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French exceptionalism

Intellectuals in France like to talk about their country’s exceptionalism, by which they mean it doesn’t adhere to Anglo-Saxon notions of the economy or Hollywood-generated ideas on culture.

But another exceptionalism is becoming evident and that is France’s tolerance of high-level corruption. A French judge yesterday dropped a case despite finding “serious and consistent evidence” that president Jacques Chirac was involved in a massive kickback scandal during his tenure as mayor of Paris.

Anywhere else I can think of (at least among western democracies), Chirac’s position would be under threat and certainly any prospect of a future political career would be terminally blighted. But most accounts reckon that Chirac is at least level-pegging for next year’s presidential election with current prime minister Lionel Jospin.

The French are justly celebrated for being a last bastion of philosophical understanding (schoolchildren have to cover Aristotle, Descartes, Rousseau, etc in high school), but the lessons on ethical philosophy have clearly been forgotten.

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