Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Neolib orgy: Europe middle-aged, Chirac gone

by Jerome a Paris Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 07:14:37 AM EST

The quasi simultaneity of Chirac's announcement that he would retire with the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome creating the EEC has given ample opportunity for newspapers to take a "hard look" at France and Europe. after revisionnist history, we now get unfettered glee at the supposed failings of both. A small sample from the Economist below.

Europe's mid-life crisis

the fact is that, even as it turns 50, the EU is mired in a mid-life crisis. The biggest problem is economic. European economies have perked up recently, but the record is still of lamentably slow growth and high unemployment.

It all went wrong

On entering the Elysée Palace, Mr Chirac inherited a restive country, with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and a sense of political stagnation. Twelve years later, having announced his decision not to run again, the 74-year-old Mr Chirac bequeaths to his successor a restive country with high unemployment, mounting debt, a disoriented electorate and an even more intense sense of political stagnation.


It is true that parts of the dirigiste French model, of high taxes and high spending by a strong state, do indeed work well. They have delivered the country efficient public transport, nuclear energy and first-rate health care. Yet the model is not only unsustainably expensive but fundamentally weakened by its failure to reduce unemployment. The jobless rate has not dipped below 8% for 25 years, despite spending on subsidised jobs.

Jacques Chirac's poisoned legacy

[Mr Chirac's] 12-year tenure seems in many ways a continuation of the 14-year term of his Socialist predecessor, François Mitterrand. Neither had much time for America or the free market: Mr Chirac once denounced ultra-liberalism as the new communism. Both resorted to higher public spending and debt as an easy option to buy off bolshy voters. Neither cut the country's suffocating bureaucracy and tax burden. Both fought hard to keep European subsidies for France's cosseted farmers and to protect national champions.

Many French voters support Mr Chirac for his strong opposition to the Iraq war, which even made him briefly popular. Yet his aggressive tone strained relations not only with America and Britain, but also with eastern Europe. Even the boost for France's status in the Arab world proved fleeting. His indulgence of Russia's Vladimir Putin was another black mark, and his loss of the May 2005 referendum on the EU constitution a personal failure. Elsewhere—in Africa, in Iran—Mr Chirac's freelance diplomacy and refusal to consult allies has been mostly just a nuisance.

they have a full survey of the EU, I'll wade in later...

Neither had much time for America or the free market

Bloody atheists! They refuse to worship the only real god and it's prophet! (La illah illa al-souq!). They should be excommunicated and taken to the gaols of the Holy Economics Office!

Mr Chirac once denounced ultra-liberalism as the new communism

Blasphema! Blasphema! Let's stone him to death!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 08:13:47 AM EST
is that when it comes to actual policies when it really matters, France is certainly America's most steadfast ally.

Remember Mitterrand defending the Pershing-20s at the Bundestag. Giving high level intelligence to Reagan from the Soviet defector that fell in his lap.

And people seem to have forgotten that France and Russia had an almost complete breakdown of diplomatic relationships in the late 90s and early 2000s because of France's persistent criticism of the war in Chechnya.

Forgetting the invasion of Iraq and who started it is damn convenient.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 08:34:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hey now, not every American is brain dead. :-) just alot of them.

I agree, France has been, and continues to be a good ally for the US. we should have listened ( ie as a country) to France rather than colin powell, obviously we would be better off. also its clear from my trips to geneva and into southern France that france is FAR ahead of Germany when it comes to many industries, esp hi tech, and bio tech. also its about 1000 times easier to do business down in southern france than germany. i am not trying to knock germany, but due to the culture there it is very hard to do anything innovative or involving risk due to the risk averse attitude of the germans.

there are alot of issues here. but europe is not dead yet. somewhat more free enterprise might be good, but tempering this with an understanding of the needs of society as a whole can only serve to benefit everyone.

merci Jerome, je pense, il y a tres bonne en France mantinant, excusez-moi, mon frances n`est pas tres bon, j` essaye....

Life is not a dress rehearsal

by johnfire (johnfire@christopherrehm.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 04:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't what I want to read when I'm trying to have lunch. Upsets my disgestion.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 08:42:34 AM EST
It was posted below the fold, with a fair warning above... You must be a bit masochistic?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 08:44:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Got a mirror?  I was going to say addicted, but I am the expert.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 01:29:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

At the same time, the burden of regulation has stifled innovation and growth, and the hefty cost of administering it is piling up debt for future generations. Over the past 20 years, a million extra civil servants have been recruited. Despite mini-reforms of pensions and health care on Mr Chirac's watch, the social-security deficit is heading for more than €1 billion ($1.3 billion) by 2009, say official estimates.

ooooh. A one billion deficit. Now that's scary. Not like a several hundred billion one, though.

And this bit of information, from INSEE:

Total number of civil servants (using the widest definition, last line in the table linked to above):

  1. 2 913,7
  2. 3 145,9
  3. 3 134,1

Oooh. A scary 220,000 increase (or 7%) in ten years.
Nothing like the 20% increase in 7 years under Blair:


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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 08:43:01 AM EST
OECD of course has other figures for civil servants, and their data is incomplete, but there's this (.xls):

France                             1985        1990      1997        1998   
Central Government     2460200    2489600    2488300    2270100

Regional Government    1208200    1326400    1220500   

It's hard to see where we're going to get an added million civil servants from since the mid-eighties.

OECD also shows public employment as a percentage of total employment (xls) as absolutely flat from 1985 to the late nineties at 21%.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 11:01:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Need to get with the program.

Thanks DL. Some of us can read.

No need for too many graphs on this.

You will drive me into hyper PTG(graph)S.

And that would not be wise, considering the fragile balance of power between the X Y Axis.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Fri Mar 16th, 2007 at 07:42:44 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]