One thing you notice about the English is that they have a strange desire for discomfort. From their clunky phones to their clunky faucets, they seem to revel in being slightly “behind the times.” But, to their credit, they don’t generally carry this viewpoint over into actual legislation. You may be expected to be miserable, but you aren’t really required to be.

If only the French would learn to do the same.

Their latest assault on the finer things in life comes in the form of repeated assaults on Internet businesses for, among other things, free shipping for books. Yes, it turns out that offering free shipping is considered a discount on the “publisher’s recommended price” of the books involved. And, in France, the publisher’s price is considered more sacred than, well, sacred writ itself. You can disregard the Holy Bible if you like, but never the Holy BIEF.

Of course the obvious, and intended, effect of this nonsense is to give local booksellers a clear advantage over remote ones. After all, the local bookseller certainly doesn’t pay the “publisher’s recommended price” for the book, so the shipping he has to pay for is carefully hidden from the customer within his profit margin. Amazon used to do the same with the final costs to cover shipment to the buyer, but, as the French High Court has ruled that shipping is a discount and not to be allowed.

Lest you think this is some odd byproduct of a particular French love of books and booksellers, such price controls and draconian regulation is commonplace throughout the French economy. Consider the mess eBay stepped in when it expanded to France. As a site offering goods for sale, matching buyers with sellers, and providing extensive support for, well, auctions, eBay would seem to be guilty of the French charge of being an auctioneer. And, therefore, of offering an online auction without a permit. There is no news yet whether the French will also try to close down physical auctions in the United States. After all, what’s to stop some unscrupulous American auctioneer from allowing proxy phone votes from France?

Ah, the French. All the hubris of an actual world power, if none of the actual power.

And before someone responds that these are clearly just holdovers from an older, more genteel age, and need to adapt to the Wired Century, consider that the auction authority which is attacking eBay was formed in 2000. Far from adapting to the modern age, the French are deliberately and systematically targeting it for destruction. Their hatred of competition and free trade is so great that they’re actively expanding government power to put a stop to it.

So, let’s give them the win. Since they want to be insulated from the vile freedom of the Internet, let’s acknowledge their right to do so and simply prevent any and all traffic in or out of France to any e-commerce site located in the United States (or in any nation that wishes to join our virtual embargo). If the French fear having to compete on a global stage so greatly, let’s remove not only their need to do so, but their ability.

In short, it’s time to wall France off…at least virtually.

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