Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Thinking, the Antonym of Working?

Written by johnleemk on 12:33:15 pm Jul 23, 2007.

The French Finance Minister has told her people that their government has had "enough thinking", and that it is time for the French to "roll up your sleeves". This has been painted by the media as in line with the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his anti-intellectual personality.

(You'd think that with the French antipathy towards George W. Bush, they'd run away from anyone emulating him, especially his "I'm a folksy regular guy, not a smartass intellectual" style.)

Sarkozy has a number of good ideas; he is working to reshape French culture and society towards a more "work hard, get rich" kind of mentality, and obviously steer it away from its past of perceived laziness.

This has been reflected in his cabinet; the Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, spent a substantial amount of time in the United States, and Sarkozy has been trying to import the American way of thinking into France.

I can't say for sure whether this will turn out for the better or for the worse. There's definitely something wrong with a country where the youth go on strike because the government decides businesses should be allowed to, gasp, fire their employees.

But on the other hand, there's a reasonable argument to be made that cultivating a stressful "rat race" culture will backfire, and ultimately make the nation less happy.

I'm not inclined towards this kind of thinking, since most countries which have done this (China's "to get rich is glorious", anyone?) have turned out for the better, and France definitely needs to shift its people's mindsets, but there is a logical argument to be made that the new French government's priorities are a tad out of whack.

I won't make that argument, but I will wonder why Lagarde had to discourage the French from thinking. As a general rule, the more reflection, the better.

I would say that the problem may lie in the type of thinking. Thinking about how to get drunk or weasel your way out of work is not necessarily more productive than thinking about building a better mousetrap.

Indeed, there seems to be evidence that the problem with the French is that they don't think enough; according to a survey, 40% believe you can get rich by working, while 39% believe you can get rich by winning the lottery.

It's said that the lottery is a tax on stupidity. But the French aren't stupid; they just aren't thinking enough. Lagarde was wrong; the French don't need less intellect. They just need to apply it better.

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