When a Dutch cartoonist drew the prophet Muhammad, the world split between those who thought that was a serious crime that deserved death, and those who thought freedom of speech was more important than anybody’s susceptibility.
- The state owns a majority of railways, energy production and distribution, aircraft and telecommunication industries of the country.
- There is a minimum wage, and it's pretty high: 1300 euros a month.
- Health care is mandatory, universal and state-managed.
- Cities have an obligation to provide cheap homes to poor people.
- Several of the top TV and radio stations are state-owned.
- Movies and art in general are largely sponsored by the state.
- Public schools are often better than private ones.
- Free college education for all.
- Top 3 scientific colleges pay their students for being promising future contributors to society.
- Owning a gun is not a sacred right guaranteed by the constitution.
- The constitution is only 52 years old, and it can be changed by referendum.
- People can't get fired from a permanent position for no good reason and without a severance package or time to rebound.
- If you get fired, you get substantial unemployment insurance.
- Religion and the state are strictly separated, to the point that cults and religions pay taxes like everybody else, and politicians rarely talk about their religious convictions, or lack thereof. No mention of God is made on banknotes.
- 64% of the population defines itself as atheists or agnostics according to http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/allnewsbydate.asp?NewsID=1131
- Children in school don't pledge allegiance to the flag.
Uh oh, I've been watching Fox at the gym again...
The big thing they were talking about was Harry Knox, a White House advisor, having said the Catholic Church was "hurting people in the name of Jesus" by forbidding the use of condoms. Fox pundits of course were outraged, their arguments being that scientific consensus was agreeing with the Pope that condoms weren't preventing the spread of AIDS and that the Catholic Church was saving a lot more lives through its charities than Knox's organization, HRC.
Let's look at these claims.
The economist has a piece about how much American kids study (http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13825184&source=most_recommended) that starts with the requisite clichés about the lazy French.
Did you know that the French are the fifth most productive people of the OCDE, before the US and way before Japan?
It's true that the American work on average 11% more than the French but did you know that on average the French work more (and better) than the German?
Interestingly, there seems to be an inverse correlation between hours worked and productivity: the less you work, the better you work.