Wednesday, January 31, 2007

French culture from an English perspective; a continuing series

Max, a little taste of home for you. (HT to Tyler).

And how do you lure the right stores in, assuming you can decide what the right ones are in the first place? Jane Jacobs doubtless has some answers, but this [is] France. If you give the Parisian city government a slush fund to subsidise interesting shops opening on the Champs Elysees, hey, guess what, the mayor's best friend's brother-in-law has just decided to go into the bespoke millinery business.

My general point is that, for as long as the French think they can suspend the laws of economics in a 400-mile mile radius around Clermont-Ferrand, we should delight in any weird policies they may attempt (eg, declaring yoghurt a strategic industry; imposing a 35 hour week and then regretting it). Just to see what happens.

Actually, Jane Jacobs would recommend intervention in this case. She claimed that neighborhoods tend naturally to become specialized and homogeneous, and so government should zone for diversity. That's about the only idea of hers I don't like. How is the government's definition of diversity better than that of the neighbors who live there? And why should we expect the government to more effectively, ie efficiently, achieve diversity?


Max said...

Thanks for the shout-out.

Doesn't France just piss you off? I mean here it is, doing pretty much do everything wrong in the econ book (a crazy patchwork of market regulations, rampant protectionism and subsidies, an unsustainable social welfare system and hyperactive unions) and yet the country still somehow keeps on ticking. Of course, we'll probably go completely bankrupt in a generation, but for now, life ain't that bad with universal health care, a 35 hr workweek and, at last count, 57 weeks of paid vacation a year.

Actually, I'm kind of curious of what you think about France completely turning around its low birth rate to now lead Europe in procreation (well, except for the Irish) thanks to massive government incentives for large families. Do you see it as a smart measure to maintain an internal supply of workers for the future or an abhorrent exercise in social engineering? Or both?

Will McBride said...

um, abhorrent exercise in social engineering. The funny thing is France is not at all alone. I think Italy began this rediculous trend about 4 years ago. I'm not sure how many have followed suit, but I know Russia did this past year. Paraphrasing H. L. Mencken, "Democracy is not the best form of government, but it certainly is the most entertaining."