Posts Tagged ‘France’

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On the eve of their presidential election, the French people and politicians continue to debate how they should respond to the end of “Les Trente Glorieuses,” a period that appears to receding into ancient history.

Except, as it turns out, for those at the very top, for whom the last thirty years have been quite glorious.

According to new research by Bertrand Garbinti, Jonathan Goupille-Lebret, and Thomas Piketty, between 1983 and 2014, average per adult national income rose by 35 percent in real terms in France. However, actual cumulated growth was not the same for all income groups:

the growth incidence curve is characterized by an impressive upward-sloping part at the top. Cumulated growth between 1983 and 2014 was 31% on average for the bottom 50% of the distribution, 27% for next 40%, and 50% for the top 10%. Most importantly, cumulated growth remains below average until the 95th percentile, and then rises steeply, up to as much as 100% for the top 1% and 150% for the top 0,01%.

The contrast with the earlier, 1950-1983 period is particularly striking. In effect, during the “Thirty Glorious Years,” Garbinti, Goupille-Lebret, and Piketty observe the exact opposite pattern: growth rates were very high for the bottom 95 percent of the population (about 3.5 percent per year) and fell abruptly above the 95th percentile (1.5 percent at the very top). However, as is clear from the chart above, between 1983 and 2014, growth rates were very modest for the bottom 95 percent of the population (about 1 percent per year) and rose sharply above the 95th percentile (3 percent at the very top).

As we know, similar patterns hold for the United Kingdom (which voted for Brexit) and the United States (which elected Donald Trump).

The key question in France, in the first and second rounds of the presidential election, is how French voters will respond to a political economy that has generated thirty glorious years only for those at the very top.

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Just a few years ago, students at Oberlin College protested the college’s decision to fund a talk by Jeffrey Sachs, whom they considered to be a “neoliberal imperialist liar.”

As regular readers of this blog know, I am quite sympathetic with the Oberlin students’ concerns. I have called Sachs to task on many occasions (e.g., herehere, and generally here).

But it’s also true Sachs is changing his tune, at least on some issues. Here he [ht: ja] is on interventions by the United States in the Middle East:

It’s time to end US military engagements in the Middle East. Drones, special operations, CIA arms supplies, military advisers, aerial bombings — the whole nine yards. Over and done with. That might seem impossible in the face of ISIS, terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, and other US security interests, but a military withdrawal from the Middle East is by far the safest path for the United States and the region.

And then Sachs ups the ante: “America has been no different from other imperial powers in finding itself ensnared repeatedly in costly, bloody, and eventually futile overseas wars.”

That’s right: Sachs is accusing the United States of acting today as an imperial power—in a long line beginning with the Romans and continuing in modern times with the British, the French, and the United States itself in previous periods, from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines through Vietnam and increasingly in the Middle East. In fact, in all these cases, the United States took up the preceding wars of other imperial powers, including Spain, Britain, and France, thereby extending imperial adventures that have been “both futile and self-destructive.”

Sachs is led therefore to conclude,

The United States should immediately end its fighting in the Middle East and turn to UN-based diplomacy for real solutions and security. The Turks, Arabs, and Persians have lived together as organized states for around 2,500 years. The United States has meddled unsuccessfully in the region for 65 years. It’s time to let the locals sort out their problems, supported by the good offices of the United Nations, including peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. Just recently, the Arabs once again wisely and rightly reiterated their support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians if Israel withdraws from the conquered territories. This gives added reason to back diplomacy, not war.

We are at the 100th anniversary of British and French imperial rule in the Mideast. The United States has unwisely prolonged the misery and blunders. One hundred years is enough.

I can only agree.

Even more: give Sachs another decade or two and he might actually become a Marxist.

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