Regulation

Even French Officials Complain of Country's Regulatory Burden

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I was once almost arrested on a French train because, despite having a paid-for Eurail Pass in hand, the conductor insisted I didn't have a proper ticket. That's because, in keeping with byzantine French bureaucracy, the Eurail Pass required a pre-departure stamp at a booth in the station (I think it was the Gare de l'Est). The purpose of the stamp, so far as anybody could tell me, was to demonstrate that you had gone to the booth to get the stamp. But, also in keeping with byzantine French bureaucracy, the booth had been unmanned for the entire time I'd been in the station, and other officials denied the authority to wield the stamp.

Ultimately, after a ten-minute argument, I coughed up a few francs to settle the matter.

France has not improved since then, to the point that even French government officials admit to filing endless reams of regulatory mandates unread, to conducting business in violation of the rules, and to being baffled as to how anybody could comply with often contradictory red tape. Private business operators find the matter a tad more challenging.

From the Washington Post:

ALBARET-SAINTE-MARIE, FRANCE — Although he is rich with 25 years of experience as mayor of this little town in the wooded hills of central France, Michel Therond gets advice from the bureaucrats in Paris almost every time he opens the mail.

One day's delivery brings a directive stipulating that the sidewalks must be widened to permit two wheelchairs to cross paths without bumping. Another says the school cafeteria must be made accessible by elevator. Trees must be trimmed of branches six feet up their trunks, the orders go, and only government-certified technicians can change a light bulb on city property.

"We are being strangled," Therond complained, sifting through a pile of rules and regulations on his desk that he largely ignores — and many of which he does not even understand.

France and its southern European neighbors, such as Italy and Greece, are increasingly being buried in such norms, rules and directives. In the past two decades, the number of legal do's and don'ts has become so great that businessmen and economists warn that it is smothering growth just as the continent tries to dig out of its worst slump in a generation. …

Applied to business with equal bureaucratic fastidiousness, such rules and regulations prove even more expensive in the private sector. They cost the 27 European Union countries an average 3.7 percent of their gross domestic product a year, more than $10 billion in the case of France, and hold back an incalculable amount of new investment, according to the OECD.

After the OECD's latest economic survey of France, the organization's Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, told the French government, "The French economy has tremendous assets and considerable potential, but excessive regulation and high levels of taxation are gradually eroding its competitiveness."

Mildly put, that's about right. I'll bet that booth is still doing whatever it does at the Gare de l'Est.

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  1. Ultimately, after a ten-minute argument, I coughed up a few francs to settle the matter

    So the French Bureaucracy can be sated by coughing up a few franks to settle the matter.

    How is this in any way worse than American Bureaucracy?

    1. American bribery hides behind the fig leaf of campaign contributions and processing fees.

      1. Looks like the French cut out the middle man. Officious prick with a clipboard in his hand wondering what “we’re” going to do about this transgression and breach of protocol (said with French accent), and you reach for your wallet.

        In America, even the bureacracy is bureaucratic.

        And it’s ‘francs’ not franks. Good catch on the typo, Hugh. You’re slipping.

        1. Look, Paul, it’s not my job to correct your every idiotic grammatical error, just as it’s not my job to cure nicole of her execrable taste in poetry.

          This blog is afraid of me…I have seen its true face. The posts are extended comments and the comments are full of errors and when the servers finally scab over, all the commenters will drown. The accumulated filth of all their puns and Slate links will foam up about their waists and all the trolls and sock puppets will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”

          1. Cathartic, no?

            1. Didn’t the French wipe them out?

      2. Although, on second thought, you know what killed simple bribery in the pursuit of cutting through American red tape?

        Public sector wages.

        Like I’m going to hand a fiver to an inspector making six figures in his last three years of employment so he can jack his pension to $85,000 per annum, thinking that’s going to make this whole ‘tree mess’ go away.

        The moment an above-ground pool guy is trying to bribe an in-ground pool guy, cutting through the bureaucracy with a simple “what would you say to Abraham Linicoln?” phrase goes right out the window.

  2. I wonder what kind of steps you have to go through to cut down a tree?

    1. A French tree? Just speak German around it and it will fall down by itself.

      /cheap and lazy, I know

      1. There’s also the possibility it will decide to be your friend.

        1. Or it’ll join the resistance by shortchanging a German officer in a cafe.

        2. But only if you promise to make the Jewish trees ‘go away’.

  3. “only government-certified technicians can change a light bulb on city property.”

    But that doesn’t answer the key question: How many French bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb?

    1. None – only the “government-certified technicians can change a light bulb”!

  4. My experience in Italy is similar. They have so many laws for so many idiotic things that everyone just ignores pretty much all of the laws. At first blush, it’s almost as though the average Italian believes they can manage their own lives without a bureaucrat looking over their shoulder… But really, everyone believes the laws are for other people.

    1. They’ve apparently made a huge mistakes. They need jackbooted thugs to randomly arrest and shoot the dogs of the offenders.

      Overly regulated bureaucratic state don’t work without the police state to go with it.

      Do they think anyone is going to actually follow these millions of insane laws if the threat of violence and prison is not constantly looming?

      Murika needs to show them the way.

    2. Italy is multi-polared.

  5. Let them eat the mandated portion of daily cake allowance!

    1. Hey, did you hear that the Ministry of Plenty just increased the cake ration from 50 grams a day to 30 grams a day?

      1. Double minus good!

        1. Please submit yourself for reeducation and to be issued a new dictionary.

      2. The cake ration has always been 30 grams a day.

      3. Je t’aime, Grand Fr?re.

      4. They can be more subtle than that – “Big Brother has increased the cake ration from 50g / day to 900g a month.”

    2. You know what happened the last time someone said “let them eat cake”… a bunch of French bureaucrats took over the country.

      Oh wait.

  6. Which reality-challenged prog will come along to denounce The Washington Post for its anti-government bias?

  7. “The French economy has tremendous assets and considerable potential, but excessive regulation and high levels of taxation are gradually eroding its competitiveness.”

    Didn’t some enlightened French douchebag call Americans a pack of quaint hicks for paying taxes? What the fuck are they bitching about?

    1. Mon ami, je pense que votre langue es tres intemperant.

      1. Wow, you’re going to be obsessing about it all day now aren’t you? I wish I’d known it was this easy. Can you please point out where I said all French people are enlightened douchebags?

        1. You did not say all French people are enlightened d-bags.

          1. Correct. I was referencing an article posted by reason some time ago about a French citizen who called Americans quaint for paying taxes.

            1. That Frenchie sure has some cognitive dissonance.

      2. Ma langue aime les femmes beaucoup. Intemperant? Tant mieux, chalice!

  8. They cost the 27 European Union countries an average 3.7 percent of their gross domestic product

    Well, it adds to GDP so Palsy Krugabe is happy.

  9. Maybe they should bring in some German efficiency experts.

    1. The Bart, the.

      1. No one who speaks German could be an evil man.

        1. Du hast mich gefragt, und ich hab nichts gesagt!

  10. France and its southern European neighbors, such as Italy and Greece, are increasingly being buried in such norms, rules and directives. In the past two decades, the number of legal do’s and don’ts has become so great that businessmen and economists warn that it is smothering growth

    Look into our future…

  11. While reading your story, I imagined the conductor as Captain Renault.

    “I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to find that you don’t have your stamp!”

  12. 54-46 manchin/toomey defeated

    1. Delicious salty proglodyte tears.

      Once they’ve given this up, then when can se start getting some of our rights back, that have already been taken?

  13. France and its southern European neighbors, such as Italy and Greece, are increasingly being buried in such norms, rules and directives

    …and meanwhile we are repeatedly told by our progressive betters that this is an example we should be desperate to emulate…

    “‘They have so many laws for so many idiotic things that everyone just ignores pretty much all of the laws””

    …and we keep explaining to the progressives that stupid laws ultimately erode respect for law, and they call us crazy. PERFECT CONTROL IS POSSIBLE!! The trees will grow where we want them, how we want them! or else, a fine!

    1. France and its southern European neighbors, such as Italy and Greece, are increasingly being buried in such norms, rules and directives

      And they are upset, because of why? This is what they wanted. And as you just said, our own prodlodyes are jealous of them because they have more regulations and taxes.

      Why do the left whine when they get exactly what they want?

      1. L’?TAT, C’EST NOUS…

      2. I don’t get progressives. They seem to defend taxes as a means to a civilized society. Perhaps on some level and within their own models of what constitutes civility this is true but there’s ample historical evidence suggesting great civilizations are built when taxes are low and reasonable and government involvement limited.

        Rome is classic textbook of this I reckon. It’s hard not to read about post-Augustus emperors and all the crushing taxes did not contribute to the erosion and eventual collapse of the empire.

        The loss of the republic is another matter.

        /cue Timmy from Bovine University propaganda film. “I have this friend who thinks taxes are good…is he crazy?”

        Troy McClure: No, just ignorant!

        1. there’s ample historical evidence suggesting great civilizations are built when taxes are low and reasonable and government involvement limited

          Oh, but *this time* they’re gonna get it right! Also, those old ones were all run by dead white men… and white men are always ruining worlds. When they’ve neutered all the white men, the enlightened ones will be free to solve society.

          1. Who “needs” a pressure cooker anyway?

  14. Why do the left whine when they get exactly what they want?

    Let me guess… you dont have children??

  15. When in France, live like the French lol.

    http://www.AnonHit.tk

  16. I was once almost arrested on a French train because, despite having a paid-for Eurail Pass in hand, the conductor insisted I didn’t have a proper ticket.

    The conductor actually was correct.

    The conditions of the Eurail Pass are here:
    http://www.eurail.com/plan-you…..urail-pass
    In the very first line: “You must activate (validate) your Eurail pass at a train station before your first train journey.”

    That validation procedure defines the start date and the end date of the Eurail pass. It probably also serves to ensure that the Eurail pass is used only by people who are not residents of Europe.

    The actual problem was here:
    the booth had been unmanned for the entire time I’d been in the station

    That is normal in France, Italy, Spain, and probably also Greece, and has nothing to do with government bureaucracy. It is cultural; they live at a slower pace in these countries, and they have incredibly long lunch breaks (France) resp. afternoon breaks (Italy, Spain).

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