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Archive for January 20th, 2010

The French government is relentlessly awful in its support for tax harmonization, regulatory harmonization, and other policies to drag other nations into the cesspool of statism. But France’s desire for a one-size-fits-all approach miraculously vanishes when it comes to language. Even though English is now the world’s language, especially for commerce, the French are resorting to coercion and protectionism to protect against – gasp! – English words. I greatly enjoyed this WSJ column about France’s fight against modernity:

A French group entitled Avenir de la Langue Française (Future of the French Language) has claimed that the invasion of English words poses a greater “threat” to France’s national identity than the imposition of German under the Nazis. Writing recently in Le Monde and l’Humanite, the group, supported by eight other patriotic organizations, has called on the Sarkozy government to turn back the English flood. “There are more English words on the walls of Paris,” they state, “than German words under the Occupation.” …English has became the dominant language of the Internet, air traffic control, computers, international business and by 2030 more Chinese people will be able to speak it than there are Americans. Already by 2001, English was being spoken by more than one in three of the 350 million citizens of the European Union, whereas fewer than one in 10 spoke French outside France itself. Even in those areas where French influence has been strong —Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chad, and elsewhere—English has encroached very successfully. English is the official language used by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the only working language of the European Free Trade Association, the Baltic Marine Biologists Association, the Asian Amateur Athletics Association, the African Hockey Federation, while it is the second language of bodies as diverse as the Andean Commission of Jurists and the Arab Air Carriers Organization. …France’s traditional response to this linguistic “Anglobalization” has been to attempt a form of legal protectionism against the steamroller tongue of “les rosbifs” and “les Anglo-Saxons”. In 1994 the French Assemblée Nationale passed the Loi Toubon, which was signed into law by President François Mitterand. Named after Jacques Toubon, the culture minister, it stipulated that “French shall be the language of instruction, work, trade and exchanges and of the public services. “The use of French shall be mandatory for the designation, offer, presentation, instructions for use, and description of the scope and conditions of a warranty of goods, products and services as well as bills and receipts. The same provisions apply to any written, spoken, radio and television advertisement” and so on for another 21 highly prescriptive clauses. The law has been used against American and British companies, such as Disney and the Body Shop on the Champs Elysées that had labels in English. …In two centuries, French may have to be protected as a linguistic curio, like Britain does with Cornish or Manx. Until then, the French must learn to be bilingual, or risk being left behind in the global market-place, gasping outraged complaints in a tongue fewer and fewer people understand.

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All I can say is that I wish I had done this.

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While there is always a tendency in Washington to over-analyze the meaning of elections, I think that we can draw the following conclustions from Scott Brown’s victory:

1. Obamacare is an albatross for the Democrats. The White House wants to blame Coakley for being a bad candidate, but Massachusetts is a very left-wing state. Every single member of its congressional delegation is a Democrat. It went for Obama by 26 percentage points. It has sent reflexive statists like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to the Senate for decades. Yes, Scott Brown was a good candidate, but good GOP candidates normally lose 60-40 in the Bay State. It’s hard to draw any conclusion other than the fact that voters were registering disapproval with what is happening in Washington, and healthcare was at the top of their list.

2. Democrats should ram through government-run healthcare. I hope they don’t, of course, but smart Democrats understand that Obamacare is not (and never has been) about health care, but rather about creating more dependency on government. Yes, Democrats will lose more seats in November if they move forward, but they presumably will strengthen their long-term political status by making more people rely on politicians.

3. Obama is not a centrist. A few people were under the illusion that Barack Obama was something other than a doctrinaire statist. This always struck me as absurd, since a quick look at the NTU vote ratings reveals that he received an “F” every single year and generally was graded as being worse than even Ted Kennedy. I suppose the charitable interpretation of why people got snookered is that Obama’s rhetoric during the presidential election was very bland and he projects a thoughtful demeanor. But so what? Obama and his strategists knew the Republicans had spent their way into a ditch and that voters wanted a change. Obama simply had to appear semi-reasonable to win, and that’s exactly what he did. Ever since he took office, though, he has pushed to make government bigger and more oppressive. Voters don’t like that. They rejected Republicans for being for big government. Now they’re rejecting Democrats for the same reason.

4. The GOP succeeds when it presents a conservative alternative. Scott Brown is presumably not another Jim DeMint, but his campaign rhetoric was very conservative by Massachusetts standards: For lower taxes, against government-run healthcare, for less spending. That message has worked very well for the GOP when it is a national theme, as it was in 1980 and 1994. When Republicans try to be “compassionate” (with other people’s money, of course), by contrast, they get debacles like what happened in 1992, 2006 and 2008. This doesn’t mean Republicans will always win by being conservative and it doesn’t mean squishy Republicans never win, but it does mean that the GOP’s long-term success is tied to whether taxpayers perceive Republicans as protecting America from big government. I’m not sure the national GOP really understands this, but they’re at least pretending to be for small government again. That’s a start.

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I must confess that I didn’t think Scott Brown was going to win the election in Massachusetts, even though I predicted a 50-48 GOP victory. This is a monumental development. It doesn’t necessarily mean Obamacare can be stopped. And it may be that Brown turns out to be a big government squish, like Snowe in Maine. But his election does show that the American people do not want Obama’s statist agenda. The interesting thing to watch now is whether Democrats flee Obama’s sinking ship and scuttle the statist healthcare scheme. Here’s an AP report on Brown’s upset:

In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in a U.S. Senate election Tuesday that left President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt and marred the end of his first year in office. The loss by the once-favored Coakley for the seat that the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy held for nearly half a century signaled big political problems for the president’s party this fall when House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates are on the ballot nationwide. More immediately, Brown will become the 41st Republican in the 100-member Senate, which could allow the GOP to block the president’s health care legislation and the rest of Obama’s agenda. Democrats needed Coakley to win for a 60th vote to thwart Republican filibusters.

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