Good luck with that matey

This is an obvious truth:

\”The last time a French norm was scrapped was in 1789. Ever since, they have only built up,\” the authors said, citing Montesquieu who stated: \”Useless laws weaken essential laws.\”

One of the few arguments that I\’ve made up myself, and which are actually reasonable, is precisely that Montesquieu point. Proving that I can be reasonable but not original. Whether I can be original and reasonable is as yet unknown.

But what does this lead to?

The village of Albaret-Sainte-Marie, southwestern France, population 573 and with an annual budget of 400,000 euros, is required to widen all its pavements \”to allow two wheelchairs to pass each other.\” The mayor pointed out to Le Figaro that the village has no wheelchair-bound residents.

Town hall staff are required to work in the dark if light bulbs blow and specially-trained staff are not on hand to change them.

The place rather needs a bonfire of the bureaucracy. What they\’re actually calling for is:

The key principle we need to bring back is common sense,\” said mayor Michel Thérond.

Good luck with that matey. Not just in France but anywhere in the EU.

26 thoughts on “Good luck with that matey”

  1. “The key principle we need to bring back is common sense,” said mayor Michel Thérond.”

    Which the French do tend to use. Village I lived in had pavements narrower than regulation & the idea that Sophie the mayor would sit in the dark rather change a lightbulb, without special-training, is positively hilarious.
    The French have a lot of stupid laws. The French ignore any law that doesn t suit them.
    It s the Brits who take all this stuff seriously.

  2. You can’t move in France for mediaeval villages or small towns that don’t have pavements at all, let alone pavements wide enough for one wheel chair let alone two wheel chairs.

    In fact if you allowed wheelchairs to use the road then this “problem” (I suspect there is no law that demands all pavements in France be 2 metres wide) would disappear immediately.

    I suspect the lightbulb story might have more legs if we are talking about a grand town hall building with 30 feet high ceilings. You do need trained contractors (or the town’s handyman who knows how to do these thimngs and has the right kit) to set up the scaffolding and change these light bulbs. I presume we aren’t talking about changing a 60w bulb on a desk light.

  3. I’m not convinced they will forever be allowed to ignore these rules. At some point, the rule makers will run out of compliant people; I doubt they will then shut up shop.

    I think it’s in the police book Perverting The Course Of Justice that the author talks about changing the clock in his office to BST from GMT because the force clock changer takes about four weeks to get round all the nicks *and the station Unison rep getting onto a chair and turning it back to the wrong time*.

  4. Hi Tim

    The building up of norms and interest groups is the basis for Mancur Olson’s The Rise and Decline of Nations. A good book and one that I tend to agree with. However, most attempts to test this hypothesis have been negative to inconclusive.

  5. Far fewer stupid rules are due to “laws” than to “legal reasons”. Was hiring recently, and the personnel department said we absolutely had to put Male/Female in the headline. I pointed out that sex was totally irrelevant to the job and the department (and profession) are overwhelmingly female. There’s no law saying you have to have Male/Female in the title, but there are a few dicks and cunts in Germany who go around suing companies for trivial things in job adverts, and some courts give them compensation.

    So, legal reasons, not down to a law.

    Same goes with changing light bulbs. No law saying I can’t change a bulb in my own office, but the company doesn’t want me doing it because of potential liability issues. In some places that goes so far as to making trivial, common-sense breaches of elfin safety into disciplinary issues. No law, just legal.

  6. Why does a village with a population of 573 need a town hall or anyone to staff it, not to mention a budget of 400K, how many English parish councils have that kind of funding ?

  7. Thornavis>

    I’d say that ~500 people is just about right for the smallest unit of government. If you’ve never been to one of these places, ‘town hall’ gives entirely the wrong impression – ‘village/parish hall’ captures it much better.

    Not so sure about the validity of the level of their budget, unless they’re paying state benefits or some such, but even that’s not wildly out of kilter with what you’d expect – emptying bins, sweeping roads, and so-on costs money. Without a detailed breakdown of their responsibilities, it’s really hard to say just how much too large (or too small) their budget is for the job the residents would actually like them to be doing.

  8. Dave

    Perhaps you’re right, local government was certainly better in Britain when we had all those varied boroughs and rural districts and the like. Too untidy for the corporatist mindset of course so they had to go.

  9. Plenty of French villages have town halls that are impressively grand buildings. Large windows, couple of columns, and a flag pole. The mayor though is often just a part-time position. But the grandeur of the building does give some indication of how the French are serious about local government.

    English villages may have parish councils but they don’t have annual budgets of

  10. Plenty of French villages have town halls that are impressively grand buildings. Large windows, couple of columns, and a flag pole. The mayor though is often just a part-time position. But the grandeur of the building does give some indication of how the French are serious about local government.

    English villages may have parish councils but they don’t have annual budgets of

  11. Plenty of French villages have town halls that are impressively grand buildings. Large windows, couple of columns, and a flag pole. The mayor though is often just a part-time position. But the grandeur of the building does give some indication of how the French are serious about local government.

    English villages may have parish councils but they don’t have annual budgets of

  12. Plenty of French villages have town halls that are impressively grand buildings. Large windows, couple of columns, and a flag pole. The mayor though is often just a part-time position. But the grandeur of the building does give some indication of how the French are serious about local government.

    English villages may have parish councils but they don’t have annual budgets of

  13. Plenty of French villages have town halls that are impressively grand buildings. Large windows, couple of columns, and a flag pole. The mayor though is often just a part-time position. But the grandeur of the building does give some indication of how the French are serious about local government.

    English villages may have parish councils but they don’t have annual budgets of £1,000 per capita.

    (Please change your Word Press software).

  14. Shinsei, are you not getting that Tim can’t change the software? Contact wordpress would be my advice, or use GBP instead of L.

  15. Tim does actually just need to sort out his config. WordPress is a bit of a nightmare for this kind of thing, but it’s not impossible. At a rough guess, the database character-set is different to the one the web-server’s attempting to use.

  16. Thornavis>

    I may be coming at it from a somewhat unusual perspective, because I believe what we generally consider to be country-sized units of government are either obsolete, or were just a bad idea to start with. Local government should be on a very small scale, although there’s obviously nothing to stop the councils (or whatever you’d call them) working together where their electorates have similar ideas about how things should be done. Once you have that, I don’t see a need for anything bigger until you get to an over-arching (minimal) federal government.

  17. How small a scale should local government be?

    Should local government mean that each village can define acceptable emissions limits for all of the 100,000+ chemicals in your vehicle exhaust?

    And that if you don’t have a sticker on the windshield stating (correctly or not) that you meet that emissions limit that you are liable to criminal penalties?

    Forgive the apparently absurd example but this is something local governments in Germany do.

    Could those local governments then go further and declare that failing to have said sticker in the windshield is punishable by death (even if your vehicle actually meets the village emissions law but just lacks the sticker)?

    So, is lots of local government really the liberal answer to everything that’s wrong with the world? Or does it just give ever-smaller units the right to rip off outsiders?

  18. So Much for Subtlety

    Thornavis. – “Why does a village with a population of 573 need a town hall or anyone to staff it, not to mention a budget of 400K, how many English parish councils have that kind of funding ?”

    France got a system of Departments and communes with the Revolution. There has been next to no change since then. Which means that rural areas have become seriously depopulated, but they retain the same sorts of administration they had in 1789.

    Legally a commune of 573 people is no different to one like Paris. Well that is not quite true. Calais anyway.

  19. James>

    I assume, perhaps just like to think, certainly can’t prove, that in a system of micro-states such excesses of bureaucracy would be curbed by people’s vastly increased ability to emigrate – because it’s a lot easier to up sticks to a better governed country when that only means moving a couple of miles down the road.

  20. What? WordPress cannot even do single apostrophes?

    Shinsei 1967 was right.

    I was trying to say that English parish council are just talking shops, whereas French mayors have real powers.

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