The French change governments like most people change their clothes. By contrast, the United States is more stable, even with an unpredictable president. The French state is also far more ambitious than the U.S. federal government, as proved by the appointment of two new ministers this week. One is charged with managing the “ecological transition,” which is hardly a modest objective. In the United States, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency is currently restoring the rights of industrial players to pollute at will. The other minister named by President Macron is heading up sports and youth – another major responsibility. The new minister has already been informed of how many medals France is expected to win at the new Olympic Games, as if she had any part in it! After all, there is little correlation between the micromanaging French government and sporting results. We could even imagine the United States – despite not having an equivalent minister – will come home with more medals than France.
Until last year, France also had a minister for industry, whose expertise was little known, and a minister for trade, whose role was just as confusing. We also have a minister for the economy, which the United States does not. This may be why the economy is stronger in the U.S. than in France… Certainly a hypothesis worth thinking about. However, in Paris we are very proud of our ministry of culture. It was originally created in 1959 for one of General de Gaulle’s close friends, André Malraux, who spent his time in office writing memoirs and novels. The ministry obviously survived after Malraux’s departure, and its numbers of civil servants continues to grow. But are the French more cultured thanks to a specially dedicated ministry? Unlike the Olympic Games, there is no way of measuring. The French often see the Americans as uncultured – an ancient cliché dating back to the 18th century – but who knows whether this view would change if there was a ministry of culture in Washington? Given his love of and desire to emulate our military parades, Donald Trump should perhaps give it some thought.