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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Feb-18 > Les misérables

Les misérables

The French have many reasons to be cheerful—and yet they’re not

France beats Britain on every available measure

Despite the Cote d’Azur, the Alps, Champagne and some of the greatest food in the world, the French are not happy. Ask them to rate their lives on a 0-10 scale between the worst and best imaginable existence, and—the World Happiness Report finds—they lag not only the world-beating Scandinavians, but also the unequal Anglo-Saxons, and even poorer countries like Guatemala. The French are reliably convinced their country is headed the wrong way, and politicians like Emmanuel Macron and François Hollande fall from popularity with remarkable speed. Anti-depressant use is high by European standards, and while it’s tricky to compare diff ering sets of data, suicide appears to be high too. What’s more, according to Claudia Senik, an economist at the Sorbonne, the misery is particular to people born and raised in France; its immigrants are less gloomy. Long lives, long holidays and long lunches are not, it seems, enough to shrug off that old cliché—the “Gallic shrug.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February 2018 issue: John Naughton, James Ball, Yuan Ren, Hannah Jane Parkinson and Houman Barekat outline the ways in which our lives are controlled by big tech giants. Naughton argues that Facebook and Google have created a new “surveillance capitalism” in which they battle to grow user engagement of their products and monetise our lives for their own gain as they do so. The cover package also explores how “bots,” fake social media accounts, influenced the US presidential vote and the Brexit referendum as well as the effects of removing net neutrality in the US. Elsewhere in the issue: Samira Shackle asks what happens to ordinary civilians affected by Islamic State as they attempt to move back to their homes and rebuild their lives; Shahidha Bari asks whether we can continue to appreciate the work of actors, filmmakers and writers who have been disgraced; and Christine Ockrent profiles Michel Barnier.
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