Senin, 07 Oktober 2013

The French are, well ...., crazy !

The French have an advanced case of obsession with "culture". At least the French government does - the French people are probably as willing to dance Gangnam style or shop at Walmart as ogle at the impossibly unaffordable haute couture ! The French government doesn't like American soap, doesn't like English words stealing into French, doesn't even like their steel company to be bought by foreigners. Now they are picking up a new fight. They want to protect French book stores against  big bad Amazon.

The fight goes somewhat like this. Apparently small book stores are an integral part of French culture ! As with everywhere else, small bookshops are going out of business. The first threat came some 20 years ago with the arrival of the supermarket chains selling books. Promptly the French parliament passed a law "limiting discounts that can be given on books".  This was to protect the 2000 odd book shops in France so that they can continue to charge high prices and the supermarkets could not go below them. Then came online retailing. Everywhere else in the world books are largely being bought, if at all, online. France is no exception. Enter the chivalrous MPs in the French Parliament. They are now decreeing that online retailers (read Amazon) cannot offer free delivery - they have to charge so that they can be conveniently more expensive than the local book store.

In a mind boggling assertion, Christian Kert, the parliamentarian who sponsored this bill asserted that "The (book pricing) law is part of our cultural heritage" !!! The bill passed unanimously - now anybody who knows France's politics knows that nothing can ever be unanimous - not even free sex. But the "Screw you Amazon" bill passed unanimously. Wow !

Economics is not necessarily the strong point of French law makers as has been amply demonstrated over the years. It is not even their weak point - it simply does not come into thought at all. To protect 2000 geriatric stores, the lawmakers are willing to piss on millions of consumers. Governments are supposed to protect consumers, not mollycoddle long in the tooth producers. 

Notice how the "culture" that the government wants to protect is often what the French people themselves don't care about. French food, French wine, French fashion,  are all conquering the world with no assistance needed from the government, thank you very much. But French pop  music sucks; so mademoiselle dutifully listen to One Direction ! The government is outraged and passes quixotic laws unanimously.

The French deserve better. Their entrepreneurs, businessmen, workers are amongst the best in the world. There are great aspects of French culture (including shutting everything down in August !) that will thrive , not because governments are protecting it, but simply because people like it. There are other aspects of the culture, that should die, because they don't appeal to people anymore. There is no such thing as a static culture. Cultures evolve and so they should.

Thankfully, I never go to  a bookstore in France to buy books. For that matter, I am willing to bet, neither does M Christian Kert. Some smart TV reporter should ask him when he last bought a book and what the title was. His response may put the redoubtable Sarah Palin to shame !
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