Re: France


My understanding is that there are many different kinds of cheese in France, and because of that the behavior of the French people is generally inexplicable.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:29 AM
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Good enough for me. Thanks. Thread closed.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:30 AM
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1: My alternate theory (based on absolutely no evidence) is that Russian trolls on the internet are instigating this.

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:31 AM
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Honestly, I kind of wondered about that myself.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:33 AM
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Sous les pav├ęs, la plage!

Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:41 AM
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As is well known, the citizens of France entertain themselves on New Year's Eve by rioting and burning cars. They are prudently rioting now in order to ensure fuel-tax rises don't mute their festivities.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:49 AM
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5 to 6.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:51 AM
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good things to read for background/thoughts (some in english, some in french): - i think the comment below by "myos" is spot on. and recent bacc reforms have, per my kid's student union, further aggravated the gulf in resources/opportunities for kids at the end of their secondary education between those in wealthy metropoles and everyone else. france is so centralized that changes in education policy can be rolled out nationwide super quickly and then have *massive* knock on effects.

manu and alex got into an interesting interchange on twitter that i believe sparked the editorial, but i'm rubbish at finding things of twitter so find it yourself if you can!

edouard louis, the author (en finir avec eddy belleguele and other books) on twitter here

another tocqueville 21 blog contributor provides more historical context on french rioting:

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:52 AM
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Posted by: OPINIONATED PRESIDENT MACRON | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 9:56 AM
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Just wait until you try to sign a treaty with him.

Posted by: OPINIONATED JUSTIN TRUDEAU | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:06 AM
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8: Thanks. Helpful.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:14 AM
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9: That's part of why I was asking. Most of the pieces I read about the riots sound like the justifications I read for voting Trump and I mostly don't buy those to the extent they don't include white supremacy.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:16 AM
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12: Paralleling that train of thought: 8 link 2 closes with this portentous flourish that rural France has always been the backbone of the Republic, neglecting to mention that today France is 80% urban.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:25 AM
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But, per 9, I really hope I live long enough to see the briefing books other countries prepared on the U.S. in 2017. Assuming I'm still able to read and comprehend.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:28 AM
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Also ISTR we had a thread on the French Guiana riots when they happened.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:32 AM
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13: couple of things are complicatedly intertwined here. there is the mythic role of la france profonde, but also the post-wwii built environment reality that outside of paris and other wealthy urban areas france is poor and poorly served by infrastructure and services. saying 80% of france is urban ignores that much of that "urban" space is communities of 2,000+ people with a reasonably dense core - no matter how small, and it can be small small small. plus within what most people would recognize as "cities" there are also vast disparities of wealth and access to services, although transport access can be better.

interesting thoughts on the distribution of population and insurrection, today and historically: and

it is a bit unsettling to have my ridiculous familiarity with richard cobb's les armees revolutionnaires, terreur et subsistances, paris and its provinces, death in paris, etc., pay off in thinking about contemporary events ...

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:49 AM
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Yesterday, on the way to the post office I saw a youngish man with a yellow vest and a French flag. I guess I should have asked which diner he frequents.

Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:52 AM
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and manu's closing remarks about rural france being republican mean really that - devoted to the republic. remember that the revolution was a product of the striving climbers from the provinces, the sons of small town not-elites who managed to scrape enough together to educate *one* son, that son made off to paris to seek fortune, critical mass found each other, voila la revolution. to see that devotion to the republic breaking down is a thing.

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:54 AM
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Danton seemed cool. Most of the rest seemed like assholes.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 11:03 AM
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What it appears to me - not actually having much actual familiarity with the situation - is that Macron wanted to push through a fuel tax hike that was appropriate and warranted, because global warming and of course fossil fuels should be taxed more. However, he fucked up by doing this AFTER pushing through a massive tax cut for the 1%.

So, he burned all his political capital by doing something evil, such that there was nothing left in the tank when he needed it to do something good.

But also, Russian trolls, probably.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 11:09 AM
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With communism gone and the U.K. pulling back, the restoration of the Franco-Russia alliance seems reasonable.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:22 PM
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Posted by: Opinionated A.J.P Taylor | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:28 PM
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If you mean the U.K. has been more duped by Russian trolls, I think you may be right.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:32 PM
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Somewhere over the course of the day I read on Twitter multiple (or multiply re-tweeted?) claims that a smoking gun, in the form of some statement by some Russian connected somehow to the Kremlin, had been found that definitively implicated Russian shit-stirring behind the yellow vest movement.

So I think we can consider that an inarguable fact.

Posted by: Swope FM | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:35 PM
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If Russia's manipulating all of the Western Allies from behind the scenes, it's like getting the band back together. And with Russia and the PRC on reasonable terms, we've got the entire Security Council working together indirectly.

Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:38 PM
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Both links in 16 say that the rural vs metropolitan dichotomy doesn't really work: there are pockets of poverty and wealth everywhere. Also that yellow-jacket support doesn't correspond to FN support.

Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:40 PM
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So I think we can consider that an inarguable fact.

Especially since corroborated by peep on Unfogged (see above).

Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:40 PM
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Posted by: OPINIONATED LIBYA | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 12:41 PM
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dairy queen, thank you so much for those links! Um, do you have suggestions for other places one might read, to keep abreast of French politics? I mean, other than Le Monde?

Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 1:38 PM
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26: Yes, as i stated in my own comments - ? The fuel tax disproportionately burdens pop reliant on cars, ie those outside wealthy urban areas. Shitty schools and lack of access to other services burden both urban and rural poor. "France profonde" plays a weird role in fr politics. Devotion to the republic is/has been unevenly distributed across space & class, that seems to be shifting. Older white folks rioting in center Paris is something new, Edouard louis prob more interesting on this than most.

21: Fillon seemed to think so, but penelopegate derailed that.

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 1:43 PM
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With communism gone and the U.K. pulling back, the restoration of the Franco-Russia alliance seems reasonable.

Then obviously we need to restore the Austro-Hungarian Empire as a counterweight. Are there any eligible Habsburgs available?

Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 1:45 PM
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I think Karl von Habsburg is available. He has children, too, to preserve the dynasty.

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 1:52 PM
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Art Goldhammer (translator of Piketty) has three moderately interesting articles on his blog here that seem relevant. Notably, he doesn't seem to think that this is being orchestrated to any great extent by the FN, noting that La France Insoumise, a left wing coalition of sorts, is also trying to capitalise on the demos. No actual organiser(s) have yet been confidently identified.

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 2:34 PM
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My feed at the other place is full of people with some connection to France imprecating our fellow travelers to NOT rejoice at these particular eruptions de la fin, due to the nationalist influence. Which, obviously, will affect the situation in France not at all. It's spectacular!

Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 3:01 PM
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29: mediapart is great but they enforce their subscription wall pretty thoroughly. might as well check out libe if you are already reading le monde. adam schatz sometimes pops up in the lrb saying intelligent things. arun kapil's blog, although i very often disagree with him (and probably find his writing style as irritating as many of you find mine), can be a useful place to find a wide range of links in both english and french: his wife's family is from north africa and that often results in a wider perspective of voices being reflected in what he links to.

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 6:50 PM
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He doesn't really seem to know who is smashing shit either.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 7:02 PM
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I think this is pretty telling:

Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 8:35 PM
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37: Jesus, the internet has just utterly broken all of our brains.

Posted by: Scott | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:02 PM
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Whatever leaders emerge from this movement are going to be the worst sort of people.

Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:16 PM
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Preface: my opinion, and I could be wrong. Could be wrong.

dairy queen: I couldn't read the Nouvel Obs article (paywall). But read the others. And one overall thing stands out:

Macron, what a piece of shit. I mean, at this time of rising inequality and the wealth grabbing everything not nailed-down, and he (a) cuts their taxes, and (b) raises taxes on everybody else? Really? really? really?

And why? B/c he's the only alternative to fucking Le Pen? Agh. Agh. The stuff about the SNCF (french national railway) cutting little-used routes, while fucking Macron raises taxes on gas is just ... it takes the cake. From what I read, Macron's doing the same shit around closing hospitals, schools, etc, that the Brits are doing, too.

More than anything, I'm reminded of what the Germans insisted be done to (*to*, *TO*) Greece. It's like some caricature of what the Dems are supposed to be like: "socially liberal, economically conservative". I'm aware of the fact that rural poorer working-class folks in the US are almost-certainly worse-off than those in France, b/c of all the automatic stabilizers they enjoy. So really, I'm talking about the "direction" that politics is taking. It's disheartening that while in America we debate whether Nancy Pelosi ("when are you gonna offer your plan to fix Social Security?" "How about never? Is never good for you?") is [in]sufficiently leftist, while Macron, the alternative to Fucking Le Pen is busy cutting taxes on the wealthy and raising them on everybody else.

Re: carbon taxes, I -completely- understand that we need 'em. But they ought to be structured so that they're -incentives- to change behaviour. So where they're cutting into one mode of transport (IC cars) they ought to fund other modes of transport (trains, buses, electric cars), and in the same localities as those carbon taxes affect. I mean, this is -basic- economics. Heh, stands to reason: Macron's a fucking investment banker and "enarque". FFS, those guys are gonna kill France.

Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 12- 5-18 10:32 PM
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31-32: Gabriela vH is possibly more interesting. Former ambassador now, too, so she has actual experience representing a nation.

... Back when Otto vH was a member of the European Parliament, it seems that some of his staff were setting up TVs in the office to watch a qualifying match for the Euro tournament. Otto: Who's playing tonight? Staffer: It's Austria-Hungary. Otto: Yes, but against whom?

Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 12:06 AM
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40, in passing: "I'm reminded of what the Germans insisted be done to (*to*, *TO*) Greece."

So the ambassador from a Baltic country was talking the other night, and this subject came up in a roundabout way. "What happened was, when tax revenues dropped, is that we all did out part, and the higher up you were, the steeper your pay cut. The prime minister's was cut in half, the other ministers' by 40 percent, mine, at the time, was cut by 25 percent."

And a little bit later on, "We're a disciplined Northern country, we did what we had to do." The (non-Greek) Balkan diplomat who was also part of the discussion let that remark go by without contradiction.

The point is that a lot of new members did not have much patience for the Greek strategy of perpetual fudge.

Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 12:16 AM
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One of the links dq gave has a followup comment saying that the yellow-vest protest is specifically a response to diesel-fuel taxes, that there's already a carbon tax that isn't getting particular pushback. ??.

I am very fond of the per-capita-rebate carbon tax system because it hands people money, politically handy, and BC seems to have been doing well with it for a couple years.

"You can't take the sky from me! But you can rent a piece of my share, or vice versa."

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 1:15 AM
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There is surprisingly little sympathy for Greece in Europe. The stereotype is that they are all tax-evading welfare fraudsters. I don't know the accuracy of the stereotype, but I have had a rich Greek person boast to me about how they evade taxes, and a poor Greek person boast to me about how well they commit welfare fraud.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 1:17 AM
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Twitter thread recovery:
On the tax issue, there is an incredible chart here:
Here's some good frontline reporting from the riot:

Mediapart is good (I pay for it!) but their thirst for anything bad happening to Macron gets the better of them, also they've never seen a demo that they didn't think was the beginning of the revolution.

Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 5:47 AM
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Seconding the recommendation for John Lichfield's piece in the Local. He's a first class reporter who has lived in France for years, both in Paris and in Normandy.

Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 6:28 AM
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I still don't get it. Put-upon yokels certainly do horrible things here when they get angry, but they only start cars on fire because of football outcomes and I can't imagine them putting graffiti on a national monument.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 7:19 AM
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mobes you aren't going to get help with that by reading the news. i recommend sylvia townsend-warner's novel summer will show, l'ecucation sentimentale by one gustave flaubert, and richard cobb's the police and the people (also his paris and its provinces).

alex is right re mediapart and says very smart stuff on twitter too. macron is continuing on the creepy stendahlien trajectory i've always seen him on. not good to have a stendahl "hero" heading your nation's government, doesn't end well for anyone. and i don't think you can see macron's personal trajectory as even being particularly overdetermined for this historical moment, it would slot into any french period post-revolution. fils dore of a prosperous provincial family, the type the fr educational system is specifically designed to identify, pluck from provincial obscurity and then groom for running the nation, boring-meteor path briefly derailed by creepy mutual obsession relationship with his literature/drama teacher that serves in the end to establish exactly how unself reflective and monomaniacal is our emmanuel, mechanical grinding up the gears of the elite resumed almost without hiccup, the only oily deviation from the classic finishing school-grande ecole-running the government trajectory being a stop off chez an investment bank to amass fortune by dint of his talents at whispering sweet nothings into the ears of plutocrats. he ascends to become the republic's monarch by stabbing m. flamby in the back at the head of a "movement" made up of nothing more than crepe paper garlands and vacuous calls to national greatness incarnate in his own frankly meh incarnate form, promising vaguely everything to everyone but only the wealthy and their technically adept worker bees get specific, impassioned, detailed promises. surprise surprise his government pursues with relentless zeal tax relief for the wealthy and luring the city of london to decamp to la defense a cause de said tax relief and a massive provision of plush government services including extra luxe public education for the anglophone children of the financial elite (this seems to be working btw).

macron on the environment reflects the french on the environment - all fucked up. they are massively dependent on nuclear power and the state has long hidden and still aggressively hides the appalling contamination this has seeded across france in many locations. the agricultural sector - like that in the us - benefits from huge exemptions from environmental laws, rather than figuring out how to farm without imposing unacceptable damage on the environment and then on the consumer side deciding how to make decent food affordable. intensive agricultural practices have nearly eradicated wildlife in huge swathes of a rather large country, but the hunting lobby is still mega powerful. the one thing the french have going for them on the environment is that in the wealthy cities they already have enough transit infrastructure so that it is possible to penalize driving cars. so that's the policy lever someone like macron pulls while making outward facing pronouncements about france leading the world on combating climate change, without it occurring to him or apparently anyone working for him to pair it with anything to address the massive disinvestment in alternative transport options for everyone outside the wealthy cities. something like this was going to be the spark that set off rage, but i think the rage was always coming down the pike.

the horrifying aspect for all of us is that he's now promising there won't be *any* rise in fuel taxes, possibly ever, even if paired with other policies to address regressive or other nefarious effects, which screws us all, thanks manu.

i see the reporting about the ways facebook has inflamed and amplified the situation, and i'm not the best to judge this personally because i've never been on it. facebook and platforms like it absolutely need to be massively regulated or shut down. i still think masha gessen has a point tho - russian interference/facebook manipulation by algorithm only works if the societal cleavages are already there.

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 9:25 AM
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What France needs now is a strong man on horseback.

Posted by: Opinionated Boulanger | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 10:17 AM
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Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 10:37 AM
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I don't 48.last is true. I think Facebook/interference could rip Utopia apart.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 10:47 AM
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51 - you may well be right, but also it seems to me that a utopia would be the easiest community to rip asunder.

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 10:51 AM
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41. If Gabriela von Habsburg has leadership experience she is obviously disqualified.

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 11:54 AM
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53: Karl von Habsburg was a game show host. I believe Trump's election has now set the precedent that that's a legit qualification for leading a country.

Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 11:58 AM
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Walt Someguy@44: I suspect your characterization of Greece is correct. But that's not really my point. The right way for an insolvent country to restructure, is to devalue. In a currency union, Greece cannot devalue. The other solution is for every other country to -inflate-, where Greece keeps its prices constant. But what was done instead was to try to force Greece deflate, and this never works. Second point: sure, the Greeks (and esp. Greek elites) were cheats/grifters/fraudsters. This doesn't change that the banks that lent to them shouldn't have lent to them, and those banks took no haircuts. This never works out. And it really is Germany's fault, b/c they used the "bailout" to bail out their own banks.

I'm not saying that Greece should be held harmless for its debts. But rather, that (as with all bankruptcies) the debtor and creditor both take losses, and (as is typically the case with sovereign bankruptcies) the debtor country suffers devaluation.

None of this happened in the case of Greece, b/c it would have cost German banks a ton of money. And that couldn't be allowed.

Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 1:54 PM
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48 is very informative and helpful in understanding the situation.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 2:08 PM
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Greece's creditors took massive losses as part of the restructuring deal. How can you not know this?

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 2:13 PM
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The payments should have been more dependant on income. They didn't reset what was owed to a Grecian earn.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 2:44 PM
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They were compelled to wear a distinctive dress to which, in some places, was attached the foot of a goose or duck (whence they were sometimes called "Canards"). So pestilential was their touch considered that it was a crime for them to walk the common road barefooted or to drink from the same cup as non-Cagots. The Cagots were often restricted to the trades of carpenter, butcher, and rope-maker.[3][4]

The Cagots were not an ethnic group, nor a religious group. They spoke the same language as the people in an area and generally kept the same religion as well. Their only distinguishing feature was their descent from families identified as Cagots.

The French page goes into much, much more detail.

Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 3:28 PM
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56: thank you! reading it back i think it is kind of deranged and hard to follow, but pressures of work etc.

re: monetary union and the constraints it places on individual states i always find helen thompson enormously useful for understanding, if depressing. she posts links to her stuff on twitter: and she is the reason i usually listen to talking politics, despite finding it irritating in many respects. anyways, i thought thompson's piece on italy's current situation was extremely informative:

Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 6-18 3:39 PM
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Thanks for that link, DQ. It reinforces my sense that the Euro is absolutely not a German conspiracy against the South of Europe since it wasn't meant to include them at all. The Greeks cooked their books massively to get in. But if the Italians also were to be excluded the project makes a lot more sense.

My father was part of the original 70-72 negotiations which brought us into the Common Market, as then was. Though he left the foreign office after that, he maintained ever after that financial union without political union was a non-starter. This appears to have been borne out by events.

Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 12- 7-18 1:02 AM
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Krugman reported at the time of the euro negotiations that many of the terms of the euro were pushed by the Italians to put restrictions on future Italian governments. I don't know how close he was to the negotiations, though.

Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12- 7-18 2:04 AM
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54. "I'll take 'Receding Chins' for 400," Karl. (It is well known that if Alex Trebek had been born in the US he would be president.)

Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 7-18 5:59 AM
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Piketty tries to walk the walk.

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 9-18 11:51 AM
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