Woody Allen has been hired by the French government to encourage Americans not to boycott France when going on holiday. In a promotional video, he says:
I don’t want to have to refer to my French-fried potatoes as freedom fries and I don’t want to have to freedom-kiss my wife when what I really want to do is French-kiss her.
I am of the same opinion. Disagreeing with Jaques Chiraq’s opposition to the freeing of the Iraqi people isn’t the same as hating French people. In fact, I really quite like France. It may sound odd to some neo-cons, but France has many positive aspects to its culture.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the go-getting, entrepreneurial, play to win culture that America brings to the world. I like the ideas of Jefferson and other founding fathers. But it is a mistake to think that any culture cannot benefit from other ideas. For a start, the Paris approach to fashion and marketing is chic – often much hipper than America’s. Readers in Britain will most probably have seen the recent adverts by Orange, the French-owned mobile phone company. They have a boy, aged maybe twelve, dressed up in a suit advertising their products. But it’s not just any old suit. Oh no. It’s a suit that oozes of fashion. The shirt and tie combination are spectacular. It’s so, so French, and it’s very appealing advertising.
Yes, I’d like the French government to learn from America’s lower tax economy, but there’s French culture that’s valuable too. Oddly, French culture is actually less statist than American culture in some respects. There aren’t any speed cameras on the road. There aren’t proposals, as far as I can tell, for banning smoking in bars. Nor do they have America’s puritanical laws against drinking by under 21s. There is an element of social libertarianism that is really quite refreshing.