Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paris Vaut Bien Une Messe

It's close in Paris, 35 and change for NKM, 34 and some for Hidalgo. The smart money says Hidalgo is in because the right is in mauvaise posture in two key arrondissements, the 12th and 14th (the mayor is elected by the council, not directly by the voters). We'll see. Still, it's hardly a glorious night for the Left even in Paris, where it has been doing well in recent years and where the EELV outpolled the FN in the first round (a good sign for the Socialists). But clearly the overriding theme in this election is that disappointment with Hollande has trumped everything else. The left is demobilized and morose.

Juppé in 2017?

We haven't heard much from Alain Juppé recently, but he was just re-elected mayor of Bordeaux in the first round. He remains untouched by the (recent) scandals of the UMP, and his past scandals have been forgotten. He might seem an obvious candidate for 2017, but his support among the UMP rank and file is weak. That could change, however, if things look worse for Sarkozy and Copé. He's undoubtedly one of the party's more competent leaders.

Extreme Right on the March in the Municipals

A strong showing by the Front National was not unexpected, but the results in certain cities are fairly dismaying:
Dans ces territoires où il est implanté, les électeurs se sont mobilisés : la participation était partout supérieure à la moyenne nationale : 63 % à Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais), 64 % à Béziers (Hérault), 68,4 % à Fréjus (Var). L'objectif affiché de Marine Le Pen de faire élire au moins 1000 conseillers municipaux sera donc largement rempli.
The PS, as expected, has received a strong rebuke. The UMP, at first blush, seems to have done a little better than expected. The recent spate of affairs has not discredited the party of the right as much as deep disillusionment with Hollande's leadership has discredited the party of the left.

Entrepreneurs, Again

The Times refers to a theme that is becoming as tired as the baguette and the béret whenever France comes up: the supposed exodus of youth, of entrepreneurs in search of the deregulated paradise in which anyone with an idea becomes rich as Croesus in a trice.

Undoubtedly there is something behind all this verbiage, but what, exactly? The article is not wholly devoid of statistics:
... 1.6 million of France’s 63 million citizens live outside the country. That is not a huge share, but it is up 60 percent from 2000 ...
But what exactly do these numbers tell us? Other advanced economies also have many emissaries abroad. How many of these are actually young entrepreneurs seeking refuge from an oppressive welfare state, and how many are rather cadres of large French firms thriving in the regulated French economy and doing business abroad. After all, Axa is the world's largest insurance company; French banking sends many employees overseas; Airbus employs thousands of people throughout the world; etc. etc.

Yet the standard trope in these "French bashing lite" stories is, France is losing the cream of its jeunesse to the irresistible belle dame sans merci of the "Anglo-Saxon free market economies." Yet we are also told that "80 to 90 percent of all startups fail," and young M. Santacruz, around whom this article is built, seems destined for imminent failure himself, despite his dreams of emulating his successful friend with the mansion in the Luberon.

If France has real problems with fostering entrepreneurial culture, which I do not doubt, a more serious analysis is needed to pinpoint their nature. Otherwise, one might stack endless anecdotes about the likes of M. Santacruz against endless anecdotes about domestic entrepreneurial successes like M. Néel's (of Free--on which no small amount of journalistic ink has also been spilled). We still won't learn much about the strengths and weaknesses of the French political economy or its rivals.