Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ya Gotta Love 'er

Fadela Amara's ditzy plain-speak has a certain appealing quality:

"I am a woman of the left who joined a government of the right because the situation in the suburbs is urgent." She will vote Socialist in 2012 only if the candidate is good; otherwise she will abstain. She considers herself a Socialist, although the party "drives her to desperation." "It's the party of the well-heeled, who think that living in the 16th Arrondissement is living in France. The leadership has alienated itself from the popular classes, the workers, the immigrants, and women," she says, but "the best candidate would be François Hollande"--the incarnation of the very leadership she has just blasted.

Riiiiiiiiight ... er, I mean, Leeeeeeeeeft.


I had to rub my eyes when I read this article. It seems that France Inc. has hired Mars & Co., an international consulting firm, to grade each of the government's ministers on his or her performance. Without any expression of shock, dismay, or consternation, Le Monde calmly informs us that Xavier Darcos will be graded on the number of overtime hours worked by teachers and by the seniority of teachers in disadvantaged districts; Brice Hortefeux will be graded on the number of illegal immigrants expelled and the number of legal immigrants selected for their workplace skills; Christine Lagarde will be judged by a retail price index designed to measure the success of the reform of the Loi Galland; and so on. "All of M. Sarkozy's political objectives are numerically measurable," the consulting firm cheerfully reported (and one can of course be confident that this was an objective and rational judgment untainted by self-interest, since objective, rational, measurable judgment is the firm's stock-in-trade).

The last time I can remember a government possessed by the managerial ideology to this degree was when LBJ relied on Robert McNamara, with his expertise in operations research, WW II bombing evaluation, and manufacturing Fords, to measure American success in Vietnam. All the indicators were up, McNamara reported to his boss, who comforted himself with this objective, rational judgment and continued to drive straight off the cliff, while McNamara, who allowed sensible emotion to overcome his impeccably aligned figures, jumped to the World Bank, where green eye-shades were more sartorially appropriate. This is the first concrete indication I've had that Sarkozy will fail. Perhaps he will have the sense to ignore what his consultants tell him.


Somewhat off-topic, but I want to call attention to Pierre Assouline's review of Jean Samuel's Il m'appelait Pikolo. Samuel was a French deportee who became a friend of Primo Levi's at Auschwitz, and this memoir, written with the aid of historian Jean-Marc Dreyfus, sounds as though it's worth reading.