Monday, September 18, 2006

France Vs America

Myths about France
1. The French are extreme cultural protectionists. Not true. The French do spend large amounts of money pretending they are cultural protectionists and making noise in various international arenas. And the language restrictions are binding on audiovisual media. But for the most part France is quite open to foreign cultures. Just trying seeing a foreign film in Paris, you'll hardly find a better place.
2. French labor productivity is about as high as that of the United States. Call this one a half-truth. The measured average productivity is close, in part because French labor law discourages low-wage, low-productivity jobs. A better test is if a French-English bilingual person moves from one country to the other, where is productivity higher? I'll put my money on the United States.
3. Within fifty years, France will be half Islamic. Very unlikely, read
this sober assessment of the demographics.
4. Frenchmen hate the United States. Personally I've never found this to be true. I've spent maybe three months of my life in this country, and I can't recall one time that anyone was ever rude to me. Can I say that about any other country? Remember that many peoples distinguish between citizenries and governments more than Americans do. In this regard the French are more libertarian then we Americans are. Here is
one look at the poll evidence on whether the French hate Americans.
5. French culture dried up after World War II. OK, French painting has not been impressive, though I am fond of Yves Klein. But try
Georges Perec, Robert Bresson, or Olivier Messiaen, or Yves Nat for some brighter moments. Let's not forget the key role of Paris in supporting music from Africa and the Arabic world. (America isn't the only country which should get credit for the culture of its immigrants.) Nor is French rap a total wasteland.
The bottom line: France, like the United States, is very good at confounding our expectations.

Posted by Tyler Cowen on May 28, 2006 at 01:24 AM in Data Source Permalink
Comments
"French labor productivity is about as high as that of the United States. Call this one a half-truth."
I'm not sure I agree. French productivity per hour is recorded as 20% higher than that in the US by the OECD. While you can account for some of this due to the disincentives for low wage jobs, it seems pretty reasonable to say that it doesn't account for 20%.
Additionally, one would imagine that if the French were less productive per hour, their companies would be less competitive, which they aren't.
This point can be generalised across Europe where per hour productivity is close to that of the US. All old European countries have more restrictive labour laws than the US yet large European companies do not have competitiveness problems.
Posted by:
Finnsense at May 28, 2006 3:16:39 AM
“4. Frenchmen hate the United States. Personally I've never found this to be true…I can't recall one time that anyone was ever rude to me.”
What does that have to do with anything? The statement that is claimed to be a "myth" was that Frenchmen hate the US as a nation, not individual Americans.
Nor is that the same as opposing US policy or the US “government”. It is a resentment to the power of American as a *nation*, misinformed and negative views about American society, paranoid suspicions about American motives and an instinctive opposition to everything America does. This is hardly a “myth”, and has nothing to do with people being rude to individual Americans.
Just as a simple example according to this Pew poll France is the only country where the majority think the world would become less dengarous if another country than the US became the global superpower (maybe they think that alternative would be France, in which case they are not only anti-American, but also delusional). Even most people in Russia, Jordan and Morocco understand how insane this is! http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=796
“Remember that many peoples distinguish between citizenries and governments more than Americans do. In this regard the French are more libertarian then we Americans are.
I don’t know what Cowen bases this view of Americans on. I am from Americas arguably worst enemy, and have never in my life had any American act negative to me for this reason (as oppose to Europeans). Do Americans tend to be rude to the French? I strongly doubt it, even tough France is objectively more hostile in it’s actions against the US than vice versa.
The interesting test is not how you waiter treats you, but talking politics to Frenchmen. You will in 80-90% of cases get a lot of hostility towards the US, and massive amounts of leftist disinformation. As an example 58% of the French vs 18% of Americans think the US motive in foreign policy is to “control mildest oil”.
For all intents and purposes the statement “Frenchmen hate the United States” is a true generalization. Frenchmen hate individual Americans I am sure is not, but that is irrelevant.It is important that Americans understand the preferences in Europe if they want to understand their policy. If anything Americans underestimate the hateful preferences of French voters and politicians. France was never driven in financial gains in opposing the invasion of Iraq, nor the well being of America (or the Iraqi). America wanted to do it, so France was against it. That is.
I do agree with the demography argument tough, Americans overestimate how many Muslims there are in Europe.
Posted by:
Teller at May 28, 2006 3:43:57 AM
“While you can account for some of this due to the disincentives for low wage jobs, it seems pretty reasonable to say that it doesn't account for 20%”
You are wrong, on two accounts. First of all according to the OECD the French are 1% more productive per market hour worked than Americans, not 20% (I have no idea where on earth you get this figure, sounds like a Krugmanism to me).
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/28/17/36396820.xls
Secondly Americans are fully 37% more productive per person (incidentally native non-Hispanics whites Americans are an amazing 65% more productive than the French per capita). Per capita Americans work 39% more market hours than the French, the most important reason is that the US has a smaller proportion of it’s population out of work (they also work more per worker).
Before people start babbling about the French valuing their leisure more: Time survey data indicates the differences in hours worked is NOT the French having more leisure (they have roughly equal), but more marketisation of services and the US and thus fewer hours worked in the household.
Posted by:
Teller at May 28, 2006 3:55:27 AM
It is funny come to think of it that the 1% French productivity per hours worked advantages is so widely known and emphasized, whereas the 37% US wealth per person advantage is ignores. I guess the left really is starved with arguments.
Posted by:
Teller at May 28, 2006 3:57:29 AM
Obs I made a mistake, Non-Hispanic whites Americans are only 50% more productive than the French, not 65% (I should have compared to the US average, not to the non-whites). Sorry.
I get this figure by multiplying the US-French per capita advantage by the non-Hispanic white-US income advantage.
Posted by:
Teller at May 28, 2006 4:09:46 AM
Some new entries for my Dictionary of Economic Blogspeak:
A “half-truth” is a statement which is true, but which can be accounted for by institutional differences (which of course makes it less true).
A “better test” is a test which is carried out in the imagination and which produces the desired answer.
Posted by:
Kevin Donoghue at May 28, 2006 5:38:04 AM
"Personally I've never found this to be true. I've spent maybe three months of my life in this country, and I can't recall one time that anyone was ever rude to me. Can I say that about any other country?"
Fair enough. Opposing anecdote -- my father's experience on holiday in Paris a few years ago was quite the reverse. He found that Parisian waiters were personally rude to him, e.g. snatching menus out of his hands to give to French customers. Possibly this is because he looks extremely American (sometimes even to the Hawaiian print shirts). To round out the reverse: France is the only country where this sort of thing has happened to him -- not in Turkey, nor Mexico, nor Japan, nor Korea, nor Germany, nor Austria, nor Italy has anyone ever been as rude to him as were the French.
Now, this is only anecdote, and statistics may show otherwise. But I introduce this just as a counter to your anecdote -- your experience is not necessarily representative.
Posted by:
Taeyoung at May 28, 2006 9:00:46 AM
"4. Frenchmen hate the United States. Personally I've never found this to be true. I've spent maybe three months of my life in this country, and I can't recall one time that anyone was ever rude to me. Can I say that about any other country? Remember that many peoples distinguish between citizenries and governments more than Americans do. In this regard the French are more libertarian then we Americans are. Here is one look at the poll evidence on whether the French hate Americans."
I've found this to be true in most instances that Europeans are very nice to Americans (with the exception of some bad experiences with british tourists), but the other points brought up by some posters are true too. Some Europeans and even Canadains have utterly ridicilous views of the U.S. which they're more than willing to vent in private. I spent one night with a group of British, Canada, and New Zealand folks who discussed an American from Florida and how they couldn't beleive he didn't have a country accent and speculated on his views on race and politics, but concluded he was over all a nice guy. I've also lived in apartments with British and Canadain folks who had long discussions about U.S. obesity problems. I also met a British woman who refused to beleive that irony is a popular form of humor in the U.S. Her reasons for this were said in a rather kind way, but basically hinted that she didn't think Americans had the intelligence or class to be truly ironic. I might add though that some Americans have absolutely no problem being incredibly rude to other Americans. I have meet 5 people from the "bay area" who have been incredibly rude to me becuase I came to Asia from Alabama. There does seem to be a bit of a lynch mob mentality at times, I once discussed gun control and when I mentioned that I was against it, I was beraded by "bay area" folks who chanted "I'm from Alabama" and asked me if they still burn people down there etc. While not as annoying or offensive, The same goes for some people in Asia. I've been asked if I went to work on a horse etc. The horse part I have to admit is true, I can ride one and my mom works on a horse ranch in Virginia =)All that said disinformation and shit talking is implicit in any individual and with the exception of other Americans, I've found discussions are open and often interesting.
Posted by:
andrew jones at May 28, 2006 9:06:10 AM
Since most Americans probably limit their visits to Paris when visiting France, they probably encounter some "big city attitude" which you're just as likely to encounter in NYC. However, I had *not one* single bad experience in Paris. I did have one out in the country (Normandy), but I think her problem was that it was the 60th anniversary of Normandy, the Brits seemed to be invading the country all over again, and she associated me with that lot (how's that for an irony-rich scenario?). Bottom line: I liked France and would like to visit again, despite the reputation.
Regarding productivity - all you have to do is look at their reaction to the few Polish plumbers trying to work there to figure out Tyler is right about the effect of labor laws.
Posted by:
Eric H at May 28, 2006 9:42:03 AM
Teller,
I got it from here: "http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/28/18/36396770.xls" and adjusted for currency. The French average is €40 per hour worked and the US is $42.4 per hour worked. At today's exchange rate (€1 = $1.28) that gives you a French total of $51.2. That gives you a difference of about 17%. We can argue about whether PPP is useful and or would/should give a different figure but I didn't invent the statistic.
As to your comments about people ignoring the full productivity statistics I don't know where you live or what you watch but in my experience it's completely the other way around.
Also, like it or not, it's very plausible that Americans do work much more because they have to and Europeans do work a lot less because they want to and because they can. My brother works in NYC and testifies to the feelings of guilt everyone in his office has if they work a normal 40 hour week. My sister lives in Boston and tells me she only gets 10 days of paid holiday a year (I get 25). My cousin also lives in NYC and tells me she's going back to work four months after having a kid because they need her salary. My wife got 80% of her salary for a year and additional support for the following two years.
These are personal stories but it would be extremely odd if the people I know have similar experiences to those everyone always talks about and they just happened to be either unlucky or lying. I'm no fan of the French but there's no point sticking your head in the sand.
Posted by:
Finnsense at May 28, 2006 9:53:20 AM
1. I agree with TC. Everyone spoke English; English-language menus and signs were everywhere. There's much more official recognition of English in Paris than Spanish in Los Angeles. The one sign of cultural protectionism I saw was an apparently regulation that required the footnoting of posters when they had non-French phrases to translate the phrases into French. But the McDonalds were full, even though their only concession to France was to offer a goat cheese salad.
2. When Slim and I were in Paris last week, she turned to me and said something to the effect of "I don't understand how anyone gets anything done. The stores are always closed, and require lots of standing in line when they're open." It doesn't surprise me a whit that the French have about 70% of the working hours but just as many leisure hours as the US.
And an average hour's wage has to go a lot less far than in the US. Quality French cheese, wine, bread, perfume, and couture were mildly cheaper (though, unlike the US, there were few options for cheap cheese, cheap wine, or cheap perfume), but everything else was much more expensive. The skinny little International Herald Tribune was two euros, for crying out loud.


http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/05/myths_about_fra.html

5 comments:

southpaw said...

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Anonymous said...

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Keshi said...

Saby copy-cat btw I dun think France will ever be a muslim country! Especially with French women being nowhere close to the burkha!!

Keshi.

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