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Dear Mr Thornhill,

If you remember, we exchanged correspondence late last year (started about your article suggesting that Bush was really French), and that ultimately led to an article of mine on European energy policy being published in the FT Op-Ed pages. So I hope that you will take this new letter in such a context - whereby I'm quite grateful for your willingess to listen to your readers and to give me in particular a chance to speak up in your columns.

I a mwriting this time because I have a lot of comments to make to your article published today about France ("Why France may find its social model exacts too high a price"). In addition to the request (which I copied you in)to the FT editors for corrections on a couple of factual errors for which I am not sure who is to blame, I'd like to flag a number of other facts - all drawn from the pages of the Financial Times - that give a pretty different perspective on the French economy. I've made a fairly detailed commentary of your article on my website, the European Tribune (see here:
http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2007/4/15/182027/868), but I'd like to just flag out just one item, about the supposed relative decline of French GDP per capita.

As you know, and as the FT, to its credit, regularly writes about, GDP growth in the US and the UK has been accompanied by increasing inequality and stagnant income for the middle classes:

[insert top 0.1% graph]

Thus economic performance for most people is quite similar in France as in the UK - except that actually the poor are less poor, and in particular poor kids are not so numerous (as a recent UNICEF study showed). That would seem to be an acceptable result for the price of not letting the very rich getting even more extravagantly rich.

The fact that the French economic model is systematically described as a failure, when it simply focuses more - and more effectively - on social cohesion can be seen as a very ideological attempt to justify a new class war by a very small (but very rich) elite which controls a high portion of global capital and sees workers, especially middle calss ones, as an expensive cost item on their balance sheet - and France, which shows that a different way of doing things is possible, as the biggest obstacle to the triumph of their (shortsighted) ideas.

We are all soaked on a permanent basis by gloomy, or even catastrophist descriptions of the French economy, but the statistics in the very pages of your own paper can lead to very different conclusions, if one chooses to do so. I wonder why that choice is so rarely made (the choice to worry about lack of healthcare coverage instead of the fact that 'too few' seniors work), and I would hope that voices carrying that choice could be heard more frequently in the FT.

Sincerely Yours, etc...



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 06:41:04 AM EST
Just a few quick reactions...

Needs a little cleaning up, a few typos ("I am writing" sted "I a mwriting" and "workers, especially middle-class ones," sted "workers, especially middle calss ones") and one or two grammatical issues (should be "for the price of not letting the very rich GET even more...").

I think the LTE page is unlikely to actually publish a graph.  Maybe I'm wrong, but most papers wouldn't.  In an op-ed column, you might have better luck with that, but even then it would be rare.  So you may want to summarize what the graph says in a brief sentence, e.g. "As was shown in the FT's own story TITLE, published DATE, blah de blah de blah..."

This final section isn't really working for me at all:

... can lead to very different conclusions, if one chooses to do so. I wonder why that choice is so rarely made (the choice to worry about lack of healthcare coverage instead of the fact that 'too few' seniors work), and I would hope that voices carrying that choice could be heard more frequently in the FT.

I would prefer "can lead to very different conclusions."  Period.  But then your "choice" wording really doesn't work, which I'm not sure it does anyway.  The parenthetical statement is unclear and distracting in that position -- it should be made earlier.

I'd recommend some reworking of that paragraph.  I'll see what I can come up with, but in the meantime I thought I'd toss these other things out there.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:18:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome wrote:

We are all soaked on a permanent basis by gloomy, or even catastrophist descriptions of the French economy, but the statistics in the very pages of your own paper can lead to very different conclusions, if one chooses to do so. I wonder why that choice is so rarely made (the choice to worry about lack of healthcare coverage instead of the fact that 'too few' seniors work), and I would hope that voices carrying that choice could be heard more frequently in the FT.

My attempt:

We are all continually soaked in gloomy, even catastrophist descriptions of the French economy, but the statistics in your very own pages can lead to very different conclusions, if one chooses to make them.  I wonder why that choice is so rarely made [in these pages??], and I hope that the FT will give voice more often to those who make that choice, and who refuse to view the French system as irretreivably doomed.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:41:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I left out the part about health care and senior-citizen unemployment because, while it would be relevant to a discussion about editorial decisions, it's tangential to the specific point, which is editorial decisions regarding the French economy.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:47:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hear you! Let me try again...


We are all soaked on a permanent basis by gloomy, or even catastrophist descriptions of the French economy, but the statistics in the very pages of your own paper can lead to very different conclusions, if one so chooses. I wonder why that choice is so rarely made, and I would hope that voices carrying that more optimistic outlook could be heard more frequently in the FT.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:54:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your end is better than mine, but I still don't like "on a permanent basis," because I think what you mean is that it's continual.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:23:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, and think "We are all continually..." is better than "on a permanent basis".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:31:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I fear the before-last paragraph is where Mr. Thornbill will just stop reading or will start assuming that you are a surrogate of PS or a party further left.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 08:59:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would put just this sentence to the previous paragraph and drop the rest:

The fact that the French economic model is systematically described as a failure, when it simply focuses more - and more effectively - on social cohesion can be seen as a very ideological attempt to denigrate a country which shows that a different way of doing things is possible.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:05:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that works.  It also tidily takes care of the fact that the entire paragraph is one single (very long) sentence.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Dear Mr Thornhill,

If you remember, we exchanged correspondence late last year (started about your article suggesting that Bush was really French), and that ultimately led to an article of mine on European energy policy being published in the FT Op-Ed pages. So I hope that you will take this new letter in such a context - whereby I'm quite grateful for your willingess to listen to your readers and to give me in particular a chance to speak up in your columns.

I am writing this time because I have a lot of comments to make to your article published today about France ("Why France may find its social model exacts too high a price"). In addition to the request (which I copied you in) to the FT editors for a correction of a factual error in the graph accompanying your article, I'd like to point you towards a fairly detailed commentary of your article on my website, the European Tribune (http://www.eurotrib.com/comments/2007/4/15/182027/868), and flag two items:

  1. Your statement that "France is the only eurozone country that has not reduced the financial weight of the state over the past 10 years", is quite misleading, when the two most significant examples of countries with significant increases in public spending are the USA and the UK (as demonstrated in the attached graph, from your 19 September 2006 edition) - the two economies usually shown as an example for France and, not coincidentally maybe, those with higher than average growth over that period.

  2. With respect to the supposed relative decline of French GDP per capita, it should be pointed out (and the FT, to its credit, regularly writes about it) that GDP growth in the US and the UK has been accompanied by increasing inequality and stagnant income for the middle classes:

[insert top 0.1% graph]

If you strip out the top 0.1%, relative GDP per capita numbers are extremely stable over the last 25 years for France, the UK and the US. Other than for a tiny elite, economic performance for most people is thus quite similar in France as in the US or UK - except maybe that there are fewer poor people in France, a trade off that should not be brushed off so easily.

The fact that the French economic model is systematically described as a failure, when it simply focuses more - and more effectively - on social cohesion can be seen as an attempt to denigrate a country which shows that a different way of doing things is possible.

I hope that voices carrying that more optimistic view of France can be heard more frequently in the FT, and I'd certainly be willing to volunteer to the task!

Sincerely Yours, etc...



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 09:47:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A couple of minor nits in the first paragraph:

"If you remember, we exchanged correspondence late last year (it started about your article suggesting that Bush was really French), and that ultimately led to an article of mine on European energy policy being published in the FT Op-Ed pages. So I hope that you will take this new letter in that context - in which I'm quite grateful for your willingness to listen to your readers and to give me in particular a chance to speak up in your columns."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 10:44:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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