It’s Fun to Razz France — But US is No Better

The bloviations of a wacko CEO in the US against French workers provided some comic fodder this week. Making fun of the French is a bit of a national sport in the US, and the expected barbed retorts have come back from France this week.

More seriously, the “dirigiste” approach to government taken by France’s Fifth Republic since its founding in 1958 can seem to many Americans to be an impediment to economic and societal growth. But the less varnished, ostensible free-market approach taken by the US can seem barbaric to our European friends.

Indeed, France trails several of its neighbors in our rankings at the Tau Institute. We weigh several technology factors (such as bandwidth and Internet access) into our Tau Index, along with societal factors (such as corruption and human development), and integrate all this with the local cost-of-living.

The Netherlands emerges on top in Western Europe. Several Scandinavian and Baltic countries, as well as the UK and Germany, also fare better than France in our rankings.

Yet the US does no better than France. The two countries are in a virtual statistical dead heat, ranking barely in the Top 40 among the 102 countries we survey. Clearly, France could be doing better. Just as clearly, the US could as well.

Our rankings do not account for the type of government in power. The hardline Communists of Vietnam have propelled their country to near the top of our rankings, as have the egalitarian democrats of Finland and the Netherlands,

We don’t profess to say that one country’s government is better than anothers. Neither do we make hard predictions of how a high ranking may directly improve a nation’s economic and societal growth. We do, however, measure dynamism – technology can be disruptive, even as it’s a major driver of global change and development.

Among the more dynamic places we’ve ranked highly over the past two years are Egypt and Tunisia – and Vietnam. Today, the most dynamic regions we’ve found are Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and in terms of raw potential, Eastern Africa. The US and France are equally undynamic, even as Silicon Valley remains a great technology inventor and France remains the second-strongest economy in Europe.

But we can’t forget that Canada outpaces the US in North America, and several countries outpace France in Europe. So I say “Vive la France” and “God bless America” – and both of you get your act together when it comes to IT. The world will pass you both by as you continue your lengthy pissing match.

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