Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Dictionary of Political Insults

This might help while away the time during a long political speech:

A Blast from the Past

Giscard meets Schmidt:

SPIEGEL: Will Europe be among the global powers of the 21st century?
Giscard: Yes. It has what it takes. And we should give it an opportunity to become one.
Schmidt: I would be somewhat more cautious here. The European Union will hardly coalesce to become a genuine global power. And Europe doesn’t have to be a global power.

Villepin Questioned by Police

Dominique de Villepin is currently "assisting police with their inquiries," as they say in England. In garde à vue, as they say in France. The affair has to do with the prestigious hotel chain Relais et Châteaux, of all things. Régis Bulot, the former CEO of the chain and friend of Villepin, is facing various charges, and the police want to know if Villepin was somehow involved in his alleged wrongdoing.

To stay out of trouble in France, it seems, a politician has to stay in office, although sometimes even that is not enough.

The "Populist" View of Emigration

Bernard Arnault is in the news as France's most famous potential émigré. But Tibor Skardanelli thinks that most people who emigrate from France do so in search of opportunity rather than tax avoidance. He expresses well a certain "populist" resentment of the kind of "elite" that France promotes, while deterring in his view ambition of other kinds:
Demandez à ma coiffeuse (il n’existe plus de coiffeurs pour ainsi dire) pourquoi elle n’embauche pas une personne pour l’aider : elle vous répondra qu’elle ne veut pas se trouver pieds et poings liés par les lois du travail ; si elle s’aperçoit que la personne qu’elle a embauchée fait fuir sa clientèle, est trop souvent absente ou tout bonnement insupportable, elle devra la conserver comme employée ou s’épuiser en démarches administratives et judiciaires sans fin. Ne parlons pas des simples périodes de gros temps où il faut savoir réduire la toile.

La France n’aime pas la réussite individuelle. Elle est le pays des administrations, des entreprises d’État et des grands groupes. La France méprise l’artisan, qui le lui rend bien et arnaque ses clients autant qu’il peut, se disant que c’est toujours ça de pris. La France regarde de haut les petits patrons, ces êtres mesquins qui ne pensent qu’à leurs fins de mois et essaient de faire travailler leurs employés (dans tous les sens du terme).

La France préfère les médecins, les professeurs et les artistes, ces gens désintéressés qui, eux seuls, mériteraient finalement des salaires décents. La France a un respect instinctif pour les beaux messieurs des grandes administrations et des grandes entreprises formatés par nos Grandes Écoles finalement devenues endogames.
[emphasis added--ag]

Cohen on the BPI

Economist Elie Cohen takes on one of Hollande's pet projects, the Public Investment Bank. This supposed innovation, which Cohen shows is largely a recycling of old ideas, is built on yet another form of Germany-envy. The strength of German industry is the Mittelstand, the small-to-medium sized firms that specialize in high value-added production for the export market. France is weak in this area, and its PME/PMI are undercapitalized and overindebted.

But the Socialist solution, Cohen  argues, threatens to reproduce the wrongheaded policies that produced the calamity of the cajas in Spain and the Landesbanken in Germany. It will foster a crony capitalism at the regional level, administered by Socialist regional governments, which will attempt to induce regional banks to invest in favored industrial projects.

Cohen does not point other differences between the German and French economies that make success in this sort of venture unlikely. The leading French export industries, apart from the luxury sector, are in capital-intensive industries such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, high-speed rail, aviation, and nuclear power, as well as financial services and insurance. There are certainly smaller-scale high-tech niche industries that might benefit from regional aid: for instance, laser technology is well-developed in France. But is it really the case that dynamic small firms are having trouble obtaining financing? Or will the BPI be encouraged for political reasons to lend to firms in declining sectors in the name of job protection? A misguided industrial policy, abetted by a public bank subject to political influence, may well misdirect capital that could be put to better use elsewhere. The track record on this type of development strategy is not good.

Monti Worried About Rise of Populism

Mario Monti has called for an extraordinary session of the European Council to confront the rise of populism in Europe:
"Nous sommes dans une phase dangereuse", a-t-il dit en marge du Forum Ambrosetti, organisé à Cernobbio sur le lac de Côme, après avoir rencontré le président du Conseil européen, Herman van Rompuy.
"Il est à la fois triste et paradoxal qu'au moment où l'on espère achever l'intégration, voici que se forme un contre-phénomène dangereux qui vise à désintégrer" l'Union européenne, a noté M. Monti dont les propos étaient rapportés par l'agence italienne LaPresse.