Old Europe Checks In

Xavier writes, in the comments to my previous post (scroll down if link doesn’t work):

And how does poaching the best and the brightest from France help the country reform? Honestly, I’m becoming fed up at how unsufferable you Americans are becoming. How is an impovrished, isolated France in America and ‘new’ Europe’s best interests? Seriously, not many non-cons or bloggers ask these questions. Whether you like it or not Americans will have to moderate their loathing for the French.First, you’ll still need to trade with them; second they have information and resources for the ongoing war on terrorism

“Poaching the best and brightest”? Xavier certainly has an interesting way of framing this issue. Talented French people choose to come to the U.S., and he describes their choice using a term that suggests theft of state property (Sylvain, turn yourself in at once!) rather than rational behavior in response to their home country’s failure to be competitive. Next I suppose he will tell Americans they are “poaching” Cuba’s best and brightest — how else to explain why anyone comes here?

Yes, an “impoverished, isolated” France is in no one’s interest. However, it’s up to France to make itself into a country that people want to do business in and with. Until it does so, other countries will hesitate to deal with it. And until it does so, its best people will leave, and why not. They shouldn’t be obliged to sacrifice their time, effort, and capital to support the transnational fantasies of corrupt dirigiste politicians. The U.S., by providing a better alternative, helps these talented French people and itself, and does France a favor by providing some marginal accountability for feckless French pols.

As for American “loathing” of the French, my impression is that few Americans, until quite recently, regarded France as negatively as they do now (I didn’t), or even negatively at all. What changed? The French government betrayed us on a matter of enormous and lasting international consequence, and they did it, apparently, for transient local political reasons. Now they have the chutzpa, which Xavier shares, to blame us for having a negative attitude toward them since their betrayal.

And their betrayal has been a costly one. As Lex points out in the comments section of my previous post, France’s actions, in encouraging the Iraqi regime and undermining the coalition against that regime, made war inevitable and have gotten a lot of Americans — and Brits and Iraqis and Kurds — killed. So does the French government bear any responsibility for current American feelings toward France? No, of course not. It is our responsibility to moderate, as Xavier puts it (we are such cowboys!), our bad attitude. Thanks for straightening us out.

France will continue to decline until its political culture evolves to favor a competitive economy over socialism and international responsibility over self-dealing, monkey wrenching, and cheap brinksmanship. In the meantime, people like Sylvain will come to the U.S., where their talents are appreciated and rewarded, and Americans will continue to distrust and dislike France. France has only itself to blame for this situation. It will become a serious nation again only when its voters start electing serious leaders, and when those leaders stop trying to blame other countries for their own failure.

UPDATE: Xavier posts a response on his blog (Blogger links don’t work, so scroll down if necessary to the April 10 post). He argues that Canada’s lack of political response to brain drain suggests that I am unrealistic to expect France to reform itself in response to emigration. He may well be right. I leave it to readers to evaluate his responses to the rest of what I wrote.