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While tax cuts for the rich are being maintained, or expanded, across the Western world, France’s Socialist President François Hollande is doing something unthinkable: reducing the deficit by taxing the rich. And the Anglo-American business press and the “1%” are terrified the idea will spread.
If you could only rely on The Economist’s covers and slogans to understand the world, you would be forgiven for thinking that France was some kind of sclerotic, impoverished, quasi-Soviet nation of losers, persisting in its misguided ways and refusing to heed Anglo-wisdom through Gallic delusion and sheer pigheadedness.
Indeed, every few months or so the venerable British magazine churns out a cover against France showing that the country is clueless, has been taken over by Muslims, must elect a Thatcher, must elect Sarko (who then proved awesome and non-existent), is flaccid, is in denial, and must not elect this dangerous man.
Of course, some of these are just playful attempts to boost airport kiosk sales (the Eiffel Tower is too iconic to not use), but most of them are exactly what they suggest: frontal attacks against the French economic and social model in particular, and the welfare state and government intervention in general.
The leading magazine of the global politico-economic elite - The Economist – has an article on the recent controversy over bankers’ pay warning of “The death of meritocracy”. I guess it’s noteworthy for this normally laissez-faire capitalist publication to recognize inequality of opportunity as a problem. Although, perhaps because of its free market ideology, it has a particularly strange way of discussing the issue:
[RBS Chief Stephen Hester stands for] the idea that the unusually talented may deserve extraordinary rewards. Yes, people are paid unequal amounts, but don’t forget how wealth is created and the successful motivated, he says. In essence, he is making the case for meritocracy.
Merit is a fine principle. But the most painful revelation of the debate on high pay may be this: many Britons are not convinced that they live in a functioning meritocracy.
Wait, what? The “most painful revelation” is not that famously class-based Britain isn’t meritocratic, but that people have stopped believing that it is? Right-O.