Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boone and Johnson on Greek Debt Ponzi Schemes


Blog Readers Self-Segregate

"Blog readers gravitate toward blogs that accord with their political beliefs." So say these guys, and no doubt they're right in general about American political blogs, although I suspect that in the case of French Politics the draw is France rather than a particular political line. But I could be wrong. How do you readers see yourselves? Are you here to deliberate, gather factual information, and compare different points of view, or to suck up the party line of the Party of Moi?

I can say this about my own participation in the blog: I had more of a party line before I started writing it. I supported the Socialists because I think of myself, broadly speaking, as a social democrat. But following Socialist activities day-to-day has been such a depressing experience that, while I remain a social democrat, I have no desire to take a party card, not even for 10 euros. I had expected the blog to be a chronicle of the Socialists' response to successive defeats and of their efforts to regroup and rebuild. Instead it has become a record of un déraciné idéologique à la recherche d'un engagement impossible.

Geithner Warns

Europe is accusing the US of protectionism over the EADS affair, while the US, in the person of Tim Geithner, is accusing Europe of protectionism in the matter of hedge fund and private equity regulation. Both sides are right, of course, but the question is how much damage this latest spat over the conventional hypocrisies that inevitably accompany "liberal" market ideology will do to other areas of mutual interest.

Probably not much. Although Dr. Johnson said that "hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue," to accord the epithet "virtuous" to the "free market" is to do it too much honor. Free markets generally require a certain amount of cheating around the edges in order to remain viable. It's always an issue to decide how much cheating is tolerable and to know when the dissimulation becomes a threat to the system itself. The indirect subsidization of the aircraft industry is never going to go away, but the blatant rule-rigging and political meddling that have led to the latest flap over EADS exemplify the sort of thing that shouldn't be permitted--not that the military procurement process in any country is likely to pass muster as a paragon of virtue. But this kind of cheating seems relatively easy to understand.

Financial regulation is another matter. The dispute is as much cognitive as it is ideological. We don't really know what kinds of regulations of capital are likely to prove effective, and we have learned from the crisis that regulation not only distorts markets, as neoliberals have always claimed; it also provides incentives for "malefactors of great wealth" to bring all their evil genius to bear on the search for safe harbors and artful dodges. Geithner's objections may not be intended solely to protect the interests of American money-men. After all, he's seen the lengths to which they'll go to get to where the money is. So he may simply be telling the Europeans not to waste their powder.

Chartier-Bourdieu Dialogue

Reviewed here. I never could warm to the late Bourdieu, but Les Héritiers, which he wrote with J.-C. Passeron, was a book from which I learned a lot. See also here.

"Le corps français traditionnel"

The name of Malek Boutih has been mentioned as a possible successor to Louis Schweitzer as head of the Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Égalité (HALDE). Gérard Longuet thinks this is a poor idea, even though he thinks Boutih is a "man of great quality." Unfortunately, he is not, in Longuet's eyes, a representative of "le corps français traditionnel," a rather elastic group, in Longuet's definition, since it includes "old Bretons and old Lorrains--who are generally speaking Italians and Moroccans" but does not include the likes of Boutih, who is, besides being of Algerian extraction, a Socialist. In Longuet's view, the mission of HALDE is not, despite the name, to fight against discrimination and for equality, but rather to welcome relative newcomers to France (down to, say, the second, third, fourth, who knows how many generations?) who aren't part of the "corps traditionnel."

Longuet is of course a senator, énarque, former regional president, and member of the "reformers" group within the UMP. Une grosse huile, quoi! He was also, in his youth, co-founder of the extreme right group Occident, and in 1972, the year in which the Front National was founded, he drafted its economic platform. But that flirtation with the devil is all in the past, of course: « J'assume avoir été d'extrême droite. On s'est simplement trompés sur le modèle colonial, qui ne pouvait perdurer[3]. » (Remember, this is 1972 when he made this mistake about the colonial model, not 1954!)

So what are we to make of this statement of Longuet's, which he retrospectively characterizes as maladroit? Has he all these years been practicing a form of entrisme equivalent to that of Trotskyists who allegedly chose to make the "long march through the institutions" without abandoning their initial objective? Or has he simply never been able to get beyond that youthful "mistake" of believing that the "colonial model" would endure forever? For it seems that he still thinks of France's demographics in colonial terms: there is le corps français traditionnel, which lives relatively well and is cooled by servants with punkahs, and then there are the nativesimmigrants and their children, who can eventually prove themselves worthy of welcome if they behave themselves and conform to the traditions taught to them by those already inside. Indeed, a "Protestant"--"a bourgeois Protestant"--like Louis Schweitzer was perfect for the purpose. For Longuet, he was the very symbol of republican tolerance and diversity and, even without being Catholic, an ideal representative of le corps français traditionnel--not to mention chairman of Renault. In other words, not a guy the cops are likely to mistake for a nativenon-traditional Frenchman. Which is apparently Boutih's problem--one that he might like to consider if he becomes the chairman of le HALDE. As it now appears he will not.

UPDATE: Bruno Gollnisch, who heads the FN list in Rhône-Alpes, supports Longuet.