La situation de la France est l’exige

Le Figaro keeps pressing the new government to grasp the nettle of necessity. Today it’s asking why the debate over the 35-hour week has ended even before it began. I was here back in the 1980s when it was introduced and I was at an Employer meeting at the OECD where we tried, amongst other things, to convince the French not to do what they then proceeded to do. Bad luck to them but these things take a long time to ruin you since most of what keeps an economy going is inherited capital and not the latest production. Amongst other things, a reason why GDP stats tell you next to nothing about the future provenance of an economy.

Things are, unfortunately, pretty bad everywhere. Everywhere we have had socialist solutions applied to capitalist problems and therefore pretty well everywhere things have become decidedly worse.

My conference on Say was run and organised by people of the left. They therefore look at the entrepreneur in the way that Marx looked at the entrepreneur, as a stage in the development of an economy that will one day be transcended. How will it be transcended, I asked. This they did not know. I ended up the one of the few people at this conference on Say that actually thinks Say’s way of thinking provides proper guidance to the management of an economy, not just today, but as far into the future as you might care to look.

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17 Responses to La situation de la France est l’exige

  1. Roger

    My conference on Say was run and organised by people of the left. They therefore look at the entrepreneur in the way that Marx looked at the entrepreneur, as a stage in the development of an economy that will one day be transcended. How will it be transcended, I asked. This they did not know.

    The government will take up the entrepreneurial slack – we have an excellent Australian example of how this works in the Home Insulation Program.

  2. Joe

    Interesting thing, where does automation fit in the theories of economics.
    Automation replaces labour. Capital will use it to drive costs down. In able to do that they must perforce not pay for labour, i.e. replace labour with machines/automation. However, this will deplete the pool of consumers as those replaced will no longer have the means to purchase goods. The argument that displaced labour will find other occupations, may not be true if the other part of automation is true. That is that automation enables less workers to produce more goods. There will reach a point where most are unemployed, but this will not work for capital as less people will purchase goods. It’s a spiral to the bottom.

    One positive I can see is that future energy sources will drive the costs of production down equally. It is possible that costs might get so low that it becomes indistinguishable from zero. In which case, as it costs nothing to create, perhaps goods will become free to all?

    Any thoughts on this problem. It’s coming just as sure as micro-electronics lead to home computers.

  3. MartinH

    The 35 hour week was introduced in 2000, I remember as I was working there around that time. I was baffled as it was so clearly a stupid idea even to someone like me with barely any economics knowledge.

  4. MartinH

    Joe imagine how automated our society would look like to a caveman. It’s not like we are poorer than they were.

  5. Tim

    “It is possible that costs might get so low that it becomes indistinguishable from zero. In which case, as it costs nothing to create, perhaps goods will become free to all?”

    Goods may become so cheap they are indistinguishable from free. But land, for example will become ever more relatively scarce and expensive.

  6. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Joe – emiseration of the proletariat? I think not. Cheer yourself up and read some Matt Ridley.

    My conference on Say was run and organised by people of the left

    Don’t you just hate it when that happens? They ruin everything.

  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Goods may become so cheap they are indistinguishable from free. But land, for example will become ever more relatively scarce and expensive.

    Marketing. Brands will matter more for goods. That’s happening now.

    Land. There’s still plenty there. Wrest it from the dead hand of governments.

  8. Yohan

    The 35 hour week was introduced in 2000, I remember as I was working there around that time. I was baffled as it was so clearly a stupid idea even to someone like me with barely any economics knowledge.

    Its not stupid according to socialist economists. A less productive work week results in more hands hired to do the same amount of work as before. Leftist love these sort of make-work schemes that creates more ‘jobs’ thinking it will lead to higher standards of living overall.

    Frederic Bastiat lampooned this again and again over 150 years ago. He proposed about making all labourer’s in France work with only one hand with the other tied behind their back, creating twice the employment and thus leading France into untold riches.

  9. Steve-I would be willing to bet plenty of presenters knew that the transcending is to come through K-12 education globally, but did not want you writing about it and sounding the alarm. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/naming-educators-as-the-levers-shifting-the-human-personality-to-marxs-moral-revolution/ quotes UNESCO documents on what is intended as well as translators and advocates that knew Uncle Karl’s work very well indeed.

    I have also written about the OECD’s current work globally on what the area calling the Great Transition. It quickly built on the previous initiative called Green Growth begun in 2011 that I described in my book Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon. It all ties into a little known global initiative called the Belmont Challenge that UNESCO and the OECD are sponsoring with the active support of the US, UK, Australia, Europe. It’s mostly off the radar screens operating out of Stockholm.

    Like I said, I wish all these transcending intentions were not so well developed. They remain dangerous as long as they are little known. The implementation is certainly in high gear.

  10. Joe

    Lizzie;

    Land – if you have it great, if you don’t, how do you get it? Buy it? With what? No work remember.

    Upon further thought, I suspect that intellectual services – note NOT property – may be a future market. I suspect most manual services will be supplanted by automation. However, devising ways to use automation might be a way out. This would require huge education and then what do you do with the 50% not intelligent enough to provide the service?

  11. Ellen of Tasmania

    Bad luck to them but these things take a long time to ruin you since most of what keeps an economy going is inherited capital and not the latest production.

    Ditto for culture.

  12. Cambodia7

    Joe

    There’s no end to what people want. People will get more and more creative in finding things to want and more and more creative in satisfying those desires. Hence we have dog therapists and personal shoppers (not to mention the stupid amount of security at airports these days – guess where the morons at high school end up!). Automation just frees up people from the somewhat dehumanising production line existence. A lot will then think that their wants are then needs – i.e. our dog needs a therapist etc. It goes on forever!

  13. ar

    My conference on Say was run and organised by people of the left

    The first rule of Say club, is don’t talk about Say…

  14. Bons

    the 35-hour week
    People misunderstand how draconian this was in the French collegiate corporations. 35 HW was enforced passionately by the workplace committees.
    At my company, for example, if we happened to be negotiating a beneficial contract with a potentially lucrative customer, we would at 5pm, especially on Fridays, have to up-stakes and move to the motel down the road in order to avoid the plant manager being summoned by the ‘Committee’ to explain why he was sponsoring law breaking work practices by the executive. American customers could only be consoled by lavish hosting.
    I was constantly ‘in the shit’ with the big C for hiring bright young things rather than the degenerate scion of the Provencal peasant members of the C. A number of my BYT’s could’t tolerate the harassment and left – pleasingly often to Australia where we were able to seek to hire them when the Corporation set-up here.
    France is strange. Executives are incredibly well educated, work like demons, and are terrifyingly smart but they tolerate a workforce that is about as effective as; well; the Demons.
    My ignorant view is that the cause is the incestuous relationship between the bureaucracy and corporate executives. L’Ecole Administrative graduates are expected to spend time in Government jobs, and even politics, before returning to the corporate world which, not surprisingly, looks very much like the Public Service.
    They have the world’s best engineers; an agricultural endowment that would make our farmers weep, 80M foreigners a year who come to look at their old stuff and eat their food; and still they are broke. The reason is that everyone outside of the elite and some small business people believe that the State owes them. In addition, as an education based society, anyone who does not qualify for a place at the Grandes Ecoles tends to study humanities – sound familiar?

  15. Piett

    Interesting thing, where does automation fit in the theories of economics.

    We should be aiming, as a society, to work less and less hours. Automation will make that very possible. But not via ridiculous inflexible rules imposed by government, as Monsieur Bons describes.

    One thing that pisses me off about corporate and professional people is the tendency to hog work — and to make working silly hours into a badge of honour, like with medical interns and young lawyers.

    People could relax, enjoy life a bit more, and spread the work around. But hopefully this will come via cultural change, not by top-down regulation.

  16. Piett

    In addition, as an education based society, anyone who does not qualify for a place at the Grandes Ecoles tends to study humanities – sound familiar?

    Great post, but what’s wrong with studying humanities? :) As education for a future business trainee, it’s undoubtedly better than generic business and management courses (as the London financial sector has long been aware).

    Sure a nation needs good engineers, but perhaps not that many. I believe one country graduated more engineering and science grads than any other in human history — the USSR. And they ended up driving taxis in New York. (If they were lucky.)

  17. wreckage

    So it is with an excess of humanities graduates; over-educated, very bitter taxi drivers.

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