President Sarkozy on competition

France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, recently persuaded his fellow European leaders to drop the principle of “free and undistorted competition” from Article 3 of the old constitutional treaty. He asked, “Competition as an ideology, as a dogma: what has it done for Europe?”

He is right. Apart from making the Europeans prosperous, keeping prices low, businesses honest, encouraging innovation, and sweeping away incompetence, what has competition ever done for Europe?

The Paris School of Economics

Why start the new Paris School of Economics? Why not build up the already existing world-class Institut D’Economie Industrielle in Toulouse? (Here is an article about IDEI by David Warsh).

One possibility is that the IDEI is too free-market oriented for the French establishment. The French establishment, both on the left and on the right, is statist.

And of course there is a long French tradition of having the best of everything in Paris. A French academic who made it to one of the Paris institutes is not about to go into exile in the provinces. So if there is a large group of good economists in Paris, why not organize them into a school and gain critical mass?

There is now also a Toulouse School of Economics. It offers various programs, including a two year master’s degree program, taught in English.

Strauss-Kahn for the IMF?

French President Nicholas Sarkozy wants Dominique Strauss-Kahn to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund. Since Strauss-Kahn is a prominent member of the opposition Socialist Party and a political rival, why would Sarkozy want advance his career?

First, he wants to promote, and be seen as promoting, French interests.

Second, Sarkozy will be continuing his strategy of reaching across the middle of French politics by appointing people from the left, thus occupying both the right and the center, and leaving little space for the Socialists.

Third, he will be removing a rival from the French political scene.

Fourth, he will weaken the pragmatic social-democratic wing of the Socialist Party, to which Strauss-Kahn belongs, and strengthen the conservative, uninspired and uninspiring wing of the party.

Of course, the idea that the head of the IMF should be a European, and the head of the World Bank should be an American, is totally absurd.

Rap à la française

A rapper who quotes Camus and Satre? Only in France.

Here is the story from BBC on French rapper Abd al Malik who says,

“The aesthetic should always serve a moral purpose, it’s what’s called artistic responsibility. The French writer Albert Camus and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre followed this idea, and I want to do the same,” he says. […]

He takes his position as role model seriously, as is demonstrated on a track called Celine. It makes a surprising comparison between the controversial 20th-Century French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine and rappers like himself.

“Celine revolutionised literature because he was very close to real people, like us rappers today. That’s generally a good thing, but there’s a danger about being so close to the people; you can start to embrace all the things that are wrong with society.

“In Celine’s time, anti-Semitism was rife and he fell into the trap of becoming anti-Semitic himself. Today, we rappers can sometimes do the same and say it’s always the fault of others, or apologise for violence, or become misogynistic or too materialistic.”

Abd al Malik is a convert to Sufism. He is also the author of the prize-winning book Qu’Allah bénisse la France (May Allah Bless France).

Hiking

Today is a public holiday in France, and I am back from hiking with a friend in the Maritime Alps, mostly on the Italian side of the border. We used a small village called Bagni di Vinadio as our base for day hikes. Great walking, although twice we had to give up on our goals and turn around; there is still a lot of snow above 2000 meters.

From Bagni di Vinadio we drove over the Col de Larche into France and down to Barcelonette. Barcelonette is the perfect base for baby boomer hiking. After a hard day in the mountains you are faced with the hard task of having to choose which restaurant to go to for the four-course French meal you so richly deserve.

Barcelonette should probably be avoided at the height of the tourist season in August and during the winter school vacations. But during spring and fall it is wonderful.

The great revival of wildife in Europe


Trends in French forest area and population

The Times has a gloom and doom story about wildlife taking over depopulated fringes of Europe (hat tip Demography Matters). Actually, the story could just as well have been written as a success story about conservation and the great reversal of wildlife depopulation and deforestation. As can be seen on the graph above, this is not a recent trend e.g. in France. The same process is documented across countries in Returning forests analyzed with the forest identity, see yesterday’s post.

Bears at the dustbins, wolves in main street as Europe goes wild

WOLVES, wild boar and brown bears are moving west in Europe as nature takes hold of rural regions abandoned by people seeking work in the cities.Wildlife migration is shadowing human migration and, according to population experts, is set to transform the way we look at the Continent. Wild boar are already ransacking dustbins on the outskirts of Berlin and bears are startling schoolgirls in Austria.