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Why boycotting France is counterproductive

The key reason why I oppose boycotting French businesses is because it is counterproductive. Some of the boycotters just avoid French goods to make themselves feel better. But many boycott with the idea that somehow this will get the French to be more supportive of America in future. They are mistaken.

The effect of fewer American tourists on the streets of Paris is to cut the interaction between ordinary French people and ordinary Americans. It eliminates those conversations in which the American tourists say, “Well, I can understand why you opposed the war, but I’m very pleased that Saddam can’t kill any more people.” It reduces understanding between the two peoples. It makes the French less reliant on trade with America, helping to make America more distant and easier to demonise. It encourages anti-Americanism.

In short, boycotting the French is a mistake.

85 comments to Why boycotting France is counterproductive

  • Arjuna

    A bit late, I found that I like Aussie wines, and I needed to cut down on the cheese intake anyway.

  • Toni

    That’s because you think of France as the sum of French people and not as the sum of actions by the French government.

    In other words, I fully agree.

  • George Peery

    To an earlier post on this topic, I suggested that boycotting the French wasn’t worth the trouble. I said I didn’t want to give France the opportunity to play the victim.

    Here, Alex reduces the question to a matter of dollars-and-cents: simple economics. I’m not buying that at all. There comes a point where an emotional, visceral factor comes into play.

    It’s not a matter of France being opposed to this or that American policy or interest. No, it’s gone beyond that (I believe it went beyond that a number of years ago). What has happened is that France has become an active opponent of the US for reasons of her own national interest, as she perceives them. Her leaders have said as much in public. France is now an adversary of America, in much the same sense that China is an adversary of America.

    As for a boycott, I’m unaware of any organized effort in the US to boycott France. It’s more a matter of individual Americans “voting with their feet,” as it were. If France is feeling the pinch, too bad.

  • Will

    Nonsense! Boycott France and allow those Frenchmen who understand why their country is being shunned to expain to ther compatriots why they were wrong to oppose the coalition. The French will listen to the opinions of a fellow Frenchman far more readily than to an American tourist, IMHO.

    Actions have consequences. Collective bad behaviour warrants collective punishment.

  • Michael

    I am not under any illusion that my boycotting French products or tourism will somehow make them more supportive or understanding. I, for one, do NOT seek reapproachment with France. What I would like is for France to understand that their actions can and do have consequences.

  • rc

    I agree with Michael above. I don’t view my avoidance of french products as a coercive action to force them to like us. I simply want to avoid economically supporting a society that more and more despises us and consistently works against our interests.

  • George Peery

    France, as everyone knows, is presently going through serious domestic difficulties. This brought to mind another thought, something I read recently (but in a different context): Never interrupt your enemy when he is in the process of self-destruction.

  • Junior

    It is no coincidence that the French dislike of other countries seems to be based on language, English being the most hateful.

    Years ago, when De Gaulle was still around some Academy or other, decreed that French was to be the International language for both trade and culture. This annoucement, made in much the same manner as the recent Belgian announcement re the International Court of Justice, was met with much laughter on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The French promptly threw a tantrum, which has now become so inbred in their psyche that it is now second nature, and has developed into a hatred of all things Anglo. All because no-one would take them seriously.

    Somehow, somewhere they have got the idea that they are so much different – and better than the rest of us. The ultimate delusion!.

    I don’t mind them being different, but better, – no way.

    Such a shame that their contribution to the World over the past one hundred or so years, in any sphere that you care to name, has been zero. It appears that their main role is now that of spoiler.

    France – great country, shame about the people..

  • Ian Innes

    Boycotts generally don’t work; if you want to change an opinion, interraction is the best way. However in the French case, i say make them suffer because as an nation or a political entity they have systematically avoided responsibility, grasped what they can and ignored all conventions either by law, under the EU or by decent commmon decency.

    My father, who flew in the battle of britain, once told me years ago that France was a pain in the **** in time of peace and a liability in time of war. 30 years later i must admit he was right.

  • Tallan

    The French Leadership really believed that there would be little downside to their tactics to oppose the US, but with a hugh upside.

    They, and others, need to understand there can be considerable downside to such tactics. Otherwise, they and others will continue to play heads I win, tails I don’t lose.

  • Junior

    Ian, couldn’t agree more.

    Why should we have to have anything to do with such a corrupt and unethical bunch, going halfway is not good enough for them, they want every consession, and then expect our gratitude.

    If you play around a sewer such as that called French politics, you are bound to end up smelling like s***.

    They contribute nothing and expect everything. A trite description of them could be European Arabs.

  • Lilly

    The French can pretty much blow me. They won’t get a penny from this household ever again. I found them tiresome in the 11 years I spent in Europe, I find the loathsome now. Buying UK, Spanish, and Italian goods and supporting our friends and allies makes me feel good. The power of the consumer.

  • Mark

    Well, I haven’t seen these are arguments before.

    The first seems to be: 1) Tourism promotes dialogue, and 2) dialogue leads to mutual understanding and thus 3) the French thereby will be persuaded not to act unethically and poorly.

    Even if we concede that tourism leads to the kind of interaction that promotes political discussion (which is unproven, and probably dubious), it is not at all clear that French anti-Americanism can thus be eradicated. US tourists have been going to France for decades, and this has arguably led to a rise in anti-Americanism, rather than a decrease.

    Moreover, the fact that the US rescued France from the grips of tyranny and yet is still reviled by it (and possibly because of this rescue) leads to the conclusion that French anti-Americanism is pathological. No amount of tourist chit-chat will cure France of this affliction.

    The second argument goes as follows: 1) a rejection of French goods will lead to lower trade between the two nations 2) lower trade will lead to less French economic reliance on the US which 3) will create a gulf between France and the US, allowing for further conflict.

    I think this is a misreading of human behaviour. If your French business is losing US customers, you are less likely to favour anti-US political and economic positions. Faced with a US boycott of goods, I would think French business owners would pressure their government to change course. If the reports are to be believed, this is precisely what is happening in France.

    Indeed, the pro-boycott camp presumes that economic pressure can lead to political influence. As George Peery notes, economic pressure can have a psychological dimension, which must be addressed by the anti-boycott camp.

    Again, let’s recap what France did: it knowingly condemned Iraqis to torture, rape and death in exchange for a shot at French glory.

    I fail to see the difficulty in punishing France for behaviour that is this abhorent.

  • rc

    Wow. Extremely well stated, Mark. Me Too 8^)

  • Mark L

    If a restaurant gives bad service, bad food, or is just plain rude, I don’t go back there. If a business sells shoddy products, gives poor customer support, or double-bills me for goods or services, I do not buy from them again. If a nation acts against my interests, actively undercutting efforts to resolve an issue peacefully, and putting American troops in harm’s way, I don’t buy products from that nation.

    In all three cases people that should not get hurt, do get hurt. Employees of the restaurant who were not rude to me lose their jobs when the restaurant closes. Assembly workers or clerical staff from the business with shoddy service and products get laid off — even though they did their best. And, yeah. some French citizens fail to benefit from my presence in their country.

    Too bad.

    I’d rather take my vacation elsewhere. It is *my* vacation and I plan to enjoy it, not use it as an international understanding effort.

  • George Peery

    After reading the interesting comments on this post, it seems a distinction is still needed here.

    If I still drank French wine (which I don’t), I’d probably stop buying it. If I were planning a vacation in Europe (which I’m not), I wouldn’t visit France. But I wouldn’t be doing these things because of France’s conduct during l’affaire Iraq. I’d do them because of France’s well-deserved reputation of treating “Anglos” — and especially Americans — with haughty condescension and contempt.

    And yet, individual decisions of the kind I’ve mentioned are one thing. A formal, organized boycott of France and things French is, it seems to me, quite a different thing. The latter is precisely the tactic you might expect of France and the French. We in the Anglosphere shouldn’t stoop to that level. Let’s leave the pettiness and contemptuousness to the French — they being every so much better at this sort of thing than we are.

  • Samkit

    you would not punish a child for doing something so stupid, george? sorry, but i see this as the only way of teaching france to stop coddling dictators. plus i don’t much care for the area anyway. italy is much more beautiful, and the people are actually friendly.

  • It’s only a mistake if you view this as being exclusively about Franco-American relations.

    It is not a mistake because it’s important to establish a precedent, a deterrent. The next country which decides that there’s profit to be made (diplomatically or economically, internal or external) by denouncing the US needs to know that there’s a price to be paid for doing so that may be greater than the apparent gain.

    It doesn’t matter to me whether a boycott of France causes French reform or intensified French antagonism. What’s important to me is that other countries see France suffer because of what they did to us, so that those other countries don’t do the same.

    It’s an imperfect solution. There are bad aspects to a boycott. But the consequences of ignoring what France did, and not having France pay any price at all for it, is even worse.

  • The only good reason I can think of to go to France, is to remind yourself why you should never go there again. There might be some that want to actively boycott France solely for its attempt to keep Saddam in power… but just as there were many good reasons to invade Iraq, there are also many good reasons to boycott France. And I think those that boycott aren’t necessarily doing so in order to rehabilitate France… it’s more about giving them the punishment they so rightfully deserve. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

  • rc

    I certainly catch your drift, and I don’t think the balance (perhaps all) of the commenters on this post disagree with your general point. This issue has been brewing, honestly, for at least 38 or so years (when de Gaulle pulled out of NATO) and I think the “l’affaire Iraq” has really only served to bring matters to a head.

    As your earlier post correctly pointed out, this ‘boycott’ is not an official Government action in any sense. To the extent that any in France are surprised by this ‘boycott’, it really highlights their complete inability to understand that individual Americans have a very populist national identity that is completely seperate from (although, often complimentary to) the actions of the Federal Government. Thus, to these French, the act of many individuals becomes indistinguishable from a nationally mandated boycott. In many ways, this is a far more serious rebuke of French attitudes (and thus, policies) than anything the Federal Government could possibly do.

    As I stated earlier, I don’t expect, or even wish the French to change their positions as a result of a populist boycott. Who would want an Ally who supports you because you have a gun to their head. But I do, at least, want the French (or more specifically, the French political elite class) to understand that America is not a one-dimensional international-political entity, like most of the dictatorships they seem to prefer to do business with. It is important for these people to understand that when they are dealing with the United States of America, they are also dealing with the People of the United States of America. This, admittedly, complicates matters, but it is a fact of life which must be considered when dealing with us. I get the impression that they’ve never quite caught on to this.

  • George Peery

    Steven, countries (at least some of them, and France is one) do not necessarily act based on a careful calculation of gain and loss. Sure, such a calculation may be considered when the country decides what it will do (or refrain from doing). But there are nationalistic, even atavistic, considerations which a nation or its people may give greater weight to than ill-defined, short-termed “consequences.”

    If we’ve learn nothing in the past ten or twelve years (even if we have’t read Samuel Huntington), we surely have learned that certain states, perhaps many states, sometimes act for reasons that fly in the face of consequences that can, or should, by rationally anticipated.

  • its jake

    Den Beste hit it right on the money.

    BTW – these boycotts are not organized. What you have are a few webpages that list french companies and claim to be boycotting france. On top of that, people are making money selling boycott paraphernalia.

    The boycott is disorganized, herd behavior – a stampede of the embittered masses against french business.

    I’m so proud of my herd.

  • George Peery

    rc, your comment is a very thoughtful one. I’d only suggest that what you write be qualified in the way I’ve tried to do in my response, above, to Steven Den Beste.

    As a young American Army officer, I was assigned to HQ, US European Command in 1968. That headquarters was then attempting to find a home in Stuttgart, having been peremptorily evicted from its previous “home” near Paris (Camp de Lougue sp?) by our “ally” Charles de Gaulle.

    My point in my previous comment was that we, America, should retain the moral high ground in such disputations. We have more to gain by doing the right thing, rather than by some ill-conceived attempt at settling scores.

  • Mark L


    What you do not realize — or are not acknowledging — is the the French boycott is the result of the individual decisions of millions of Americans. You are seeing the unorganized militia of the United States in action. Yes, it is visceral, but no more visceral than the actions of the Minutemen at Concord Green and Lexington, or the thousands that on Dec. 7 1941 swore that “we’d stamp the Japs buck teeth in.” (and that was the feeling as politically incorrect as it may seem today).

    France has mobilized Jacksonian America against it, and trying to calmly and rationally reason with Jacksonian America is like trying calmly and rationally reason with a runaway buzz saw. The French have been sowing the wind with anti-American behavior since the 1950s. Now they are reaping the whirlwind.

    Like the last bit of moisture in a supersaturated atmosphere causes a thunderstorm to break French conduct during the Iraq war may have precipitated the reaction, but was far from the only reason for this reaction.

  • MB

    Mark L touches on a very relevant point in that the behavior of the Chirac government during the Iraq affair was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. I believe (and perhaps I’m just being pretentious) that since the end of WWII, or really more precisely beginning when DeGaulle withdrew France from NATO, the US and the rest of the Western alliance, tolerated French actions which were contradictory to the overall interests of the West, simply because of the greater threat of the Soviets. In other words it was more important to maintain the facade of united front to counter the Soviets than it was to respond each and every act of France’s Gaullist tendencies. They could thumb their nose at us and everyone else and get away with it. France either conciously, or more likely unconciously, came to accept that they could behave any way they were inclined to without penalty.

    With the end of the Cold War came a new reality that France is not prepared for and doesn’t quite comprehend. That reality is that relations between allies are consensual, and if betrayed by one party or the other, there can be severe damage inflicted.

    I’ve heard comparisons many times over the last few months of relations between France and the US as a rocky marriage. Perhaps the time has come to divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Maybe we can still remain friends on a certain level, but I don’t believe there will be the level of trust there may have been, or at least that we pretended there was, at one time.

  • rc

    Well, I read your response to SdB and I don’t consider the French Iraq policy a ‘one-off’ mistake or miscalculation. I consider this to be the culmination of a long series of deliberate policies that are rooted in a deep desire to challenge US national interests in a very direct way. In the previous 4 decades or so, I would call the French policy pattern, for lack of a better term, extremely passive-agressive. With their position on Iraq, and their dominance of the formation of the next stage of the EU, they are clearly trying to take this opposition to a new level. I now have no doubt whatever, that they are positioning themselves to directly challenge the US at every possible opportunity on the world stage at this point. Why? Because I believe they think that they can only re-gain all of their past glory by taking the US down (or helping in any way they can). I now believe that they think the world is a bi-polar zero-sum game…If the US is up, they are down, and vice-versa. It’s idiotic and it’s just not going to work, but I think that’s what they believe.

  • Boycotts (in the unlikely event that they do work) don’t just hurt the boycottee, but also the boycotter. The benefits of trade are mutual. And saying it “hurts them more than it hurts us” is a bit short-sighted. What goes around comes around, eventually.

    Thomas Paine put the effects of war (and by extension trade war) very well:

    There can be no such thing as a nation flourishing alone in commerce: she can only participate; and the destruction of it in any part must necessarily affect all. When, therefore, governments are at war, the attack is made upon a common stock of commerce, and the consequence is the same as if each had attacked his own.

    Thomas Paine on Commerce

    If you hurt France, you diminish the common (global) stock of commerce indeed, hurting your own economic prospects and economy. No offense, but if you claim otherwise you are taking the advantages and benefits of global economic integration for granted without knowing where they are coming from (and you won’t even know why you are scewed, should said integration become undone).

    Marginal calculations also shouldn’t be forgotten:
    At any given time millions of people are just keeping about the poverty-line and/or holding on to their jobs, uncounted businesses are just barely avoiding bankruptcy etc. A serious trade-war would push many of them over the brink, and being a citizen of the nation with the largest economy in the world won’t help you there at all.

    Many people misunderstand the benefits of trade anyway; it’s not the ability to export (although that is nice), it’s the ability to concentrate on making what you do best, buying everything else from others who in their turn make what they do best.

    And of course the volume of international cross-investments dwarfs that of international trade.
    A lot of American jobs were created by French investments in America.

    Last but not least, if your economic decisions are motivated politically, you can’t realistically expect them to lead to the optimal economic results.

  • Some of the boycotters just avoid French goods to make themselves feel better.

    In my opinion a consumer choice that makes the consumer feel better is usually a good one. It is the mark of a successful consumer.

  • RDB

    Can any one enumerate three items (of any sort) that France has that anyone in the UK or US needs? Not wants – but needs. I’ll settle for one.

    France produces nothing that I would miss were it not to exist. I have found much better wine and cooking in Italy, better cars in Japan, better political philosophy in the UK (not as currently ensconced, perhaps). There is better scenery all over North America. better weather in two thirds of the world, kinder and more caring people in Costa Rica (and Australia and Italy and Spain), more efficient businesses in Hong Kong, the US and the UK. If France were to submerge what would the world miss?

    Better to face the entire French Army with one light US (or UK) Division than to have one French infantry company in reserve to your rear. It is not just the French government that is perfidious and it makes no difference which party controls that government.

    I agree that an organized boycott is a waste but I will never knowingly purchase a French product or set foot in France or any of its possessions or client states. (Unless, of course, I were to be visiting occupying troops.)

  • RDB,

    with a lot of French products you won’t even know that they are French, either because of labelling or because they have been made by one of their foreign subsidiaries. Most French imports to America are industrial products like chemicals, machine-tools etc, and those won’t be boycotted. Firms have a responsibility towards their shareholders to take the best deal, regardless from whom they are buying. If they don’t they become vulnerable to lawsuits.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I suspect a lot of folk who are no longer buying French products are just protectionists in drag.

    The attitude seems to be that because France is a democracy, it is okay to “punish” the citizenry there for electing such asses like Chirac, etc. This ignores the millions who did not vote for either him or that thug, le Pen, and is also reflective of a kind of collectivist mindset, which seems kind of odd coming from the mostly individualist souls who read this blog.

    Like I have said before, if we really want to hit the French government and maintain some fidelity to libertarian principle, the best thing would be to give the top French entrepreneurs, scientists and professionals a Green Card.


  • D2D

    Saw a commercial on network television here in the States: Dannon yogurt is running an ad that says if you don’t like the Dannon yogurt you buy you can get your money back. I’d say the boycott has had a affect on Dannon. That’s desperation, folks.

  • D2D,

    that yogurt is made with American milk, by American workers.

  • D2D


    I don’t believe Dannon is doing this for the benefit of its American employees or America’s dairy farmers. No, the reason is the bottom line back in Paris. Not to worry, though, those dollars are still being spent in the world economy, just not the French part of the world.

    Ralf a great deal of liberals, Europeans, and Francophiles still don’t get it. We’re pissed. We’re still pissed over 9-11 and we’re not going to get over it just because Europe and the French think we should. We still have enemies in the world who want us dead, and we intend to stomp a mudhole in their collective ass. And average Americans no longer view France as an ally. Why should we further enrich a country that aids those who would do us harm. That’s nuts. I sorry for those Americans and other Europeans who get injured by this boycott, but in every struggle some sacrifices have to be made. And if the French truly believe their position regarding America and Americans to be the right one, then they should be able to withstand the ire of the American people. After all they are on the side of the angels. They’re just sacrificing dollars for their position, that’s all.

    Like I said we’re pissed and now I think the French understand that we’re pissed. Too bad they’re so friggin’ thick, none of this had to happen.

  • Jacob

    When some people feel like not buying French wine that is not a boycott. That is a personal preference, perfectly natural, justified, and within the right of the people. They also have the right to write about it and agitate for it.
    Boycott is when Governments interfere in people’s preferences and _order_ them not to buy or sell.
    Example: the British Gov. (HMG) – ordered British companies not to sell military spare parts to Israel. Another example: Chirac ordered the Airbus company not to award a commercial contract for plane engines to Pratt&Witney.

    So let’s be clear and exact in our terms: there is no boycott of France.

    What Alex Singleton said in the main entry:
    “In short, boycotting the French is a mistake.”
    This statement is a mistake. The US or UK governments aren’t boycotting France, and shouldn’t.
    Private persons and companies should do as they deem in their best interests.

    I for one am not going to visit France any time soon. And, Ralf, I know what the consequences of this decision will be for -me-. You need not worry about it.

  • D2D,

    I know that you are angry, and I understand why, but a boycott is the wrong way to go about it. Targeting Chirac and the French government (and for that matter Schroeder) by exposing them on the shady deals they have made is better.


    I’m not telling anyone how to spend his money; but there are people who honestly don’t know what a boycott does to the boycotter.

  • Liberty Belle

    In 36 posts, no one has yet told us why passing up the opportunity to buy French products is the wrong way to express disapproval for France’s intransigence and duplicity.

    Ralf Goergens – I am one of the “people who honestly don’t know what a boycott does to the boycotter”. Care to share? Ralf also says that “targetting Chirac and the French government … by exposing them on shady deals they have made is better.” Most Americans are not investigative reporters with links to the Quai d’Orsay, with the language capability and extensive shady contacts high up in Middle Eastern and African governments. How do you suggest the average person is going to burrow into Chirac’s louche dealings? Surely French bureau chiefs of large anglo newspapers who have the language capability and have spent years nurturing contacts are somewhat better placed to unravel these threads than a tourist from Witchita Falls with a notebook?

  • Mark L

    “In 36 posts, no one has yet told us why passing up the opportunity to buy French products is the wrong way to express disapproval for France’s intransigence and duplicity.”

    Yup, Liberty Belle, you hit the nail on the head. All of the arguments about boycotting hurting the boycotter are fatuous, too. This is not a traditional boycott where you forgo an item (not buying any tea from England, for example). This is, rather, a case where people are finding substitutes — often substitutes better than those products they were getting from France — and purchasing those instead.

    I fail to see how purchasing Spanish cheese and Italian wine (as substitutes for French geeze and whine) in any way qualifies the United States as “a nation flourishing alone in commerce. . .” It does not make my life any worse, nor does it reduce aggregate world trade. It may hurt France, but why should I suffer to keep France happy?

  • Liberty Belle,

    it depends what kind of boycott we are talking about here.

    If it remains a largely symbolic one like now, it won’t hurt either the boycotter nor the boycottee.
    Should it become such widespread phenomenon that it hurts the French (very unlikely, industrial products will remain untouched anyway) you have to consider that a lot of French produts aren’t made in France at all, so that workers of other countries suffer along with the French. Youplait yogurt is made by General Mills in the USA, on licence. Also, a lot of Southern states there are depending on jobs and investment from France. That’s why would backfire.

    In any case it’s a mistake to politicize trade and economic activvity in general.

    And with expoasing Chirac I meant something the administration should do.

  • Mark

    I’m not sure it is clear that substituting equivalent products is inimical to the US economy.

    1) I suspect a good portion of the French products bought by Americans are bought not because they are the cheapest/most efficient purchase, but becuase of their “snob” value – the non-economic consideration about brand name. Often they are bought because they are the most expensive product (French perfume, cosmetics, etc). I’m not sure buying an equivalent non-French product distorts the market by creating an inefficiency.

    Even if individuals choose to substitute a more expensive/less effective non-French product, it is not clear that the sum of such conduct will have a crushing blow-back effect on the US economy. We’re not talking about substituting shoddy German steel or coal in place of French coal and steel, we’re talking about wine, cheese, vacations, yogurt and hair products.

    2) Corporations often legitimately make economic decisions in view of similar non-economic factors, including environmental effect of supplier industry, use of child labour, ethical nature of a regime, etc. As far as I know, there is no general law against such environmental or ethical advocacy. By “ethically investing”, directors manifest the will of the (owner) shareholders in this respect and are wise to do so.

    3) The boycott arguably has, and is having, a desired psychological effect on France.

    In sum, I’ve yet to see a solid economic or pragmatic argument against the boycott.

  • Some reasons for boycotting France :

    The taxes that companies will pay here will be handed out in unemployment benefit to the Islamofascists in the banlieues, paying for Imams that preach terrorism.

    The companies that are unable to sell their products will, due to the unions, be unable to lay off employees. Catastrophe beckons.

    This is not a ‘Chirac’ thing. Every political party in France was supporting Iraq. Lessons need to be learned from this.

    The country is an economic flea ridden mongrel. The faster it realises that socialism, EUism and anti-Americanism doesn’t work, the faster we can turn the place into a British holiday resort – no Germans allowed. Boycotting them may help push it over the edge.

    For the pure amusement. Knowing that it would take a disaster like a small nuclear device going off for me to loose my job, I really want to be able to stick it to my colleagues each and every day when the news just gets worse and worse.

  • Liberty Belle

    Ralf, forgive me, but you didn’t address my question. You said in an earlier post that there were still people who didn’t understand what a boycott does to the boycotter. As one of those people, I asked you to enlighten me. In your answer above, you changed your tune to, “Well, as long as it remains mainly symbolic…”

    I would still like to read your explaination of what a boycott does to a boycotter.

    To my response to your statement that people would be better off exposing the wrongdoings of Chirac et Cie, you said you meant not the public but the administration. That is exactly the point. The administration is doing its job, but the average person also wants to feel he is doing something himself. That is why people are boycotting French goods. To have their say. To make a difference. To, in the trite phrase, “send a message” to the French that they have put themselves beyond the pale.

  • Kelli

    This thread is on fire.

    Here are a few more twigs for the blaze.

    Re. the mini-debate about whether this punishment deters other would-be America-bashers, let me raise the example of Germany. I have read numerous articles (before, during and after the war) referring to the pervasive nervousness of German businessment over Schroeder’s position. To this I can add the experience of a family member who works for a small German shoe company which could ill-afford the bad press Germany got this spring. This might lend credence to Ralf’s argument about unintended consequences of boycotts (I’m sure no one wants my sister to lose her job) were Germany subject to a France-style boycott. But it is not, arguably because Germany did less overt damage than France, and also because voices within Germany demanded a softening of Schroeder’s position. See how sophisticated are we boycotters? We note these nuances and judge accordingly.

    Secondly, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that French industry will emerge from this firestorm unscathed. The MBAs making decisions on investment and purchasing are human, they tend to be fiercely patriotic, and they were already looking actively for alternatives to their pain in the derriere French partners. Et voila, France’s problems begin to look much more serious.

  • A_t

    half of you are contemptible xenophobes… i’m sorry, i can find no other term to express my disgust.

    as for ” intransigence and duplicity.”, well, those two words describe very well the actions of the US & UK governments leading up to this gulf war. There was no sign that anything *but* war with iraq would be an acceptable option right from the start, & the goalposts got moved about 10 times… For all your canting about “liberated iraqis”, this was NOT the reason initially stated, and which the French rejected.

  • S. Weasel

    Aiiiiieee! A_t used the ‘x’ word! Run!!! No, don’t wait for him to substantiate it or flesh out the thought or anything, just…run!

  • Mike

    As if france matters.

  • Mark L

    “half of you are contemptible xenophobes”

    Translation: You disagree with my obviously morally superior point of view you hopeless mongrel American canaille.

    Yeah, but at least our peacekeepers don’t stand by and watch cannibals go to it on their opponents like some “obviously morally superior” nations that are currently in Africa.

  • A_t

    “Yeah, but at least our peacekeepers don’t stand by and watch cannibals go to it on their opponents like some “obviously morally superior” nations that are currently in Africa.”

    hmm… last time US peacekeepers were famously in Africa, as far as i recall they used human shields & shot many civilians whilst defending themselves… but hey! at least they weren’t cowards eh? And hey, that got nicely rewritten in the Hollywood version anyway, so it’s all ok now.

    & nowhere have i said i’m some kind of morally superior being…. but if making sweeping generalisations about a country’s people & wishing ill upon them isn’t xenophobia, then pray tell me what is?

    If you want to continue your playground name-calling then go right ahead, i clearly can’t stop you, & many of you belong to (as you’re so keen on pointing out) the most powerful nation on earth, so guess what? none of us can make you do a thing. It’s utterly up to you whether you behave as decent human beings or not.

  • A_t

    plus, get this in perspective, you idiots. You want a nation to boycott, try Saudi arabia, try China, try loads of other seriously fucking dodgy places, which genuinely might jump at the chance to unseat the US.

    France doesn’t want the downfall of the US so much as more power for itself. The French are proud, & would like their nation to be prominent in the world. Is this an evil aspiration? To my mind, this puts it in *competition* with the US, not opposition. Surely you’re not scared of a little competition? Of course, being competitive will lead to opposition on some issues, but to suddenly divide the world into 2 sides, & claim that France are on the enemy team is stupid.

  • S. Weasel

    Good heavens! For somebody with a self-professed contempt for “playground name-calling”, you sure am uncivil.

  • A_t

    🙂 true, but at least you’re here to answer back.

  • A_t

    [washes mouth out with soap]

  • Big Lou from Brooklyn

    >Yeah, but at least our peacekeepers don’t stand by and watch cannibals go to it on their opponents like some “obviously morally superior” nations that are currently in Africa.

    Mark, the French peacekeepers are very helpful in Africa. Besides bringing a lasting peace and stability to the region, they also help open up new markets for French goods to compensate for the loss of American business at home. So the peacekeepers brought with them all the stuff that France is known for. You know; a fine selection of red wines, pastries, and some wonderful steak sauce. I hear commercials for French goods will be aired soon on the local TV station in Bunia.

    ==== xxxx ====

    “Oh Potumbo, not Pygmy again. It always tastes the same.”

    “I hear you Mogumbe. But look what the French peacekeepers gave me. Its this wonderful steak sauce called Grenouille Flamboyante.

    “Mmmm. It really brings out the flavor!”

    “Did you catch the subtle hint of currants?”

    “Mmmm. Yes, and the hint of lemon. Much better than A-1. C’est magnifique.”

    “I agree. Care for some more Merlot?”

    “I’d love some.”

  • Russ Goble

    I’m probably way late to the party here. Alex, I appreciate that you actually like France and there’s nothing wrong with that, but your arguments on why a boycott is counterproductive is one I don’t really buy.

    First you say that by trading with each other we increase our “understanding” of each other. Come on, surely you don’t believe that. We have been close trade partners with France for a several decades, yet France certainly understands the U.S. LESS. THe French really believe that McDonald’s, Starbucks and Arnold Schwartzinager (sp?) are simply an arm of the U.S. State Department or the Pentagon. They view McDonalds’s as part of American cultural imperialism, instead of a private business opening a joint based on perceived demand.

    All the arguments about the U.S. put forth in the French media from “it’s all about oil”, to American imperialism, to the squelching of free speech is based on complete and utter ignorance of what makes American really tick. This during a time where the access to information is wider than at any point in history. Sorry, trade hasn’t increased understanding. I do not believe it’s the fault of trade with France and I agree that a boycott is unlikely to change this, but to say that a boycott will decrease “understanding” is just loony, given the present state of affairs.

    Furthermore, the boycott is a completely grass roots effort. It is perceived not to hurt an individual’s life and they’d like to send a message, so they do it when they can. Now, they don’t do this for China, but honestly, it’s a lot harder to avoid Chinese products than French.

    Whether or not this grass roots boycott has a goal is probably open to interpretation. I doubt they really care what France does in the future, or more likely, they expect France to be a shit on the international stage but let’s not encourage them.

    Seriously, I really don’t know why you feel so strongly about this. There was a big boycott of South Africa in the 80s. Whether or not that brought about the changet that we saw is anyone’s guess. But, the boycott back then was organized by some big players and it’s goal was certainly to change behavior.

    I honestly don’t know what to think of the boycott. I haven’t done anything in particular to support it. I really just prefer to make fun of the French in the moment than to actually spend time thinking about what to buy. But, really, France has had this coming for a while. And, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the majority of the population are anti-American. If the boycott hurts some of them, so be it. But seriously, trade between the U.S. and France is substantial but not so substantial that a boycott will send their already sorry economy further into the toilet.

    Tell you what, here’s some simple advice for the French. If you are worried about your economy, elect officials who want to mimic America rather than beat it up. Heck, they can even say they are going to do it BETTER than America if that makes them feel better. But, a freer, lower taxed, deregulated, and capitalistic economy will do far more for the French population than the liftiing of any boycott.

    Lastly, you say France will simply trade with others and say to hell with America. Fair enough. But, it appears the official policy of France is to kiss the ass of every 3rd world dictator around. Maybe it’s all a grand scheme of opening up new (albeit poor) markets to French companies. Maybe they are already looking for alternative trade partners. Who knows.

  • David Mercer

    I’ve worked as a consultant for a couple of French owned firms before, so please spare me the ‘let’s not politicize trade’ rhetoric: I’ve never seen such politically charged corporations as those owned by the French. They are worse than normal multinationals as far as internal politics goes, and often seeped in external political concerns over and above rational business ones.

    They’ve already politicized it, years ago.

    French business is inefficient, rude, and condescending. Is that the model I want to support?

    Oh, and that collateral damage to licensed brands and suchnot that aren’t ‘really’ french: perhaps next time those non-French companies will think a little harder about who’s name to license, now that being seen hitching your horse to the French is damaging.

  • Russ Goble

    I believe the smartest, and dare I say, most libertarian comment on this board was from JohnJo:

    “In my opinion a consumer choice that makes the consumer feel better is usually a good one. It is the mark of a successful consumer.”

    Ralf keeps saying that we should not politicize economic decisions. Wow, what a completely unrealistic concept. It’s nice in the theoretical, but it just doesn’t fly. It’s simply not realistic. Until the entire world reduces all trade barriars, all economic decisions will touch on the political.

    But, seriously, the beauty of capitalism is that it enables individuals to buy not only what they need, but what they want. Buying RCA because I want to buy American (or Mexican, depending on where it’s built) is no more rational than buying it because a 43″ plasma screen will make the living room just totally phat! (I’m married and quite unhip, apologies for using 5 year old slang). Listen, we buy things for any number of reasons. Nationalism as a purchasing decision is as old as trade itself. It’s not always the smart way to buy, but as long as it’s not being forced on the consumer then there’s simply not a damn thing wrong with it.

    Also, your quote about boycotts hurting the boycottee is only true if you have a perfectly competitive marketplace that has maximized economic output. So, by cutting off trade with one my actually take from the whole, but not in our current world. Especially not in America which has possibly the greatest choice products as anywhere in the world. Believe me, those boycotting French products aren’t forgoing any goods and they are not increasing demand on other products to a big enough extent that it’ll increase prices on those goods. The boycott really isn’t that far-reaching. This is simply another example of France blaming it’s problems on others.

    Jonathan Pierce said the following:
    “I suspect a lot of folk who are no longer buying French products are just protectionists in drag.”

    That’s a cheap shot and totally false if you’ve been reading this message board. Pretty much every person here who has said they are participating in a boycott have mentioned alternatives from Australia, Italy, and Spain, among others. I don’t think “Buy American” has been a big theme here. I’ve received the lists via e-mail twice of French products that could be boycotted. In both cases, they were from rabid free-traders. So, to paint with a broad brush those boycotting France as closet protectionist is simply an ignorant statement.

  • Russ Goble

    Ralf said: “And with expoasing Chirac I meant something the administration should do. ”

    That’d be sweet wouldn’t it? But, it’d break just about every diplomatic protocol in the book, and our state department tends to play by the book (much to our detriment at times to be sure).

    Plus, I hope you do realize what people have been saying all over both these 2 French related posts this last week. It’s a GRASSROOTS movement. The administration has nothing to do with it.

    The U.S. government is dealing with the French government as it sees fit. And, they have certainly been nastier than I would have ever imagined. Despite the cowboy stereotypes, every U.S. administration (including this one) usually let’s foreign criticism just roll off. We rarely answer that criticism directly (which, BTW, I think is a fault). But, we do have our Secretary of Defense to say what most Americans would love to say. Rumsfeld, just last week made a direct rebuke of Chirac when he said he wanted Eastern European nations to LEAD and not to just be appreciative that they’ve been invited to the grownups table. And he said that after one of his trademark “let me be clear”s. He was very pointedly making a direct rebuke to the French president’s statement towards the Eastern Europeans. More of this would be nice.

    But that’s the real beauty of this boycott that is probably lost on the French, and certainly Woody Allen. The American public is more hostile towards the French than the American government. And when they get organized, look out. That’s the true lesson to take from this.

  • A_t.

    How exactly are we xenophobes? Especially since most of the people here are saying they are not buy French products but are buying products from Germany, Australia etc etc. Despite what France might think they are not the world. BTW on the subject of Xenophobia the French do a wonderful line it. They pretty much loath anyone who isn’t French. You seem to assume that anyone who supports the boycott is some hayseed from the mid-west who has never been farther east that one state over.

    It does not even help to be a French speaker, French contempt for those of us with Quebec and Arcadian roots is very apparent. I once had a Frenchman spit at men when I said I was part “French-Canadian”. And don’t riots in Paris rountinely target American owned business?, like um McDonalds.

    I must disagree with Alex’ post. If British and Americans are frustrated with the French and their behaviour and wish to demonstrate their anger then so be it. If boycotting French products gives them a sense of satisfaction, joy and a feeling of doing something positive then let them be?

  • T. Hartin

    A_T – I am not a xenophobe. If I am anything, I am a frogophobe, and proud of it. I doubt that I am a frogophobe, or that anyone on this thread is a xenophobe, because none of us are really afraid of the French. We’re just irritated with them.

    By the way, how is it xenophobic for an American to replace goods from one foreign country (France) with goods from another foreign country (Italy, Spain, Australia, etc.)?

    If you are going to stoop to name-calling, at least call us by the right names.

  • catherine

    “It eliminates those conversations in which the American tourists say, “Well, I can understand why you opposed the war, but I’m very pleased that Saddam can’t kill any more people.”

    I am VERY late here, but please. Who has had this kind of conversation when confronted with a European (English, Irish, French, doesn’t matter) who wants to give you a piece of their mind? It goes more like this, “You’re an American? Well let me tell you something, …” and they go off into some angry diatribe. Conversation? Not exactly. Rude, yes. They were so excited to yell at an American as if we have a hotline to GWB (just a minute, I’ll call W on my cell), they lose all sense of manners and civility. Nothing good comes of it. It makes me say, F-you.

  • Screw that. Every time I buy something made in France or sold by the French, or spend my dollars in France, some of that money ends up in State coffers — ie. it helps support a government which is no supporter of the U.S., and, I suspect, a great number of Americans would agree with me.

    (I feel the same way about buying stuff made in Communist China.)

    We were originally planning a visit to France next year — forget that, it’s London and Edinburgh now.

    Pissing off people DOES (and should) have consequences — we Americans have just been too indulgent with the French up to now. No more.

  • Russ Goble

    A_t said: “French are proud, & would like their nation to be prominent in the world. Is this an evil aspiration”

    Yes, if being more prominant means stabbing an ally in the back on behalf of a murderous dictator. The U.S. (if not always it’s citizens) has been quite respective of French pride, especially in the international arena. We created the U.N., but we said, sure here’s your veto. The U.N. needs an offical language. Sure, French is fine. (or is that the Olympics I’m thinking of?) Anyway, don’t give me this France is proud and just wants to have a roll nonsense. THEY (the French government) are the ones throwing alliances out the window on behalf of dictators. THEY are the ones treating the EU as greater France. THEY are the ones who’ve displayed mindboggling arrogance with regards to Turkey & Eastern Europe. Sorry, maybe you are giving them the benefit of the doubt. But if you’ve watched current events, France is not acting out of principle or any innocent means. France wants to have a prominant roll, then fine. But if that roll includes standing up for murderous dictators and being the leading voice in the un-democratic world, then yes, that is an evil aspiration.

  • D2D


    Yes Hollywood cheesed “Black Hawk Down.

    Americans did not use human shields. They were in an urban firefight moving from building to building trying to get out of the city. And guess what? The Somalis weren’t going to allow that to happen. Most of the civilians that were killed that day were *armed* civilians, also known as combatants.

    According to Mark Bowden, the author of “Black Hawk Down,” the Somalis had a strange habit of coming out of their houses and into the streets when shooting started, then they would stand around and watch instead of taking cover. The Somalis bear an equal amount of blame for what occured that day. It was senseless.

  • If some of the people in this discussion were really serious about sending a message to the French government, reducing that government’s prestige, and not hitting ordinary French people more than necessary – then downscaling their use of the metric system serves all three goals very neatly.

    The metric system serves French national prestige, yet simple sets of multiples can be built around any units, including ones already in wide use in world commerce, like the foot or the barrel. Just as there is a ‘short ton’ of 2000 lbs, anyone could start using a ‘short’ land mile of 5000 feet, and a ‘short nautical mile’ of 6000 feet, for example. They could call one the ‘five’ and the other the ‘six’, three fewer syllables than the four-syllable French ki-lo-met-er.

  • “I suspect a lot of folk who are no longer buying French products are just protectionists in drag.”

    I think there’s something to this — though maybe not a lot — and, in any event, I agree with Jonathan that boycotts in general are foolish, and national ones really rather primitively collectivist in their psychology.

    But that point aside, even if I had any great interest in boycotting France, exactly where would I start? I don’t drink French wine, or really any wine in general except the cheap stuff (which is not the French) and I haven’t the faintest idea what sort of tires are on my vehicle (nor am I in the habit of ordering them by brand). All the good French cheeses are banned in the U.S. anyway on (entirely dubious) health grounds. I don’t wear ladies’ perfume. French cars are, mercifully, unavailable in North America. I do not run an airline.

    OK, what else is there? The French economy is almost entirely geared toward producing either drippy luxury goods I have no interest in, and inferior knock-off industrial/military crap for themselves and for the Third World (and a few poor misinformed British motorists). Aside from wine and Chenel Nº 5, what exactly is it that you all are boycotting? Cutting down your household expenditures on Ariane rockets?

  • Having said all that, I’d be keen on Mark’s suggestion of rolling back the metric system, but my country took care of that long ago, and you poor Britishers seem to have a government that feels really quite strongly about free-lance efforts in that regard. What to do indeed?

  • jim

    The French are worse than the Russians. At least the Russian’s were upfront in their desire(alot of good it did them) to beat democracy and capatialism. The french are a bunch of backstabbing ingrates. I’ll never buy another french product again, until there is a regime change for the good.STUFF THE french!

  • Liberty Belle

    I hope I’m not too late to say “Thank you, David Mercer!” David has inside experience. I only know French firms as a consumer (living in France, so no choice, before anyone jumps down my throat) and they are living on Becky’s favourite planet, Mars. Inefficient, rude, condescending and, I would add, irritable. They are disbelieving and contemptuous if one braves the glazed eyes of a company representative and asks for better service. French consumers are expected to put up AND shut up.

  • That’s like saying your horrible, rude, arrogant, gossipy neighbor will get better if you just bring her some tea once in a while. Meanwhile, she runs the leaf blower at 7:00 AM on Saturdays, her guests park in front of your driveway, and her constantly yapping little dog still craps in your rose beds.

    For engagement to work as a social lubricant, both parties have to respond rationally. France’s position, according to Villepin’s #2, was “right or wrong, disaster or success, opposing America will bring glory to France.”

    Most French people I’ve met in the ‘States kind of like it here, and like Americans, including their government folks. So why the hell can’t any of them say it? America’s love of Lady France has gone unrequited for quite long enough. It’s time we find a new girlfriend — somebody younger, more vibrant, less arrogant; somebody who doesn’t take us for granted and run around on us just because she can. Some of them Eastern European gals look pretty cute… and then there’s that Rodina gal that lives just past the intersection of Ukraine & Lithuania. She’s young, smart, soulfull, vibrant, and she likes to party. Sure she’s a bit fiery and might fight with us from time to time, but hey, she’s got really big resources…

  • For the record: my parents and I have been driving French cars since 1978 or so. I learned to drive in one, jumped my first canal in one (and only) and used it quite a bit.

    They are quirky but relatively reliable. Alas they pulled out of the US market, so my father couldn’t by a new one if he tried. The new Peugeots are not that special anymore, however their partner in CSA, Citroen still pumps out funky cars.

  • Sounds like no-one can be bothered to hit the French government where it would really hurt them, in the soft underbelly of their metric prestige gland!

  • ErikZ

    Amazing, the Americans are pissed off at the French, French exports are hurting, and now you tell the Americans that they need to go talk to the French!?

    Would it kill the French to talk to the Americans to clear things up?

  • Hmm, Andrew, I’ve been told that Peugeots aren’t really too bad (Frankenheimer certainly got some good moments out of them in Ronin). Some of them at least look interesting in magazines, though I’d have to actually see and drive one, of course. I’ve been told, however, that Citroens are garbage (hence, “lemons”), and I’ve actually had some experience with a Renault (during their brief adventure in the U.S. market). It was a total hunk of crap.

  • edwardvt

    Recently, one of the small Airlines which fly into Vermont announced it had purchased new Airbuses. I called and cancelled a pending reservation. I asked the Reservation Agent to pass upwards my comment that if they wished to fly French aircraft, they should move to France.
    Since 9 – 11, you are either with us or against us – there can be no neutrals. We are engaged in a war to the knife, and we fight for our very right to exist as a free people and as a symbol of freedom for the World.
    France has chosen to stand with those against us. We simplistic Jacksonian Americans will teach them of the price they shall pay for that stance.

  • bhoshor

    As an american i am well aware there is no offical boycott of France. You have to understand that arericans are a consumer society and the most common understanding we share in common is Fredom and liberty. The French and many western europeans are very socialist and passivist. Which is totally alien too freedom. I believe americans should avoid doing business with any country that supports socialism, including the more socialist states in the USA. What we are seeing in Europe is a Socialism bordering on a National Socialism, which ofcourse was what Hitler started out as. In france today you see a lot of antisemitism. Americans are a fair people. The French with over forty years of socialism have no clue what freedom means. Americans do not like the behavior of the socialist french power holders and thus as comsumers will find other places to spend there money, as should any person who loves freedom and liberty.

  • Hmm, Andrew, I’ve been told that Peugeots aren’t really too bad (Frankenheimer certainly got some good moments out of them in Ronin). Some of them at least look interesting in magazines, though I’d have to actually see and drive one, of course. I’ve been told, however, that Citroens are garbage (hence, “lemons”), and I’ve actually had some experience with a Renault (during their brief adventure in the U.S. market). It was a total hunk of crap.

  • Liberty Belle,

    I thought I already answered the question and I also didn’t change my tune; I already had made my case in general terms and then turned to the particular boycott we we are discussing here.

    I’ll post something more comprehensive at the blog I’m contributing to in the next days, once I find the time; I’ll let you know when I’ve put it up.

    Mark (the one with a capital “M”, not the one with the otherlanguages blog),

    boycotting French industrial products has nothing to do with ethical investing.


    “Since 9 – 11, you are either with us or against us – there can be no neutrals”.

    An attitude like that will gain you nothing than a world full of pissed off people. It’s also not the official American attitude.

    Airbus isn’t a French company, btw. It’s consortium with French, German, British and Spanish owners. Airbus also has American suppliers.

    A final word:

    Reading through the comments I have to conclude that people who advocate boycotts also are protectionists.

  • Mark

    “[B]oycotting French industrial products has nothing to do with ethical investing.”


    I’m not sure why you believe this. Perhaps you might clarify your position.

    Choosing not to buy French products because of the iniquitous stance of the French state and citizens seems to have an ethical component. People chose not to buy products from Apartheid for similar reasons. Some of the boycotters’ discretionary spending could include boycotting of French consumer goods, or an avoidance of stock in French companies. Hence the use of “investing”. I’m not married to the term; choose another if you like. But I think you see my point.

    I really don’t see people arguing that US firms should be supported over French for purely patriotic reasons. In supporting the boycott, most people here seem to favour non-French products because of a political-ethical stand against a treacherous former ally, not out of jingoism or disguised protectionism. (I’m Canadian btw, so it’s not clear how or why I could be a US protectionist. And yes, if I could boycott my own country I would.)

    The boycott, rather, is based on an understanding of ethical principles as they pertain to support by citizens of the good or bad conduct of their national policies.

    If you wish to dissuade people of their position, perhaps you should attack this line of reasoning.

  • David Mercer

    LibertyBelle: thanks, and after seeing a couple of Frnch multi-nationals from the inside (briefly, thank god), I’m not surprised that they treat their customers as badly as you describe.

    Note that in 15 years of computer consulting, those were 2 of the 3 engagements that I’ve ever walked out of, which I am loathe to do for a variety of reasons.

    Not that all large corporations aren’t filled with irrational politics and filled with clueless middle managers, but in American, Mexican and Brazillian firms, you could at least get some sanity by going up the chain of command sufficiently, with hard numbers to back you up, and get some motion.

    Not so with the 2 French firms I did some work for: once you hit the management layer in Paris, it was like talking to a brick wall, and what’s right, sane or cost effective be damned: The Sun King has spoken, and thou shalt not question was the general attitude. I saw numerous political firings for daring to suggest that there may be fault in the designs of those in the home office, with fear being the primary emotion of the workers.

    Maybe THAT’s why they are so snuggly with dictators the whole world over, it fits their culture.

  • Ernest Brown

    Therefore, Ralf, by your own logic the folks here at Samizdata are statists who believe in censorship. After all, they assert the -individual- or -voluntarily collective- right to remove comments off of their blog. (cf. their stance on the right of reply) Totally irrational.

  • John

    I don’t consider my not buying of French products that I would normally run across a boycott to punish the French. I consider my buying of UK, Australian, Itallian, etc products a reward and a desire to strengthen the relationship between our countries. If the French want me to use my purchase power to buy their products, give me a reason to do so over others on the market. As it is, they are giving me a reason not to.

  • A_t

    Said it before, i’ll say it again, to all you highly politicised consumers out there, I hope you’re studiously avoiding anything made in China then… a ‘socialist’ republic, which is most certainly *not* democratic in any way, and could use some pushing in the right direction by individuals, as our governments seem unwilling to do anything. No cheap running shoes then, or toys for your kids etc. etc… that ok? Believe me, it’ll make a lot more difference in the real world than boycotting a little cheese or wine.

    Possible consequences of French boycott: a few farmers may go out of business… maybe the French government’ll get a bit more cooperative towards the US (or it could get more obstinate)…

    Possible consequences of an organised, explicitly democracy/freedom-related boycott of Chinese goods: less torture, murder, censorship, and this affecting millions upon millions of people.

    Which goal do you think is more important? Which do you feel you should prioritise in your personal life? Petty revenge, or genuine positive change?

  • David Mercer

    A_t: I do try to avoid Chinese products when I can, there are usually Mexican or other Asian alternatives.

    France, as primarily a producer of luxury goods, is particularly vulnerable to such direct punishment, as it does less harm to the person ‘boycotting’ them.

    Ralf’s point about boycotts hurting those engaged in a boycott is more applicable to China: they are now the primary source of cheap industrial goods for Americans. (take a walk through a WalMart sometime: the “made in USA” boosterism is very thin on the ground when looking at the labels)

    I’ve seen up close and personal the beneficial effects on Mexico from NAFTA, and I do much prefer to purchase goods from emerging democracies (Mexico, Brazil, etc.)

    But at a macroeconomic level, what Ralf was pointing out does pertain directly to US-Chinese trade relations: without China the standard of living for the lower classes in the US would fall, and their pegging of their currency to the dollar by buying lots of dollar denominated bonds keeps Americans purchasing power high, regardless of who’s imports we’re buying.

    It’s becoming more and more symbiotic each year. Note also that the looming liberalization of consumer baning in China due to WTO regs. is feared by some to possibly trigger a meltdown of the govt. there, which would have interesting, possibly very painful, effects on US and world economies.

    Nasty moral dilemma’s at several scales there.

    But I don’t think Ralfs point is as applicable to France 🙂

  • M A

    You all know that Saddam is not the worlds only dictator, the French maybe didn’t want to buy the WMD thing, or they just wanted to keep quiet outside as they were facing problems in the domestic front (some of you made this point). I find incredible to mention the French and the Apartheid regime as though they were the same type of thing. I also think that opressive corporations exist in many places, they are no special patrimony of the French.
    You have the right to boycott the French and not to like them but I expect the points to be made better than “the French citizens and the government are of low moral standards”. That is simply silly IMHO

  • Kodiak

    Boy! You guys have a much elaborated & sophisticated everyday life. So you think about Chirac or the Sun King or Vichy or Vercingétorix or Jeanne d’Arc or Louis XVI or Napoléon or Clémenceau as you hesitate between a baguette & some nems or some tacos? Brilliant!

    If you think France is ridiculous and dying, just let her die alone!

    If you think Fr companies are mismanaged by notorious incompetents whose most distinctive achievements are limited to dictatorship & arrogance & tralala, I mean just boycott them & don’t bother to work for them…

    If you really think Fr is becoming something inbetween Iraq & China, spare you saliva & just use your fingers to nuke Frogland.

    If you think Fr cultural/intellectual/political life is such a joke, why don’t you just have a great laugh & go back to your own business instead of salivating nauseous clichés at lengths???…

    If you think the Fr give a damn shit about you think, why are you gossiping like frustrated grannies & twaddling again & again your bitterness to each other without even being heard by the object of your delicate -yet neurotic- attention?

    Is this a collective therapy for (now I’m being arrogant >>> I can afford it because I’m French after all) healing your vindicated, profound, deep-rooted, showing inferiority complex?

    Is it because you lately discovered the joy of grammar, sentence-building, tirade-striking & resorting to smart & enviable French-looking sophisticated words & concepts that you suddenly can’t help indulging in risible logorrhea?

    J’ai l’impression d’incarner Ulysse Mérou dans La Planète des Singes, de Pierre Boule. Je reviens sur terre mais ce sont des usurpateurs sans talent qui l’occupent. (Fr humour).

    Bon. Salut. Bonne chance & à plus tard.