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Well I will have to jump to France's defence here, because there are plenty of very good things in your country. Obviously it's beautiful, and the people are actually perfectly friendly if you don't wear a baseball hat, Bermuda shorts, and white track shoes.

First, the ideal of self-sufficiency in food is admirable, because the entire free trade argument is based on the assumption that those external supplies will not be disrupted. But an overseas food supply might be disrupted, which would be a disaster, so there is nothing wrong with trying to keep your own agricultural system. (Although it must be, as you say elsewhere, kept from becoming a way to simply channel money into your friend's pocket.) America and Japan are notable followers of the same approach, although we don't have this very obvious CAP thing that makes everybody else uncomfortable.

Second, the use of nuclear power is an admirable way to avoid the many difficulties associated with burning coal--the American approach. There is huge risk to this approach, but by standardizing the designs and professionalizing the operators one can--as France has demonstrated--run a safe nuclear energy program.

Any by making conscious, rational decisions regarding energy use by adjusting tax rates and road use rates, one can for example encourage the use of small diesel cars. Americans have NO IDEA about diesels--this is probably one of the biggest day-to-day disconnects between the two continents.

Also, there is nothing wrong with formalizing the system of having an educated elite that mostly runs things. We have a similar system in the US, although it's not quite as obvious. Partly that's because we are so much bigger, so it's hard to know what are the elite schools from different areas. For example, in Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines is the elite public university--but who knows that in California?

And it is probably not bad to try to keep your language alive, although this is a lost cause. Everyone will speak either Spanglish or Chinese in a few decades.

Certainly France's leadership in railroad technology, aircraft, nuclear power, food, fashion, etc. are beyond debate. What remains is a set of problems related to expectations of world influence, some rather nasty class issues related to immigration, and a pretty tough situation right now with regards to the EU and the Euro. (The Euro is a dead duck: You'll all be using dollars soon. But I digress...) Also, you seriously need to dump Formula One and get NASCAR over there--everybody would be so much happier.

Overall, I suspect that even the most enthusiastic France-bashers over here in 'merican would not object to a holiday in the French Alps, a trip to the Cannes film week, or a tour of some vineyards. Just keep them away from Chirac and Villepin--but that probably applies to plenty of Frenchmen, too...  :-)

by asdf on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 03:52:31 PM EST
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we don't have this very obvious CAP thing that makes everybody else uncomfortable.

US farmers don't receive subsidies? Since when?

In fact, both North America and Europe run rival agricultural systems that are heavily subsidized so as to permit massive low-price exports to Third World countries.

Personally, I'm agin it, but there's no sense in looking at it in a one-sided way. If Europe should reduce CAP subsidies, the US should reduce its own farm subsidies.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jun 20th, 2005 at 10:51:52 PM EST
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You are right, my phrasing was poor. The problem with CAP is that it is so obvious, and called out as a specific identifiable program. The US has all sorts of comparable subsidies, but they're not all grouped together under a single title that can be pointed at.

I would argue that if CAP is really about keeping France pastoral, then there could be a comparable program to keep, say, the Lake District of England pastoral. Maybe it could be the "keep Europe pretty and rural for the rich American and Japanese tourists."

by asdf on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 04:09:15 AM EST
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In the States, I think it's the Farm Subsidies Act. Dubya himself put one through in 2002, pigeon-holing $190bn over ten years.

I wish the CAP was just about keeping rural France bucolic... In fact it's about agribusiness and exports that hurt Third World farming.

There's a very good discussion on this in Jérôme A Paris's post President Chirac, I beg you

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jun 21st, 2005 at 05:05:53 AM EST
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