31 January 2007

Liberté, Égalité, Hermès

The French are lamenting the "banalization" of Paris' famed Champs-Élysées and have begun denying permission to lower-rent shops seeking to do business there. Economist.com's Free Exchange blog offers them a helping hand:
[H]ere's my suggestion. The French government polls some suitably profiled cross-section of Parisian residents (ladies with small dogs, men with moustaches, people coming out of arthouse movies, anyone carrying a baguette, anyne with a striped T-shirt and a beret) and asks them what shops they would like to see on the Champs-Elysees. Then it compels those shops, by law, to open on the Champs-Elysees. I mean, if it can turn shops away, why can't it force them to come? Is that really any different as an incursion on economic freedom? Who knows, it might be a hit, and anyhow it would be cute.

My general point is that, for as long as the French think they can suspend the laws of economics in a 400-mile mile radius around Clermont-Ferrand, we should delight in any weird policies they may attempt (eg, declaring yoghurt a strategic industry; imposing a 35 hour week and then regretting it). Just to see what happens.

What experiments should we urge on them next? Here's my wish list:
Cap the rates for luxury hotel rooms within the Peripherique at $100 a night

Abolish income tax for figurative painters and pastry chefs

Tax noisy plumbing and use the proceeds to subsidise Louis Vuitton luggage at point of sale

Hold real-time auctions for cabs at taxi ranks, with the excess of the winning bid over the metred fare to be given to the under bidder

Cap the working week at five hours in a pilot city, eg Bordeaux, to see if this increases local employment by 800%

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