Here is a confusing parable for prospective IMF staffers: Chapter 1. A wealthy entrepreneur in a large, resource-rich country sees an expensive toy and sets his heart on it. With close ties to the regime and a seat in the dusty lower chamber of the assembly, he swings a loan from the public coffers. A little later he becomes minister for such-and-such, but his toy turns out to be high maintenance. As it threatens to eat into his personal fortune, the big man harrumphs and leans on the state agency that lent him the money in the first place to buy it off him. Moral: Patronage and corruption: the state as an open goal for plundering elites. Punish and constrain. Chapter 2. The agency, which now has a controlling interest in the toy, sells it on for roughly twice as much as the big man owes. Moral: Success! In the murk of public ownership, a dazzling shaft of light, originating from within! Rewards for enterprising dissidents! The big man is history.
Sunday. My landlady accosts me: have you heard what’s happened in America? ‘Histoire de fesses!’ She is agitated. Whose business is it that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF and hot tip for the Elysée in 2012, has lunged at an employee of Sofitel in midtown Manhattan? What do they think they’re doing arresting him? Who was she, after all? A chambermaid! So, it’s an engraving in an 18th-century romance for gentlemen. Or if you read the New York Post, a ‘perv bust’, following ‘alleged sodomy of hotel maid’. Not such bad news for the right in France, despite the national disgrace.