My thanks to the Meissen Bison for alerting me to the existence of the French dog walking form:
Among the measures introduced in France to deal with the coronavirus is a requirement to fill in a form before going out for a walk.
No, really, this is not a joke. As part of the lockdown it is necessary, before leaving the house, to complete and sign a download from the Ministry of the Interior. Name, address, what you think you’re doing and so on.
This is not filed with anyone, nor registered. It must simply be carried during the errand. Absence, if caught, will lead to a €135 fine. A new form is required for every exit from the house. And yes, there’s a box to tick for “aux besoins des animaux de compagnie” which my memories of exchange visits have as “for the needs of our furry friends”.
The solution to a global pandemic is a form for walking the dog. Of course, it is easy to mock the French but there is an important point here, for this is an example of a pernicious worldview. That we, the people, are only able to cope if we are told what to do, what we may do. All must be decided and enforced by the clever people in power and nothing left to ordinary folks to get on with.
Our own tradition is vehemently different. I have surprised people in a number of countries by pointing out that a British policeman isn’t actually allowed to ask — or at least not to insist upon knowing — what it is that you are doing. If accosted, a cheery “Going about my lawful business, constable” is all that is required. Such liberties might not apply in moments of crisis but they are indicative of a different manner of thinking.
That’s a difference we must continue with, even as parliament considers extending the powers of the police during this emergency. The undirected but considered interactions of 65 million of us are what we call the economy, society itself. These will also be the solutions to our current crisis.
We now face we know not what. Perhaps a loss of 1 per cent of GDP for a few weeks, possibly 10 per cent for many months. The very creation of that GDP in the first place is those voluntary interactions of the 65 million of us. So, too, will be the maintenance of it and the recovery. It is markets, not central direction, that will work — and certainly not dog-walking forms.
Be adult, be responsible, and the best of British to you.