Friday, May 23, 2014

Monumental Paris

And here's a Piketty-inspired inquiry about the nation that figures so high in the historical inequality tables--being, of course, his own France.

We took advantage of an unplanned free day today to ride the Metro out to the Arc de Triomph and walk back to the 

Hôtel  de Ville via the Champs-Elysee.  It's a part of Paris that neither of us has ever spent much time in, but on a sunny afternoon (after a few sprinkles in the morning), it's a splendid and invigorating promenade.  Past the site of the guillotine, past the place where Gilbert told Marcel that he could tickle her again, the whole schmear.  And it gives rise to two questions.

One: is there any city in he world that tops Paris in monumental architecture?   Actually, yes,* but compared with other Western metro centers, almost any other entrant is a piker.  Some this stuff goes back to the glory days of the Sun King; some you can blame on the Little Corporal himself, but from the look of things, the stone cutters and cement mixers kept cutting and mixing almost to the eve of the First World War.

Which brings me to question two: particularly in the 19C, where did they get the money for all this spectacular waste?  They had an empire of sorts, of course, but empires are often a drag on progress, not a spur.   Prosperous, perhaps, but how prosperous enough to throw the great stones about with such profligate abandon?

*Ashgabad in Turkemenstan, for sure, the great hulking ghost town.  Probably Pyongyang, although I've never been there.  Thank God.   Are there others?

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