Monday, June 2, 2008

Droit de réponse

Some time ago, I published the text of a message I had received alleging that local U.S. employees of the French diplomatic services were being mistreated by the French government. This post received many anonymous comments that raised a variety of additional allegations, often in rather impolite terms. I became concerned about the factual accuracy of the original message, since I was unable to verify that M. Charles Balési, who was identifed in the text as a senator representing French expatriates in the U.S., was in fact a senator. So, knowing nothing about the allegations beyond what was alleged in the message I received and the comments it elicited, I decided to inquire of M. François Gauthier, the Consul General of France in Boston. M. Gauthier kindly conveyed the following response to my query:

1. M. Balési n'est pas Sénateur, mais "Conseiller de l'Assemblée des Français de l'Etranger". Cette assemblée est une institution officielle placée auprés du Ministre des Affaires étrangéres et est composée de "conseillers " , élus par les expatriés français et représentant les intérets des Français vivant hors de France. M. Balesi est l'un de ces élus et représente (avec d'autres conseillers) les Français des Etats-Unis. Voir

2. En matiére de droit du travail, et ce dans tous les pays du monde, les personnels recrutés localement et employés dans les services diplomatiques et consulaires sont couverts par les dispositions du droit local. Aux Etats-Unis, c'est donc le droit américain qui s'applique aux employés locaux de l'Ambassade de France et de ses consulats et c'est ce droit qui est appliqué lors de la mise en oeuvre d'actes individuels.

L'Ambassade de France et ses consulats s'efforcent en outre , par l'organisation réguliére de réunions de dialogue social, de prendre en compte les problémes spécifiques que peuvent rencontrer les personnels de droit local et d'y apporter des solutions satisfaisantes. Ainsi, lorsque l'administration fisacle américaine a revu les régles d'imposition des personnels locaux des ambassades, avec pour conséquence une trés forte augmentation de leurs impôts, l'Ambassade de France a pris la défense de ses collaborateurs et obtenu une amléioration des termes du nouveau dispositif fiscal qui leur est applicable.

I have no knowledge of any of the facts alleged by any parties in this affair, so I thought it was only fair to post the Embassy's official response.

ADDENDUM: The original post continues to draw many comments, all unhappy with this response.
I should have made it clear that M. Gauthier forwarded my request for information to the Embassy, where the response was prepared by someone else (I don't know who). M. Gauthier should not be held responsible for what you judge to be the inadequacy of the response.

Economics Extends Its Empire

France is inaugurating its second school of economics today, this one in Toulouse, after the École d'Économie de Paris, which opened its doors a few years ago. Both are generously funded. As far as I know, the history of these institutions has not been written. It would be interesting to know how the discipline of economics, once the poor handmaiden of the French university, emerged as la reine des sciences humaines (a position for which the main contenders as recently as thirty years ago were linguistics and history). Opinions will differ, of course, about whether it makes sense to segregate economics into separate institutions. Practitioners tend to segregate themselves, even in generalist institutions, by donning an armament of formidable technicity and an attitude to match--un groupe d'élite, sûr de lui et dominateur.

Nevertheless, regular readers of French Politics will know that I am not among the systematic denigrators of the profession. Indeed, as a lapsed mathematician, I find the economists' aspiration to rigor altogether admirable, as long as it's kept in perspective. I'm not sure, however, that the best way to keep it in perspective is to hive economics off from everything else that's going on in the academy. To be sure, physical proximity and intellectual openness are not the same thing, and this is the age of electronic communication, but there is a kind of respect that grows from informal personal exchanges with people in other disciplines, the number of which is likely to diminish if economists build physical moats around their burgeoning intellectual empire. Perhaps the model here is the London School of Economics. If so, one wonders why it was chosen, given that any number of American universities rank higher in most comparative ratings, such as this one from Belgium.