Confessions of a Foreign Policy Expert

 

I’m a highly credentialed foreign policy expert. Amazing, but true. It would be very easy for me to point to many things I got right and lots of things I know. I’d love to exchange what I know for money or power–or even just to give it away, or frantically push it on people.

But it’s more important for me to focus on what I didn’t see coming and ask myself “Why.” I won’t feel secure in my judgement until I have a better sense of why I missed things. Have I been using the right set of tools to look at things? What kinds of cognitive biases have been at work? Are they, still? Can I correct for them?

If I’m very honest with myself about my own predictive record, I’d say, “Good at trees. I may have missed a few forests, though.” A tree report from Paris. Remember how I saw “demographic decline” in France’s future? I was wrong. And yes, they’re French kids–trust me on that or fly on over and see it for yourself, the Euro probably won’t go lower.

Here’s where I think I went wrong. I think I was probably right in thinking, “You can’t pay for cradle-to-grave welfare without immigration or a baby boom.” I ruled out this idea: “France on the verge of a baby boom.” Wrong.

The left-of-center is telling me that of course, it’s because of all the free health care and childcare. Create incentives for women to have babies and they will. The right-of-center is more inclined to attribute it to a revival of Catholicism. I’m looking at this and thinking, “Whatever it is, I got it wrong. Retract the prediction and figure out why you were wrong.”

Upon realizing I had been wrong, I proceeded to have an existential crisis on the Rue Ebelman–map here–and thought, “Wow. An existential crisis in Paris. First ever.” I came home and forced myself to re-read Being and Nothingness as a punishment.

It was a worse punishment than I thought. Go force yourself to read it and take it seriously. You will see that he is prescribing guilt, not decadence. I missed that. Not like he called it, “Lots of Exits,” either.

So I’ve revised the theory. Begin with the theory that France is in the grip of ravening Sartre Fundamentalists. Take the text literally and seriously, and assume that this is in fact how France reads it, as opposed to the way Americans or anyone in the Anglophone world would.

Even if you pray to Sartre–in fact, especially if you do–he will speak to you clearly: “Admit you were wrong.” After that, you’ll hope for redemption. You won’t get it from him. Guess where you go for that, in France.

I was wrong about French demographics. I’ll have a rough time in this life or the next if I don’t admit that. Now, I’ve got figure out exactly how I got that wrong and come up with a better model. Or I’ll go to Hell.

I don’t quite understand how anyone else gets out of it.

There are 48 comments.

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  1. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    Claire, I feel your pain.  As someone who does competitive analysis for a living trying to predict how competitors will behave I am often in the position of figuring out how we got it wrong.  I am comforted by the idea that some things are just unknowable and to quote the great philosopher Yogi Berra, “predictions are very hard, particularly about the future”.

    • #1
  2. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Blue State Curmudgeon:Claire, I feel your pain. As someone who does competitive analysis for a living trying to predict how competitors will behave I am often in the position of figuring out how we got it wrong. I am comforted by the idea that some things are just unknowable and to quote the great philosopher Yogi Berra, “predictions are very hard, particularly about the future:.

    On behalf of the flight crew, let me welcome you aboard Delta Flight 1647 to Dallas-Fort Worth with continuing service to Sacramento. We might touch down in Dallas at 5:23 local time, depending on the headwind, or we might not, maybe we’ll just crash this thing. Some things are just unknowable. Predictions are very hard. I’m comforted by this thought. How’s everyone else feeling?”

    • #2
  3. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Make a list of things you got wrong and things you got right.  What do the items on each list have in common (apart from you getting them right or wrong)?  If you can analyse the lot and find that you tend to be wrong about things which involve just “X and Y” but right about things which involve “X and Z” and “Y and Z” you may be on the way to finding your blind spot.

    Better yet: crowd source your analysis.  This kind of gig is what Ricochet lives for.

    • #3
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Fortunately you’re much better than the batting average of the CIA.

    You must be in a terrible mood if you assign Sartre – talk about nausea.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    You are telling me that there is a population rebound in France?

    • #5
  6. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I was in Arle a few years ago and witnessed a local festival, a delightful celebration of Provecal culture. I didn’t know the stats at that time, but I came away convinced that France was on the rebound. I purchased some santos–clay dolls in traditional dress–to remind me of French resilience. They grace my dining room and they give me hope. Cultures can recover. I hope that is true for us, and I think it is their cultural pride with all that entails, Catholicism included, that is fueling their recovery. If the left would get over themselves and allow our well-deserved cultural pride to flourish, we’d recover too.

    • #6
  7. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Claire. Your quip: “… Maybe we’ll just crash this thing” sparked a memory of a great story from American comic and friend of the Kennedy family – Mort Sahl. It has nothing to do with your existential crisis. But it is a great story none the less….

    Sahl had hitched a ride on Air Force One with JFK traveling from the West Coast to back East. JFK is looking out the window at the Arizona back country below, quietly sipping Scotch. Out of the blue he turns to Sahl:

    JFK: Hey Mort. What do you think would happen if we piled this thing up right now?

    Sahl: Pardon me, sir?

    JFK: You know Mort. What would happen if we crashed now?

    Sahl: I don’t know. Why so morose Mr. President?

    JFK: I’m just thinking Mort. Look at that country out there. They could be out there with mules and backpacks for WEEKS looking for us.

    Sahl: It is pretty rugged.

    JFK: You think they’d put it in the paper when they finally found us?

    Sahl: I suppose they’d have to Mr. President.

    JFK: You know what Mort?

    Sahl: What Sir?

    JFK: Your name is going to be in VERY small print.

    • #7
  8. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    I think pretty much everyone who predicts demographic doom either because of too many people or not enough has been wrong. Populations in humans and other organisms always reach some sort of equilibrium. If you want to predict what that point will be you must ask what are the conditions that promote population increase? Generally throughout human history birth rates have been roughly equal to death rates which is why human populations where so stable for thousands of years.

    • #8
  9. gnarlydad Inactive
    gnarlydad
    @gnarlydad

    Claire, an expert is merely someone who used to be a pert. There, have a little perspective with that humble pie.

    • #9
  10. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Kermit Hoffpauir:You are telling me that there is a population rebound in France?

    Not with confidence. Not this time. But this seems to be what French demographers believe:

    As France’s population continues to rise, Germany’s is going down, which may see the French challenging the Germans for the position of western Europe’s most populous nation.

    And I’m noticing that there’s nothing the French study as closely as their own birth rate. It’s something they track obsessively and keep shrouded in taboos. It’s almost as if there were a Franco-German rivalry and a bit of French nationalism underneath this. But obviously, you can’t say certain things, these days.

    Beats me. I’m not making any more demographic predictions about France. Seeing lots of French babies and hearing a lot of mysterious explanations about how French babies are born. They look to me like they were born the usual way.

    • #10
  11. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Open question: is France rising?

    Germany seems to be the dominant country and culture in Europe right now, but I only say that as a dim-witted American who can only rely on the few reports that filter into our media.

    It also strikes me that Europe is at a multicultural tipping point. The experiment with the euro and the European Union has been, I’d say, fraught with problems. If Europe goes on to merge into a real union, France will only rise or fall in conjunction with the rest of the continent.

    But if France is “rising,” that signals a re-emergence of national identity … and a telltale sign that the European Union is doomed to failure.

    So, as a dim-witted American, I’d like to ask our European Ricochetti … which seems ascendant, European Union or are countries and cultures making a comeback?

    • #11
  12. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    KC Mulville:Fortunately you’re much better than the batting average of the CIA.

    That’s not fortunate for me. I’m an American citizen. I wouldn’t think of that as fortunate. I would think of that as disastrous. Let me explain how Americans feel about their country–wait, you know how Americans feel, right? I do, anyway.

    • #12
  13. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Just looking at the data,the increase in birth rate is among the immigrant population.

    Per 100 births

    Both parents born in France
    2004 = 74.8
    2013= 71.8
    Both parents born abroad
    2004 = 10.8
    2013 = 13.4

    • #13
  14. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Claire Berlinski:

    KC Mulville:Fortunately you’re much better than the batting average of the CIA.

    That’s not fortunate for me. I’m an American citizen. I wouldn’t think of that as fortunate. I would think of that as disastrous. Let me explain how Americans feel about their country–wait, you know how Americans feel, right? I do, anyway.

    Well, if anything, it has shown that not knowing everything perfectly isn’t really a disaster.

    That does raise an interesting philosophical question, though. Predictions about the future are more art than science. Science claims to be based on the observation of existing results; these are extrapolated into the future, on the premise that the future will behave like the past. In turn, that also presumes that the observed results are comprehensive, and include all of the factors that determine the result.

    Which means that if your predictions are wrong, it could be because you either didn’t extrapolate properly (which is cause for alarm) or you didn’t have all of the factors that determine the result (no guilt about that). If your predictions don’t come true because you screwed up the extrapolation, you’d have cause for doubt about yourself as an “expert.”

    But more likely, the causes weren’t visible anyway, so don’t sweat it. You didn’t have enough to work with. However, the sin of many contemporary “experts” is that they make predictions anyway, even if they don’t have legitimate evidence.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    Claire Berlinski:

    Kermit Hoffpauir:You are telling me that there is a population rebound in France?

    Not with confidence. Not this time. But this seems to be what French demographers believe:

    And I’m noticing that there’s nothing the French study as closely as their own birth rate. It’s something they track obsessively and keep shrouded in taboos. It’s almost as if there were a Franco-German rivalry and a bit of French nationalism underneath this. But obviously, you can’t say certain things, these days.

    Beats me. I’m not making any more demographic predictions about France. Seeing lots of French babies and hearing a lot of mysterious explanations about how French babies are born. They look to me like they were born the usual way.

    Thanks for the explanation.  Your article took me totally by surprise and completely ignorant.

    BTW, my daughter is headed to Paris for a a week, all by herself (she’s 38), in a month.

    • #15
  16. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    I think, here in Estonia, that the nation-state is alive and well, despite the European Union. It seems for me that except at the highest levels of power, so little is changed, and so little of the EU process is visible, that it never really has an effect.

    Here, I’ve noticed several differences pre-and-post EU admission (off the top of my head, it was 2004 here):

    Schengen – no passports are needed to travel. That’s just a wonderful development for most (although I was one of those who LIKED getting stamps, and having to go to the embassy for annex after annex because my book was full).

    EU subsidies – transfer payments from West and North benefactors, generally, have made a big difference in our infrastructure. The roads are pretty good everywhere now (except Tallinn, the capital, which has a deeply corrupt mayor and a despotic municipal ruling party, but that’s another subject). The airport has a beautiful renovation. The final planning stages are done for Rail Baltic, a train line that will run from Tallinn to Warsaw, connecting the Baltic States to the rest of the European train system. The route is 211.4 kilometers long and will cost 1.1 billion euros, of which 650 million euros will be given by the European Union. There’s talk about a underwater train line from Tallinn to Helsinki, but at this point, it’s just talk.

    There’s been some harmonization of medical laws. Countries are now sharing transplanted organs, for instance, and certain countries are became magnets for certain types of surgeries (livers happen to be the one here; I think France is also liver).

    But the European Union’s parliament, here locally, is seen as a place you send your washed out, your crazy, or give your gold watch. We sent the longest-serving PM in Europe to the parliament this time, a foreign minister who was put out to pasture by his own party, a pro-Russian, a statesman at the end of his run, a smart woman, and a drunk. That’s my own personal read, at least. We just had parliamentary elections, and the voting rate was about 66%. It was double-digits higher than the Euro elections, which are separate.

    As far as the “dominant” culture of Germany, I would say yes, they are the biggest, and the most important. But it’s at the higher levels, chiefly financial.  English is spoken everywhere in Eastern and Northern Europe, not German. The Estonian national broadcaster has correspondents in Moscow, Washington, London and Brussels. Not Berlin. One of the most popular TV programs in Estonia is a Danish police show.

    The largest political debate last year (aside of Russia’s shenanigans), was a bill called the co-habitation act, which would establish rights for unmarried couples living together (including homosexuals). It passed, barely. That was an issue totally generated at the local level, not EU-influenced legislation.

    The nation-state still holds. I could give you a couple sentences what is going on in Latvia, or Finland, or others in our neighborhood, but as far as a melding of cultures, I only see it with an increase in mixed-country couples due to the ease of travel and university exchange programs, like the Erasmus student program. That will have some impact over time. But just about every European country is provincial in a way that is the antithesis of America. If you are an immigrant to Europe, you won’t establish roots, although you might have branches. I don’t see that going away for a long, long, time.

    • #16
  17. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    KC Mulville:So, as a dim-witted American, I’d like to ask our European Ricochetti … which seems ascendant, European Union or are countries and cultures making a comeback?

    I wonder if it might be both? The EU countries imposed a lot of taboos on themselves–for a very good reason. It seems plausible to me, at least, that I wasn’t the only one looking at France and thinking, “The numbers don’t work without immigration or a baby boom.” It seems plausible that France studied itself very closely and arrived at the same conclusion. Big taboo on “war against Germany,” for obvious reasons. And good ones, I must say. That one’s never going to come back in fashion. A lot of ways to fight a war, though. Maybe I’m looking at–how to put it–a “constructive channeling of French aggression.” I can sort of see some French academic thinking, “Make love as war.”

    • #17
  18. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    1.) I’ve been teaching that, of all the European countries, France, Ireland, and Sweden are the only three that are actually stable (growing not impossible, but very hard to find).  And that while some of their programs might have influenced their birth-rates (might, lots of other countries have the same policies and are on crash-trajectories anyway -like Singapore and Japan), the driving factor is probably nationalism, homogeneity, and outright chauvinism.  These are unlikely to be replicated in a place like the US (they apparently aren’t even replicated in more homogenous cultures like China and Japan).  I’m not entirely certain they’re going to be replicated in France.

    2.) Which leads me to say “don’t fold on the prediction yet.”  Demographic declines take decades to form, and they don’t disappear over night.  I have been saying that France, Ireland, and Sweden look the most promising for recovery -but I would not be surprised to see 2 or even 3 of them collapse anyway.  And someone else might get lucky.

    3.) Always be prepared to revise what you know in light of new information, but don’t revise willy-nilly.

    • #18
  19. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    Ekosj:Hi Claire. Your quip: “… Maybe we’ll just crash this thing” sparked a memory of a great story from American comic and friend of the Kennedy family – Mort Sahl.It has nothing to do with your existential crisis. But it is a great story none the less….

    Sahl had hitched a ride on Air Force One with JFK traveling from the West Coast to back East.JFK is looking out the window at the Arizona back country below, quietly sipping Scotch. Out of the blue he turns to Sahl:

    JFK:Hey Mort.What do you think would happen if we piled this thing up right now?

    Sahl: Pardon me, sir?

    JFK:You know Mort.What would happen if we crashed now?

    Sahl:I don’t know.Why so morose Mr. President?

    JFK:I’m just thinking Mort. Look at that country out there. They could be out there with mules and backpacks for WEEKS looking for us.

    Sahl: It is pretty rugged.

    JFK: You think they’d put it in the paper when they finally found us?

    Sahl: I suppose they’d have to Mr. President.

    JFK: You know what Mort?

    Sahl:What Sir?

    JFK:Your name is going to be in VERY small print.

    This Comment needs 10 Likes, 100 Likes, 1000 Likes!

    Mort Sahl!  I’d give the Eye Teeth they pulled years ago to see that man perform live.

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Edward Smith:Mort Sahl! I’d give the Eye Teeth they pulled years ago to see that man perform live.

    You had your canines pulled?

    • #20
  21. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    Arahant:

    Edward Smith:Mort Sahl! I’d give the Eye Teeth they pulled years ago to see that man perform live.

    You had your canines pulled?

    It was part of that whole Braces process.

    • #21
  22. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Sartre is projecting not prescribing guilt. He supported Hitler a few years in and then recoiling from the horror became a hard line Stalinist. Of course, by the middle thirties “High Stalinism” with its mass famines and mass purges was in full force.

    This is what happens when you don’t take Deontological Ethics seriously. You fall for a Gd of Utility and then the events of the World make you a fool. Admitting less than omniscience about all of the details, what you are confessing to, isn’t as important as missing that there is no substitute for Freedom.

    Kant:

    Being (Authentic or Otherwise) describes Nature, the is.

    Action describes Choice (Requires Transcendental Freedom), the ought.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Claire Berlinski:

    Kermit Hoffpauir:You are telling me that there is a population rebound in France?

    Not with confidence. Not this time. But this seems to be what French demographers believe:

    And I’m noticing that there’s nothing the French study as closely as their own birth rate. It’s something they track obsessively and keep shrouded in taboos. It’s almost as if there were a Franco-German rivalry and a bit of French nationalism underneath this. But obviously, you can’t say certain things, these days.

    Beats me. I’m not making any more demographic predictions about France. Seeing lots of French babies and hearing a lot of mysterious explanations about how French babies are born. They look to me like they were born the usual way.

    Is there any chance this is increase is due to immigrant populations in France having a greater fertility rate than the, well, French?  It’s one thing to say France as a nation is experiencing a baby boom, but something quite different to say the French are.  I hate to put it in such jingoistic terms, but I think in light of the Charlie Hebdo event–not to mention the events of the last decade or so–it is quite warranted.

    • #23
  24. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Sabrdance:1.) I’ve been teaching that, of all the European countries, France, Ireland, and Sweden are the only three that are actually stable (growing not impossible, but very hard to find). And that while some of their programs might have influenced their birth-rates (might, lots of other countries have the same policies and are on crash-trajectories anyway -like Singapore and Japan), the driving factor is probably nationalism, homogeneity, and outright chauvinism. These are unlikely to be replicated in a place like the US (they apparently aren’t even replicated in more homogenous cultures like China and Japan). I’m not entirely certain they’re going to be replicated in France.

    Hmm. Some very chauvinistic countries (many Asian and Islamic countries) are witnessing population crash, whereas Sweden (Sweden! Yes, Sweden!) is witnessing a rise. Sweden’s birth rate is higher than ours right now, incredibly. And has Japan really done that much by way of pro-natalist policies?

    I think the policies can help, though they aren’t sufficient in themselves. It’s a complicated cocktail, but neutralizing some of the intrinsically anti-natalist components of modern societies can affect birth rates moderately.

    • #24
  25. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Rachel Lu:

    Sabrdance:

    Hmm. Some very chauvinistic countries (many Asian and Islamic countries) are witnessing population crash, whereas Sweden (Sweden! Yes, Sweden!) is witnessing a rise. Sweden’s birth rate is higher than ours right now, incredibly. And has Japan really done that much by way of pro-natalist policies?

    The punchline is that “chauvinism may only work in the country of its birth.”  Japan has done some natalism -not as much as Singapore.  They have cash benefits for children, work leave policies, and so forth.  They’re at least as Natalist as Russia.

    I think the policies can help, though they aren’t sufficient in themselves. It’s a complicated cocktail, but neutralizing some of the intrinsically anti-natalist components of modern societies can affect birth rates moderately.

    I’m certainly willing to give it a shot -on “government policy shouldn’t make people choose between children and taxes” grounds if no others, but I think modernity is the actual source of the malaise, and we’re not getting rid of that.  People have children now because of a religious command, or as the ultimate (in the meaning of either greatest -the rich -or last -the poor) self-expression.  That is not conducive to creating a culture or a civilization, let alone perpetuating a people.

    • #25
  26. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Part of Singapore’s problem is that they were *so* very anti-natalist in the very recent past. Paying women to sterilize themselves and so forth. Hard to undo that kind of cultural damage in a hurry, even with fat benefits.

    I agree that modernity is in some sense “the problem” but obviously that’s been around for awhile, and can still lead to a variety of outcomes. And while I also agree that loss of meaning and purpose are very central to the problem, we should recognize that there are lots of degrees and gray areas here. Very religious people will tend to have the most kids regardless of the benefit situation. But, the social and material considerations still factor in to some degree, and sometimes you can get some positive reinforcement going, if national pride and material benefits (though really we should say “lessened material losses” because childbearing just ain’t a good deal nowadays, materially speaking) come together to make the childbearing project less drastically disadvantageous.

    And while it’s far too simple to suggest that we can up birth rates by piling on benefits that enable women to “have it all”, I think the data also suggests that women do shy away from maternity when the sacrifices are too drastic. If the choices are 1) independent career woman, and 2) scuttle around your whole life cleaning up after people, many choose (1). Most women still don’t want to be high-power lawyer-moms with full-time nannies (and that sort of woman hardly ever has six kids). But they do want a broader range of options for social and sometimes professional inclusion, at various stages of life, as maternity might allow. Cultures that allow for that may help ward off catastrophic declines in birth rates.

    • #26
  27. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    I’ll never forget watching 28 Days Later… when it came out on DVD. You know the drill: one of the earlier of the 21st century’s mania with zombies thanks to military bioweapons research centered around a virus that causes homicidal rage and confers superhuman strength and speed scant seconds after coming into contact with infected bodily fluids. London is decimated in days. (Actually, I wonder what the word for “instantly lost way more than 10%” is, but nevermind.) Of course there is the obligatory—but nevertheless successfully harrowing—”the human monsters are worse than the monster-monsters” scene.

    But the big reveal at the end is that the survivors… survive, and when a military jet roars overhead and you think they’re spelling out “HELP” with rocks as fast as they can, they’re really just spelling out “HELLO.” Turns out all they really needed to do was get their butts out of the city. Out in the much-less-densely-populated countryside, everything is gorgeous, everything is organic and locally-sourced, and everyone can afford to be friendly because there’s plenty of everything.

    The more I think about it, the more I think 28 Days Later… was a documentary. The problem really is accepting all of the particular facets of urban life as if they were inevitable, as if there weren’t many times as many people in towns of 100,000 or less than in our 10-12 million rich urban centers.

    As if the politics, the culture, the religion (or lack thereof) of the cities defined an entire nation. Or an entire race.

    I do also think people tend to overidentify Existentialism with Nihilism. Do they overlap in many instances? I think so. But let’s also remember that Kierkegaard, for example, was Lutheran: he placed his Existentialism firmly in his Protestant conception of a fallen world and a fallen human race, and whatever despair he might have felt he laid at God’s feet and begged—again, and again—for enlightenment. So I think Claire’s right (what a surprise). We should be careful about taking everything that comes out of Europe—France in particular—as the counsel of despair. France has survived horrors no American has ever dreamt of. She can survive whatever peccadilloes of the moment befall her.

    • #27
  28. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Robert McReynolds: It’s one thing to say France as a nation is experiencing a baby boom, but something quite different to say the French are. I hate to put it in such jingoistic terms, but I think in light of the Charlie Hebdo event–not to mention the events of the last decade or so–it is quite warranted.

    Well, I’m sufficiently chastened by my prediction of population decline that I’ll agree. But I’ve got to say, if these immigrants are so assimilated as to say, “We hope that our birth rate is high, and of course everyone in France has an opinion, you see, in France, there are many opinions, but the important thing is to have more than the Germans … ” 

    I’m not sure how you could assimilate better than that, really.

    • #28
  29. user_316485 Member
    user_316485
    @ManOTea

    Claire,

    I have read many times that Muslim immigrants are the bulk of new births in France. True? Wasn’t that one of the worrisome points made by Mark Steyn?  My knowledge of Sartre is underneath a level at which I could ask a question. So here’s something I do know:

    Vous etes belle

    • #29
  30. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    James Gawron:I know his background, but increasingly, I’m feeling that these sorts of things should be explained for our younger readers. I’m becoming increasingly concerned that these texts may now be taught in our universities without the appropriate contempt and ridicule.

    Of course, it seems that’s precisely why I misunderstood the effect Sartre had on France. I saw him as a handbook for a decadent society. Upon a second reading, I see that I simply wasn’t reading him in the way a deeply traumatized and guilt-ridden France would read him.

    • #30

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