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Can-Do France (published in WSJ)

by Jerome a Paris Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 04:11:43 AM EST

I am pleased to post here below this article which appears in the August 19, 2005 edition of the Wall Street Journal (sub. only) with the permission of the WSJ editor. The article is also crossposted on the US sister site of the European Tribune, Booman Tribune

Can-Do France
By JEROME GUILLET
August 19, 2005

As Martin Hirsch recently wrote in Le Monde, the problem with France is best encapsulated by the recent contest for the 2012 Olympics: For London, it was the icing on the cake, whereas for France, it would have been the cake. In striking contrast with Tony Blair's Britain across the Channel, which is economically strong, confident and even culturally seen as more dynamic, France struggles under persistently high unemployment (10% of the work force and more than 20% of the young), a discredited political class and an aging, lame-duck president. Little wonder then that the French feel so gloomy.

MORE BELOW:


The recent political brouhaha around Danone, which the French public feared could be the possible "victim" of a takeover by America's PepsiCo, is thus seen as a symbol of the prevailing attitude in the country: a rejection of globalization, a desire to defend whatever's left of the country's past successes against foreign invasions, and a general sense that France is losing control of its destiny.

And yet, look at it another way. Why would an American company, presumably motivated only by the search for profit, want to put $25 billion in a French company, which comes with a supposedly rigid work force and stagnant markets?

Only a few months ago, Danone was actually criticized in France for putting too much emphasis on shareholder value (more than 40% of its shareholders are already "Anglo-Saxons") and closing a couple of factories. "Les Lu," the fired workers named after the famous biscuits produced in these factories, even became a symbol for the victims of "ultra-libéral" layoffs. And now, that same company suddenly becomes a symbol of the outdated French "model"?

The French love to complain, but the contradictory discourse that we hear today hides the fact that French corporations -- the Renaults, Totals, AXAs, BNP Paribas -- are successfully integrated in the world economy, generate record profits and are well represented in the Fortune Global 500 Index (where France has 39 companies listed, and Germany and Britain only 37 each). In fact, Danone is a fairly typical example of how large French firms have adapted to global competition, carved out quite a bit of the international market and focused on shareholder value -- all while keeping a French identity.

But what about the rest of the country? It is often said that the very high French productivity, which makes such results at all possible, is simply a mechanical result of France's low work-participation rate. And what's the use of high-performing companies if the rest of the country can't keep up?

The fact is that average French GDP growth per capita over the past 10 years (2%), has been very similar to that in the U.K. (2.3%) and the U.S. (2.1%). More interestingly, as pointed out in a March article by Denis Clerc in "Alternatives Economiques," France has actually enjoyed stronger job growth than the U.K. over that period (14% vs. 11%), and fewer of those jobs were created in the public sector -- 300,000, or 15%, of the new jobs in France are government jobs, versus 860,000, or 45%, in Britain.

In that sense, the higher unemployment rate in France comes from the fact that the French working-age population during that period has increased by 12% compared to only 6% in Britain.

Thus, the French economy looks weak compared to the U.K. only when using selective data -- notably by focusing on the last two years, which is the only period in the last 10 years when the U.K. economy really outperformed the French economy. One must also not neglect the fact that British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has been on a Keynesian spending binge in recent years, underpinned by a housing boom, which has provided a lot of fuel to general consumption.

Now, with interest rates higher than in recent years (despite the recent cut by the Bank of England), and with the oil windfall disappearing (the U.K. is becoming a net oil importer just when raw oil prices are at record highs and thus sure to bite), the U.K. economy suddenly is looking not so perky.

However, the fact remains that the U.K. jobless rate is lower and this indicator reflects a real difference in the economic, social and psychological situation of a large segment of the French society. France chose to deal with the global economic crisis during the 1970s and then later on with globalization by forcing a small portion of its working-age population (the immigrants, the young, the workers in smaller firms) to bear the full brunt of these shocks while protecting the "core group" -- the middle-age, public-sector or large-enterprise workers.

Not surprisingly, these privileged workers see their children or their neighbors struggle and they cling on even more resolutely to the social benefits and advantages they have. The logical solution would be to even out the situation and share the burden among all, but everyone feels that this only means weakening the fate of those still protected without improving the condition of the most vulnerable.

Similarly, in the European Union, where France still wields a lot of power, Paris chooses to spend all its energy and political capital to defend the divisive Common Agricultural Policy, a policy of the past that in need of a real overhaul.

This reflects a failure of the political class and the political system; unemployment was the "price" chosen by France to go through the crisis in the expectation that it would be limited and temporary. Now that it has become a widespread and permanent feature of the economy, one that is obviously unbearable to society, the politicians should have changed macroeconomic policies. But the French political class has seen very little renewal and policies have been virtually identical. President Jacques Chirac, already a minister under de Gaulle 40 years ago, is the embodiment of that class whose main goal seems not to run the country but to conquer power -- not as a means to an end but as an end in itself. Mr. Chirac wasted his first term and did even less during his second term, which he only won because the left rallied behind him to defeat Jean-Marie Le Pen. He has been content to surf on the mood of the day, benefiting from his anti-American position on Iraq since 2002, and not actually doing anything. The French sense this, and are certainly keen for reforms, if those are properly explained. What they do not tolerate is "more of the same," and a lot of the vote for Mr. Le Pen and for the extreme left is a vote against the current incompetent political class that simply offers no real alternatives. Everybody is waiting for 2007 in the hope that a "real" leader will emerge, but it is hard to see who that might be. Even Nicolas Sarkozy has been around already 25 years and has strong statist control instincts, as shown during the Alstom and Sanofi-Aventis episodes when he was hostile to foreign takeover attempts of these French national champions.

France has problems, but none that makes it the sick man of Europe as one would conclude from reading both the French- and English-language press, and none that could not be solved within a few years by following policies that build on the strengths of the country -- its infrastructure, a well-educated and productive work force, a dynamic population that accounts for 60-80% of Europe's natural population growth, and efficient companies. These strengths must not be drowned by the incompetence of fear-mongering and profoundly reactionary politicians.

The only question is, when will France finally get the leaders it deserves?

Mr. Guillet is an investment banker in Paris and the editor of a political Web log, the European Tribune (www.eurotrib.com).

Display:
Congratulations Jerome!  I've been waiting all week to see this up here.  Fantastic job!

Pax

Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 01:56:13 AM EST
Jérôme, it's great to see this this morning, and congratulations on writing an op-ed for the WSJ!

Having lived for many years in France, I think I can say that your overall view is accurate and well rooted in fact. Your point about a worn-out political class is particularly well taken. Something that has always struck me about French political life as compared to British (I'm taking the UK as an example because it's my country of origin), is just how long a pol can survive by treading water, going under, resurfacing... While in Britain, careers are generally briefer, and someone who doesn't do well just disappears. In France, having shown your incompetence (and propensity for sleaze) in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s seems to be a recommendation. (Am I thinking of anyone in particular? That's this morning's riddle... French readers won't have too much trouble finding the answer...)

Part of the problem seems to me to lie in the constitution of the 5th Republic, which was tailor-made for General de Gaulle in 1958 and centralizes a great deal of power in the office of the president. It takes a lot of the bite out of parliamentary life and even the work of the executive itself, which often seems a bit of a puppet show. Yet there are placeholders fighting to play the part of puppets... And, not unreasonably, they end by losing the respect of most citizens, who increasingly feel they are not represented in a pertinent way.

So I agree with your conclusion: that what France needs most is a breath of fresh air to blow the dust off its democracy. As for its supposed economic weakness, that's more a question, imho, of perceptions and of media narrative.

Congratulations again on this excellent piece.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 02:10:07 AM EST
http://www.fuckfrance.com/read.html?postid=1427297&replies=0&page=1

You are welcome to post your rebuttals here. Just log in and join us.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 02:44:34 AM EST
What a charming site to get your reviews from.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 02:48:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
congrats on the WSJ article, Jerome. Insightful as always. We need to continue to fight against the myth of a weak, rigid European economy that cannot compete aginst a dynamic, flexible, blah blah blah U.S. economy.

Keep up the good work.

by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:16:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is this "review" all they got? What a bunch of wimps...I'm an American, not a "socialist Frenchman" (like that's something dispiccable), and this kind of crap site is what is giving America a bad name. Show me some intelligent dialogue and I'll listen.

Great article, Jerome, keep 'em coming.  

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:34:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that "reviewer" Nahncee managed to sputter a good deal of incoherent invective without bothering to refute one iota of Jerome's piece. Typical.

My mind is aglow with whirling transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention. -- Hedley Lamarr.
by Angry Blue Planet (jrclio@aol.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 12:48:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't even waste your time on an juvenile idiot haven like fuckfrance.com.  You'd get more intelligent conversation from a flock of headless chickens...oh wait, maybe they are headless chickens!
by stoy on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 06:07:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why even mention a site with such a name?

    ...Save democracy from direct elections
by FransGroenendijk on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 08:58:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strangely enough FT.com has an article echoing many of the points you make about the political class.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:24:44 AM EST
I saw that yesterday night and was about to put it in a comment. You're kinda stealing my thunder here.... :-)

So yes, in a timely fashion, the FT's regular columnist from France, Dominique Moïsi, publishes today a commentary which go along fairly similar lines:


it is undeniable that France is in a dual crisis of confidence that concerns its essence as well as its performance, a crisis that is part of but goes beyond the "European crisis". Britain is becoming a comparative mirror. On July 6, when Paris lost the 2012 Olympics to London, the disillusion was accompanied by a "what's wrong with us?" interrogation.

(...)

Mr Chirac by contrast is undeniably France's legal president, re-elected in 2002 with 82 per cent of the votes, but his legitimacy is questioned. His unpopularity is unparalleled in the Fifth Republic's history. His name is more associated with failed efforts and wrong decisions than with successful outcomes. And above all he has been for so long at the forefront of politics - he was prime minister 30 years ago - that his message no longer gets through. A once very young premier has become an old and lonely president, closer to King Lear than Henry V.

(...)

France suffers from a serious structural political crisis. To express it differently, a gap now exists between the quality of France's economic and political elites. Among the first, one encounters creativity, dynamism, enthusiasm and success. The "France that wins" is there. By contrast the incestuous relationship between the civil service and politicians, fostered by the dominance of the elite training school, the National School of Administration, has encouraged aloofness and technocratic bias within the political debate. The No vote in the EU constitutional treaty referendum was in part due to a growing divorce between society and the political class.

(...)

At a deeper level, France's problems stem from a combination of too much state and yet also too much personal selfishness. With a greater sense of collective solidarity - in a Nordic way - the French would not have to rely so much on the state in adjusting to new demographic and economic realities.

(...)

Mr Chirac has failed to reconcile the French with politics. It will be his successor's task to demonstrate that, even in France, it is not a "mission impossible". It starts with telling the truth to a country living well beyond its means.

I find it ironic that the now most frequent criticism made of France is that it is "living well beyond its means" when its problems stem precisely from the fact that it is being compared to two economies which are actually living beyond their means, the USA and the UK, whose growth makes them look comparatively dynamic and successful whereas they are largely splurging on debt.

But yes, like Moïsi writes (elsewhere in the article, France needs a President it can be proud of.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:34:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dominique Moïsi is right about a lot of things, but comparing Chirac to King Lear is offering him more noblesse than he deserves. He has always been more mediocre than either Henry V or King Lear.

But up comes the question, again, of "who's next?" I don't see a wind of change blowing through French politics, and I do believe that is France's number one handicap at the moment.  

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:48:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The current issue of The New Yorker has a mid-length piece (not available online) by Adam Gopnik on the French political climate.  The best I can come up with is this bit from their press release:
In "The Real Thing" (p. 36), in the August 22, 2005, issue of The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reports on the looming political crisis facing France. The causes include the recent French rejection of the draft of a new European Constitution, the loss to London of the 2012 Summer Olympics, and even the closing of Paris's famed Samaritaine department store, which, Gopnik writes, "remains not so much a symbol of the French crisis as an example of the thing itself: a beautiful and legendary success of modernity, trembling at the approach of the postmodern, with plenty of money behind it but no clear path forward, caught in a miasma of regulation, rumor, and discontented workers." Phillipe Manière, the director of the Montaigne Institute, says, "The situation in France is nearly pre-revolutionary," noting the elements that make it so: the rejection of the constitution, the overwhelming mistrust of conventional politicians and politics--or, worse, the absolute lack of attention to what they do or say in public, especially among the young--and the decades-long tenure that makes them so difficult to replace. Gopnik reports that for many people, hope lies in the improbable figure of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is more or less running for President, and who is remaking himself as a French Giuliani, but Gopnik writes, "It's hard to believe that Sarkozy is not another Chirac, and pursuing the same cynical opportunism."

For one who's never been to France, it's an interesting article, and if anyone with direct knowledge of the political scene in France has had a chance to read it, I'd be interested to read their take on it.
by The Maven on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 08:20:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congrats. Nice oped. How on earth did you get it onto the WSJ op-ed page?  Not exactly where I'd expect to see a rational analysis of France (as opposed to the news part which tends to be quite good).
A question, what sort of economic reforms do you think France needs to get unemployment down?
As for sick man of Europe - wouldn't that be Italy? Everything I read about it seems to indicate both its politicians and its economy are in pretty bad shape.
by MarekNYC on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 04:24:13 AM EST
Congrats, good article!

However:

rance has actually enjoyed stronger job growth than the U.K. over that period (14% vs. 11%), and fewer of those jobs were created in the public sector -- 300,000, or 15%, of the new jobs in France are government jobs, versus 860,000, or 45%, in Britain.

In that sense, the higher unemployment rate in France comes from the fact that the French working-age population during that period has increased by 12% compared to only 6% in Britain.

I'm not an economist, so you have to educate me if I'm wrong, but I feel you are undercutting your own point with this two data points here. Wouldn't relative job growth, that is relative to population or working-age population growth, be the number that really counts? Given that population growth is also market growth? The relative growth (relative to working-age population with your numbers) would be about 2% for France and 5% for Britain.

BTW, I feel this is further support for my theory that the age structure of a country does not really matter for the economy, if we combine budgets for retirement and joblessness. (I.e., the high population growth of France only means that while less money has to be taken away from workers to pay for the elderly, more has to be taken away to finance jobless benefits.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:22:20 AM EST
On second thought, it would be more to the point to compare the relative job growth in the private sector only (substracting people in government jobs both from the working-age population and the working population) - however, I don't know the numbers corresponding in time (and statistical definition) to the ones quoted by Jérôme.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:27:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's my translation (errors mine) of Denis Clerc's piece in Alternatives Economiques:

Hardly a day goes by without its elogy of the British employment model. Indeed, the British jobless rate of 4.6% (2nd quarter 2004) is enough to make the French dream. Ten years ago, in 1994, the two countries showed similar, poor performance: 12% for France, 9.7% for the UK. So France should be red-faced today.

Not so sure. Over the same ten years, the number of jobs in the UK increased by 11%. In France, by... 14%. That's because of a rise in the number of government employees, reply the free-marketers. Well, no, because the UK is clear ahead of France in this race: since 1997, 45% of newly-created jobs (861,000 out of a total of 1.92 million), are public-sector, while in France, the number of new non-private-sector jobs (including public sector plus ONGs, trade unions, religious bodies) increased by 300,000 during the same period. Doctors, teachers, policemen, nurses... These are the jobs that have been created on the other side of the Channel. <snip> Not surprising, since public services were particularly badly treated by the ultra-free-market governments of the '80s and '90s.

If job creation in France has been superior, how come the unemployment level remains stuck so high, while it keeps going down in Britain? Quite simply because of the increase in the active (working-age) population. The number of job-seekers rose by 12% in France over ten years, as against 6% in the UK. So France needs to create two jobs to Britain's one to bring the unemployment statistics down.

But to confess that a rise in working-age population might have an effect on unemployment goes against the fundamental free-market assertion: all candidates on the job market will find a job... unless prevented by government interference (minimum wage, constraints on firing, high unemployment benefits).

Denis Clerc, Alternatives Economiques, n° 235, April 2005

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:49:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But to confess that a rise in working-age population might have an effect on unemployment goes against the fundamental free-market assertion: all candidates on the job market will find a job... unless prevented by government interference (minimum wage, constraints on firing, high unemployment benefits).

With that added, I feel Clerc makes a better point with the same data. Many thanks for the translation!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:55:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this diary to help raise awareness of EuroTrib and Jerome's triumph.
by BooMan on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:46:38 AM EST
Boo - I sort of intended to do this on my own... I'll see now, depending on whether your diary makes it to the reclist or not...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no one will complain if we overdo it.  And if they do?  So what?  Didn't mean to step on your promotional diary.  But I think you can do whatever you intended anyway.  I'll be sleeping soon.
by BooMan on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 05:59:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah don't worry, I'll do it anyway...

And you did a great blogwhoring diary, in any case, you should email us the html version for future promotional use!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 06:24:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oh gawd help us, Booman even put a plug in for me on his "blogwhoring" diary...

I mean, I REALLY appreciate the recognition (thank you very much, Booman, really)...but my writing has much room for improvement (and particularly in comparison to Jerome and some of the other prodigious talents that write here. I'm just trying to facilitate communication, which is my better talent).

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 07:03:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are you complaining about? He only said you had a  "unique voice".

He called me "popular" and "wide ranging". I'm Irish/English. I'm not equipped to handle compliments.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 07:14:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ahem, a unique and valued...(heh!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 07:43:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of course I included you.  And Colman is going to have to toughen up and learn to take the praise.
by BooMan on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 03:48:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/8/19/75018/2090

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 08:06:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great article Jerome... and as others have said, great positioning ability to get it into the WSJ.

One nitpick, maybe it shows I'm an unrealistic left-winger at heart, but I would say that protecting national champions is not always a bad thing. Renault is a success now in part due to the aid and protection it received in the past when the car market was undergoing some enormous flux.

Without that protection it may well have ended up like Rover. When a champion is sold to foreign interests, in the end it moves production away. When it does so the manufacturing base (light engineering and technology) can suffer dramatically. I believe this is part of the decline of the UK in every sphere other than financial services...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 06:20:51 AM EST
How I agree with you. The UK really sold its manufacturing base down the river, and large portions of the industrial working class with it.

But I don't think Jérôme is against defending national industries (though he'll speak for himself). Let's say there's a certain French, central-statist way of doing it that might seem (anyway, seems to me), pretty much out-of-date and out-of-touch with the country and the people as a whole.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 06:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations to Jerome a Paris,
Adding air of legitimacy!
With his piece in The Journal,
Euro Trib is now vernal,
Let's all hope it's the start of a spree!


Dudehisattva...
"Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"
by dood abides on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 07:47:02 AM EST
Not really an economist (ha, that is an understatement) but I like the writing. Well done on getting the article to be printed.
by PeWi on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 09:27:41 AM EST
And a "shock & awe" wake up call for pro-lifers in US: The French do less abortions, have less pregnant teenagers and less STD than US. And it is not the blue states that are messing up US' good name! [Who has better values now? -- law]
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Abstract&list_ uids=11804433

    Darroch JE, Singh S, Frost JJ.

    The Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York, USA.

    CONTEXT: Adolescent pregnancy, birth, abortion and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates are much higher in the United States than in most other developed countries...Adolescent childbearing is more common in the United States (22% of women reported having had a child before age 20) than in Great Britain (15%), Canada (11%), France (6%) and Sweden (4%); differences are even greater for births to younger teenagers. A lower proportion of teenage pregnancies are resolved through abortion in the United States than in the other countries..

    A greater proportion of U.S. women reported no contraceptive use at either first or recent intercourse (25% and 20%, respectively) than reported nonuse in France (11% and 12%, respectively), Great Britain (21% and 4%, respectively) and Sweden (22% and 7%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Data on contraceptive use are more important than data on sexual activity in explaining variation in levels of adolescent pregnancy and childbearing among the five developed countries; however, the higher level of multiple sexual partnership among American teenagers may help explain their higher STD rates.

by lawnorder (lawnorder / texasturkey.us) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 09:48:39 AM EST
I think in would be most enlightening to us Americans if there were some links or postings about the relative standards of living of Europeans as against the US.

By this I mean not just the raw data (per capita income, etc.) but, things like availability of health care, child care, retirement security and employment career prospects.

The data for not only the median but how those at the bottom fare compared to the average would also be interesting.

It's my guess that the poorest off in places like France are, on average, better off than the poorest in the US and that the imbalance between the rich and the rest of us is less pronounced.

I also think this may have implications for the challenges of global competitiveness and social stability.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 12:34:42 PM EST
http://tinyurl.com/akdzd Here's a listing by the World Health Organization ranking health care systems around the world.  France shows up at number one with the US not even showing up in the top 20..or 30 but at number 37. And the states due to so much budget cutting continue to kick poor kids off the medicaide health care programs that were covering them, had provided some sort of safety net.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal
by chocolate ink on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 11:14:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll probably be banned for pointing to such a source, but here's an undoubtably unacceptable report that discusses the question of comparable poverty levels:
http://www.timbro.com/euvsusa/pdf/EU_vs_USA_English.pdf
(See page 22.)
by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:43:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PPP.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:59:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:08:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the wrong date.

Healthcare.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:19:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
15000 heat wave deaths.

I've got to go fix an outlet in my kitchen. With luck I'll survive the experience and will be able to continue this productive discussion!  :-)

by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the heat wave is not a bright mark for France, but it remains unclear at this point what could have been done to avoid it, beyond having AC in every single house, which is maybe not the cheapest way to save lives...

  • the heat wave really was unusual, in that not only daytime temperatures were extremely high, but so were night time temperatures. It was the fact that the bodies never had a moment of respite from the heat for several days and nights running that killed the weaker ones. That was  extremely unusual. As critics of France don't usually believe in globa lwarming, there is no sense in planning for such a freak event to happen again, right?

  • post hoc studies have shwon that the vast majority of deaths happened to people that were well taken care of, either with their families or in rest homes with enough staff. The fact that the media coverage focused on the few that were isolated or on the difficulties that ER rooms (real enough, these) does not invalidate that general fact;

  • mortality in 2004 was extraordinarily low, thus suggesting that the 2003 heatwave "anticipated" some deaths. (And don't call me callous, I am just talking statistics. As a matter of fact, a colleague's mother dies during the heat wave, something pretty much unexpected as she was in good health).

So the real lessons of that catastrohpe were as follows:

  • the government found to its detriment that it could not close down completely in August, and that it needed to be able to react to real needs when they arose (they did not in 2003, which created confusion, lack of coordination and poor inforation all around, and that's also why it became a big story). This year, like last, the government is visible during August...

  • ER services need to be reinforced. Like in the US, they have become the first port of call for a number of people that do not have full coverage and cannot go to a doctor - or whose doctor is on holiday that month. They were overwhelmed that month and need more support. A plan was prepared, although I cannot really tell you that the situation has been solved yet.

  • practical stuff that can be done in a heatwave had now been publicised more widely (take baths, drink a lot of water and the like), and public buildings are encouraged to have at least one "fresh" room.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 04:01:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your calm and well-reasoned answer.
by asdf on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 10:14:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shorter Timbor: Americans have more stuff, and that's because they pay less tax.

Do you agree that the best measure of poverty is the number of cell phones, cars, or dishwashers that you own?

Do you also agree with the "less tax is always better" promoted by that think tank?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 04:42:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know anything about that think tank, and from the sounds of what they write they appear to be on the libertarian fringe.

But your question about number of cell phones is exactly what makes comparison of different economies so difficult. As I see it, there should be a three step process.

1.) Define some kind of metric based on things that you can measure: GDP, life expectancy, number of cell phones, number of vacation days per year, or whatever.

2.) Decide whether that metric is measuring something desireable or undesireable.

3.) Adjust whatever economic controls you have available to attempt to either increase or decrease the metric.

So if you think that the so-called "unemployment rate" metric is an indicator of something that is "bad," then you would work to make it lower. If you think that the per capita GDP is "good," then you would work to make it higher.

To make this work, the very first thing that must be accomplished is the definition of metrics that measure things we are interested in. The current debates are about things like "unemployment rate" (argued against by Krugman in one instance because of discouraged workers), "per capita GDP" (which measures things like cell phones), and "health care ranking" (which takes into account how much is spent--as a negative--but fails to account for massive failures of the system). And then when those metrics are defined, they must be measured over carefully chosen time periods that do not put undue emphasis on things like local recessions.

What are those fair metrics?

by asdf on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 10:24:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fellow-dutchman Jasper Emmering had a very informative series of posts on this comparison
http://emmering.blogspot.com/2005/07/decline-of-wild-west-part-iv.html

    ...Save democracy from direct elections
by FransGroenendijk on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 09:02:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Congratulations jerome, great article, very informative and should go without saying but I'll say it anyway, excellently written.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal
by chocolate ink on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 11:18:24 PM EST
political class is, but are you politically active, Jerome ? It seems an opportune time for a political outsider who isn't a demogogue or a rogue to enter the fray.
by gracchus on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 11:35:51 PM EST
We will start a draft Jerome campaign for the presidential campaign. :)

I know that since many of us are not French citizens that we cannot become centrally involved in the campaign, but we could be the international support network.

by gradinski chai on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 10:53:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Did you see this comment on the ff site?

Typical French propaganda masquerading as thoughtful analysis.

I have gone back to the rapport that Michel Camdessus prepared for the French government in the Fall of 2004. (Michel Camdessus, is the former Head of the IMF and the former Governor of the Bank of France.)

Page 178 shows a graph with the following comments:

"Over the period 1993-2003, US gross domestic product has increased by about 45%, vs. over 35% for the UK, and only 25% for France. This translates into an annual growth rate differential of 1.5 percentage point between the US and France, and 0.9 percentage point between the US and the UK."

I have run the math. The annual GDP growth rate for the 3 countries are:

US: 3.8%
UK: 3.0%
France: 2.3%

Link to PDF report

Any suggestions for a rebuttal?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 09:19:18 AM EST
Tell him to go back and learn to read. The bit he missed in Jérôme's figures: "per capita".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 10:04:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The main one, as pointed out above, is the GDP / GDP per capita distinction, which is obviously too sophisticated for the people over there...

The second one is that there is a real difference between 1993-2003 (which my critic quotes) and 1994-2004 (which I use) as a period because 1993 was a bad recession in France, as was 2003. So if you take the period with the two recessions, the comparison becomes skewed. (US recessions were in 1991 and 2001, French ones in 1993 and 2003. So for meaningful comparisons you need to cover a full cycle in both countries).

statistics are very easy to manipulate, you just need to know exactly what you are - and what you are not - talking about...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:32:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is HILLARIOUS.  There is a libel lawsuit against the Tokyo Governor who said "French is a failed language."

Care to guess what the price of French language is? You won't believe it.  

"PRICE OF FRENCH LANGUAGE TO BE DECIDED IN A JAPANESE COURT"

by ilg37c on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 11:02:47 AM EST
Hilarious takes one L, dtlc.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 03:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why didn't you post here all your other arguments on BoomanTribune?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Jerome a Paris,

I was tired or lazy or both.  (wink)

by ilg37c on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 10:55:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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