Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The French Idea of Combatting Inflation

I had a good laugh at this one (in French).

Xavier Darcos
[Thanks to for the photo.]

Xavier Darcos, the French Education Minister, is all smiles as he tells the public that he's reached an agreement with the largest distributers of school supplies to freeze the price of the bare necessities to, at most, the same figures as last year, and in some cases actual cost.

Forget the free market; France's political class feels the need to protect their electorate by deal-making, rather than inflation-fighting.

Obviously, the distributers will make up the difference by increasing the price of other necessities sold in their stores, but that fact is not important to the governing class.

Of course, they announce this today, August 29th, when French schools open on Monday. Most families have already done their shopping for school, so at best, these measures will only help the laggards. Realizing their error, the government has extended the special prices until mid-September. (They were supposed to expire at the end of next week.)

Parent associations had already been complaining that supplies had increased in price about 2.06 percent. And we mustn't forget the Terrible TVA, the Value Added Tax that weighs upon most purchases--including school supplies--to the tune of 19.6 percent.

Ah, Vive la France and what the French are fond of labeling their "Cartesian" mindset. This is a reference to one of their most famous home boys, 17th century mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes, whose sense of logic brought us "I think, therefore I am", and also afforded us so much food for this chicken-and-egg-style debate thereafter. (For the latest among these, see my reading recommendation in the right column for Antonio Damasio's fantastic work, Descartes' Error.)

I would love to be able to write that new French president Sarkozy has his work cut out for him; but his free-market rhetoric is only skin deep. He has little understanding of economics, by his own admission. What a pity, because if anyone could persuade the public to follow him on a path to freedom, he's the fellow.

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