October 30, 2007


Half full? Half empty? French see nothing in the glass at all (Adam Sage, 10/31/07, Times Online)

The French – descendants of the Gauls, who thought the sky would fall on their heads – are among the most gloomy, distrustful and pessimistic people in Europe, according to an official study.

They may live in le beau pays, home to stunning scenery, historic architecture and some of the finest gastronomy invented by mankind but they foresee catastrophe at every turn.

The study of national moods across Europe, commissioned by François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, illustrates the dark – and largely irrational – side of the Gallic soul. [...]

The gulf between the hard facts and the subjective vision of the French was highlighted by the United Nations Development Index, which rates countries on the basis of literacy, life expectancy, education and standard of living. This placed France above the EU average and fractionally ahead of Britain.

But when asked in a second survey to evaluate their standard of living, only 16 per cent of the French said that they were very satisfied – the lowest of any Western European country. The figure in Britain was 40 per cent. [...]

“The French are most fearful and complain the most although the country is not doing too badly,” said Julien Damon, head of the department of social affairs at the Centre for Strategic Analysis. [...]

Mr Damon said that this was compounded by the disappearance of the old French social model “founded in 1945 on the basis of full employment and a family cell where monsieur works and madame stays at home to look after the children”.

Worse, the high taxes and generous benefits that accompanied this model had proved to be a disadvantage in today’s economy, he added.

On the positive side, it is fun watching the political debate over this question match the French themselves against Paul Krugman and the folks who brought you glowing articles about the 1930s Soviet Union.

Posted by Matt Murphy at October 30, 2007 5:29 PM
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