Monday, June 15, 2009

Sarko and Global Economic Reform

Following up on an earlier note, Sarkozy wants to make ILO "norms" regarding labor practices obligatory by imposing sanctions through the IMF and WTO for non-compliance. The American right, which lionized Sarko l'Américain when he spoke before Congress a while back, will no doubt be less than pleased to discover that their best-loved Frenchman is proposing a step toward what they ritually disparage as "world government."

ADDENDUM: Sarko borrows from ATTAC.

Mélenchon Needs a Proofreader

He visits the Élysée as "party chief" and lets Sarko know what's on his mind, but I think he meant to write "Questions existentielles" and "Barroso." I'm sure Sarko was delighted to learn of the many points in which the position of the UMP during the campaign contradicted the Lisbon Treaty.

New French Econ Blogs

The French economics blogosphere is beginning to be as crowded as the American. An established econ blog lists some new ones.

Cohn-Bendit Surge

Daniel Cohn-Bendit is now the most popular opposition leader in the latest beauty contest poll (meaningless, I know). Oddly, no score is given for Olivier Besancenot, who had been rising rapidly earlier this year. It's an odd juxtaposition. Cohn-Bendit sounds tough, aggressive, and uncompromising but offers relatively moderate policy prescriptions. Besancenot sounds affable and engaging but calls for a radical break with the capitalist system. The French seem to have shifted their affections from the sweet firebrand to the acidulous moderate. Meanwhile, Bayrou has plummeted (-15 points). Avuncular is out, disheveled is in.

Lang on Valls

What's wrong with the Socialist Party, chapter 247:

Jack Lang complains that the PS has systematically "cut off the head" of anyone in its ranks who showed presidential ambitions, "including myself." Then, when asked about Manuel Valls' presidential ambitions, he proceeds to cut off his head:

C'est "un garçon qui a du talent" mais "le vrai sujet pour le moment c'est de redonner à ce parti une vigueur, une force, un souffle, un élan qu'il a perdus" et cela réclame "une véritable révolution intérieure", a-t-il dit.

Un garçon qui a du talent indeed. Imagine the outcry if Hillary Clinton had said of Barack Obama's presidential ambitions, "He's a talented boy."

Meanwhile, Valls is doing a pretty good job of cutting off his own head by making indiscreet comments while forgetting that he's wired for sound--a growing professional hazard among politicians these days. There are calls for the party to censure him.

Bridling Capitalism

President Sarkozy will today tell the International Labor Organization that unbridled capitalism has had its day. Specifically, he will relay a demand from French labor unions that future IMF aid to developing countries "be conditioned not only on economic results but also on social results." Interesting: Sarko as le porte-parole of labor, surely an unaccustomed role, and a far cry from the Sarko who was going to end "rigidities" in the French labor market and thus make a dent in France's chronically high unemployment. Now it seems that the remedy is to introduce rigidities elsewhere, although the vagueness of the proposition will no doubt make it difficult to tell exactly what it means.

It was also announced last week that Pascal Lamy would be heading up an international trade watchdog group to keep an eye out for governments introducing covert protectionist measures of one sort or another. Will Lamy flag Sarko and the French unions?

ADDENDUM: Philippe Askenazy suggests that the idea of a rigid French labor market is quite wrong:

Si l'effondrement catastrophique de l'emploi au premier semestre et les multiples annonces de coupes dans l'intéressement ou dans les primes des salariés se prolongent, l'année 2009 pourrait donc ébranler la vision idéologique d'une France "rigide". L'absence de déformation du partage des richesses en faveur du travail devra bien nous faire admettre que l'emploi et les salaires sont, dans les faits, aussi flexibles en France que dans les pays anglo-saxons.


Two interesting posts this morning on the media coverage of the crash of Air France 447, here and here. The latter is particularly interesting on the way in which news anchors have repeatedly pressed cautious investigators to go beyond the new factoid of the day and embrace some highly speculative theory as to the cause of the crash. I have my own familial corrective to this sort of hyperbole: my brother is an aeronautical engineer. Whenever I report to him the latest breathless speculation about the incident, he calmly debunks it, often adding the comment that I shouldn't spend so much time reading blogs.