Monday, March 3, 2008

Merkel and Sarkozy Set Differences Aside

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy met today in Hanover and issued a joint statement on the Mediterranean Union, choosing to keep their differences over the proposal private for the time being. The MU will be a "joint project of the European Union" rather than a French affair. There is also an accord "in sight" on EU CO2 reduction goals. If Germany was miffed by the presumptuousness of Sarkozy's MU proposal, one wonders how the other EU countries feel about the joint Franco-German announcement of a common project about which there has been little visible consultation and no details have been released. Finance minister Christine Lagarde canceled a meeting with her German counterpart Peer Steinbrück at the last minute.

Hirsch on the RSA

Martin Hirsch discusses the revenu de solidarité active (RSA) on Rue89. The RSA is intended to remove the disincentive to work that may be built into some current welfare programs, under which a recipient of social assistance may forfeit more by accepting work than the person receives in compensation for the work undertaken. The RSA has been implemented as an experimental program in a number of départements, but a decision is to be taken soon about whether to expand it to the entire country and, if so, at what level of funding. In Hirsch's remarks there is an implicit threat to resign of the funding is not sufficient, which means an amount between 2 and 3 billion euros in his estimation. The imperative to work is not a moral injunction, in Hirsch's view, but a necessity if the welfare state is to be preserved. Those who don't work lose the skills and characteristics required to be productive and become permanent wards of the state, and to allow the number of dependents to increase steadily without taking steps to reverse the trend is unsustainable and therefore unwise, he argues.

Tragedy, Farce, Etc.

Everyone knows the story about Louis XVI and the Revolution. "Alors, c'est une révolte," said the king to someone in his retinue. The answer: "Ce n'est pas une révolte, Sire, c'est une révolution." Or so the story goes.

Now we learn that May '68 stood this story on its head in true Hegelian-Marxian fashion. Daniel Cohen-Bendit went to see Sartre. "Alors, c'est la révolution?" Sartre asked Danny the Red.

"Non", a-t-il sobrement répondu. "Vous êtes sûr ?" a insisté Sartre. "C'est une révolte. Ce n'est pas la prise du Palais d'Hiver", a répondu Cohn-Bendit. L'écrivain était un peu déçu.

How delightfully post-neo-Hegelian. By the way, I'll be having lunch with Cohen-Bendit on March 18, in case you have any questions you'd like to put to him. He's giving lectures at both Brandeis and BU.

Carlyle Group Hires Sarko Brother

Courtesy of Sarkozy the American, we have this news item.

Among other notable past and present associates of Carlyle, a private equity firm:

What was that old saw again about Caesar's wife needing to be above suspicion? O tempora! O mores! as they used to say in Rome.

Naïr on Weil

Sami Naïr, a political theorist who has also held various elective and administrative posts, reviews Patrick Weil's new book, Liberté, Égalité, Discriminations.

Follow the Money

It would be pleasant to think that the investigation of Denis Gautier-Sauvagnac will eventually reveal where he chose to use the 20 million euros he took from the coffers of the UIMM to "fludify the social dialogue." But if he did his job well, and there is no reason to think he didn't, the recipients will have no interest in anything but liquidating all evidence of their participation. And the DGS support committee--"Save the UIMM One," we might call it--includes some of France's biggest captains of industry: "Anne Lauvergeon, president of Areva, Joël Karecki, president of Philips France, Christian Streiff, president of PSA Peugeot-Citroën, and Jean-Marie Poimboeuf, president of Direction des constructions navales (DCN)," according to Marianne. Laurence Parisot may have been vocal this weekend in her calls for transparency, but it will take more than LP to penetrate this mur d'argent. And a prudent offensive coordinator would want to allow for the possibility that LP may merely be faking a blitz while preparing to drop back into double coverage against the eventuality of a prosecutorial long ball.

Hesitation Valls

Manuel Valls, a Socialist deputy and mayor of Evry, has long been a Socialist to watch, a young présidentiable whose strategy for winning back the Élysée looks to build the party toward the center rather than try to reconstruct the rickety remains of the old Mitterrandist coalition. Although Valls has been proposed by others as a possible secretary general to replace François Hollande, he appears to have renounced the job for himself and is hesitating for the moment between Ségolène Royal and Bertrand Delanoë, albeit with an apparent preference for Royal. "Ségolène Royal has made some interesting proposals toward an evolution of the party's central doctrine," he said yesterday, while "Delanoë is concentrating on his campaign" to remain mayor of Paris.