Sarkozy, overtime, and science

In France, if you work longer than 35 hrs. a week you get paid overtime, and your employer pays the government a tax. The idea is that employers have economic incentives to hire more people rather than pay good workers to work longer hourse. Scottie’s Mom expounds upon this idea:

I think it’s a good idea for those who prefer to work more than 35 hours per week that they won’t have to pay a higher tax rate on overtime. Already middle-managers and top managers work “beaucoup de plus”, don’t get paid extra for it, and it seems that the workers at the bottom of the pile get all of the social benefits…35 hour work-weeks, overtime pay, etc., etc. What’s really strange, even those who own their own masonry, electric, plumbing enterprises have adopted the 35-hour work week for themselves; many times they are the sole employee with the exception that they sometimes hire part-time people.

Interesting how tax policy can shift cultural attitudes.

Sarkozy wants to reduce or eliminate the overtime tax. One of my French colleagues, who is working in America as a neuroscientist, voted for Segolene both times and thinks Sarkozy will be a disaster. He specifically cited the reduction or elimination of the overtime tax as a big mistake. I find the overtime tax quite shocking and would love to see it repealed.

The way that EU countries and America fund science is also very different. In France, large institutes receive a lot of money and everyone else gets very little. It reminds me of the Charity Hospital system in New Orleans. From Science magazine:

But the candidates’ opinions diverged on how to address the malaise in French research and the long-running problems at the country’s universities. Science and higher education don’t mix well in France, because most research takes place at mammoth government institutions such as the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) rather than at the universities. A highly centralized administration system means universities are relatively powerless to set their own agendas; they also suffer from the fact that the smartest young minds typically attend the so-called grands ├ęcoles, which train France’s professional and political elite but carry out little research.

Sarkozy has also suggested turning the big research bodies such as CNRS into U.S.-style granting agencies that would reward proposals rather than employ scientists–a controversial shift in a country where science usually means a government job for life. To carry out those promises, Sarkozy’s UMP will have to retain its majority in the National Assembly during elections next month; polls suggest it will.

America’s granting agencies, mainly bodies of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, reward grant proposals in a psuedocompetitive processes between professors/MDs applying from universities throughout the nation. There is a long list of European scientists who flock to America in part because of better pay, but in large part because of the un-meritocratic exclusion they faced because the few “Herr Professors” get almost all the funding. I don’t know if the Sark can change that for France, but for many of my European colleagues the changes come too late, they are doomed to do research in the land of the free. Yee-haw! USA!USA!

Nicolas Sarkozy elected French President

So a conservative has been elected President in France, overcoming his socialist opponent, 53-47 percent.

Although he is now taking a couple of days off in Malta, some of his reforms are expected to include:

…the abolition of tax on overtime, swingeing cuts in inheritance tax, a law guaranteeing minimum service in transport strikes, and rules to oblige the unemployed to take up offered work.

On the social front he has pledged minumum jail terms for serial offenders and tougher rules to make it harder for immigrants to bring members of the extended family to France.

Update: The President-Elect’s acceptance speech.


The french and the Jews, more recently

I think French policy indicates that you can’t simply allow millions of immigrants (in their case, Muslim) into your country and then ghettoize them and prop them up with subsidized housing, all the while barring entry into good jobs. For the most part France and the EU has bought into the concept that allowing any immigrants from anywhere to come in, but the heavy-duty cradle to grave socialism, and it’s subsequent slow growth economy, simply cannot accomodate, much less assimilate, the new “citizens”. The result…

France’s Jewish population has been variously estimated at between 500,000 and 700,000 and its Muslim population at five million to six million. But French Jews here say the community has been depleted by frequent departures, the majority to Israel. Jewish Agency figures show that almost 14,000 French Jews have resettled in Israel since 2001.

These Jews have a lot of intellectual resources, and a lot of French capital. This is good for Florida and Israel, and ultimately bad for France. Regardless of any criticism of AIPAC or Israel, the suburban ghettos of France are far removed from Israel, and many of the French Muslims hail from nowhere near Palestine. Nonetheless, the Jews there are harassed and murdered by Muslims, regularly enough for the Jews to leave.

Napoleon, the Jews and French Muslims

Here’s an interesting story about possible parallels between the Jewish Emancipation in Napoleonic France and the status of modern French Muslims. The former event just celebrated its bicentennial. The article focuses on one component of that particular period:

To find out if there was something in Jewish law and custom preventing integration, Napoleon summoned a council of Jewish leaders and put to them 12 questions about Jewish laws and customs…[T}he more important questions related to the transition a marginalized people were making to a new idea of citizenship: Jews born in France were treated by the law as citizens, did they regard France as their country? Did they feel they had an obligation to defend it?

The Jewish leaders came to the conclusion that there was nothing in their dogma which would preclude them from integrating into society and being good patriots. So the author asks this pertinent question:

Could one imagine a ceremony at the Hotel de Ville in 200 years where the Muslim community reaffirms its commitment to French definitions of secularism, integration, faith and patriotism?

Very good question.

International Herald Tribune

Viva la fascism?

Thanks in part to Rodney King this kind of legislation would never fly in the US. France shows once again it’s tolerable intolerance.

Throwing a bone I actually found a video in which …

Throwing a bone

I actually found a video in which I agree with the good professor at MIT more than I disagree (at least during the second half of the clip). Of course, if Foucault argued with a brick wall I’d be inclined to side with the wall. Chomsky comes off at least as more hopeful of the two. Also posting this as Vietnam, over thirty years since the war, is now begging to crack open our sweet American market. Meanwhile Thailand, Singapore, and even China have improved their respective standard of living considerably the last thirty years, due mainly to their access to American markets. Not exactly “Tearing up Indochina”, I’d say.

Posted in France, MIT. 2 Comments »


Life in France is not better than America, exhibit 798. Click the link for the video from the NYTimes.

Posted at 10:18 pm by Johnny B