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How to conquer the world: lesson 1

The French government’s plan to establish the global hegemony has run into a spot of bother:

Staff at the French foreign ministry are to go on strike for the first time in protest at budget cuts that caused bureaucrats to run out of paper.

The strike, called for Monday, comes amid demands from the country’s leaders that diplomats work harder than ever to regain France’s former global prominence.

Pah! France can conquer the world without recourse to this barbaric, simplisme Anglo-Saxon idea of correspondence.

Budgets have become so tight that the ministry recently stopped paying its paper supplier. For three days last month it was paperless until a deal was reached.

‘You supply us with paper, we get you a seat on the UN Security Council. Deal?’

The Europe minister, Noelle Lenoir, said she had to go to a local newsagent to buy exercise books to write in.

Around the world, France’s ambassadors have complained of having to pay for official dinners and cocktail parties out of their own pockets, while the diplomatic bag service has also been interrupted.

Next thing you know they will have to fund their own bribes and rent their own whores. Outrageous!

“Half the lifts are not working – there’s no money to fix them. For three days last month there was no paper and our representatives abroad are having to work 14-hour days.”

So much backstabbing to do, so little time.

The strike is acutely embarrassing for President Jacques Chirac and his flamboyant foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, who have made every effort to show the world that French diplomacy matters.

It certainly matters to Messrs Mugabe, Castro and Hussein. What would they do without it?

The six unions that have called the strike said in a joint statement: “We do not understand how President Chirac and the government can assert France’s great ambitions on the international stage while at the same constantly cutting back the human and financial resources available to the ministry.”

A review of ambitions may be required.

11 comments to How to conquer the world: lesson 1

  • A_t

    🙂 amusing, but of course here in the world-reshaping UK, everything is solidly built, & gets a budget which will allow it to operate well. Yep.

  • Antoine Clarke

    And this is a problem because…?

    Seriously, the French government is making 35,000 public sector employees redundant over the next year, as well as saving money by leaving posts unfiled for three months.

    Check out my recent posting on http://www.cnehealth.org/ for more details.

  • Francois

    Laugh now you simple English bastards, but when Jacques restores our mojo it will not be so funny for you. I spit in your general direction.

  • Rockabilly

    I recall from reading history that the English invented the longbow first because the French lacked parchment on which to sketch designs, or something like that.

  • RAS

    This all sounds oh-so much like New Zealnd in the 1980s, when they “hit the wall” financially and were literally broke, overnight.

    As I recall, it happened immediately after a national election, won by the socialists (I forget their exact party name, sorry), and suddenly no one would renew their debt anymore; i.e. they had to float more bonds but no one would buy. Whoops.

    There was first a brief period, sort of a comedy of errors period, before the news broke. In that time, the govt tried, among other tacks, calling all their embassies worldwide and requesting them to run their credit cards to the max and send the money home: i.e. put the National Debt on Visa!

    (In all fairness, it’s a small country and I think they were mostly trying to buy time. But it’s still a great story. Imagine you’re a newly-elected socialist minister of finance and, day one, this is what lands on your plate. Have fun!)

    Anyway, maybe such austere scenarios aren’t actually the case in France (but with EU bookkeeping standards, I’m never really sure).

    Still, there’ve been a string of telling stories/events lately that all point in the same direction; France is starting to realize that it’s running out of dough. I wonder if the new EU countries are ratcheting up the pressure, behind the scenes, for France to get its act together.

    And lastly, is there a better definition of irony than a French bureaucrat without any paper?

  • Michel Bellégo

    I read a lot of anti-french literature on this website, but most of it seems to be rubbish. I think you need to be a little more serious about it. (Although in the present case, the provocation was only in the original message and the commentators have behaved themselves).

    Does anyone here know of a website with a serious comparative study of the degree of democracy between western states ? I had a look at the Amazon website, but they have too many books on the subject and I wouldn’t know which one to pick.

    What I am looking for is a website or a book with a list of criteria for defining democracy. And for each criterion, there would be an estimation of how each state scores on that one.

    What I need is a more or less scientific assessment (but something simple) so I can sound more convincing when I do my own anti-french propaganda.

    La fRance est une démocratie à la turque !

  • Michel: Try this book: The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria. It is clear, erudite and mind-blowing. It talks about democracy vs. freedom the two concepts that often get treated as synonyms. I cannot recommend it enough.

    Here is the amazon link to it. Enjoy.

  • rkb

    Sorry, Rockabilly, but it was the Welsh who invented the longbow. 😉

  • Michel – I can’t help you with what you want specifically, but World Political Systems carries a human rights rating for each country and France, Britain, America etc all score so close together that comparison isn’t really worthwhile.

    On the economic side, the French certainly seem to be running into trouble as far as defence spending is concerned (can’t speak for the rest of it). M. Chirac’s eyes are definitely bigger than his stomach in this department. The word is that a lot of the planned military developments he wants are going to have to be canned. The seriousness of the situation can be seen in the fact that post-Afghanistan the French decided that a carrier force was very much the Thing To Have and tried to build their strategy around that, but there are now very real doubts as to whether they’ll be able to replace the Charles de Gaulle with another carrier once it reaches the end of its service life (in spite of recent talk about buying into a joint project with the UK so that a third carrier would be built alongside the two new British ones for the French Navy).

    Not that we over the Channel can laugh TOO loudly, as our defence figures increasingly look like they might not add up either (and we are going to be faced with an enormous lump sum bill in our laps when Trident reaches the end of its service life – something people don’t seem to be talking about but probably should be). Though we’re not in nearly such a bind as the French. Yet.

  • Millie Woods

    Michel, the problem as I see it is that France, British Labour and the present German government are controlled by people who know very little about pure and applied science and are still mostly unaware that we are in the midst of a new kind of industrial revolution. You have only to look at the anti-gm and anti-globo crazies to see where that kind of ignorance leads. Also as a bilingual anglo-Quebecker, I don’t find this site particularly anti-French. Having worked for a quarter of a century in the belly of the French beast in Montreal, I can tell you that the anti anglo stuff one meets is far and away truly vicious while Samizdata posts tend to be of the taking the mick persuasion.

  • R C Dean

    our representatives abroad are having to work 14-hour days

    Assuming anyone believes this, isn’t it illegal? I thought the French had outlawed long work hours.

    Plus, you will note he never says how many 14-hour days they put in per week.

    Lighten up, Michel. We mock bureaucrats wherever we find them here at Samizdata.