Stimulus in France

Nelson Schwartz writes in the New York Times that French stimulus funds are flowing more rapidly than in the United States. Part of the issue is that a higher proportion of French projects seem explicitly designed to maximize employment rather than serve top-tier policy priorities. This stuff, for example, is more reminiscent of WPA-style projects than of ARRA:

Besides Fontainebleau, about 50 French chateaus are to receive a facelift, including the palace of Versailles. Also receiving funds are some 75 cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris. A museum devoted to Lalique glass is being created in Strasbourg, while Marseilles is to be the home of a new 10 million euro center for Mediterranean culture.

Basically, if you had tried to do this in the United States it would have been derided as pork. Or else you would have needed to set up a centrally administered slush fund that wouldn’t have played well in the press. It seems to me, though, that the larger issue simply relates to the much larger state sector in the French economy which is naturally going to be more insulated from a sharp downturn. The argument against it would be that this recession is forcing us into some kind of awesome structural adjustments that will pay off in the form of post-crash growth, while France’s insulation from the current “destruction” will hurt them during the “creative” upswing.