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Healthy, Wealthy, and Dumb? September 5, 2007

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Current Events, Nina Rosenstand's Posts, Philosophy, Political Philosophy.

Philosophers are feeling the heat in France these days: The French finance minister Christine Lagarde (the Sarkozy administration) suggests the French should think less and work harder! This according to The New York Times:

In proposing a tax-cut law last week, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde bluntly advised the French people to abandon their “old national habit.” France is a country that thinks,” she told the National Assembly. “There is hardly an ideology that we haven’t turned into a theory. We have in our libraries enough to talk about for centuries to come. This is why I would like to tell you: Enough thinking, already. Roll up your sleeves.”

One might assume her point to be that excessive speculation may lead to a kind of action-paralysis (which may be true), but her comment seems to stem from a perception that if you work hard, you can accumulate wealth, but if you think hard, you can’t work hard. Ergo, if you think, you’ll stay poor, and wealth is good, so thinking must be bad. Huh? For one thing, I would suggest that it is probably a matter of priorities rather than an inherent flaw in the thinking process that most of us who think hard aren’t particularly wealthy. For another, thinking is hard work: the French philosopher and writer Alain Finkielkraut responds in the article that thinking is, in effect, a 24 hour job that you keep on doing even in your sleep. But Finkielkraut takes it one step further, which “sillifies” the entire debate: Not only does he find it offensive that the Sarkozy administration is anti-intellectual; the really offensive thing about President Sarkozy (whom he otherwise supports) is apparently that he is a jogger. Horror of horrors! Finkielkraut points out that all the great philosophers have been walkers, not joggers—a jogging French president is way too American! I hope this whole thing is tongue-in-cheek; otherwise I’d say that’s an excellent example of too much thinking right there…

            Getting back to Lagarde: What’s really amusing about her deliberate deselection of the philosophical tradition is that her appeal to being practical rather than theoretical in order to effectuate change is not new at all; who was it who implied that philosophers had done enough thinking, and the time had come to roll up one’s sleeves and take action? None other than Karl Marx himself: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”…But I’m sure this interesting similarity is unintentional; I doubt that a right-leaning administration such as Sarkozy’s would want to align themselves with Marxism…



1. Thea - September 6, 2007

Oh, this is very much what’s going on in France right now, according to my French teacher. They want to become Americans. Apparently, we are making materialism look really good and the French are unhappy with their leisurely lifestyle of conversation and culture. They just want to have regular jobs and buy things.

It’s really heartbreaking to me because France is an imperialist country. We have Britain wanting to be America and now, France. What historically aggressive, competitive, conquering peoples will be left to compete with America so that we can have diversity on our planet?

2. Dwight Furrow - September 6, 2007

Idiocracy crosses the pond thanks to Mme. Legarde, who apparently learned about American culture from living in Chicago.

She should have taken home a different message from her stay in the Windy City. After all, the beloved “Cubbies” have been rolling up their sleeves, nose to the grindstone, and haven’t won a championship since 1908. Mediocrity is no stranger to hard work.

If the French want to learn about wealth creation from Americans, they shouldn’t look to the working class. Our productivity has increased by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years with almost no increase in real median household income.

Wealth creation, American style, is about developing elaborate pyramid schemes and exiting the market before it collapses.

3. Thea - September 6, 2007

“Wealth creation, American style, is about developing elaborate pyramid
schemes and exiting the market before it collapses.”

Word up. And, the more unethical the market, the more profitable. Slaves, cyanide-laced cigarettes, aspartame, pharmaceuticals, oil. Americans will whine and moan and ooooo-eeee, will they talk about the scheme once it’s history. But, wealth will never be distributed, no one will ever go to jail and descendents of the scheme will live high off the hog until one of them gives birth to a gambling fool.

4. Huan - September 6, 2007

Work hard and buy things…i think it’s a horrible system even without all the vast amounts of gaps in power.
Working to spend money on leisure, when leisure is used to relieve stress from hard ill-motivated work. This seems to be the general system for any typical American. Sure it allows people to have a sense of direction, but it also seems like quite a giant trap when half of your life is wasted working hard at a job just for the “American Dream”.

5. Charles T. - December 11, 2007

Why is it that if we think hard, we wont be able to work hard? I would agree that it is probably a matter of priorities rather than an inherent flaw in the thinking process that most of us who think hard aren’t particularly wealthy. Don’t we all work hard enough to try and earn a living? There are those who work so hard for a little income, and it still doesn’t make ends meet. They should be trying to fix the income inequality, instead of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

6. Moriae - December 11, 2007

Who would the “they” be, and under what authority would “they” fix the inequality? What should be fixed? To whom should it apply? When should this “fix” happen, and how quickly would you want a “finished” outcome, or is simply a “process” implemented with an “end result” delayed sufficient? And what do we do with people “made” equal at some point, who then use their equality in such a way that they end up becoming “unequal” again by making rash, thoughtless, and unproductive choices? The tension between equality and freedom is often ignored.

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