At the End of the Day

Old friend Leo gave me a lift to the local train station this morning. The road that runs between Leo’s house and mine has just been completely resurfaced from local taxes, but almost all the roads were quiet as usual – and even though Leo is 80 and not in the Formula 1 league any more, we arrived within three minutes of the time it normally takes to get there. The ticket to Bordeaux costs €14, but when I arrived this was reduced to €11.40 because I’m over 60. The train – spotless, clean and
ultra-modern – arrived and left on the dot. There were plenty of seats for everyone, the carriage was yob-free, and the journey (as advertised) took forty minutes. During my time at the station and on the train, I saw one obese person,

The bus connection from station to airport was €1.50 and took 35 minutes. They arrive every five minutes.

All this is provided by the State sector, in that SNCF runs the rail network and owns 70% of the Keolis Group which runs the Bordeaux bus services. One is told over and over again that such industries and the Health Service have bankrupted France, and soon we shall all be groooovin’ to the Apocalypso. But I’m becoming less and less convinced that the country in which I now reside is in a worse position than the UK.

Both countries have almost the same level of national debt (90%), and both debts are growing fast. But whereas Britain has insisted on austerity, France hasn’t really; and although the UK is allegedly a financial powerhouse, France has a far bigger non-banking economy than Blighty, with enough farming land and output  to be completely self-sufficient in food if it had to be. Wheat, vegetables, salads and root carbohydrates are real, but fiat currency isn’t. Opinions remain divided about who is in the weaker position going forward, but I’m at a loss to see why: manufacturing is only 9% of our economy, farming is under 1%, and our food imports bill is huge compared to that of France.

One thing one can be absolutely sure of, however, is that when it comes to travel infrastructure and value for money, the citizen here is far, far better served than he or she would be in the UK. The single biggest difference between the two countries is that Britain has enthusiastically breathed in the neoiberal virus, and France hasn’t. The Labour Partly persistently fails to make this case, but that’s because its current management is spineless and collaborationist. In France, the cost of living is lower, the health better, the transport system infinitely superior and the communal infrastructure and ethic alive and well.

I’ve posted many times before about the glee with which the French public sector concerned with maintaining a pleasing and functional environment keeps on and on spending money. The senior bureaucrat (ENA) view has always been (in private after the odd Armagnac) that losing sleep over fiat paper debt is a sign of insanity. As one prefecture bigwig confided to me three years ago, “Monsieur, we spend money at the same rate as bankers create it in their fraudulent ledgers. When the day of reckoning comes, the depth of creation and loss will be utterly meaningless, and of no consequence”.

I am inclined to agree. But the Germans think otherwise – and this is where the final split will appear in the final straw that is the increasingly ridiculous European Union.

As the bus from St Jean to Mérignac rumbled along the Avenue John F Kennedy, the robotic recorded digital voice kept on repeating “Ceci est bus nuuumaiirrooo eerrrn direcsheeurng Mérignac aaarooobueurroor”. An American lady opposite me began smiling until we were both giggling. It was, dare I say, yet another example of Robots 1 Jobs 0, but it was no less funny for all that.

Later I ate about 10% of quite the most disgusting hamburger I’ve ever tasted, but then later still enjoyed excellent fish and cheese with a bottle of reasonable Chianti. This latter eaterie had Germans, Italians, French, Spaniards and English dining there. The Aryans were fat and the Mediterraneans slim. Plus ça change.

Earlier at The Slog: The Real, the Unreal & the Ugly of EU migrants, the movie.

22 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Have been plenty past reports of French TGV lines not really making enough revenue to cover their operating costs. this despite other recent reports that the occupancy rate (I think July & August) was about as high as reasonably practical

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  2. Engerland is very much like Ireland, farmer’s paid to leave the land fallow or cut sillage to feed cattle that is the extend of farming today but the worst aspect is the loss of real farming skills, crop selection and rotation etc. We will reap what we sow (forgive the pun).

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  3. I am a great fan of both SNCF and RENFE. The discounts for seniors are embarrassingly generous in both systems. In Spain, I buy a Tarjeta Dorada for 5 Euros and then can buy RENFE train tickets with 30-50% discounts. My long-distance walks always begin and end at a rail station. I haven’t rented a car in Europe this century.

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  4. Your French Armagnac drinker, is more or less repeating Modern Monetary Theory , as espoused by among others, Bill Mitchell & Michael Hudson.
    The basic theory is that a Sovereign Govt can create as much money as it wishes.and create full employment, Deficits do not matter. The proviso is that the money is used in PRODUCTIVE ,JOB CREATING iNDUSTRY, agriculture,fisheries,forestry,minerals ,manufacturing etc. No taxes are necessary and no Central Bank. Just a Treasury to issue debt free money into the economy as and when required to keep a balance of productivity against money issuance.
    The last country to try this was Nazi Germany to create their economic miracle in 4 short years. Hjalmar Schacht was the brains behind this and a founding member of the Bank of International Settlement, the Central Banks Bank.
    President Lincoln financed the American Civil War by issuing Govt greenback dollars.
    During the 1st World War the UK Govt issued the Bradbury pound ,because of a shortage of specie, without detriment to the economy.
    There is no reason why money cannot be issued debt free,, except for the bankers choke hold on the political process.

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  5. That publicly funded SNCF is an indirect subsidy to all the passengers and freight that travels upon it.
    That is an economic multiplier that the high priests of neo-liberalism conveniently forget since they would rather install private toll booths every 20 feet and kick back whilst collecting the rent.

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  6. “Not your typical conference A homeopathy forum in Germany ended in chaos after delegates took an LSD-like hallucinogenic drug and ended up “rolling in a meadow, talking gibberish.” Police are investigating whether the incident was part of a joint experiment or a prank. (The Independent)” ex FT today

    You see even we Germans can display a sense of humour ……

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  7. Railway station, please John.
    Trains can’t run without railways and the station is part of the railway, not of the train.
    Now let’s start on faulty economic theory…running a rural network of trains running 90 per cent empty (as in my part of France) and constantly re-surfacing little-used roads may keep a few people in work but simply can’t be called productive.
    Hope you maintain your holiday mood.

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  8. So much to potentially agree or disagree with in this little piece of social comment. In the end, it all depends on one’s perspective as to whether the hamburger was either 10% eaten or 90% uneaten!

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  9. France has managed to maintain its own motor industry ,has a huge chunk of the satellite industry and is building our next new nuclear power station in the UK. We have JCB and RBS. The one could dig a hole for the other.

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  10. ” France has managed to maintain its own motor industry ” .. hmm as in Peugot being bailed out by the government every 3 years and Renault whose share-price to quote one French analyst ‘ would be negative without Nissan ‘ . Britain manufacturing is a bigger percentage of the Britsh economy is greater now than in France .

    “although the UK is allegedly a financial powerhouse, France has a far bigger non-banking economy than Blighty, ” I think you will be surprised JW . Take away tourism and wine and there probably isn’t a lot left . French carproduction has halved since 2000 and no-one bats an eye-lid . Manufacturing is collapsing by the month in France just look at the data ! And do you think the French government has asked the people if they want to subsidise funky buses by selling off their histroric buildings to the Quataris ?

    I’m not saying Blighty is better , what I’m saying is don’t be fooled by a pleasant day in the country . Appearances can be deceptive . i’ve just returned from the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands ; both regions would give any vistor the impression that all was well in the UK .

    Does anyone here think that the Franc would remain stable to the DEM if France left the Euro ??

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  11. France is in this awful Euro so have given away the most valuable asset they own (their monetary sovereignty). Eventually they will have to leave (will this happen?) or fall into line. Germany (or those with the big money) calls the shots now. It’s only a matter of time.

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  12. Both nations will CTRL-P to survive like every other nation in the world and it is a value war not currency.

    As the rest of the world applies CTRL-P to keep their value down applying austerity only serves to force the population to buy the lower cost imports (as stated at a record high in last few days) whilst shedding work at the same time because you are still too expensive and nobody can afford you.

    Then as more and more value is added to the global economy in QE (I wouldn’t rule out the USA going again on this neither) expecting the UK to have to CTRL-P again makes the austerity bloody pointless except to legally torture your population financially – people will remember where the financial stab wounds came from.

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  13. ‘ people will remember where the financial stab wounds came from.’
    With respect Mark people don’t even know who is holding the knife let alone who stabbed them, although I do think that if the rich/poor divide keeps on widening that might just be the catalyst for social unrest.
    I have to confess even I am starting to notice the plethora of new Range Rovers/BMW’s/Porches et all. On the roads now, and I live in a reasonably affluent area, I don’t notice new family saloons/hatchbacks in the same numbers. The money is trickling down but stopping at the upper middle class.

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  14. @Hiero. You really do have a deliciously wicked sense of humour. I have had 1 Honda (Acura 3.2TL) in the last 17 years and it still runs a treat which is quite remarkable given our winters.

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  15. Jaime, it seems I’m hoist by my own petard.. I was actually serious for once! Using my cars for work I replace them quite regularly; I’ve had 2 diesel C4 Grand Picassos, both bought new at considerable discount, in the last 7 years. Both have been excellent to drive and economical, no complaints. As an ex motor engineer I’m pretty critical and have plenty of experience in servicing and repairing most makes. Honda have always deservedly had a good reputation for build quality but are not without fault by any means and parts are expensive, yours is obviously a good ‘un. The truth is, most cars are much of a muchness now, stuffed to the gills with electronics which, without the kit, are fairly impenetrable when they develop a fault. However, reliability – all things considered – has improved over the years and the mileage covered by modern vehicles is far greater than the older generation. I say that as someone who has a great affection for old bikes/cars (I have several of the former..).

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  16. “Monsieur, we spend money at the same rate as bankers create it in their fraudulent ledgers. When the day of reckoning comes, the depth of creation and loss will be utterly meaningless, and of no consequence”.

    This may not be entirely true, the consequence part in particular and cynicism is a difficult thing to cheer but to the extent the pretend money buys real things for the commons it’s impossible for me to condemn the process. Whatever France does in this regard is a tiny speck compared to China. Now admittedly the ghost cities and roads, bridges, rails, ports and dams and on and on may be shoddy and fall apart soon enough but they are still things people, ordinary people, can use, for the time being. Not so with inflated financial assets and corporate debt used to buy their own stock and $XXmillion dollar homes and apartments and $XX million dollar paintings, on and on. I’m not here to cheer China’s debt madness but one can see that they understand it has built stuff. In a huge land that had very little stuff not so long ago.

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