Thursday, November 12, 2009

Survey of French Economists

Etienne Wasmer and Thierry Mayer polled French economists on a range of issues. The results can be found here.

UPDATE: Link to paper here.

Ruining Sarko's Day

Man, those killjoys at Forbes really know how to spoil a guy's day. Just yesterday Sarko was holding hands with Angela Merkel and putting himself at the center of history. Now Forbes tells him he ranks only 56th out of 67 on the World's Most Powerful list, where his name is preceded not only by Putin, Trichet, and DSK but--O! miséricorde!--Bernard Arnault, the boss of LVMH. The horror! A salesman of perfumes and suitcases and champagne edges out Carla Bruni's husband. As does Lakshmi Mittal. No wonder Sarko can't do anything about Gandrange.

And to think that Carla wanted to marry a man with a nuclear weapon. She should have gone for a Vuitton bag. But of course she probably already has one.

But, all kidding aside, this is one mondo bizarro list. And why does Forbes get to seat all the VIPs?

Poland turns to Europe ... and to France

Judah Grunstein notes that one consequence of Obama's decision not to proceed with antimissile deployment in Eastern Europe is that Poland is turning toward EU defense. And there is a Franco-Polish defense agreement. To quote Judah:

It's worth noting that this is where French President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to reintegrate the NATO command really pays dividends, by cutting off the predictable accusations of French efforts to undermine NATO at the pass. What's more, many of the European priorities the declaration identifies (increasing strategic airlift, helicopter fleet and maritime projection) will improve Europe's ability to contribute to NATO missions. Others -- increased industrial cooperation to generate a true European defense market -- will clearly threaten the U.S. defense industry's commercial interests.

The Deformation of French History

On Sarkozy's deformation of French history, see this and this.

Empty Memory

Vincent Peillon: "La grande affaire, pour notre génération, qui n'a rien fait : ni la Résistance ni l'anticolonialisme, tout au plus Mai 68, va être d'écrire sa propre histoire. Nous ne pouvons pas être seulement les gestionnaires d'un mémoriel."

This is a bizarre statement but rather symptomatic, I think, of a state of mind that has plagued a Left brought up on an idea of politics filled with heroic imagery. It is as if ordinary life doesn't count and cannot summon up any passion or commitment. But what was the Resistance for, if not to make ordinary life possible again? For an interesting comparison, read Peillon's plaint against Lionel Jospin's apologia pro vita sua. Jospin ticks off the accomplishments of his government, and he's not exaggerating:

Priorité à l'emploi ? 900 000 chômeurs de moins, 35 heures mises en œuvre et emplois-jeunes multipliés. Croissance économique ? Constamment soutenue et supérieure à la moyenne européenne. Rétablissement des grands équilibres ? Baisse des déficits du budget et de la Sécurité sociale, et même de la dette par rapport à la richesse nationale. Parité entre les hommes et les femmes ? Inscrite dans la Constitution et introduite dans les scrutins de liste.

Lutte contre les discriminations ? Mesures antiracistes et instauration du pacs. Indépendance de la justice ? Scrupuleusement respectée. Sécurité des quartiers ? Création de la police de proximité. Respect des élus locaux ? Contrats de plan généreux et négociés. Immigration ? Politique ferme mais digne.

Soutien à la recherche, à l'éducation et à la culture ? Fin des coupes sombres et efforts budgétaires. Obéissance aux règles de la République ? Cinq ans de gouvernement sans scandale et d'administration conduite en transparence, hors de tout favoritisme.

A respectable bilan, to which Peillon's remark reads like an impudent "So what? Where is the heroism? Where is the emancipation? Where is the dialectical moment?" But as Max Weber liked to say, "politics is the long, slow task of boring through hard, dry boards." Jospin was good at boring boards (and crowds). It was an honorable effort, for which leftists dreaming of opportunities to prove their heroic prowess felt no gratitude whatsoever. In fact, they repudiated the idea that such unheroic governmental labor even shared the same conceptual universe as the final struggle of which they dreamed. And so the 2002 election ended as it did.

As Peillon's comment reveals, it is not so much the Right that has defeated the Left as the Left that has so divided itself internally, existentially, intellectually that it cannot be comfortable with any image of politics that is not also a simulacrum of combat. And of combat that is in any case liberally tinctured with fantasy: I would never speak ill of the Resistance, yet "Paris brisé, Paris outragé, Paris martyrisé, mais Paris libéré. Libéré par lui-même ..."--it was a lovely rhetorical turn, I will be the first to admit, but one that left an entire generation with a vision of emancipation as miraculous transmogrification. A lesson in the long, slow boring of hard, dry boards would have been more useful.

The Extreme Right

An unsavory as well as motley crew prepares for the regionals.

Scholarships and Grandes Ecoles

Valerie Pécresse has set a goal of 30% scholarship students for all Grandes Ecoles. Current levels:

Sur cette base, 20,7 % des étudiants d'école de management sont boursiers, contre 22,9 % des étudiants d'écoles d'ingénieurs. Les décalages entre établissements sont importants. Certains établissements sont déjà proches de l'objectif, comme l'ESC Grenoble (22,5 %), ou l'ENS Cachan (30,17 %). A l'autre bout de la chaîne, l'cole des mines de Paris ne compte que 9,47 % de boursiers, suivie par Polytechnique (11,03 %), les écoles de commerce les plus sélectives (12,3 % en moyenne pour HEC, Essec, ESCP…) et l'Ecole centrale Paris (13,67 %).

These figures count only students entering from preparatory classes, not from the universities. Clearly, the top schools have some way to go. In 2007, the income cap for eligibility for scholarships was lifted from 27,000 to 32,440 euros. This was a controversial move, as some alleged that it would increase the proportion of "middle-class" candidates relative to "the disfavored."

For comparison, Harvard offers tuition relief to students whose parents make up to $180,000 per year (adjusted gross income): tuition is capped at 10% of parental AGI. The same criticism has been leveled at the Harvard program (a Larry Summers innovation): it is too generous to people who are relatively well off.

Le Florentin Bis

François Mitterrand bore the sobriquet "Le Florentin" for his sinuous tactical intelligence. His nephew Frédo, the minister of culture, seems to share the late president's genetic endowment. He dodges bullets as nimbly as François leapt the fence of the Jardins du Luxembourg in the affaire de l'Observatoire. You will recall that Frédo was quick to appoint himself champion of the oppressed artist when Roman Polanski was arrested on a fugitive warrant. This, said FM, was treatment unworthy of a great artist, a noble human being, and a friend.

But the oppressor then was the Swiss prosecutor. In the attack on another artist, Marie NDiaye, whom the minister calls "a great writer," the attacker, Eric Raoult, is, alas, also "a friend" (dixit Frédo lui-même). A case of conscience, clearly. So, with the wisdom of Solomon, the minister of culture has decided to split the difference: this is not a case for him "to arbitrate," he says. In any event, there is plenty of freedom to go around: the artist is free to say what she wants, and friend Raoult is free to say what he wants. No need to decide anything, to reprimand anyone, to state any principle. The defense of artists, which in the Polanski case seemed to constitute, in Mitterrand's mind, the very essence of his ministerial post, is now left to the artist herself. Indeed, she should be honored to be left undefended by her minister, because this allows her to prove her own prowess in the field of political battle.

Chapeau, monsieur le ministre. You have shown yourself to be a nephew worthy of your illustrious uncle.

Cf. Eric Fassin's remarks on the same episode.

"All Politics Is Local"

Admirers of the late Tip O'Neill, the author of the adage "all politics is local" as well as the Congressional representative of my own Eighth Massachusetts District for so many years, will appreciate this stylish règlement de comptes from Montreuil, where, by the sound of it, local politics is practiced with all the subtlety for which O'Neill, the Irish Machiavelli, was famous.

Une et Indivisible

La République est une et indivisible. French citizens are individuals, not members of any community. France does not collect ethnic statistics. Etc. etc. The B-A-ba of republican life--l'identité française, quoi! So how on earth is it that Eric Besson, minister of immigration and national identity, is sending out invitations to members of the Franco-Moroccan community? Via Pierre Assouline:

Au nom d’Éric BESSON, ministre de l’Immigration, de l’Intégration, de l’Identité nationale et du Développement solidaire, nous vous invitons à réserver votre soirée du 16 décembre 2009 pour un « Dîner Citoyen » réunissant les femmes et les hommes nourris de la relation unique entre la France et le Maroc.Français d’origine marocaine, Marocains de France ou, comme Éric BESSON, Français nés au Maroc, ce dîner rassemblera des personnalités de tous horizons et de tous bords politiques, issues du milieu artistique, sportif, politique, associatif, économique ou académique vous êtes l’un des éminents représentants de cette communauté franco-marocaine et nous espérons donc avoir le plaisir de vous retrouver le 16 décembre.

Interesting, no? How was the invitation list compiled?

Le Devoir de Réserve

Le devoir de réserve has been in the news in recent days. The term is familiar, but what exactly does the law say? As usual, Maître Eolas is supremely helpful:

Et ce fameux devoir de réserve, alors ?

C’est une création jurisprudentielle du Conseil d’État (CE, Ass., 28 mai 1954, Barel, n° 28238). au domaine très délimité : il frappe les fonctionnaires et agents publics (les magistrats ne sont pas des fonctionnaires au sens strict car ils ont leur statut propre, mais ils sont soumis au devoir de réserve), et eux seulement.

Le statut général des fonctionnaires (loi n° 83-634 du 13 juillet 1983) en son article 6 proclame la liberté d’expression des fonctionnaires, qui sont des citoyens comme les autres. Mais le Conseil d’État a apporté une limite à cette liberté, le devoir de réserve, que le Conseil n’a pas défini (que diantre, il n’est pas législateur) mais qui apparaît au fil des décisions comme une obligation de modération sur la forme, liée à l’obligation de neutralité de l’État qui s’exprime à travers ses agents, et à l’obligation de loyauté de ceux-ci envers l’État dont il se sont faits les serviteurs. Question de cohérence, en somme. Le Conseil d’État ayant précisé que les élus syndicaux sont largement déliés de ce devoir, l’action syndicale s’accompagnant volontiers d’une certaine outrance revendicative.

Will Tomorrow, Friday 13th, Be Unlucky?

The question is exhaustively studied by a French expert.