January 18, 2004

Corruption in France

I was going to present the long article but when I came back from Mt. Baker, David Frum at National Review had done an excellent job of summarizing it in four short paragraphs. Here is David Frum's article: bq. How corrupt is France? It is often said that one reason that Jacques Chirac ran for re-election as president in 2002 was to preserve his immunity from prosecution. But the full awfulness of the situation -- the way in which bribery and the theft of public funds pervades French life -- is not well understood in the United States. For a vivid introduction to the problem, see the extremely interesting cover story in the current issue of Britainís Prospect magazine. bq. The story details the doomed attempted of one magistrate to get to the bottom of a series of scandals involving hundreds of millions of dollars looted from public companies and diverted to political parties and private individuals - Francois Mitterand's national system of kickbacks on local construction projects - and formal and informal state controls on the media to suppress coverage of the scandal. bq. It ought to be more widely understood in the United States how much European corruption -- and French corruption in particular -- damages the trans-Atlantic relationship. Kickbacks and bribes play an especially large role in Europe's trade with the Middle East. Much of the European loathing for those Americans who want to change the Middle East is pretty directly traceable to the fear that change in the region will threaten the livelihood of powerful Europeans and the funding of European political parties. bq. European corruption influences European press coverage of the United States as well. European journalists obsess over "neocons" in American politics precisely because they know that in their societies, the important political decisions are made by concealed, sinister, self-interested forces - and they find it hard to imagine that American politics could be different. Meanwhile, American journalists cover Europe like some wire service circa 1952: with a charmingly naive faith that everything actually is just the way it seems on the surface, and that the spoken words of European politicians actually give some insight into their real motives. Because US politics are so transparent and responsive, the American media is genuinely flummoxed by societies in which shadowy conspiracies really do exist. Here is the article I was looking at and which Frum refers to Posted by DaveH at January 18, 2004 8:43 PM