Michael Lewis has a pretty hilarious column about the French:
Most nations gain their advantage by making things more efficiently, and at lower cost, than their competitors.
To the extent that the French enjoy a natural advantage, it is in their inefficiency: They are the world's most efficient producers of structured indolence. They are the kept women of the global economy; their status depends, in part, on their practical uselessness.
Reinvent the British and you get a global finance center, edible food and better service. Reinvent the French and you may just get more Germans.
It is only somewhat marred by the fact that I have heard its opening anecdote from, to a first approximation, every single American I have ever met who has spent any time at all in Britain. I find it hard to believe that every one of my compatriots, even those who spent a month on a course at Oxford, have been so unlucky as to encounter hapless shopkeepers who stop stocking things because "we kept running out". I find it especially hard to believe that they stopped stocking Chocolate-dipped McVities Digestive Biscuits (which are indeed one of the world's most delicious convenience foods), which are to British grocers as 97 versions of diet coke are to the modern American convenience store.
Besides, the story about ordering 20 channels of cable, and finding out that this consists of 10 channels during the day, and 10 other channels at night, is much funnier. It is also, as far as I know, true--a business school acquaintance responded to this by cutting a 50 pound note in half and mailing it in, which did not amuse the cable company but gave the rest of us a little flutter of patriotic pride.
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