Monday, October 15, 2007
When I wrote about the Nobel Prize in physics awarded to Albert Fert, I was critical of France's lack of intermediary research facilities capable of moving laboratory discoveries into industrial production. I should have waited. The October issue of Photonics Spectra arrived today with an article about the "Route des Lasers" around Bordeaux and the active partnership of a number of industrial laser firms and universities on the Megajoule Laser project. This is part of un pôle de compétitivité and is a good example of the kind of development that can be fostered by well-planned partnerships of government, universities, and industry.
The German Social Democrats are soon to convene, and when they do, they will find themselves in disarray akin to that of the Socialist Party in France. This is in many respects odd, since the SPD had been in power for years, is part of the current Grand Coalition with the CSU and CDU, and, under Schröder, initiated the reforms, known as Hartz I-IV, which conventional wisdom credits with achieving a rather impressive economic recovery over the past year. The party is down in the polls and losing support to the Linke party on its left. Its new leader, Kurt Beck (pictured), is at odds with its leading government minister, Franz Müntefering, over unemployment insurance, the duration of which was decreased under the Hartz reforms as a labor market activation measure (a similar reform is no doubt in the offing for France). This poses a dilemma for French Socialists who want to move toward the center. The German example seems to show that this can be a risky course even if your own party can take credit for an economic recovery. The Socialists won't even enjoy that advantage: if there is recovery, the credit will go to Sarkozy. Yet to the extent that workers feel disadvantaged by the reform measures taken in the interim, any attempt by the PS to associate itself with those measures may work against it at the polls. What to do? Henri Weber opines that reform cannot be undertaken by fiat, that there must be a "lengthy preparation of public opinion, unions, and, a fortiori, the party." How lengthy? For 2012, it may already be too late.