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April 15, 2006
A letter to the editor and a reply
I am writing to you in response to your article "Will Rioters burn the French Social Model?" Nov. 7th 2005.
One phrase in particular in this article caught my attention,
The author seems to be implying that it is possible to succeed whether or not you are discriminated against and of course he is correct in this respect; it is possible to succeed against unfair adversity.
In a similar way it is possible for one man to run 100 metres faster than another man might run 90 metres. This however does not mean that we give an advantage to certain athletes in the 100 metre sprint. Rather we try to establish an equal playing field between athletes and then attempt to discern the most able. If we allow discrimination, whether moderate or not, we are removing the even playing field, which Christopher Chantrill himself glorifies in the field of economics, and therefore are reducing productivity. It is common sense that for a business to succeed it must attempt to hire the best people possible to fulfill a certain role, if we allow discrimination immediately we will often lose the best people for our role.
Of course it would have been far easier to have refuted Chantrill's defence of discrimination through a moral argument, yet one suspects from the tone of his article that this would have been unlikely to have caused much headway. If one basketball team cheats and plays with an extra player, they are not admonished from cheating merely because they lost. In a similar way discrimination whether overcome or not is irrelevant.
My other difficulties with this article lie with the style adopted by Chantrill. As a professional writer one would assume that Chantrill was capable of discerning between France, French people and French tradition.
"The French have always strongly believed in protecting French companies from global competition and administer a complex system of subsidies and preferences that privilege French enterprises over non—French companies, and producers over consumers." This is a remarkable statement to make considering the population of France and the widespread nature of French political opinion.
One might as well have said that "Americans believe in the War in Iraq"
The last, and perhaps from an optimistic reader's perspective, most depressing facet of this singularly limited article, is the incredibly childish beginning to the article. Following the classic childish behavioural pattern of 'tit for tat' Chantrill declares
What could be more inappropriate than gloating over another country's problems? What could be more innaccurate than assuming that the opinions of some French writers are representative of a national feeling?
If either America or France is to solve the numerous problems both societies face it must be through an acceptance of the differences betweenthe two and the acknowledgement that both societies have their strengths and weaknesses.
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Thank—you for writing.
How is that you are commenting on an article published in November of last year? Are you a devoted reader who is systematically reading our entire archive? Kindly explain why you are raising this article at this time, almost half a year after publication. Is there some unrevealed professional, ideological, personal, or other affiliation which explains this odd timing?
I believe you are distorting the author's message into a "defence of discrimination." He was noting the negligible historical consequences of light to moderate discrimination, NOT justifying it. He offered concrete examples of the mild (albeit still deplorable) consequences. I find your attempt to maintain otherwise dishonest. You cannot point to one word of justification of discrimination because there are none.
As for his use of the phrase "The French," I believe it is clear that he was referring to policies of the French government which have never been effectively opposed by the French electorate or public. The article was journalistic, not a piece of sociological scholarship, and shorthand conventions are appropriate. Your point is trivial. And I believe that French references to "The Americans" are rather common.
As to your final point, noting French hypocrisy is a widespread amusement among non—French peoples all over the world. The arrogant presumption of French superiority and the joy taken in looking down at the problems of America render the French inviting targets, well—deserving of mockery. It is far from gloating over the problems the French are experiencing, which are not only serious, not unknown elsewhere including the USA. Where is one word that could be taken as gloating? Where are the phrases about the French "deserving it"?
In fact, and contrary to your point, the author advises the French to take actions which he believes will help them solve the crisis (which, not so incidentally has exploded into riots again — this time by privileged students, not the inhabitants of suburban high rise ghettos). The same social system problems are manifesting at opposite ends of the social hierarchy.
Your multiple use of the adjective "childish" reveals a certain mindset not unlike that of the French, in fact, so perhaps your sensitivity is understandable.
Your final paragraph is quite true. Unfortunately, the letter which precedes it puts you in no position to argue its points.
Thomas Lifson, editor