Let’s Be More Like The French!
As America is now an uncharacteristically uncertain place, I suggest we all become more like the French! I don’t mean let’s be more like France (politics or government). I mean let’s be more like the French people. There is nothing cheesy about the much maligned French. They were, and still are, people who can shape their own future.
Skeptical? For starters, the French economy has grown in the last two quarters at an annualized rate double that of the USA (second in Europe only to a booming Germany). The French economy has also fallen less hard during the recession, as it relies less heavily on exports. France also refrained from the speculative borrowing that has sunk the economies of many nations (including ours!).
France’s industrial strength puts her near the top of Europe’s prowess, with 39 companies in the Fortune 500 list (approximately the same number as Germany; naturally, the U.S. has the largest number on the list).
Why, then, are we seeing pictures of rioters on the streets of Paris? Primarily because France is busy cleaning up the legacies of ‘70s style economy (unions and public sector spending) and the strikes is the French unions’ last death throe. The rest of Europe has already moved on (without much fanfare).
The French, once again, are being loud. To understand them, one must remember that they are independent thinkers who refuse to be taken for granted, as exemplified by their illustrious history. Think of the French Revolution, when they alone dethroned the monarchy and invented for themselves (and the world) a new form of government: a democratic republic. Or more recently, when they defied conventional wisdom, and opted out of military conflict in Algeria (1962) and Vietnam.
Without doubt, we Americans know how to be heard by politicians and elected officials. The point that begs to be made, however, is that our nation has witnessed levels of financial fraud and scandals unheard of (until now) in a rich nation, such as accounting scandals (Enron and many others), lending practices, debt-swaps and wholesale pilferage of our national financial resources. Our government bailed out the perpetrators. The French would have revolted. We didn’t.
I admire our American way to endure, create, and move on; in fact I think it is one of many precious gifts that we Americans make to the world. However, it comes to the point where enduring alone doesn’t solve the problem, unless the underlying premises are changed. Cartesian thinking (what French high schools teach as “l’esprit critique” or discerning attitude) would lead the French to conclude that the system is flawed and in need of systemic changes. French culture would drive them to the doorsteps of their elected officials.
I would like to think that we Americans are also capable of shaking up a system that begs to be shaken. Let’s shed some of our Anglo-Saxon restraints, let’s be heard!
Giancarlo Pozzi is a CPA in Bend. He can be reached at Giancarlo@pozzi-cpa.com