Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Great Transhumance

This weekend is the Great Transhumance,* in which the French population redistributes itself to greener pastures. Le Bison futé, the canny bison who understands the peculiar migratory habits of the French, predicts godawful traffic jams:

Un week-end qui s’annonce chargé sur les routes de France dans le sens des départs comme celui des retours. Pas de vert à l’horizon.

Vendredi, les départs sont classés rouge au niveau national et les retours restent classés orange.

Samedi, bison futé voit noir pour les départs du 1er août sur l’ensemble des routes de France. Dans le sens des retours ce sera orange au niveau national et rouge dans le sud-est France.

Dimanche sera orange d’un point de vue national et rouge dans le sud-est de la France. Les retours resteront orange sur l’ensemble du territoire.

So it has been forever, and so it will be until kingdom come. Sarko himself is off to Cap Nègre, where he will find medically prescribed repose in the bosom of the Bruni-Tedeschi family.

The seasonal transfer of grazing animals to different pastures, often over substantial distances.
1911 M. I. NEWBIGGIN Mod. Geogr. vii. 179 The summer drought makes it difficult for even these hardy animals to obtain food, and necessitates in many regions a curious form of nomadism, to which the name of transhumance is given. Transhumance, still well developed in Spain, is the periodic and alternating displacement of flocks and herds between two regions of different climate. 1931 C. F. JONES South America 366 Government concessions to permanent ranchers, who do not desire the migrating flocks,..are reducing transhumance. 1954 M. BERESFORD Lost Villages vi. 204 Sheep which knew transhumance were not averse to being shepherded a score of miles over to a new pasture. 1975 J. G. EVANS Environment Early Man Brit. Isles vi. 133 We do not know to what extent these Bronze Age people were nomadic, or were practising transhumance, or were settled farmers.

Fear Itself

Christopher Caldwell, an editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard and writer for the Financial Times, has written a book entitled Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West, in which he worries about the supposed "Islamicization" of Europe. Matt Carr offers a detailed refutation. (h/t Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber)

Open the Borders?

Bernard Girard calls for a radical change in immigration policy:

Reste, en fait, une seule solution raisonnable : restaurer la liberté de circuler qui permettrait aux étrangers qui veulent venir travailler chez nous de le faire mais qui permettrait aussi à ceux qui ne trouvent pas de travail de tenter leur chance ailleurs. En d’autres mots, il faut laisser le marché du travail fonctionner sans contrainte. C’est la meilleure régulation que l’on puisse imaginer. C’est ce qui se passe en Europe et on n’a pas vu d’afflux de travailleurs des pays les plus pauvres (la Grèce, le Portugal…) chez les plus riches. Il n’y a pas de motif qu’il en aille autrement avec le reste du monde.

Le Sarkozy du Pauvre?

Gérard Collomb is the mayor of Lyon and a powerful Socialist baron. One of his constituents has it in for him. This blogger, the author of Le Blog du Canut, has baptized Collomb "the poor man's Sarkozy."

Knowledge Transfer and European Universities

From VoxEU:

In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, it is widely believed that the quality of university-industry linkages is important for growth. On several occasions, the European Commission has argued that while European research institutions are good at producing academic research outputs, they are not successful in transferring these outputs to the economy – the so called ‘European Paradox’ (European Commission 2007). Reforms in the organisation of technology transfer are thus needed to improve knowledge transfer from public research institutions to firms.

Stimulus and Crisis Duration

Menzie Chinn quotes from the conclusion to a new study of the effectiveness of fiscal policy in systemic banking crises. Here are the passages relevant to France's situation:

Initial fiscal conditions matter for fiscal performance during shocks. In countries with high precrisis ratios of public sector debt to GDP, lack of fiscal space not only constraints the government's ability to implement countercyclical policies, but also undermines the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus and the quality of fiscal performance. In countries with high debt, crises lasted almost one year longer. The effect of high public debt on duration completely offset the benefits of expansionary fiscal policies in these countries.


The composition of fiscal expansions matters for crisis length -- a point that has not been studied in the literature. Stimulus packages that rely mostly on measures to support government consumption are more effective in shortening the crisis duration than those based on public investment. A 10 percentage point increase in the share of public consumption in the budget reduces the crisis length by three to four months. Reducing the share of income taxes is less effective than consumption taxes in shortening the length of a banking crisis. These results suggest that tailoring the composition of fiscal response packages is important for enhancing the effectiveness of countercyclical fiscal measures in both advanced and emerging market economies
Fiscal expansions do not have a significant impact on output recovery after the crisis though. Crises can have long-term negative effects, damaging human and physical capital with negative implications for productivity and potential output growth. Early recovery from a crisis is therefore important, to minimize output losses in the short term and enhance medium-term growth prospects. This calls for timely fiscal responses during downturns. However, fiscal policy responses may not be effective when initial fiscal conditions are poor and fiscal space is limited. High public debt levels and past macroeconomic instability limit the scope for countercyclical deficit expansions and hamper the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus measures as markets perceive the higher future fiscal risks entailed by larger deficits.

The paper is "How Effective is Fiscal Policy Response in Systemic Banking Crises?", by E. Baldacci, S. Gupta, and C. Mulas-Granados