Main


September 9, 2014

"Et La Liberté!"



(p. C7) [A] milestone in the diary comes in 1943 when [Guéhenno's] students are drafted into compulsory work service in Germany; many escape to Spain or join resistance groups. Nor was Guéhenno exempt from the repression. That same year he was demoted by the Vichy education minister to the rank of a beginning instructor, assigned to teach 17 hours of class a week rather than the usual six and faced with supervising hundreds of students. "Stammering with fatigue," he wondered how he would have time to keep his diary going. But he cheered up whenever he contemplated how many of the authors in his curriculum were bona fide revolutionaries: "Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Danton, Robespierre, Chénier, Hugo, Michelet ..., I have nothing to discuss but suspects." He liked to end his class sessions by shouting "Et la liberté!"


For the full review, see:

Alice Kaplan. "Shedding Light on Nazi-Occupied Paris." The New York Times (Thurs., JUNE 26, 2014): C7.

(Note: ellipsis in original; words in brackets were added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date JUNE 25, 2014.)


The book being reviewed is:

Guéhenno, Jean. Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944: Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris. Translated by David Ball. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.






July 9, 2014

French Protest Amazon, but Buy There for Low Prices



(p. B1) LONDON -- On weekends, Guillaume Rosquin browses the shelves of local bookstores in Lyon, France. He enjoys peppering the staff with questions about what he should be reading next. But his visits, he says, are also a protest against the growing power of Amazon. He is bothered by the way the American online retailer treats its warehouse employees.

Still, as with millions of other Europeans, there is a limit to how much he will protest.

"It depends on the price," said Mr. Rosquin, 49, who acknowledged that he was planning to buy a $400 BlackBerry smartphone on Amazon because the handset was not yet available on rival French websites. "If you can get something for half-price at Amazon, you may put your issues with their working conditions aside."



For the full story, see:

MARK SCOTT. "Principles Are No Match for Europe's Love of U.S. Web Titans." The New York Times (Mon., JULY 7, 2014): B1 & B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 6, 2014.)







May 22, 2014

In France "'Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité' Means that What's Yours Should Be Mine"



SantacruzGuillaumeFrenchEntrepreneurInLondon2014-04-27.jpgGuillaume Santacruz is among many French entrepreneurs now using London as their base. He said of his native France, "The economy is not going well, and if you want to get ahead or run your own business, the environment is not good." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 1) Guillaume Santacruz, an aspiring French entrepreneur, brushed the rain from his black sweater and skinny jeans and headed down to a cavernous basement inside Campus London, a seven-story hive run by Google in the city's East End.


. . .


A year earlier, Mr. Santacruz, who has two degrees in finance, was living in Paris near the Place de la Madeleine, working in a boutique finance firm. He had taken that job after his attempt to start a business in Marseille foundered under a pile of government regulations and a seemingly endless parade of taxes. The episode left him wary of starting any new projects in France. Yet he still hungered to be his own boss.

He decided that he would try again. Just not in his own country.

"A lot of people are like, 'Why would you ever leave France?' " Mr. Santacruz said. "I'll tell you. France has a lot of problems. There's a feeling of gloom that seems to be growing deeper. The economy is not going well, and if you want to get ahead or run your own business, the environment is not good."


. . .


(p. 5) "Making it" is almost never easy, but Mr. Santacruz found the French bureaucracy to be an unbridgeable moat around his ambitions. Having received his master's in finance at the University of Nottingham in England, he returned to France to work with a friend's father to open dental clinics in Marseille. "But the French administration turned it into a herculean effort," he said.

A one-month wait for a license turned into three months, then six. They tried simplifying the corporate structure but were stymied by regulatory hurdles. Hiring was delayed, partly because of social taxes that companies pay on salaries. In France, the share of nonwage costs for employers to fund unemployment benefits, education, health care and pensions is more than 33 percent. In Britain, it is around 20 percent.

"Every week, more tax letters would come," Mr. Santacruz recalled.


. . .


Diane Segalen, an executive recruiter for many of France's biggest companies who recently moved most of her practice, Segalen & Associés, to London from Paris, says the competitiveness gap is easy to see just by reading the newspapers. "In Britain, you read about all the deals going on here," Ms. Segalen said. "In the French papers, you read about taxes, more taxes, economic problems and the state's involvement in everything."


. . .


"It is a French cultural characteristic that goes back to almost the revolution and Robespierre, where there's a deep-rooted feeling that you don't show that you make money," Ms. Segalen, the recruiter, said. "There is this sense that 'liberté, égalité, fraternité' means that what's yours should be mine. It's more like, if someone has something I can't have, I'd rather deprive this person from having it than trying to work hard to get it myself. That's a very French state of mind. But it's a race to the bottom."



For the full story, see:

LIZ ALDERMAN. "Au Revoir, Entrepreneurs." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., MARCH 23, 2014): 1 & 5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 22, 2014.)




SegalenDianeFrenchEntrepreneurInLondon2014-04-27.jpg 'Diane Segalen moved most of her executive recruiting practice to London from Paris. In France, she says, "there is this sense that 'liberté, égalité, fraternité' means that what's yours should be mine."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






August 27, 2013

Urban Planners Made La Défense an Architectural Statement, But a Terrible Place to Live



LaDefenseFrenchPlannedBusinessHubb2013-08-04.jpg "La Défense can feel like a ghost town after 5 p.m. and on weekends, once the district's office workers have left." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) . . . La Défense, begun during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle in the late 1950s and built just west of Paris by bulldozing slums and paving over farmland, has always worked better in architectural theory than in anthropological practice.

Rather than the Parisian business hub its founders described, it often seems more like the isolated end of a spoke that has highlighted a crucial flaw in urban planning -- a concern with making architectural statements -- rather than an affinity for the people in and around the buildings.

When non-French planning experts assess La Défense, they say it shares the same problems as the Canary Wharf complex in London, where developers have tried to supplant the City with Big Architecture and whose artificial origins may be hard to overcome. The experts look more favorably on the somewhat organic mix of (p. B6) business and residential of Lower Manhattan, which has evolved over the last century.

"La Défense has always suffered from a creative hypothermia," said Wojciech Czaja, an Austrian architecture critic. "It is a sad area because it is atmospherically and emotionally perceived as a business district only."

The public agency that manages the complex has hired an architectural firm to draft a new master plan in hopes of making the grandiose vision for La Défense a livable reality.


. . .


"There is nothing good about living here," said Carlin Pierre, 54, who works at a waste disposal center in the district and resides in one of the Brutalist communal, rent-subsidized housing blocks tucked amid the high-rise office buildings. "Sure, it's a nice area to come as a tourist, or even to work," Mr. Pierre said, "but it's terrible to live in La Défense."



For the full story, see:

GEORGI KANTCHEV. "Plan Aims to Enliven Paris's Financial District, Long Called Soulless." The New York Times (Tues., July 30, 2013): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 30, 2013.)






August 15, 2013

Global Warming Allows Russians to Build Liquefied Natural Gas Plant in Arctic



NovatekArcticLiquefiedNaturalGasPlant2013-08-04.jpg "A rendering of Novatek's proposed $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on Russia's Arctic coast, scheduled to be done by 2016." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) YURKHAROVSKOYE GAS FIELD, Russia -- The polar ice cap is melting, and if executives at the Russian energy company Novatek feel guilty about profiting from that, they do not let it be known in public.

From this windswept shore on the Arctic Ocean, where Novatek owns enormous natural gas deposits, a stretch of thousands of miles of ice-free water leads to China. The company intends to ship the gas directly there.


. . .


Novatek, in partnership with the French energy company Total and the China National Petroleum Corporation, is building a $20 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the central Arctic coast of Russia. It is one of the first major energy projects to take advantage of the summer thawing of the Arctic caused by global warming.

The plant, called Yamal LNG, would send gas to Asia along the sea lanes known as the Northeast Passage, which opened for regular international shipping only four years ago.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW E. KRAMER. "Polar Thaw Opens Shortcut for Russian Natural Gas." The New York Times (Thurs., July 25, 2013): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 24, 2013, and has the title "Polar Thaw Opens Shortcut for Russian Natural Gas.")






August 2, 2013

For Right to Rise, French Youth Must Leave France's "Decrepit, Overcentralized Gerontocracy"



(p. 4) The French aren't used to the idea that their country, like so many others in Europe, might be one of emigration -- that people might actually want to leave. To many French people, it's a completely foreign notion that, around the world and throughout history, voting with one's feet has been the most widely available means to vote at all.


. . .


When the journalist Mouloud Achour, the rapper Mokless and I published a column in the French daily Libération last September, arguing that France was a decrepit, overcentralized gerontocracy and that French youths should pack their bags and go find better opportunities elsewhere in the world, it caused an uproar.


. . .


It was a divide between those who have found their place in the system and believe fervently in defending the status quo, and those who are aware that a country that has tolerated a youth unemployment rate of 25 percent for nearly 30 years isn't a place where the rising generations can expect to rise to much of anything.



For the full commentary, see:

FELIX MARQUARDT. "OPINION; The Best Hope for France's Young? Get Out." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., June 30, 2013): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated June 29, 2013.)






July 30, 2013

The French and Japanese Believe Water Cleans the Anus Better than Dry Paper



TheBigNecessityBK2013-07-21.jpg

















Source of the book image: http://jacketupload.macmillanusa.com/jackets/high_res/jpgs/9780805090833.jpg



(p. C34) Ms. George's book is lively . . . . It is hard not to warm to a writer who can toss off an observation like this one: "I like engineers. They build things that are useful and sometimes beautiful -- a brick sewer, a suspension bridge -- and take little credit. They do not wear black and designer glasses like architects. They do not crow."


. . .


In Japan, where toilets are amazingly advanced -- most of even the most basic have heated seats and built-in bidet systems for front and rear -- the American idea of cleaning one's backside with dry paper is seen as quaint at best and disgusting at worst. As Ms. George observes: "Using paper to cleanse the anus makes as much sense, hygienically, as rubbing your body with dry tissue and imagining it removes dirt."



For the full review, see:

DWIGHT GARNER. "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; 15 Minutes of Fame for Human Waste and Its Never-Ending Assembly Line." The New York Times (Fri., December 12, 2008): C34.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 11, 2008.)


The book under review, is:

George, Rose. The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008.






April 20, 2013

"The French Work Force Gets Paid High Wages But Works Only Three Hours"



(p. B1) PARIS -- "How stupid do you think we are?"

With those choice words, and several more similar in tone, the chief executive of an American tire company touched off a furor in France on Wednesday as he responded to a government plea to take over a Goodyear factory slated for closing in northern France.

"I have visited the factory a couple of times," Maurice Taylor Jr., the head of Titan International, wrote to the country's industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg, in a letter published in French newspapers on Wednesday.

"The French work force gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They have one hour for their breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three."

"I told this to the French unions to their faces and they told me, 'That's the French way!' "



For the full story, see:

LIZ ALDERMAN. "Quel Brouhaha! A Diatribe on Unions Irks the French." The New York Times (Thurs., February 21, 2013): B1 & B6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 20, 2013.)



For a similar account, see:

GABRIELE PARUSSINI. "U.S. CEO to France: "How Stupid Do You Think We Are?" The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., February 21, 2013): B1.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 20, 2013, and has the title "U.S. CEO Blasts French Work Habits.")






January 5, 2013

Government Job Protection Regulations Reduce Youth Jobs



EuropeYouthUnemploymentGraph2013-01-01.jpg










Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A7) Socialist President François Hollande has come up with a plan to ease the problem: give €4,000 ($5,276) a year for three years to small companies that hire a young person on a permanent contract while committing to keep an employee age 57 or over.


. . .


The French government hopes as many as half a million youths will find permanent jobs over the next five years due to the measure, which could cost the government about €1 billion a year when it is in place.

Economists say the number of real new jobs is likely to be much lower because the government will be subsidizing jobs that would have been created anyway. Only around 100,000 new jobs will be created, according to OFCE, an economic-research think tank in Paris.

French companies say they are reluctant to hire young people on permanent contracts because it gives employees a level of protection the companies say they can't afford to grant--even if they get the subsidy proposed by Mr. Hollande.

"It's great to have €4,000, but if the new recruit isn't good, we don't know how long we'll be stuck with them," said Philippe Lehmann, who runs Lehmann Sarl, a mechanical-parts factory in Molsheim, eastern France that employs seven people.




For the full story, see:

WILLIAM HOROBIN. "France Pins Hopes on Youth Jobs Plan." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., December 24, 2012): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 23, 2012.)

(Note: the online version of the last two paragraphs quoted above contains a few extra words of elaboration at the end of each paragraph, as compared to the print version. I have underlined these words in the passages quoted above.)






November 14, 2012

Entrepreneurs of Coffee, the Battlefield, and Missing Minerals



InventionOfEnterpriseBK2012-11-04.jpg














Source of book image: http://img.qbd.com.au/product/l/9780691143705.jpg



[p. 167] The book . . . contains a variety of entertaining stories and colorful facts about entrepreneurship that could potentially be used for teaching. [p. 168] Murray, for instance, explains that the word "entrepreneur" was borrowed from the French language in the late Middle Ages, a time when it was used to describe a battlefield commander (p. 88). Kuran describes how Middle Eastern coffee entrepreneurs originally faced harsh resistance from many clerics who believed that "coffee drinkers reap hell-fire" (pp. 71-72). Hudson traces early merchant activity and entrepreneurship all the way back to Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC (pp. 11-17). These cities, made rich by their fertile alluvial soil, still needed to acquire other important minerals, missing in their own ground, from the distant Iranian plateau or Anatolia. Since military conquest proved too expensive and because the Sumerian cities really needed these resources, they pioneered international import-export activities in their temples and palaces.


For the full review, see:

Bikard, Michael, and Scott Stern. "The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times." Journal of Economic Literature 49, no. 1 (March 2011): 164-68.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the page numbers in square parentheses refer to the review; the page numbers in curved parentheses refer to the book under review.)


Book being reviewed:

Landes, David S., Joel Mokyr, and William J. Baumol, eds. Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.






November 2, 2012

A Rising Tax Gathers No Rolling Stone



life-keith-richardsBK2012-10-31.jpg















Source of book image: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Nhhn-YcP9IY/TjkQHfGGEeI/AAAAAAAAAVA/_jKMGRBm9Ac/s1600/life-keith-richards.jpg



(p. 289) The tax rate in the early '70s on the highest earners was 83 percent, and that went up to 98 percent for investments and so-called unearned income. So that's the same as being told to leave the country. ... The last thing I think the powers that be expected when they hit us with the super-super tax is that we'd say, fine, we'll leave. We'll be another one not paying tax to you. They just didn't factor that in. It made us bigger than ever, and it produced Exile on Main St., which was maybe the best thing we did. They didn't believe we'd be able to continue as we were if we didn't live in England. And in all honesty, we were very doubtful too. We didn't know if we would make it, but if we didn't try, what would we do? Sit in England and they'd give us a penny out of every pound we earned? We had no desire to be closed down. And so we upped and went to France.


Source:

Richards, Keith. Life. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010.

(Note: I first saw the quote on the back cover of: Journal of Political Economy 119, no. 1 (Feb. 2011).)

(Note: ellipsis added.)






May 24, 2011

Crushed Under Eurostar in a Desparate Dash to a Better Life



(p. 280) In recent years, police have practically barricaded the marshalling yard in Calais, France,where the elegant Eurostar train must slow down before it enters the Channel Tunnel to England. Today the Calais marshalling yard for the Channel Tunnel looks like what the military might erect around a flying-saucer wreckage--barbed wire, electric fences, armed guards, and police dogs everywhere. Yet each night as darkness falls desperate men from the developing world, Africans and Pakistanis and Afghans and others, hide throughout the marshalling yard, sprint toward the Eurostar as it slows for the tunnel, and try to cling to its side as it accelerates again. They hope to survive until the train bears (p. 281) them into the United Kingdom, for French law treats illegal immigrants harshly, while England is more liberal. Numerous indigent developing-world men have been killed when they have slipped off the sides or the couplers of Eurostar, then fallen beneath its wheels; the stylish passengers aboard the train may feel a slight bump. Yet the men keep trying, though most must know there is hardly anything on this aerodynamically sleek train to grab hold of. Many are arrested as they dash toward the train and the favored life it represents. If released, they return to dash again. If deported, they try to sneak back into the country and dash again.


Source:

Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Paperback ed. New York: Random House, 2004.





April 3, 2011

U.S. Holds "Edge in Its Openness to Innovation"



TycoonsBK2011-03-11.jpg














Source of book image: http://www.tower.com/tycoons-how-andrew-carnegie-john-d-rockefeller-jay-charles-r-morris-paperback/wapi/100346776?download=true&type=1



(p. 24) Judging by Charles R. Morris's new book, "The Tycoons," it takes about 100 years for maligned monopolists and "robber barons" to morph into admirable innovators.

Morris skillfully assembles a great deal of academic and anecdotal research to demonstrate that Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J. P. Morgan did not amass their fortunes by trampling on the downtrodden or ripping off consumers - . . .


. . .


Though Morris only hints at it, the truth is that the real heroes of the American industrial revolution were not his four featured tycoons, but the American people themselves. I don't mean this to sound like a corny burst of patriotism. In the 19th century, the United States was still young. Most families had either been booted out of Europe or fled it, and they didn't care about tradition or the Old Guard. With little to lose, they were willing to bet on a roll of the dice, even if it was they who occasionally got rolled. Europe was encrusted with guilds, unions and unbendable rules. Britons took half a day to make a rifle stock, because 40 different tradesmen poked their noses into the huddle. American companies polished off new rifle stocks in 22 minutes.

The United States still holds an edge in its openness to innovation. In 1982, French farmers literally chased the French agriculture minister, Edith Cresson, off their fields with pitchforks because she suggested reform. By contrast, back in the late 1850's, Abraham Lincoln was a hot after-dinner speaker. Was he discussing slavery? No. The title of his talk was "Discoveries and Inventions." The real root of economic growth is not natural resources or weather or individual genius. It's attitude, not latitude. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called innovations gales of "creative destruction." Americans, not Europeans, had the gall to stare into those gales - with optimism.



For the full review, see:

TODD G. BUCHHOLZ . "'The Tycoons': Benefactors of Great Wealth." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., October 2, 2005): 24.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the title "'The Tycoons': Benefactors of Great Wealth.")


Book under review:

Morris, Charles R. The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy. New York: Times Books, 2005.





March 3, 2011

France Lacked Good Patent Laws; Great French Inventors "Died Penniless"



(p. 367) If one secret to sustaining an inventive culture was making inventors into national heroes, it was a secret that didn't translate well into French. Between 1740 and 1780, the French inclination to reward inventors not by enforcing a natural right but by the grant of pensions and prizes resulted in the award of nearly 7 million livres--approximately $600 million today--to inventors of largely forgot-(p. 268)ten devices, but Claude-François Jouffroy d'Abbans (inventor of one of the first working steamboats), Barthélemy Thimonnier (creator of the first sewing machine), and Airné Argand (a partner of Boulton and friend of Watt whose oil lamp became the world's standard) all died penniless.


Source:

Rosen, William. The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention. New York: Random House, 2010.





February 11, 2011

Luddism in France



(p. 240) Not only was Richard Hargreaves's original spinningjenny destroyed in 1767, but so also was his new and improved version in 1769.

Nor was the phenomenon exclusively British. Machine breaking in France was at least as frequent. and probably even more consequential, though it can be hard to tease out whether the phenomenon contributed to, or was a symptom of, some of the uglier aspects of the French Revolution. Normandy in particular, which was not only close to England but the most "English" region of France, was the site of dozens of incidents in 1789 alone. In July, hundreds of spinnigjennys were destroyed, along with a French version of Arkwright's water frame. In October, an attorney in Rouen applauded the destruction of "the machines used in cotton-spinning that have deprived many workers of their jobs." In Troyes, spinners rioted, killing the mayor and mutilating his body because he had favored machines." The carders of Lille destroyed machines in 1790; in 1791, the spinning jennies of Roanne were hacked up and burned. By 1796, administrators in the Department of the Somme were complaining, it turns out presciently, that the prejudice against machinery has led the commercial classes . . . to abandon their interest in the cotton industry.



Source:

Rosen, William. The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention. New York: Random House, 2010.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)





September 26, 2010

Cultures that Excel at the Practical Often Also Excel at the Sublime



According to the reasoning of the following passages, the same Cro-Magnons who created the wonderful cave paintings at Lascaux, were also the ones who created the highly effective laurel leaf projectile points.

It is often believed that the practical is in conflict with the sublime. The Solutreans may be one more example, in addition to that of entrepreneurial capitalism, that cultures that excel at the practical also excel at the sublime.

[The passages I quote are somewhat disjointed, so let me sketch how they fit together. The first sentence asserts that the Lascaux cave paintings are the prehistoric equal of the Sistine Chapel. The second passage describes the Salutreans' highly practical laurel leaf projectile points. The final sentence asserts that the same Salutrean culture that invented the practical points, also painted the sublime cave at Lascaux.]


(p. 219) Lascaux had been sealed since the late Ice Age, so what the Abbe Henri Breuil soon called "the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory" was intact.


. . .


(p. 221) . . . The seasonal killing at Solutre resumed, but now the prey was reindeer rather than horses. This time, too, the hunters used not only bone-pointed spears hut also weapons bearing what French archaeologists rather elegantly call feuilles de laurier, "laurel leaves" . . . . These beautifully made stone projectile points do indeed look like idealized laurel leaves and stand out as exotic in otherwise unchanging tool kits of bone artifacts, burins, and scrapers. Those skilled enough to fabricate them had mastered a new (p. 122) stoneworking technology, which involved using an antler billet to squeeze off shallow flakes by applying sharp pressure along the edges of a blade. This technique--pressure flaking--produced thin, beautifully shaped yet functional spear points that were both lethal and lovely to look upon. Sometimes, the stoneworkers made what one might call rudimentary versions of the points using pressure flaking on but one side of the tool. On occasion, too, they made spearheads with a shoulder that served as the mount for the shaft. But the ultimate was the classic laurel leaf, flaked on both sides, beautifully regular and thin. Feuilles de laurier were never common, and indeed, some researchers wonder if they were, in fact, ceremonial tools and never used in the field. This seems unlikely, for they would have made tough, effective weapons for killing prey like reindeer.


. . .


If the Lascaux chronology is to be believed--and remember that the radiocarbon dates come from artifacts in the cave, not actual paintings--then Solutreans were the artists who painted there, . . .




Source:

Fagan, Brian. Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.

(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)





September 23, 2010

French Utopian Planned Community Goes Up in Flames



VilleneuveGrenobleFranceUtopia2010-09-01.jpg"The planned neighborhood Villeneuve, in Grenoble, has slowly degraded into a poor district before it finally burst into flames three weeks ago, with a mob setting nearly 100 cars on fire." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A7) GRENOBLE, France -- A utopian dream of a new urban community, built here in the 1970s, had slowly degraded into a poor neighborhood plagued by aimless youths before it finally burst into flames three weeks ago.

After Karim Boudouda, a 27-year-old of North African descent, and some of his friends had robbed a casino, he was killed in an exchange of automatic gunfire with the police. The next night, Villeneuve, a carefully planned neighborhood of Grenoble in eastern France, exploded. A mob set nearly 100 cars on fire, wrecked a tram car and burned an annex of city hall.


. . .


Villeneuve, or "new city," emerged directly out of the social unrest of the May 1968 student uprising.

People committed to social change, from here as well as from Paris and other cities, came to create a largely self-contained neighborhood of apartment buildings, parks, schools, and health and local services in this city of 160,000 people, at the spectacular juncture of two rivers and three mountain ranges at the foot of the French Alps.



For the full story, see:

STEVEN ERLANGER. "Grenoble Journal; Utopian Dream Becomes Battleground in France." The New York Times (Mon., August 9, 2010): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated August 8, 2010.)





July 10, 2010

Former French Student Protest Leader: "We've Decided that We Can't Expect Everything from the State"



DynamismEuropeAndUnitedStatesGraph.gif
















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A16) "The euro was supposed to achieve higher productivity and growth by bringing about a deeper integration between economies," says Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform, a London think tank. "Instead, integration is slowing. The lack of flexibility in labor and product markets raises serious questions about the likelihood of the euro delivering on its potential."

Structural changes are the last great hope in part because euro zone members have few other levers for lifting their economies. Individual members can't tweak interest rates to encourage lending, because those policies are set by the zone's central bank. The shared euro means countries don't have a sovereign currency to devalue, a move that would make exports cheaper and boost receipts abroad.

The remaining prescription, many economists say: chip away at the cherished "social model." That means limiting pensions and benefits to those who really need them, ensuring the able-bodied are working rather than living off the state, and eliminating business and labor laws that deter entrepreneurship and job creation.

That path suits Carlos Bock. The business-studies graduate from Bavaria spent months navigating Germany's dense bureaucracy in order to open a computer store and Internet café in 2004. Before he could offer a Web-surfing customer a mug of filter coffee, he said, he had to obtain a license to run a "gastronomic enterprise." One of its 38 requirements compelled Mr. Bock to attend a course on the hygienic handling of mincemeat.

Mr. Bock closed his store in 2008. Germany's strict regulations and social protections favor established businesses and workers over young ones, he said. He also struggled against German consumers' reluctance to spend, a problem economists blame in part on steep payroll taxes that cut into workers' takehome pay, and on high savings rates among Germans who are worried the country's pension system is unsustainable.

"If markets were freer, there might be chaos to begin with," Mr. Bock said. "But over time we'd reach a better economic level."

Even in France, some erstwhile opponents of reforms are changing their tune. Julie Coudry became a French household name four years ago when she helped organize huge student protests against a law introducing short-term contracts for young workers, a move the government believed would put unemployed youths to work.

With her blonde locks and signature beret, Ms. Coudry gave fiery speeches on television, arguing that young people deserved the cradle-to-grave contracts that older employees enjoy at most French companies. Critics in France and abroad saw the protests as a shocking sign that twentysomethings were among the strongest opponents of efforts to modernize the European economy. The measure was eventually repealed.

Today, the now 31-year-old Ms. Coudry runs a nonprofit organization that encourages French corporations to hire more university graduates. Ms. Coudry, while not repudiating her activism, says she realizes that past job protections are untenable.

"The state has huge debt, 25% of young people are jobless, and so I am part of a new generation that has decided to take matters into our own hands," she says. "We've decided that we can't expect everything from the state."




For the full story, see:

MARCUS WALKER And ALESSANDRA GALLONI. "Europe's Choice: Growth or Safety Net." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., MARCH 25, 2010): A1 & A16.





July 4, 2010

"Our Own Peaceful Deity Keeping Watch Before the Open Gates of America"



EnlighteningTheWorldBK2010-05-18.jpg












Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.





I believe that a case can be made that Grover Cleveland is an under-appreciated President. (I like his comment on the Statue of Liberty quoted below.)


(p. W9) The cold rains of Oct. 28, 1886, did little to dampen the ardor of the tens of thousands of giddy New Yorkers who crowded onto the southern tip of Manhattan that afternoon to watch the festivities on Bedloe's Island, a patch of land in New York Harbor. On cue, an enormous veil dropped, and the spectators gazed for the first time at the face of the massive statue that, until then, had been the subject not only of curiosity but also of skepticism.

Whatever doubts Americans might have had about this unsolicited, and rather costly, gift from the French seemed at once to vanish. A "thunderous cacophony of salutes from steamer whistles, brass bands, and booming guns, together with clouds of smoke from the cannonade, engulfed the statue for the next half hour," Yasmin Sabina Khan writes in "Enlightening the World," her account of how the Statue of Liberty came to be.

The crowd roared, then various speakers held forth, welcoming the 225-ton, 151-foot-tall Lady Liberty, as she would soon be known. President Grover Cleveland, in his remarks, tried to distinguish this colossus from others of its kind throughout human history. Where the statue-symbols of other nations might depict "a fierce and warlike god, filled with wrath and vengeance," this one exhibited only "our own peaceful deity keeping watch before the open gates of America."

President Cleveland's interpretation of the statue turned out to be but one of many over the years. To Ms. Khan the Statue of Liberty's symbolic significance is not a complicated matter and never was. The statue celebrates the "friendship" of the people of France and those of the U.S.; it represents "liberty" and "liberty" alone.




For the full review, see:

ALAN PELL CRAWFORD. "BOOKS; Lady Liberty's Path to America." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., MAY 8, 2010): W9.






June 8, 2010

"Climate Change Was One of the Forces that Led to the Triumph of Homo Sapiens"



Handprint30000YearsOld2010-05-19.jpg








"The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins in Washington includes this 30,000-year-old handprint from France." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. C32) The exhibition's theme is "What Does It Mean to Be Human?" And the new image of the human it creates is different from the one from a century ago. It isn't that nature has suddenly become a pastoral paradise. Some of the most unusual objects here are fossilized human bones bearing scars of animal attacks: a 3-year-old's skull from about 2.3 million years ago is marked by eagle talons in the eye sockets; an early human's foot shows the bite marks of a crocodile. In one of the exhibition's interactive video stations, in which you are cleverly shown how excavated remains are interpreted, you learn that the teeth of a leopard's lower jaw found in a cave at the Swartkrans site in South Africa match the puncture marks in a nearby early-human skull: evidence of a 1.8 million-year-old killing.


. . .


During the brief 200,000-year life of Homo sapiens, at least three other human species also existed. And while this might seem to diminish any remnants of pride left to the human animal in the wake of Darwin's theory, the exhibition actually does the opposite. It puts the human at the center, tracing how through these varied species, central characteristics developed, and we became the sole survivors. The show humanizes evolution. It is, in part, a story of human triumph.


. . .


. . . at recent excavations in China, at Majuangou, stone tools were found in four layers of rock dating from 1.66 million to 1.32 million years ago; fossil pollen proved that each of these four time periods was also associated with a different habitat. "The toolmaker, Homo erectus," we read, "was able to survive in all of these habitats."

That ability was crucial. The hall emphasizes that enormous changes in the planet's climate accompanied hominin development, suggesting that the ability to adapt to such differing circumstances was the human's strength. Climate change was one of the forces that led to the triumph of Homo sapiens.



For the full review, see:

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN. "Exhibition Review; Hall of Human Origins; Searching the Bones of Our Shared Past." The New York Times (Fri., March 19, 2010): C25 & C32.

(Note: italics in original; ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 18, 2010.)





April 4, 2010

Philosopher Duped by Hoax Because He Failed to Consult Wikipedia



(p. A4) PARIS -- For the debut of his latest weighty title, "On War in Philosophy," the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy made the glossy spreads of French magazines with his trademark panache: crisp, unbuttoned white Charvet shirts, golden tan and a windswept silvery mane of hair.

But this glamorous literary campaign was suddenly marred by an absolute philosophical truth: Mr. Lévy backed up the book's theories by citing the thought of a fake philosopher. In fact, the sham philosopher has never been a secret, and even has his own Wikipedia entry.

In the uproar that followed over the rigors of his research, Mr. Lévy on Tuesday summed up his situation with one e-mailed sentence: "My source of information is books, not Wikipedia."



For the full story, see:

DOREEN CARVAJAL. "Philosopher Left to Muse on Ridicule Over a Hoax." The New York Times (Weds., February 10, 2010): A4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 9, 2010.)





January 13, 2010

Obama Leaves Exciting Global Warming Summit Early Due to D.C. Blizzard



CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepC2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate from China sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://img4.allvoices.com/thumbs/event/900/570/44914193-delegate-from.jpg.


(p. A17) COPENHAGEN -- The global effort to combat climate change is stuck in essentially the same place after a massive United Nations summit that it was before the confab: with major emitters deadlocked over how much each of them should have to do to curb the rising output of greenhouse gases.


. . .


Mr. Obama . . . left before the final vote to try to beat a snowstorm that pounded the Washington, D.C., area this weekend.




For the full story, see:

JEFFREY BALL. "Summit Leaves Key Questions Unresolved; U.N. Effort in Copenhagen Sets Stage for Further Haggling Over Emissions Caps, Funds for Poor Nations." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., DECEMBER 21, 2009): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepB2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 19, 2009." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleep2010-01-07.jpg"A French delegate sleeps during all-night discussions at Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://www.rfi.fr/actuen/images/120/FRANCECOPEN432.jpg.





November 22, 2009

World Trade Barriers Are Increasing



ProtectionistMeasuresBarGraph2009-10-28.gifThe small dark blue squares indicate the "number of nations that have imposed protectionist measures on each country" and the light blue squares indicate the "number of measures imposed on each category of goods." Source of quotations in caption and of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A5) BRUSSELS -- This weekend's U.S.-China trade skirmish is just the tip of a coming protectionist iceberg, according to a report released Monday by Global Trade Alert, a team of trade analysts backed by independent think tanks, the World Bank and the U.K. government.

A report by the World Trade Organization, backed by its 153 members and also released Monday, found "slippage" in promises to abstain from protectionism, but drew less dramatic conclusions.

Governments have planned 130 protectionist measures that have yet to be implemented, according to the GTA's research. These include state aid funds, higher tariffs, immigration restrictions and export subsidies.


. . .


According to the GTA report, the number of discriminatory trade laws outnumbers liberalizing trade laws by six to one. Governments are applying protectionist measures at the rate of 60 per quarter. More than 90% of goods traded in the world have been affected by some sort of protectionist measure.



For the full story, see:

JOHN W. MILLER. "Protectionist Measures Expected to Rise, Report Warns." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., SEPTEMBER 15, 2009): A5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





November 5, 2009

European Central Bank (ECB) Warns that Cash-for-Clunkers "May Delay Necessary Structural Change"



(p. A9) Cash-for-clunkers programs have no lasting economic benefit and could even lead to a "substantial weakening" in euro-zone automobile sales next year, the European Central Bank said.

The findings, though far from original, amount to an official slap on the wrist to European governments including those of Germany, France and Spain that rolled out the popular programs to stoke demand in their auto sectors at the height of the financial crisis.


. . .


Such incentive measures should be applied "with caution," the ECB said, "as they may hamper the efficiency of the functioning of a free-market economy and may delay necessary structural change, thereby undermining overall income and employment prospects in the longer term."



For the full story, see:

BRIAN BLACKSTONE. "Clunker Plans Are Risky Route, Central Bank Says." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., OCTOBER 16, 2009): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





June 27, 2009

"Flock of Intellectuals" Called Eiffel Tower "Dizzily Ridiculous"



(p. W12) The tower is so beloved that few today remember the storm of vitriol, mockery and lawsuits provoked by its selection as the startling centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. (One of the losing entries was a gigantic working guillotine!) Even as Eiffel was breaking ground by the Seine River in February 1887, 47 of France's greatest names decried in a letter to Le Temps the "odious column of bolted metal." What person of good taste, this flock of intellectuals asked, could endure the thought of this "dizzily ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a black and gigantic factory chimney, crushing [all] beneath its barbarous mass"? The revered painters Ernest Meissonier and William-Adolphe Bouguereau, writers Guy de Maupassant and Alexandre Dumas fils, composer Charles Gounod and architect Charles Garnier all signed this epistolary call to arms, stating that "the Eiffel Tower, which even commercial America would not have, is without a doubt the dishonor of Paris."

Gustave Eiffel, a self-made millionaire whose firm constructed much-admired bridges all over the world, happily twitted his critics: "They begin by declaring that my tower is not French. It is big enough and clumsy enough for the English or Americans, but it is not our style, they say. We are more occupied by little artistic bibelots. . . . Why should we not show the world what we can do in the way of great engineering projects?"



For the full commentary, see:

JILL JONNES. "MASTERPIECE; 'Odious Column' of Metal; The Eiffel Tower wasn't always a beloved icon." Wall Street Journal (Tues., MAY 9, 2009): W12.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)





June 22, 2009

French People Sleep More Than Those in Other Industrialized Countries



My hypothesis is not that the French are lazier than others, but that their labor policies give them less incentive to work.


(p. A8) PARIS -- When he won the presidential election two years ago, Nicolas Sarkozy urged the French to get up early and work more to earn more.

A study released Monday suggests they missed the wake-up call.

France is the industrialized country where people spend the longest periods sleeping, according to a series of surveys on social habits conducted by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development.

The French sleep a daily average of 530 minutes, compared with 518 for Americans and 469 for Koreans -- the OECD's "most awake" nation, according to the study.



For the full story, see:

DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS. "France Wrests Title of Sleeping Giant." Wall Street Journal (Tues., MAY 5, 2009): A8.





May 6, 2009

When Experts Picked California Wine Over French Wine



RickmanAlanBottleShock.jpg "Alan Rickman portrays Steven Spurrier, the British wine dealer who organized a famous blind wine tasting near Paris in 1976, in Randall Miller's "Bottle Shock."" Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


Cultural pretension and conspicuous consumption are among the less admirable aspects of human behavior. So the blind wine tasting where California beat France, has always had appeal.

This, plus the inimitable Alan Rickman (aka Snape), put this movie on my "to see" list.


(p. B7) "Bottle Shock," an easygoing little movie, made with more affection than skill, takes us back to the days when men wore loud plaid suits and people who were serious about wine sneered at the very mention of California. Sticking reasonably close to the historical record, the director, Randall Miller (who wrote the screenplay with his wife, Jody Savin, and Ross Schwartz), reconstructs a watershed moment in the wine world's acceptance of the Golden State and, eventually, of many other non-French viticultural regions.

In 1976, at a gathering near Paris, a panel of experts conducted a blind tasting at which two California wines emerged victorious over their more pedigreed French competitors. That tasting provides the climax to "Bottle Shock," and even if the potential surprise of its outcome were not already spoiled by history, the movie's adherence to the clichés of the triumph-of-the-underdog narrative would be enough to remove any doubt.

There are, indeed, at least two underdogs hungering for triumph. The first is Steven Spurrier, played by Alan Rickman, whose parched low voice and air of beleaguered pomposity are never unwelcome.



For the full review, see:

A. O. SCOTT. "Plaid Suits, Prize Grapes and the Rise of Napa." The New York Times (Weds., August 6, 2008): B7.





April 13, 2009

French Labor Holds Management Hostage---Literally



PolutnikNicolasFrenchHostage2009-04-10.jpg "French Caterpillar executive Nicolas Polutnik, center, with workers after his release Wednesday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) PARIS -- Of the 22,000 workers Caterpillar Inc. plans to lay off this year, the French ones have perhaps the most radical tactic for negotiating their severance deals.

In an aggressive, and peculiarly French, negotiating strategy, they held their managers hostage. The workers detained the director of their plant and four other managers for about 24 hours this week. Workers released them only after the company agreed to resume talks with unions and a government mediator on how to improve compensation for workers who are being laid off.

. . .


Jérôme Pélisse, a sociologist, surveyed 3,000 companies in 2004 and found that 18 of them had experienced an executive detention in the prior three years.




For the full story, see:

DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS and LEILA ABBOUD. "In France, the Bosses Can Become Hostages." Wall Street Journal (Fri., APRIL 3, 2009): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





February 1, 2009

Czech Republic's Sly Cerny Humorously Skewers European Foibles


EntropaMosaic.jpg "David Cerny's artwork "Entropa" is a symbolic map of Europe depicting stereotypes attributed to the individual member countries." Source of the caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A6) . . . , an enormous mosaic installed in the European Council building over the weekend, was meant to symbolize the glory of a unified Europe by reflecting something special about each country in the European Union.

But wait. Here is Bulgaria, represented as a series of crude, hole-in-the-floor toilets. Here is the Netherlands, subsumed by floods, with only a few minarets peeping out from the water. Luxembourg is depicted as a tiny lump of gold marked by a "for sale" sign, while five Lithuanian soldiers are apparently urinating on Russia.

France? On strike.

The 172-square-foot, eight-ton installation, titled "Entropa," consists of a sort of puzzle formed by the geographical shapes of European countries. It was proudly commissioned by the Czech Republic to mark the start of its six-month presidency of the European Union. But the Czechs made the mistake of hiring the artist David Cerny to put together the project.

Mr. Cerny is notorious for thumbing his nose at the establishment. . . .

. . .

Before the hoax was discovered, the Czech deputy prime minister, Alexandr Vondra, said "Entropa" -- whose name alone should perhaps have been a sign that all was not as it seemed -- epitomized the motto for the Czech presidency in Europe, "A Europe Without Borders."

"Sculpture, and art more generally, can speak where words fail," he said in a statement on Monday. "I am confident in Europe's open mind and capacity to appreciate such a project."

But he does not feel that way now.



For the full story, see:

SARAH LYALL. "Art Hoax Unites Europe in Displeasure." The New York Times (Thurs., January 14, 2009): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)





January 21, 2009

"In Spite of the Economic Crisis and Unemployment . . . Civilization's Progress is Going Faster and Faster"


The Palace of Discovery mentioned in the passage below was a part of the 1937 Paris Exposition.

(p. 206) The mastermind behind the Palace of Discovery, French Nobel Prize laureate Jean Perrin, wrote, "In spite of the wars and the revolutions, in spite of the economic crisis and unemployment, through our worries and anxieties, but also through our hopes, civilization's progress is going faster and faster, thanks to ever-more flexible and efficient techniques, to farther- and farther-reaching lengths. . . . Almost all of them have appeared in less than a century, and have developed or applied inventions now known by all, which seem to have fulfilled or even passed the desires expressed in our old fairy tales."


Source:

Hager, Thomas. The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipsis in the title is added; ellipsis in the quoted passage is in the original.)




January 16, 2009

The Palace of Discovery: "They Came for Wonder and Hope"


PalaceOfDiscoveryParis.jpg
The Palace of Discovery (aka Palais de la Decouverte) in Paris. Source of photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paris2e/2524827592/


Near the beginning of World War II, the 1937 Palace of Discovery in Paris, was a popular source of hope for the future:

(p. 206) An unexpectedly popular draw at the exposition was a relatively small hall hidden away behind the Grand Palais. The Palace of Discovery, as it was called, attracted more than 2 million visitors, five times the number that visited the modern art exhibit. They came for wonder and hope. The wonder was provided by exhibits including a huge electrostatic generator, like something from Dr. Frankenstein's lab, two enormous metal spheres thirteen feet apart, across which a 5-million-volt current threw a hissing, crackling bolt of electricity. The hope came from the very nature of science itself. Designed by a group of liberal French researchers, the Palace of Discovery was intended to be more a "people's university" than a stuffy museum, a place to hear inspiring lectures on the latest wonders of science, messages abut technological confidence and progress for the peoples of the world.


Source:

Hager, Thomas. The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.




January 9, 2009

French Entrepreneur Fourneau Was Against Law, But Used It


The existence and details of patent laws can matter for creating incentives for invention and innovation. The patent laws in Germany and France in the 1930s reduced the incentives for inventing new drugs.

(p. 141) German chemical patents were often small masterpieces of mumbo jumbo. It was a market necessity. Patents in Germany were issued to protect processes used to make a new chemical, not, as in America, the new chemical itself; German law protected the means, not the end.   . . .

. . .

(p. 166) Fourneau decided that if the French were going to compete, the nation's scientists would either have to discover their own new drugs and get them into production before the Germans could or find ways to make French versions of German compounds before the Germans had earned back their research and production costs---in other words, get French versions of new German drugs into the market before the Germans could lower their prices. French patent laws, like those in Germany, did not protect the final product. "I was always against the French law and I thought it was shocking that one could not patent one's invention," Fourneau said, "but the law was what it was, and there was no reasons not to use it."



Source:

Hager, Thomas. The Demon under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor's Heroic Search for the World's First Miracle Drug. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007.

(Note: ellipses added.)




November 17, 2008

"Nuclear Power Provides 77 Percent of France's Electricity"



FrenchNuclearReactorFlamanville20080824.jpg "France is constructing a nuclear reactor, its first in 10 years, in Flamanville, but the country already has 58 operating reactors." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 6) FLAMANVILLE, France -- It looks like an ordinary building site, but for the two massive, rounded concrete shells looming above the ocean, like dusty mushrooms.

Here on the Normandy coast, France is building its newest nuclear reactor, the first in 10 years, costing $5.1 billion. But already, President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that France will build another like it.

. . .

Nuclear power provides 77 percent of France's electricity, according to the government, and relatively few public doubts are expressed in a country with little coal, oil or natural gas.

With the wildly fluctuating cost of oil, anxiety over global warming from burning fossil fuels and new concerns about the impact of biofuels on the price of food for the poor, nuclear energy is getting a second look in countries like the United States and Britain. Even Germany, committed to phasing out nuclear power by 2021, is debating whether to change its mind.



For the full story, see:

STEVEN ERLANGER. "France Reaffirms Its Faith in Future of Nuclear Power." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., August 17, 2008): 6. (Also on p. 6 of the NY edition)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

FranceNukeMap20080824.jpg





Source of map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





October 29, 2008

"The Real Economic Heroes of Capitalism: the Self-Made Entrepreneurs"


(p. A19) Much of the resentment felt by citizens toward the massive investment companies . . . stems from the perception that capitalism is rigged toward the most powerful. When the owner of a small retail outlet or medium-sized service firm gets into financial trouble -- who steps in to help? Why are the rules to start a business so onerous, why is the bureaucratic process so lengthy, why are the requirements for hiring employees so burdensome? When does the entrepreneur receive the respect and cooperation he deserves for making a genuine contribution to the productive capacity of the economy? Equal access to credit is sacrificed to the overwhelming appetite of big business -- especially when government skews the terms in favor of its friends. It is time to pay deference to the real economic heroes of capitalism: the self-made entrepreneurs who have the courage to start a business from scratch, the fidelity to pay their taxes, and the dedication to provide real goods and services to their fellow man.

. . .

Who would have guessed that it would take a Frenchman to remind us that hope is the limitless source of power that drives the human spirit to create, to improve, to achieve its dreams; it is the greatest civilizing influence in our culture. Yet it was Mr. Sarkozy, speaking before Congress last November, who offered the most profound assessment of our nation's gift to the world. "What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind," he said. "America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who -- with their hands, their intelligence and their heart -- built the greatest nation in the world: 'Come, and everything will be given to you.' She said: 'Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.'"



For the full commentary, see:

JUDY SHELTON. "A Capitalist Manifesto; Markets remain our best hope for a better future." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., OCTOBER 13, 2008): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)




October 6, 2008

The Fragility of Freedom


TroublesomeYoungMenBK.jpgBloodToilTearsAndSweatBK.jpg





Source of book image on the left:                    
http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/25780000/25788683.jpg

Source of book image on the right: http://www.churchillsociety.org/Churchill%20Book%20Discussion%20Group.htm

Several recent books support a common conclusion that freedom is fragile, and its preservation can sometimes depend on the courage of a few individuals. I recently heard discussions on C-SPAN of a couple of books (images above) on WW2 that emphasize this point. Hitler might very well have succeeded in the long-term conquest of continental Europe, and even Great Britain, if Churchill and a few others had not taken a stand.

Earlier, also on C-SPAN, I heard John Ferling make a similar point with regard to the American Revolution. (See the images of his two relevant books below.) Were it not for the actions of George Washington, and a few others, the revolution very well might have failed.

One can view this as a bad news, good news, story. In earlier entries on the blog, I have quoted articles suggesting that the French are especially bothered by how "precarious" life can be. Well, the bad news is, that on this, the French may be right.

But, on the other hand, the stories of Churchill, and Washington, also tell us that with some courage and determination and wisdom, individuals can sometimes make a big difference in how stories end. That is the good news.

(And yes, Nassim, luck matters too.)


Books referred to:

Ferling, John. Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2007.

Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.

Lukacs, John R. Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning: Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Olson, Lynne. Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

LeapInTheDarkBK.jpg

AlmostAMiracleBK.JPG


Source of book image on the left:                     http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/7790000/7793679.jpg
Source of book image on the right: http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/13420000/13429252.jpg





July 20, 2008

More Europeans Leading Stagnant, Stunted Lives


RomeFamilyAngst.jpg "Gianluca Pompei, Francesca Di Pietro and son, Mario, 2, shopping in Rome. They have cut spending on entertainment." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. C1) LES ULIS, France -- When their local bakery in this town south of Paris raised the price of a baguette for the third time in six months, Anne-Laure Renard and Guy Talpot bought a bread maker. When gasoline became their biggest single expense, they sold one of their two cars.

Their combined annual income of 40,000 euros, about $62,500, lands Ms. Renard, a teacher, and Mr. Talpot, a postal worker, smack in the middle of France's middle class. And over the last year, prices in France have risen four times as fast as their salaries.

At the end of every month, they blow past their bank account's $900 overdraft limit, plunging themselves deeper into a spiral of greater resourcefulness and regret.

"In France, when you can't afford a baguette anymore, you know you're in trouble," Ms. Renard said one recent evening in her kitchen, as her partner measured powdered milk for their 13-month-old son, Vincent. "The French Revolution started with bread riots."

The European dream is under assault, as the wave of inflation sweeping the globe mixes with this continent's long-stagnant wages. Families that once enjoyed Europe's vaunted quality of life are pinching pennies to buy necessities, and cutting back on extras like movies and vacations abroad.

Potentially more disturbing -- especially to the political and social order -- are the millions across the continent grappling with the realization that they may have lives worse, not better, than their parents.



For the full story, see:

CARTER DOUGHERTY and KATRIN BENNHOLD. "Squeezed in Europe; For Middle-Class, Stagnant Wages and a Stunted Lifestyle." The New York Times (Thurs., May 1, 2008): C1 & C8.

(Note: the online version of the title is "For Europe's Middle-Class, Stagnant Wages Stunt Lifestyle." )


TalptRenardFrenchFamily.jpg



"Anne-Laure Renard, a teacher, and Guy Talpot, a postal worker, sold one car and bought a bread maker to cut expenses. Prices have risen four times as fast as salaries in France in the last year." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.




January 14, 2008

Former French Socialist Lang: "Long Live Liberty! Long Live Life"

 

LangSarkozy.jpg   Lang on left; Sarkozy on right.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A3)  In the heat of the presidential campaign early this year, Jack Lang, a popular icon of the French left, accused Nicolas Sarkozy of ''trickery at the highest level,'' ''anti-republican behavior'' and -- perhaps most cutting of all -- being a ''Bush adapted for France.''

Now Mr. Lang, a former culture minister and education minister who served as campaign spokesman for the defeated Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, is the latest leading Socialist to defect to the Sarkozy camp.

. . .

''Human relations have deteriorated in the Socialist Party,'' Mr. Lang told the left-leaning daily Libération last week. ''Today I don't feel happy in this house.''

He accused the party of self-destruction, by casting out those who choose to work outside its structure. ''I am liberated,'' he said of his decision to leave the party leadership. ''They have helped me by allowing me to make a decision I should have made long ago. Long live liberty! Long live life.''

 

For the full story, see: 

ELAINE SCIOLINO.  "Socialist Quits French Left To Join Right."  The New York Times  (Thurs., July 19, 2007):  A3. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




January 8, 2008

"Working Families in France Want to Be Richer"

(p. 1)  In proposing a tax-cut law last week, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their “old national habit.”

“France is a country that thinks,” she told the National Assembly. “There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”

Citing Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” she said the French should work harder, earn more and be rewarded with lower taxes if they get rich.

. . .

(p. 9)  The government’s call to work is crucial to its ambitious campaign to revitalize the French economy by increasing both employment and consumer buying power. Somehow Mr. Sarkozy and his team hope to persuade the French that it is in their interest to abandon what some commentators call a nationwide “laziness” and to work longer and harder, and maybe even get rich.

France’s legally mandated 35-hour work week gives workers a lot of leisure time but not necessarily the means to enjoy it. Taxes on high-wage earners are so burdensome that hordes have fled abroad. (Mr. Sarkozy cites the case of one of his stepdaughters, who works in an investment-banking firm in London.)

In her National Assembly speech, Ms. Lagarde said that there should be no shame in personal wealth and that the country needed tax breaks to lure the rich back.

. . .

“We are seeing an important cultural change,” said Eric Chaney, chief economist for Europe for Morgan Stanley. “Working families in France want to be richer. Wealth is no longer a taboo. There’s a strong sentiment in France that people think prices are too high and need more money. It’s not a question of thinking or not thinking.”  

 

For the full story, see: 

ELAINE SCIOLINO.  "New Leaders Say Pensive French Think Too Much."  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., July 22, 2007):  1 & 9.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

  I used to have a photo at the top of Sarokozy running; in contrast to this picture of Mitterrand walking.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




November 12, 2007

Strong Global Support for Free Markets

 

FreeMarketsPositiveViewTable.gif   Source of table:  "World Publics Welcome Global Trade -- But Not Immigration." Pew Global Attitudes Project, a project of the PewResearchCenter. Released: 10.04.07 dowloaded from: http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=258

 

(p. A10) WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 — Buoyed and battered by globalization, people around the world strongly view international trade as a good thing but harbor growing concerns about its side effects: threats to their cultures, damage to the environment and the challenges posed by immigration, a new survey indicates.

In the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of people in 46 countries and the Palestinian territories, large majorities everywhere said that trade was a good thing. In countries like Argentina, which recently experienced trade-based growth, the attitude toward trade has become more positive.

But support for trade has decreased in recent years in advanced Western countries, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy — and most sharply in the United States. The number of Americans saying trade is good for the country has dropped by 19 percentage points since 2002, to 59 percent.

“G.D.P. growth hasn’t been as dramatic in these places as in Latin America or Eastern Europe,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, referring to gross domestic product, the total value of the goods and services produced in a country. “But worldwide, even though some people are rich and some are poor, support for the basic tenet of capitalism is pretty strong.”

 

For the full story, see: 

BRIAN KNOWLTON. "Globalization, According to the World, Is a Good Thing. Sort Of."  The New York Times   (Fri., October 5, 2007):  A10. 

 




October 4, 2007

Global Warming is No Threat to North Atlantic Current

 

   A view of part of the Greenland ice sheet.  Source of the photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. D3) OSLO — Mainstream climatologists who have feared that global warming could have the paradoxical effect of cooling northwestern Europe or even plunging it into a small ice age have stopped worrying about that particular disaster, although it retains a vivid hold on the public imagination.

The idea, which held climate theorists in its icy grip for years, was that the North Atlantic Current, an extension of the Gulf Stream that cuts northeast across the Atlantic Ocean to bathe the high latitudes of Europe with warmish equatorial water, could shut down in a greenhouse world.

Without that warm-water current, Americans on the Eastern Seaboard would most likely feel a chill, but the suffering would be greater in Europe, where major cities lie far to the north. Britain, northern France, the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway could in theory take on Arctic aspects that only a Greenlander could love, even as the rest of the world sweltered.

All that has now been removed from the forecast. Not only is northern Europe warming, but every major climate model produced by scientists worldwide in recent years has also shown that the warming will almost certainly continue.

“The concern had previously been that we were close to a threshold where the Atlantic circulation system would stop,” said Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We now believe we are much farther from that threshold, thanks to improved modeling and ocean measurements. The Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current are more stable than previously thought.”

. . .

“The ocean circulation is a robust feature, and you really need to hit it hard to make it stop,” said Eystein Jansen, a paleoclimatologist who directs the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research, also in Bergen. “The Greenland ice sheet would not only have to melt, but to dynamically disintegrate on a huge scale across the entire sheet.”

The worst imaginable collapse would likely take centuries to play out, he said. Any disruption to the North Atlantic Current — whose volume is 30 times greater than all the rivers in the world combined — would thus occur beyond the time horizon of the United Nations climate panel.

 

For the full story, see: 

WALTER GIBBS.  "Scientists Back Off Theory of a Colder Europe in a Warming World."  The New York Times  (Tues., May 15, 2007):  D3. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

 AtlanticWarmWaterCirculationMap.jpg  Source of the map:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




June 22, 2007

"Unlikely Collection of French Socialists" Liberated Global Capital Flows?

 

CapitalRulesBK.jpg   Source of book graphic:  http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ADBCAP.html

 

Rawi Abdelal, a Harvard Business School professor, has advanced a novel theory in "Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance." Drawing on extensive documentary evidence, as well as dozens of interviews with high-level finance officials and midlevel bureaucrats, he tells a fascinating (and largely unknown) tale: how a clutch of French socialists helped to upend economic orthodoxy and lead the charge for lifting restrictions on capital flows within Europe and throughout the world.

. . .

Mr. Abdelal's story heats up with the election of Francois Mitterrand in 1981. The new president, together with his majority Socialist Party, set out to storm the Bastille of the economy. He announced plans to nationalize the banks and restrict cross-border capital flows to such a degree that French citizens could take the equivalent of only $427 with them for leisure travel outside France (and were prohibited from using credit cards during such travel). Rather than create a socialist Shangri-La, the moves led to economic chaos. The French had to devalue the franc three times in two short years. Mitterrand then made what the French would elegantly refer to as a tournant but we may bluntly call a U-turn.

This painful episode provided a powerful lesson to a number of senior French officials. Said one: "We recognized, at last, that in an age of interdependence capital would find a way to free itself, and we were obliged to liberate the rest." And so in a Nixon-goes-to-China move, an unlikely collection of French socialists set out to liberalize the country's controls on cross-border capital flows with a determination that gave new meaning to laissez-faire.

. . .

Mr. Abdelal is unequivocal about the value of Europe's action: "Global financial markets are global primarily because the process of European financial integration became open and uniformly liberal." He also highlights how free capital flows got a boost from the two primary credit-rating agencies, Standard & Poor's and Moody's. In the 1990s, both began to give higher ratings to government-backed debt when the country in question had an open capital account.

 

For the full review, see: 

MATTHEW REES.  "Business Bookshelf:  Why Money Can Now Make Its Way Around the World."  The Wall Street Journal (Weds., February 14, 2007):  D12.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

Boof reference: 

Rawi Abdelal.  CAPITAL RULES.  Harvard University Press, 304 pages, $49.95.

 




June 21, 2007

Even France Recognizes English as the Language of Business

 

The story below provides further evidence that those who are working hard to make English the mandatory language of the United States, should find themselves a real problem to worry about.

 

PARIS, April 7 — When economics students returned this winter to the elite École Normale Supérieure here, copies of a simple one-page petition were posted in the corridors demanding an unlikely privilege: French as a teaching language.

“We understand that economics is a discipline, like most scientific fields, where the research is published in English,” the petition read, in apologetic tones. But it declared that it was unacceptable for a native French professor to teach standard courses to French-speaking students in the adopted tongue of English.

In the shifting universe of global academia, English is becoming as commonplace as creeping ivy and mortarboards. In the last five years, the world’s top business schools and universities have been pushing to make English the teaching tongue in a calculated strategy to raise revenues by attracting more international students and as a way to respond to globalization.

Business universities are driving the trend, partly because changes in international accreditation standards in the late 1990s required them to include English-language components. But English is also spreading to the undergraduate level, with some South Korean universities offering up to 30 percent of their courses in the language. The former president of Korea University in Seoul sought to raise that share to 60 percent, but ultimately was not re-elected to his post in December.

In Madrid, business students can take their admissions test in English for the elite Instituto de Empresa and enroll in core courses for a master’s degree in business administration in the same language. The Lille School of Management in France stopped considering English a foreign language in 1999, and now half the postgraduate programs are taught in English to accommodate a rising number of international students.

Over the last three years, the number of master’s programs offered in English at universities with another host language has more than doubled, to 3,300 programs at 1,700 universities, according to David A. Wilson, chief executive of the Graduate Management Admission Council, an international organization of leading business schools that is based in McLean, Va.

“We are shifting to English. Why?” said Laurent Bibard, the dean of M.B.A. programs at Essec, a top French business school in a suburb of Paris that is a fertile breeding ground for chief executives.

“It’s the language for international teaching,” he said. “English allows students to be able to come from anyplace in the world and for our students — the French ones — to go everywhere.”

 

For the full story, see: 

DOREEN CARVAJAL.  "English as Language of Global Education."  The New York Times  (Weds., April 11, 2007):  A21.

 




June 11, 2007

The Safety Net in Europe and the United States

 

SafetyNetGraph.jpg   Source of graphic:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

FROM issues of crime and punishment to the proper domain of the spiritual and temporal powers, Americans and Europeans have long cast a skeptical eye at one another across the Atlantic.

Perhaps nowhere has the gaze been more jaundiced than in the area of work. From the perspective of Western Europe, American employers have a relatively free hand to hire and fire, coupled with meager and short-lived unemployment benefits. America’s deregulated labor markets seem to provide hardly any safety net when it comes to economic dislocations of workers.

Americans, by contrast, have found it hard to resist a touch of schadenfreude at the joblessness stoked by European governments’ intervention in labor markets, with rules on everything from wages to layoffs, on top of generous unemployment benefits.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

EDUARDO PORTER.  "Economic View; A Bridge Over the Atlantic, in Labor Policy."  The New York Times, Section 3  (Sun., April 1, 2007):  5.

 




April 6, 2007

Morales Slaughters Snow-White Llama to Celebrate Nationalization of Tin Smelter

   A snow-white llama that has not yet been symbolically sacrificed by Bolivian President Evo Morales.  Source of the photo:  http://www.staff.stir.ac.uk/f.r.wheater/images/25%20Llama%205_8_04.JPG

 

Picture it, in President Evo Morales' Bolivia:  a peaceful, innocent-looking, snow-white llama slaughtered in homage to a barbaric mystical ritual, and in celebration of the slaughter, through nationalization, of private property and economic growth.  And afterwards, one imagines the visitng French brass band played on. 

 

VINTO, Bolivia: The ritual sacrifice of a snow-white llama provided a symbolic completion Friday to President Evo Morales' nationalization of Bolivia's lone operating tin smelter.

Swiss mining giant Glencore International AG owned the plant until last week and has threatened to seek compensation through international arbitration. Morales still says his government will not compensate Glencore for the Feb. 9 nationalization of the Vinto plant, located on a high Andean plain 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of the capital of La Paz.

. . .

After the ceremony, Morales hosted plant workers, a troupe of Andean pipers and a visiting French brass band to an outdoor supper of fried chicken and chuno, a traditional Bolivian dish of dehydrated potatoes.

While the nationalization retained all but a handful of smelter employees, workers remained divided over the change in management. Some rushed to greet "Companero Evo" as he toured the plant; others hung back and wondered about the future.

"Anywhere in the world they'll tell you the government can't be a good administrator," said plant employee Oscar Leyton. "But we'll just have to wait and see how they do it. If they screw up here, they'll screw up the whole country."

 

For the full story, see: 

"In Bolivia, llama sacrifice completes Morales' tin smelter nationalization."  International Herald Tribune  February 16, 2007.

(Note:  ellipsis added.) 

 




March 16, 2007

"Nuclear Energy is Suddenly Back on the Agenda"

   The Belguim windmill looks nice, but the electiricty is produced by the nuclear plant in the background.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

The latest word on energy, from the 2006 World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland:

 

. . .  nuclear energy is suddenly back on the agenda — and not just here.  Spurred on by politicians interested in energy independence and scientists who specialize in the field of climate change, Germany is reconsidering a commitment to shut down its nuclear power plants.  France, Europe’s leading nuclear power producer, is increasing its investment, as is Finland.

At a time when industrialized countries are wrestling with how to curb carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear energy has one indisputable advantage: unlike coal, oil, natural gas, or even biological fuels, it emits no carbon dioxide. That virtue, in the view of advocates, is enough to offset its well-documented shortcomings.

“It has put nuclear back into the mix,” said Daniel C. Esty, director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University. “We’re seeing a new balancing of the costs and benefits.”

 

For the full commentary, see: 

MARK LANDLER. "Europe’s Embrace; With Apologies, Nuclear Power Gets a Second Look."  The New York Times, Section 4  (Sun., January 28, 2007):  3.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

 




March 3, 2007

Rock Icon Abandons France Because of High Taxes

   French rock icon Johnny Hallyday.  Source of photo: http://hosted.ap.org/photos/6/6b7deb53-a318-477d-90b7-fb5abe488774-big.jpg

 

In the dark of winter, the French rock 'n' roll icon Johnny Hallyday has abandoned France to settle in a snow-dusted mountain chalet, joining a scattered flock of superrich tax refugees in serene Switzerland.

Numbering about 3,700, according to Swiss statistics, these millionaire and billionaire exiles are variously coveted and resented in Switzerland, where local governments are competing in what critics scorn as a fierce race to the bottom to lure wealthy foreigners with individually negotiated tax breaks.

''I'm sick of paying, that's all,'' Mr. Hallyday, 63, said in a rebellious outburst to the celebrity magazine Paris Match, which devoted eight pages to his departure. ''I believe that after all the work I have done over nearly 50 years, my family should be able to live in some serenity. But 70 percent of everything I earn goes to taxes.''

The notion of a French symbol decamping to a newly renovated refuge in the town of Gstaad had an incendiary effect on French politics, prompting President Jacques Chirac to express restrained regrets about the rocker's actions.

 

For the full story, see: 

DOREEN CARVAJAL.  "Swiss Tax Deals Lure the Superrich, but Are They Fair?"  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., January 14, 2007):   - B11.

 

 HallydaySwissChalet.jpg   Hallyday's chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland.  Source of photo: http://www.20minutes.fr/articles/2006/12/20/20061220-people-A-Gstaad-le-chalet-de-Johnny-fait-etrique-pour-une-rock-star.php

 




December 15, 2006

Bush on Entrepreneurship


Source of book image: http://www.harpercollins.com/harperimages/isbn/large/8/9780060841638.jpg

 

At lunchtime today (11/27/06) I heard part of a C-Span broadcast of a Heritage Foundation event in which Carl J. Schramm gave a presentation based on his new book (see above). It sounded as though Schramm has some useful thoughts about the impact of entrepreneurship, and on how the institutions of higher education are very unentrepreneurial.

I smiled when Schramm mentioned that George W. Bush had once said that: "The problem with the French is that they don't know the meaning of the word "entrepreneur." To those who don't "get" the joke: it is another of those Bush-is-stupid jokes, based on the word "entrepreneur" being of French origins.

A web site devoted to "urban legends" identifies the Bush quote as one of these legends:

Yet another "George W. Bush is dumb" story has been taken up by those who like their caricatures drawn in stark, bold lines.  According to scuttlebutt that emerged in the British press in July 2002, President Bush, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, and France's President Jacques Chirac were discussing economics and, in particular, the decline of the French economy.  "The problem with the French," Bush afterwards confided in Blair, "is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur."  

The source was Shirley Williams, also known as the Baroness Williams of Crosby, who claimed "my good friend Tony Blair" had recently regaled her with this anecdote in Brighton.

Lloyd Grove of The Washington Post was unable to reach Baroness Williams to gain her confirmation of the tale, but he did receive a call from Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of communications and strategy.  "I can tell you that the prime minister never heard George Bush say that, and he certainly never told Shirley Williams that President Bush did say it," Campbell told The Post.  "If she put this in a speech, it must have been a joke."

 

The main reference relied on by the Urban Legend web site for this entry, was: 

Grove, Lloyd. "The Reliable Source." The Washington Post. 10 July 2002 (p. C3).

 

The most obvious interpretation of the joke is that it is ridiculing W.  But, more subtly, it could be taken to be giving just a bit of a jab to the French too.  (Just because the French invented the word, doesn't mean that they couldn't have forgotten its meaning, through lack of use.)

 

The reference on the Schramm book is: 

Schramm, Carl J. The Entrepreneurial Imperative: How America's Economic Miracle Will Reshape the World (and Change Your Life). New York: Collins, 2006.

 




November 1, 2006

Mellon Allowed Great Innovation By Restraining Intrusive Government


(p. W4) Though scarcely known today, Andrew W. Mellon was a colossus in late 19th-century and early 20th-century America.  He would come to play a major role in the management of the American economy, but first he built one of the country's great fortunes, one that would rank him today with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.  He is now the subject of a comprehensive, if slightly grudging, biography by David Cannadine, the distinguished British historian.

Mellon is not associated with any single industry, in the way that Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller are.  He was a venture and equity-fund capitalist, one of the first to function on a major scale.  He and his younger brother, Dick, took over their father's Pittsburgh-based investment and coal-mining business and expanded it into many fields, including copper, oil,  petrochemicals and aluminum (Alcoa).

No banker was as gimlet-eyed; Mr. Cannadine shows Mellon shrewdly and coldly calculating every investment prospect.  Yet few venture capitalists were as daring.  In the 1890s, when Rockefeller was ruthlessly monopolizing the petroleum industry, Mellon didn't flinch from setting up a competing refinery.  When Mellon finally sold out to Rockefeller, he did so at a considerable profit.  Several years later he came back to oil and eventually built Gulf into an industry giant.

Original Supply-Sider

But Mellon was more than an entrepreneurial industrialist.  In his mid-60s he became a famous -- and infamous -- public servant, performing as Treasury secretary under three presidents, from 1921 to 1932.  He was the original supply-sider, pushing tax cuts under Presidents Harding and Coolidge.  He argued that the high tax rates left over from World War I were depressing economic activity; that lower rates would turn the economy around; that high-income earners would end up paying more and that low-income earners would be removed from the tax roles entirely.

His program was a fantastic success.  The top rate was cut to 25% from 77%.  The rich did indeed pay more, while low- and middle-income earners saw their tax bills shrink to nothing or next to nothing.  The economy boomed.  The U.S. outstripped more heavily taxed nations, such as Britain and France.  Mellon also pushed painstakingly for the creation of an international monetary system to replace the one shattered by World War I.  The big challenge was huge Allied war debts to the U.S. and onerous German reparations.  Mellon negotiated the easiest terms that were politically possible so that trade and economies could revive.

We sometimes forget just how dynamic the 1920s were in America.  The automobile became a commonplace item for working Americans; labor-saving devices, such as the washing machine, grew ever more common as well; movies and radio provided mass entertainment as never before (an experimental television broadcast was carried out in 1927); and stock ownership widened to include more members of the middle class.

It was a time of great innovation and inventiveness, and in a sense Mellon presided over it all by allowing it to happen without intrusive government policies.

 

For the full review, see:

STEVE FORBES.  "BOOKS; The Man Who Made the Twenties Roar."  The Wall Street Journal    (Fri., October 6, 2006):  W4.

 

Reference for the book:

David Cannadine.  MELLON.  Knopf, 2006.  779 pages, $35

 

 MellonBK.jpg  Source of book image:  online version of the WSJ article cited above.

 




September 22, 2006

"Free to Choose" Turns Estonia into "Boomtown"


  Source of book image:  http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/imageviewer.asp?ean=9780156334600

 

If, like Mr. Laar, you are only going to read one book in economics, Milton Friedman's Free to Choose, is not too bad a choice:

(p. A23) Philippe Benoit du Rey is not one of those gloomy Frenchmen who frets about the threat to Gallic civilization from McDonald's and Microsoft.  He thinks international competition is good for his countrymen.  He's confident France will flourish in a global economy -- eventually.

But for now, he has left the Loire Valley for Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and the economic model for New Europe.  It's a boomtown with a beautifully preserved medieval quarter along with new skyscrapers, gleaming malls and sprawling housing developments:  Prague meets Houston, except that Houston's economy is cool by comparison.

Economists call Estonia the Baltic tiger, the sequel to the Celtic tiger as Europe's success story, and its policies are more radical than Ireland's.  On this year's State of World Liberty Index, a ranking of countries by their economic and political freedom, Estonia is in first place, just ahead of Ireland and seven places ahead of the U.S. (North Korea comes in last at 159th.)

It transformed itself from an isolated, impoverished part of the Soviet Union thanks to a former prime minister, Mart Laar, a history teacher who took office not long after Estonia was liberated.  He was 32 years old and had read just one book on economics:  ''Free to Choose,'' by Milton Friedman, which he liked especially because he knew Friedman was despised by the Soviets.

Laar was politically naïve enough to put the theories into practice.  Instead of worrying about winning trade wars, he unilaterally disarmed by abolishing almost all tariffs.  He welcomed foreign investors and privatized most government functions (with the help of a privatization czar who had formerly been the manager of the Swedish pop group Abba).  He drastically cut taxes on businesses and individuals, instituting a simple flat income tax of 26 percent.

 

For the full commentary, see:

JOHN TIERNEY.  "New Europe's Boomtown."  The New York Times  (Tues., September 5, 2006):  A23.

 




August 18, 2006

French Slow Innovation By Violating Apple's Intellectual Property Rights

THE French take pride in their revolutions, which are usually hard to miss -- mass uprisings, heads rolling and such.  So, with the scent of tear gas in the air this past month from the giant protests against a youth labor law, it was easy to overlook the French National Assembly's approval of a bill that would require Apple Computer to crack open the software codes of its iTunes music store and let the files work on players other than the iPod.  While seemingly minor, the move is actually rather startling and has left many experts wondering (as ever):  What has possessed the French?

. . .  

If the French gave away the codes, Apple would lose much of its rationale for improving iTunes.  Right now, after the royalty payment to the label (around 65 cents) and the processing fee to the credit card company (as high as 23 cents), not to mention other costs, Apple's margin on 99-cent music is thin.  Yet it continues to add free features to iTunes because it helps sell iPods.

Opening the codes threatens that link.  Apple would need to pay for iTunes features with profits from iTunes itself.  Prices would rise.  Innovation would slow.

Even worse, sharing the codes could make it easier for hackers to unravel Apple's FairPlay software.  Without strong copy protection, labels would not supply as much new music.

 

For the full commentary, see:

Austan Goolsbee.  "ECONOMIC SCENE; In iTunes War, France Has Met the Enemy. Perhaps It Is France."  The New York Times  (Thurs., April 27, 2006):  C3.




June 22, 2006

Precariousness: In France it is Sought and it is Feared

Coombs and VanderHam on the April 3, 2006 extreme ski run, in which they both died.  Source of caption information, and of photo:  online version of the first NYT article cited below.

 

Some seem to seek risk:

(p. A1)  ''La Grave goes from tranquil to frightening and mad, and it's so exhilarating to be in those moods,'' Mrs. Coombs said in a telephone interview last week.  Her husband, she said, ''never found anything more perfect.''

Last month, Mr. Coombs slipped off a cliff and fell 490 feet to his death.  He was 48. He was trying to rescue Chad VanderHam, his 31-year-old protégé and skiing partner from the United States.  Mr. VanderHam had gone over the same cliff moments earlier.  He also died.

Their accident, during a recreational outing, has focused attention on extreme skiing and on this remote destination, high in the Alps about 50 miles east of Grenoble.

For the full story, see:

NATHANIEL VINTON.  "Skiing Beyond Safety's Edge Once Too Often."  The New York Times (Wednesday, May 17, 2006):   A1 & C23.

 

Others seem to fear risk:

PARIS, April 8 - Standing amid the chaos of the protests here this week, Omar Sylla, 22, tried to explain why the French are so angry about what seems to many people like such a small thing: the French government's attempt to loosen labor laws a bit by allowing employers the right to fire young workers without cause during a trial period on the job.

Even after President Jacques Chirac promised to shorten the period to one year from two, the protests continued, and French students and unions have vowed to keep demonstrating until the law is repealed.

''We need less precariousness, not more,'' said Mr. Sylla, the son of immigrants from Ivory Coast, who still lives with his parents in a government-subsidized apartment in a working-class suburb of Paris.

Mr. Sylla said he had searched for years for a job before finding work about a month ago as a baggage handler at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.  Even then, he said, he only got the job because his sister works at the airport and pulled strings on his behalf.

For the full story, see:

CRAIG S. SMITH. "French Unrest Reflects Old Faith in Quasi-Socialist Ideals." The New York Times, Section 1  (Sunday, April 9, 2006):   8.

 

Economists have long puzzled at how the same person can both buy insurance and gamble in a casino.  The first seems an act of risk-aversion, and the second of risk-seeking.  (Milton Friedman, and others, have tried to explain the paradox.)

But I am puzzled by something else.  When risks are taken, why are they so often taken in arenas such as rioting in the streets, or extreme skiing, where they achieve no noble purpose?  Whatever risks one is going to take, why not take them in the arena of innovation and entrepreneurship, where the potential benefits to the innovator and to human progress, are huge?

 




June 8, 2006

Doha Tariff Cuts Would Save Global Economy About $100 Billion; France Objects

 

FoodExportsAndTariffs.gif  Source of graphic:  online version of the WSJ article cited below.

 

(p. A1)  The so-called Doha round of talks, which began in 2001, were designed to boost developing nations; among other things, they want lower barriers to their agricultural exports.  France has vowed to veto any deal that doesn't protect its farmers.  A pivotal missed deadline April 30 has led to predictions the talks could die by summer if countries including France don't change their stance.

The standoff shows how cultural and emotional factors can combine with politics to stifle free-trade goals that most economists believe would provide a net benefit to the world.  The tariff cuts envisioned by Doha would not only help developing countries sell their minerals and food products, but would also lower barriers to the industrialized world's exports of goods and services.  The World Bank calculates that Doha would boost the global economy by around $100 billion.

Overall, France itself likely would be a major economic gainer from a global (p. A10) deal.  Though it's the world's second-largest agriculture exporter after the U.S., farming accounts for just 2.5% of the French economy.  World-class manufacturing and service companies, such as car maker Renault SA and insurer AXA SA, are larger engines of the French economy.  France could gain more income than it would lose in opening its agricultural markets to budding farm superpowers like Brazil.

Even in agriculture, France can be a formidable competitor, notably in products such as wine and cheese.  Its brand is well-known the world over.  And its farms are increasingly home to capital-intensive agribusiness companies, not just small family producers.  Most of the $11.5 billion in European Union subsidies that France receives each year goes to the largest, most commercially viable farms.

WTO chief Pascal Lamy, a Frenchman, says he doesn't understand France's position.  "As an efficient farm producer, the strategy should be to reduce subsidies and prices, because others won't be able to compete with you," he said in a recent interview.

. . .

The French rural tradition, however, is changing.  Between 1993 and 2004, the number of arable farms fell by nearly a third.  Wide swaths of neglected land are now home to unsightly scrub, and the farms people see as they drive down France's immaculate highways are often parts of major business enterprises.  Oxfam says as much as 60% of subsidies went to the richest 15% of French farmers in 2004, the latest figures available.

Oxfam believes the EU's tariffs and farm subsidies, which total over €40 billion annually, are harmful to the world's poorest countries.  High customs duties keep products from poor nations out of the wealthy EU market.  At the same time, EU farmers overproduction is dumped cheaply abroad, driving down global prices and harming farmers in the developing world.

 

For the full story, see:

SCOTT MILLER.  "Food Fight; French Resistance To Trade Accord Has Cultural Roots; WTO Talks Promise Benefits But Farmers Retain Hold On the Nation's Stomach; 'Politicians Are Frightened'."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., May 16, 2006):  A1 & A10.

 




April 14, 2006

Labor Market Flexibility Increases Employment and Prosperity



"France is definitely behind," says William Keylor, professor of International Relations and history at Boston University. "If France were to create a more-flexible labor market it would eventually increase productivity and prosperity, but the short-term transition would be difficult and people just aren't thinking long term."

There have been labor changes across continental Europe recently. Denmark's measures to liberalize hiring and firing have helped the country cut its unemployment rate in half from about 10% in the early 1990s to under 5%. Spain, too, has introduced short-term employment contracts which have helped cut its unemployment rate by more than half from 20% a decade ago.

But elsewhere, attempts at change have met with staunch opposition, often resulting in watered-down measures. Italy passed changes to its labor laws in 2004, introducing an extension of temporary-work contracts that were introduced in 1997 and were credited with helping cut Italy's overall unemployment rate to 7.1% from 12% when the contracts began. Yet many economists say Italy, which recorded zero growth last year, hasn't gone far enough.

In Germany, where unemployment stands at 11%, a coalition government headed by conservative leader Angela Merkel has promised to reduce unemployment by introducing similar measures to those hotly debated in France. The government had to settle on compromise measures that can extend a current probation period for workers to 24 months, from the current six. But companies don't have the right to terminate contracts within those two years without giving just cause. Other, more difficult, provisions, are still on hold.

The new measures that will be introduced in Parliament as early as today are targeted at "disadvantaged" youths, which refer to people between 18 and 25 who have left school without any qualifications and who are unemployed. The provisions include increasing financial incentives to employers to hire people under 26 who face the most difficulties.

It would apply to some 160,000 young people currently hired under government-subsidized job contracts, according to an interview with Employment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo in an interview with Le Monde newspaper. The cost to the government would be around €150 million ($180 million) in the second half of 2006, Mr. Borloo was quoted as saying.

But economists said the change of tack was a bad signal. "The real problem is that the results obtained by opponents of the new law...show that it is very difficult to introduce reforms in France," Dominique Barbet, economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research note. "This will give opponents of reform confidence for future actions."



For the full story, see:

ALESSANDRA GALLONI. "Bowing to Protesters, Chirac Abandons Youth-Labor Law; Reversal Highlights Europe's Difficulties With Painful Reforms." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 11, 2006): A3 & A10.

(Note: the title and version of the article quoted here are from the online version. The title and content of the version in the printed paper was a little different in a couple of places.)





April 9, 2006

A Salute to Villepin is Still in Order

VillepinSalute.jpg Source of image: http://www.lesoir.be/rubriques/monde/page_5715_419028.shtml


PARIS, April 4 — Waves of demonstrations, strikes and violence hit France again on Tuesday as Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, weakened but defiant, refused to bend to the demand that the government scrap a disputed youth labor law.

It was the fifth nationwide protest since February against a modest initiative that was aimed at encouraging the hiring of young people but that has provoked an improvised, open-ended campaign against the French government itself.

. . .

But, in a sure sign that this was not a country paralyzed, the Paris Métro and bus system ran on a normal schedule. Mail and many newspapers were delivered. Only 18 percent of railroad workers were on strike, compared with 28 percent a week ago. Fifteen percent of domestic flights were canceled, half the percentage of last week. The Education Ministry reported that 23 percent of its workers were absent, compared with 36 percent last week.

In the National Assembly, Mr. de Villepin faced savage criticism from the opposition.

"Mr. Prime Minister, who is governing France today?" asked Jean-Marc Ayrault, the leader of the Socialist party bloc in the Assembly. At another point he said: "You govern no more. You hold the appearance of power, but you no longer exercise it."

Mr. Ayrault said France was mired in a "crisis of regime with two prime ministers," apparently referring to the active role that Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has played in trying to open a dialogue with the unions.

In reply, Mr. de Villepin vowed, "The government will not give in." Despite predictions that the law is doomed, he insisted: "What we want is a victory against unemployment. This is a victory for France."


For the full story, see:

ELAINE SCIOLINO and CRAIG S. SMITH. "French Premier Refuses to Bow to Protests by Angry Youths." The New York Times (Weds., April 5, 2006): A8.




March 14, 2006

EU Free Market Undermined by National Protectionism



BRUSSELS -- After French and Dutch voters killed the EU constitution last year, its framers fretted that Europe couldn't function without their bloated document. That was always laughable. But driven by economic insecurity, those failed referendums, particularly in France, ended up calling into question the very foundation of the EU, a common and free market.

It didn't take politicians long to take this message to heart. In recent weeks, the idea and reality of a single European market has come under threat. From France to Spain, from Luxembourg to Italy and even newcomer Poland, economic nationalism is gaining strength, evoking memories that the European project was created expressly to bury. Neelie Kroes, the EU's competition commissioner, told me that these developments "risk taking Europe into a 1930s-style downward spiral of tit-for-tat protectionism." This sensible Dutchwoman is not prone to hyperbole, and hardly alone in voicing the concern.

This winter, France made 11 sectors, from data security to (bizarrely) casinos, off limits to foreign buyers. And together with Luxembourg, Paris opposed a mooted merger between the world's biggest steel companies, Mittal and Arcelor. (The protectionist furies so far haven't managed to sink Mittal's hostile bid.)

Prime Minister José Louis Rodríguez Zapatero also wants to keep the energy sector in Spanish hands. When Germany's E.On moved to trump a rival Spanish bid from Gas Natural for the utility Endesa, Mr. Zapatero gave the regulator wider powers to block the takeover.

The most audacious national block was yet to come. Two weeks ago, France stepped in to stop Italy's Enel from acquiring Suez by forcing through a shotgun wedding between the publicly owned Suez and state-owned Gaz de France. This tie-up epitomized Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's notion of "economic patriotism." The Italians saw only economic protectionism, which the country's central bank governor, Mario Draghi, said was "doomed to failure." But Rome can't easily claim the moral high ground, having shielded its banking sector for more than a decade.

The single market isn't doing well on other fronts either. Last month, the European Parliament, with lawmakers following orders from their capitals, emasculated legislation that would have freed up the EU's services market. A free market for services, by some estimates, would have added 0.7% to Europe's GDP and created some 600,000 jobs.



For the full commentary, see:

DANIEL SCHWAMMENTHAL. "Common Market? Think Again!" The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 13, 2006): A19.





February 15, 2006

"Growing Recognition of Economic Costs" of Koyoto Protocol



Commentary on the Kyoto Protocol:

(p. 3) . . . the current stalemate is not just because of the inadequacies of the protocol. It is also a response to the world's ballooning energy appetite, which, largely because of economic growth in China, has exceeded almost everyone's expectations. And there are still no viable alternatives to fossil fuels, the main source of greenhouse gases.

Then, too, there is a growing recognition of the economic costs incurred by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol.

As Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, a proponent of emissions targets, said in a statement on Nov. 1: ''The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.''

This is as true, in different ways, in developed nations with high unemployment, like Germany and France, as it is in Russia, which said last week that it may have spot energy shortages this winter.

. . .

The only real answer at the moment is still far out on the horizon: nonpolluting energy sources. But the amount of money being devoted to research and develop such technologies, much less install them, is nowhere near the scale of the problem, many experts on energy technology said.

Enormous investments in basic research have to be made promptly, even with the knowledge that most of the research is likely to fail, if there is to be any chance of creating options for the world's vastly increased energy thirst in a few decades, said Richard G. Richels, an economist at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit center for energy and environment research.

''The train is not leaving the station, and it needs to leave the station,'' Mr. Richels said. ''If we don't have the technologies available at that time, it's going to be a mess.''



For the full commentary, see:

ANDREW C. REVKIN. "THE WORLD; On Climate Change, a Change of Thinking." The New York Times, Section 4 (Sun., December 4, 2005): 3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





December 25, 2005

With Flat Tax, Estonia Has 11% Growth




"Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia in the cabinet room, which is equipped with a computer for each minister." Source of caption and photo: online version of NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A4) TALLINN, Estonia - Estonia, one realizes after a few days in the abiding twilight of a Baltic winter, is not like other European countries.

The first tip-off is the government's cabinet room, outfitted less like a ceremonial chamber than a control center. Each minister has a flat-screen computer to transmit votes during debates. Then there is Estonia's idea of an intellectual hero: Steve Forbes, the American publishing scion, two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and tireless evangelist for the flat tax.

Fired with a free-market fervor and hurtling into the high-tech future, Estonia feels more like a Baltic outpost of Silicon Valley than of Europe. Nineteen months after it achieved its cherished goal of joining the European Union, one might even characterize Estonia as the un-Europe.

"I must say Steve Forbes was a genius," Prime Minister Andrus Ansip declared during an interview in his hilltop office. "I'm sure he still is," he added hastily.

The subject was the flat tax, which Mr. Forbes never succeeded in selling in the United States. Here in the polar reaches of Europe it is an article of faith. Estonia became the first country to adopt it in 1994, as part of a broader strategy to transform itself from an obscure Soviet republic into a plugged-in member of the global information economy.

By all accounts, the plan is working. Estonia's economic growth was nearly 11 percent in the last quarter - the second fastest in Europe, after Latvia, and an increase more reminiscent of China or India than Germany or France.

People call this place E-stonia, and the cyber-intoxication is palpable in Tallinn's cafes and bars, which are universally equipped with wireless connections, and in local success stories like Skype, designed by Estonian developers and now offering free calls over the Internet to millions.

. . .

Germans showed how allergic they were to the idea when Angela Merkel chose a flat tax advocate as her economic adviser. Antipathy toward him was so intense that political analysts say it probably cost Chancellor Merkel's party a clear majority in the German Parliament.

Yet the concept has caught on in this part of Europe. Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia all have a flat tax, while the Czech Republic and Slovenia have considered one. Tax policy, not support for the American-led war in Iraq, is the bright line that separates the so-called old Europe from the new.



For the full article, see:

MARK LANDLER. "Letter From Estonia: A Land of Northern Lights, Cybercafes and the Flat Tax." The New York Times (Weds., December 21, 2005): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





December 13, 2005

Finland Building Europe's First New Nuclear Reactor in 15 Years



Petr Beckmann holding a copy of his The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear. Golem Press, 1976. Beckmann died on August 3, 1993. Source of photo and Beckmann date of death: http://www.commentary.net/view/atearchive/s76a1928.htm


Not all those who are right, live to see their ideas vindicated. Thank you Petr Beckmann, for writing the truth, when the truth was not popular.


. . . when Finland, a country with a long memory of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and considerable environmental bona fides, chose to move ahead this year with the construction of the world's largest nuclear reactor, the nuclear industry portrayed it as a victory, one that would force the rest of Western Europe to take note.

But the decision to build the reactor, Olkiluoto 3, Europe's first in 15 years, was not taken quickly or lightly.

. . .

"There is an expectation that others will follow, both because of the way the decision was made and the boosting of confidence in being able to get through all the oppositional fear-mongering," said Ian Hore-Lacy, the director of public communications for the World Nuclear Association, an industry lobbying group.

The United States, which has not had a nuclear plant on order since 1978, is experiencing a groundswell of interest. Taking the first step in a long process, Constellation Energy, a Baltimore-based holding company, announced in late October that it would apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to construct and operate a pressurized water reactor like the kind being built in Finland, possibly in upstate New York or Maryland. The Finnish reactor, designed by Areva, the French state-controlled nuclear power group, is being built by Framatome ANP, a joint venture of Areva and Siemens, a Germany company.

In addition, President Bush signed into law an energy bill in August that offers billions of dollars in research and development funds and construction subsidies to companies willing to build new nuclear plants. Several utility companies have applied for early site permits, a preliminary step toward building reactors.

Worldwide, the resurgent interest in nuclear power is even more pronounced. Twenty-three reactors are under construction this year in 10 countries, most of them in Asia, which has aggressively pursued nuclear energy. India is building eight reactors. China and Taiwan are building a total of four reactors and are planning eight more. Russia is building four and South Korea is planning eight.

...

Nuclear energy's selling points were timely: it does not create emissions, unlike coal, oil and gas, and provides predictable electricity prices, a major bonus for Finnish industries, nuclear proponents said.

"The only viable alternative, if we want to maintain the structure of the economy, maintain our industries and meet our Kyoto targets, is nuclear," said Juha Rantanen, the chief executive officer of Outokumpu, one of the world's largest steel producers and one of Finland's biggest energy users. "We can't have a declining economy. We face huge challenges and an aging population. Something had to be done."

Environmentalists, however, argued that nuclear reactors could never be entirely safe. They are always radioactive, and their waste remains toxic for 100,000 years.

But the designers of Areva's pressurized water reactor, which is costing $3.5 billion to build, helped counter those arguments. In the event of a core meltdown, they said, the nuclear material would flow into a separate enclosure for cooling. They also said that the reactor is being built with enough concrete to withstand the impact of an airliner.

In the end, Finland's largest trade union supported the project, basically sealing the deal.

. . .




Read the full article at:

LIZETTE ALVAREZ. "Finland Rekindles Interest in Nuclear Power." The New York Times (Mon., December 12, 2005): A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)





November 10, 2005

Rioting Caused by Economy Closed to Creative Destruction


FrenchRiots11-2005.jpg Source of photo: WSJ online version of article quoted and cited below.

The French rioters face very high unemployment. French restrictions on the labor market, and the economy more generally, cause the high unemployment. For example, the French make it hard for firms to fire employees, so as a result, firms are more reluctant to hire workers in the first place, resulting in higher unemployment. Although they do not know it, the rioters are rioting because France is closed to creative destruction. The following commentary is on point:

(p. A16) Like other Americans, immigrants often dramatically improve their quality of life and economic prospects by moving out to less dense, faster growing areas. They can also take advantage of more business-friendly government. Perhaps the most extreme case is Houston, a low-cost, low-tax haven where immigrant entrepreneurship has exploded in recent decades. Much of this has taken place in the city itself. Looser regulations and a lack of zoning lower land and rental costs, providing opportunities to build businesses and acquire property.

It is almost inconceivable to see such flowerings of ethnic entrepreneurship in Continental Europe. Economic and regulatory policy plays a central role in stifling enterprise. Heavy-handed central planning tends to make property markets expensive and difficult to penetrate. Add to this an overall regulatory regime that makes it hard for small business to start or expand, and you have a recipe for economic stagnation and social turmoil. What would help France most now would be to stimulate economic growth and lessen onerous regulation. Most critically, this would also open up entrepreneurial and employment opportunity for those now suffering more of a nightmare of closed options than anything resembling a European dream.



For the full commentary, see:

Joel Kotkin. "Our Immigrants, Their Immigrants." The Wall Street Journal (November 8, 2005): A16.




October 23, 2005

The French Are Not Always Wrong

Editorial page advice from the budget minister of France:
The choice of nuclear power dates back to the end of World War II.  With insufficient fossil fuel reserves, our country very early on invested in energy alternatives.  The two oil crises of the '70s convinced us to accelerate the construction of facilities to produce safe and economically profitable nuclear energy.  That strategy paid off:  In 30 years, France's energy independence has risen from 30% to 50%.  While turning toward nuclear energy might have seemed unusual 60 years ago, I believe that it was an especially visionary choice.  The development of nuclear energy enabled us to meet several objectives:  energy independence and security of supply, and competitive, stable energy prices.  This nuclear option is also an economic and commercial asset for our country, whose capabilities in this cutting-edge area are world-renowned.  (p. A20)
JEAN-FRANCOIS COPE. "Energy a la Francaise." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., October 5, 2005):  A20.



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