Monday, May 22, 2006

Regulating civilization (as if that will accomplish something)

The right to work features in the Opinion Journal, while the IHT covers the novelty of actually discussing the lobbying of the French legislature – government has finally met its’ match.


In France, it takes lots of work merely to be allowed to work. Just ask Louis Vuitton.

The iconic luxury goods maker recently hired 70-odd new employees so that starting last month it could keep its flagship store on Paris's Champs Elysées open on Sundays. You'd think a country with 10% unemployment, and more than double that in the immigrant projects that went up in flames last fall, would be thrilled to see a private company create new jobs. You'd be wrong.

The problem is that French labor laws put strict restrictions on Sunday operations. Though the churches are mostly empty and France is a "secular" republic, the Sabbath is sacred.

To survive in this market, one needs to be creative. Louis Vuitton found a loophole in the rules, or so it thought. The city of Paris makes exceptions to the no-work-on-Sunday rules for restaurants, tobacco shops, owner-operated stores and -- eureka! -- museums. So Louis Vuitton built a "cultural space"
The quickest way to sfuff anything, including ‘culture’, creativity, and invention is to put it under civic management. Like the advent of academic majors in things like jazz improvisation indicates little more than their mummification.

One silly aspect of having ministries for Culture, Sport, and other things government has no business being in is that it enshrines corporate access – as ‘national treasures’ and ‘champions’ FNAC, Vivendi, and Virgin get special access while lobbyists acting on behave of upstarts and public interest groups get to pound sand.

On the other end of the scale, Internet-savvy activists made their opinions known en masse by e-mail.

"Rarely in parliamentary life have those elected by the nation - deputies and senators - been subjected to so many letters, e-mails, menaces and pressures," Michel Charasse, a senator since 1981, said during the debate, to resounding applause from his colleagues. "I would ask the Senate staff to rigorously clean the corridors of the lobbyists from all sides who jump on us as soon as we leave the hall."

Some legislators criticized the presence of representatives from two music retailers, Fnac and Virgin, who entered the National Assembly during debate on a law that would affect them. The store representatives, who were admitted special entry wearing badges issued by the Ministry of Culture, had been brought in to an area normally off-limits to demonstrate legal downloading, culture officials later told the newspaper Libération.
The question I have, is how do you get to be a ‘cultural official’ and what actual role could they possibly have?

The fuse is lit!

No comments: