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Thanks for putting this up Jerome.  I don't care if we call it a debate or some other name, but it's very helpful.

I have a number of comments, but let me begin by commenting on your perspective, in particular the perspective of the way Americans are reacting to this.

Again, this should preoccupy you guys, because the underlying message is: progressive economic policies are failures, and only further "reforms" (read pay workers less and give them fewer rights, bust unions and cut taxes to corporates) will work.
I'm spending an inordinately long amount of time thinking as I write this, trying to get it right, in the sense of sharing my thoughts.  I have a sense that you are thinking that some segment of America wants France to be progressive or conservative, views France's success or failure as a guide to the US.  I sense that you see some cabal in America, in the newspapers or more broadly, that wants to spin your news negatively, and thus change France.  I don't think that is accurate.

First, I would argue that a very large minority of America promote progressive economic policies, are concerned with the ludicrously increasing ratio of the high earners/working man, and want corporations and the "rich" taxed at higher levels.  The support for unions IMHO would not be as high.  Furthermore, as regarding the print popular press, and major TV news, there is even broader support (definitely a majority) for these positons.  In other words, there is great media support, and very significant popular support, for a progressive agenda.

Second, some percentage of Americans, let's say 15%, are really quite interested in France--love the beauty, culture, etc, etc (this would include me).  Another percentage of Americans have no time for France at all, say 20--25%.  It's not a hatred, but close.  They feel De Gualle and the French in general, "dis-respected" the American contribution in WWII.  They feel the lack of support over Iraq was a further insult.  They feel insulted when they visit France, and expect the French to speak English to them, and that if they don't, they are insulted.  Some don't expect the French to speak English, but the French really do treat them rudely.  This is the Fox's Bill O'Reilly group.  But for the remaining, let's say 60%, they are involved in other things, and France is just not on their radar screen.

As to

Let me say it as directly as I can: most of the coverage I have seen is either wilfully ignorant or purposedly lying, and they repeat a number of falsehoods about the French labor market that are, quite simply, shocking.
This is a little dated, but the American teenager of 15 years ago would say, "well, duh".  With an emphasis on ignorant, not necessarily willful, in this case.  If you think the French are the only group getting ignorant, and willfully ignorant, coverage,,,it's just not true.

Americans are very confused about the 35 hour work week, and the 9% unemployment rate.  But it comes into their life as a message about once a month.  So it just doesn't hit the radar screen.

So my message here is, there is not a cabal trying to put the French riots into a negative framework, with an intention of changing either French or American policy.

Well, i've thought about not posting this, because I think it would be a discussion more appropriate to a bottle of wine, or two, or a few pints of bitter.  This is a subject that would have benefited from dialogue, rather than a diary.  But what the heck, it's written, so here it is.

by wchurchill on Wed Mar 29th, 2006 at 12:26:31 AM EST
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I have little to disagree with what you posted, but here are a few further explanations on what I meant:

  • the debate is not about France per se, it's about enconomic policies favoring the corporate classes vs the labor, and my point was that, while it may not be obvious, the fight is very similar in the US and in France, and thus the French strikes are relevant to the US left;

  • it is about France to the extent that France is the country that expresses most forcefully a different view on economic policy, and there is a "shoot the messenger" aspect in the fight, i.e. make France look back and policy prescriptions coming from France can be safely demonised;

  • the "ignorance" comment does not preclude, of course, ignorance about other topics. But on this one, I was worried about the opinions I read from the US left about the "privileged" "pampered" French students.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Mar 29th, 2006 at 04:46:16 AM EST
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