intentions. But if I can't, then I think it's not only reasonable but obligatory to ask what they're really up to.

The same reasonable suspicion attaches to yesterday's decision regarding the reorganization of public radio and television. At bottom I don't really care whether public broadcasting is paid for by advertising or public funding. I don't care whether this or that tax is 0.5 or 0.9 percent. But I do care that the person in charge of public broadcasting will henceforth be appointed by the president. The charade of advice and consent by a "majority" of parliament and the "concurrence" of the CSA is risible. We know how this system was abused in the past, in the bad old days of the ORTF, and we are within our rights to anticipate abuse in the future, since the reforms instituted to prevent them have been suddenly and stealthily overturned. And to compound the offense, we are told that the reason for the change is to promote "culture": in exchange for operas and plays uninterrupted by commercials after 8 in the evening, we are to accept direct presidential control of some of the most influential French media. Is it "paranoid" to object?

5 comments:

kirkmc said...

Your point about public TV is a good one. One the one hand, Sarkozy is right that all other bosses of public companies are named by the executive branch. On the other hand, TV is indeed a sensitive area.

You may not care about advertising, but some of us do. (Not that I watch much on public TV in the evenings; it's pretty bad, but that could be, in part, because it's designed to get viewers, not to be good.) Advertising is evil - I don't know how Americans can put up with 18 min of commercials per hour. But that's just me...

What I haven't seen commented is that Sarkozy, well-known to be a philistine a la Bush - is talking about plays, operas and a literary program. It's interesting to see him rooting for something that he wouldn't watch. I do agree, though, that such things are lacking not only in prime time, but in any time. (Oh how I miss Apostrophes and Boullion de Culture... If only we had a Pivot today on TV...)

Kirk

Unknown said...

I totally agree with Arthur. Suspicion and paranoia are not, I think, some french basic qualities (even if I doubt it some times). Today's problems are linked to a governing team and a president who do not know how to explain their acts to the public. As many others in the past, they make choices putting some facts "undercover" or without showing what the society is going to win. French medias and population are suspicious because they feel that they are not told about every issue, that they lack some elements in order to accept the measures and trust the leaders.
Personnally, I really hope that this way of doing politics, older than Sarkozy, will some day disappear. It may not be the place to claim such utopia, but this is definitely linked to the subject and, by extend, to french politics, at least for a year.

kirkmc said...

Mathieu said:

"French medias and population are suspicious because they feel that they are not told about every issue"

That's not paranoia? :-) It's almost as if the French see conspiracies under every rock...

Kirk

kirkmc said...

BTW, to follow up on my previous comment, it's kind of telling that that book about 9/11 - the ultra-conspiracy book that made the X Files look like stuff for kids - sold so much in France. I don't think a similar book sold as much in any country.

Kirk

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