France hits back at French bashers with Nobel wins

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2014 1:05 PM
France hits back at French bashers with Nobel wins

PARIS (AP) — France thinks it's time to bash the French-bashers.

Seven years after Time magazine declared French culture 'dead,' the country's leaders are rallying behind their 2014 Nobel prize winners with a vengeance.

Minutes after French economist Jean Tirole won the Nobel prize for economics Monday — following French author Patrick Modiano's win in literature last week — the country's prime minister took to Twitter with the hashtag "FiersdelaFrance (Proud of France)."

"After Patrick Modiano, another Frenchman among the stars: congratulations to Jean Tirole! What a thumb in the eye to french bashing!" Manuel Valls tweeted to his 90,500 followers.

The fact that this was the first Noble economics prize since 1999 without an American winner made Monday's victory all the sweeter. Others in France's beleaguered government also jumped on the Tirole bandwagon.

President Francois Hollande said the prize "puts a spotlight on the quality of research in our country" and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said Tirole "makes our country and the French economics school proud."

France's economists are having a bit of a moment this year, with another French economist, Thomas Piketty, publishing an English translation of his work "Capital in the 21st Century" that set the economics field ablaze.

The Nobel win comes, however, as France hasn't balanced a budget in decades, its economy is stagnant, joblessness is mounting and its deficit is rising despite repeated pledges to bring it within an EU-imposed threshold. Hollande is the most unpopular president in modern French history — and later this week France's 2015 budget risks receiving an embarrassing rebuke from EU partners in Brussels.

France's leaders would do well, once the champagne toasts are over, to read a recent interview with Tirole. In it, he noted that six out of seven top French economists on an International Monetary Fund list currently live in the U.S. or Great Britain; all seven studied there.

"These departures would be without consequence if we attracted foreign researchers of equivalent talent, but overall this is not the case," he told Challenges magazine.


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