Bring Back the Beret to Boost Tourism in France

Do you remember our Country Hotline? It is a service we offer free of charge to sovereign nations. Heads of state can call us any time for advice. So far, the phone has been silent.

Still, a few months ago, we offered some helpful, unsolicited advice to Ireland, which we won’t repeat here. And today we offer advice to France.

Tourism is big business in France. In fact, it may be the biggest industry in the country. More tourists arrive in France than in any other country. Unfortunately, many are disappointed. Not by rude waiters and high prices – they expect those things, and would feel cheated if they didn’t get them. No, the disappointment sets in when they realize that the French are not so different from everyone else.

What makes this world interesting… and what drives tourism everywhere… are local particularities. But today, the French businessman looks just like a businessman in New York or Los Angeles. The uniform is the same. That is to be expected, you might reply. All businessmen are interchangeable parts of the great modern economic machine. But further down the ladder, the lower rungs are expected to preserve a bit of their local color. Alas, you look around France today and you see the same trashy, lower class culture that you’d find in Baltimore or Sarasota. Young women expose chubby midriffs. Young men tart themselves up with chains and track suits to look like rap singers. You walk down the street in Toulouse and, except for the old stones, you might feel as though you were in Toledo or Tulsa.

Rather than wait for Nicolas Sarkozy to call, we will go ahead and give the French government a simple piece of advice: Bring back the beret. We thought of it as we watched a man working on a construction site. He labored without a hat. He could have been working anywhere in the world. But put a beret on him… and he could only be French… and seeing him, you could only be in France. Put berets back on the heads of Frenchmen and you will give the nation’s largest industry a big boost.

Like so many things in life, there may be unintended consequences. When Frenchmen still wore berets, France was a nicer place to live and do business. Taxes were low; the meddlers and parasites were few. As the beret disappeared, taxes and regulations appeared everywhere. Maybe the two were connected. Removing the warm, wool beret caused coagulation in the brain, reducing blood flow and diminishing intelligence. The Frenchman, like the American, has become a bit of a dolt in the last 20 years; maybe the process can be reversed by bringing back the beret. We don’t know, but it seems worth a try.

Bill Bonner
Markets and Money

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America’s most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind Markets and Money.
Bill Bonner

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Mike Kingdom-Hockings
Mike Kingdom-Hockings

Sadly, Bill, you’re right. But I’ve chosen to live (in a very rural part of the country) because I reckon it will take 50 years for them to descend even to the UK’s level – which will be long after I’m gone.

I went down to south west France to look for beret makers a couple of months ago. Did you realise that there are only two left? Chinese imports have hit the low end hard, and the westernisation of ordinary folks’ headgear (or lack of it) has hit the other end.

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