Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Pledges from wealthy men to help rebuild Notre Dame cathedral after a devastating fire is generating backlash.

Much of the world mourned the destruction of the cathedral at Notre Dame from last week’s fire. Several wealthy donors pledges large sums to help finance the restoration.

The eventual reconstruction of Notre Dame is now a foregone conclusion. Within hours of the fire that destroyed much of the cathedral on Monday, donors pledged more than $1 billion to restore the Parisian icon to its former glory.

Even before the smoke had cleared, Luxury goods magnate Francois-Henri Pinault announced his family would donate 100 million euros ($112 million) to the effort. Not to remain on the sidelines, his rival Bernard Arnault — the chief executive of LVMH and the richest man in Europe — pledged twice that amount on Tuesday morning. The Bettencourt Meyers family, which controls L’Oreal, quickly matched that pledge. And Patrick Pouyanne, chief of executive of French oil giant Total, offered another $112 million.

Officials are still assessing the extent of the damage, so the cost of Notre Dame’s reconstruction remains unknown, but these and the many other donations coming in should pretty well cover it.

WaPo, “Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash.”

If there were ever such a thing as unalloyed good news, this would surely qualify. Not only is an iconic structure going to be restored but it shouldn’t come on the backs of the poor.

But, of course, that’s not the whole story.

[T]he cascade of cash that materialized overnight to save the cathedral has raised eyebrows in France, still in the throes of a crippling protest over rising social inequality and whose leader is regularly decried as the “president of the rich.”

“Of course, I find it nice, this solidarity,” said Ingrid Levavasseur, a leader of the yellow vest movement that has protested inequality in a series of often violent Saturday demonstrations since mid-November. The stream of donations essentially confirmed the movement’s broader social critique, Levavasseur said.

“If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, said on Wednesday.
The cash flow has also furrowed brows abroad, with critics emphasizing that destroyed landmarks in non-Western locales — like the ancient sites destroyed by the Islamic State in Syria — have hardly inspired such a global groundswell.

“In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,” South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

First off, this hasn’t a blessed thing to do with “white privilege.” Using it to mean “rich guys can get what they want” is to commit the same mistake that conservatives use to dismiss the concept that simply being white conveys enormous, if subtle, unearned advantage. (“How dare they say I have white privilege. Why, my father was poor and I had to work for everything I’ve got!”)

Second, that rich Frenchmen are rallying to the cause of one of their own national icons over that of more ancient ones from other parts of the world is neither surprising nor worthy of raised eyebrows, much less scorn. It’s the way community works.

Third, there have been all manner of stories written and lamentations over the destruction of antiquities by the Taliban, Islamic State, and by war and conflict more generally. I myself have mused, to outrage from the commentariat here, that this is more tragic from a civilizational standpoint even than the massive near-term loss of life.

Now, it’s certainly worthy of debate whether titans of industry should control so much wealth as to be able to make such big gestures on their own volition. Or whether their generosity might be better spent on things with more concrete advantage to the less-well-off. But it’s absurd to condemn rallying around a national—even civilizational—tragedy by putting their money where their mouth is.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    First off, this hasn’t a blessed thing to do with “white privilege.” Using it to mean “rich guys can get what they want” is to commit the same mistake that conservatives use to dismiss the concept that simply being white conveys enormous, if subtle, unearned advantage.

    It’s almost as if the concept of “white privilege”as understood by….apparently everyone….is not very useful.

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  2. First off, this hasn’t a blessed thing to do with “white privilege.” Using it to mean “rich guys can get what they want”

    I think that “white privilege” is not being used in the sense of “rich guys can get what they want” but in the sense of “monuments if white countries receive much more atention than monuments in brown countries”

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  3. Slugger says:

    @James Pearce: White privilege to me means that you always get home court advantage; you get the first move in chess and many other areas of life. I was born a Jew in Germany and was not “white”; we came to the US, and now I am. Fish do not know that water is wet, and white guys don’t know that they have an edge. In the NFL the home team wins 57.1%; NBA 59.9%, and MLB 54.0%.
    I totally understand why rich French guys are doing what they’re doing and commend them. The native treasures of Brazil come from conquered peoples. The losers of the world have fewer resources which has nothing to do with their human or spiritual value.

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  4. Andy says:

    “In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre Dame,” South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. I think this is what they call white privilege.”

    Brazil has just shy of 60 billionaires according to Forbes.

    I do not know why Brazilian billionaires are stingy compared to French billionaires, but I don’t see how “white privledge” can explain the difference.

    It also seems unreasonable to demand that French billionaires should do for Brazil what Brazilian billionaires won’t do for Brazil.

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    …“white privilege”as understood by….apparently everyone….is not very useful.
    DWB
    Watch: Police Invent A Brand New Reason To Pull Over An Innocent Black Driver

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  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    To quote one French commentator: “Victor Hugo remercie tous les généreux donateurs prêts à sauver Notre-Dame de Paris et leur propose de faire la même chose avec Les Misérables.” (“Victor Hugo thanks all the generous donors ready to save Notre Dame de Paris and proposes they do the same for Les Miserables”)

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think it’s useful to think about “white privilege”. It’s a tool, one of many ways to look at the world we live in. There are lots of things that white people generally don’t have to worry about, but black people do, like traffic stops.

    The thing with Notre Dame? Well, it’s not wrong to notice that a lot of those billionaires are white. At the same time, labeling this as a problem with white people seems a bit off. Lots of white people, most of them even, aren’t billionaires. In fact, they probably have never made a single donation to any charity that’s worth more than a hundred bucks.

    This is a problem with extreme inequality, and even though it’s mostly white people who are billionaires, there’s lots of white people on the wrong side of inequality, and who kind of struggle through their day-to-day. I would rather set them apart than lump them with the billionaires.

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  8. Tyrell says:

    I have not heard if the Vatican is sending financing to help.
    I don’t have a problem with the billionaires and wealthy helping with this project.
    One way to get more people involved would be to put donors names somewhere at the cathedral – on sidewalk stones or a wall. I would guess that millions of people would go for that. Imagine your name in a structure that could be around another eight hundred years.

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  9. James Pearce says:

    @Slugger:

    Fish do not know that water is wet, and white guys don’t know that they have an edge.

    These days, I’ve taken to considering “white guys have an edge they don’t know about” to be little more than a racist stereotype. Whatever point was to be made about the nature of “whiteness” in America has been drowned out by frivolous bullshit like this. (Have you heard about the unbearable whiteness of libraries?)

    The native treasures of Brazil come from conquered peoples. The losers of the world have fewer resources which has nothing to do with their human or spiritual value.

    Brazil is the eighth largest economy in the world and has vast resources. Their National Museum, unsurprisingly, had priceless items from around the world.

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  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Pearce:

    Drowned out? Lol at your commitment to being somebody’s bitch rather than your own. Imagine being threatened by a couple of tweets and thinking you’re not basking in mindless bullshit. “They’ve been pummeling white people all week about Notre Dame,” says nobody but white people who are proving the point about white privilege.

    For the record, I’ve seen no condemnation about the grief felt regarding Notre Dame. But you know what’s funny? Mention Mt Rushmore and the Sioux and how deranged it is that Mt Rushmore (built by an admirer of Hitler and bearing the face of a genocidal prick on it) is on their sacred ground and you get white defective idiots who start making jokes about woke culture, etc etc. I’m white and I’ve never encountered a white person like you who gives a shit about feelings other than your own.

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  11. DrDaveT says:

    James, why are you ignoring the part of this story that is about “you said there wasn’t any money to help with the everyday problems, but suddenly there are vast fortunes available to deal with something that is culturally significant but not a matter of life and death for anyone”?

    That seems like a much more important discussion than abuse of the phrase “white privilege”.

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  12. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    These days, I’ve taken to considering “white guys have an edge they don’t know about” to be little more than a racist stereotype.

    Yes, we know. The irony is palpable.

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  13. Teve says:

    A small percentage of my fellow white men need to stop being so goddamn whiny.

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT:

    James, why are you ignoring the part of this story that is about “you said there wasn’t any money to help with the everyday problems, but suddenly there are vast fortunes available to deal with something that is culturally significant but not a matter of life and death for anyone”?

    Well, first, I don’t ignore it. I close the piece with:

    Now, it’s certainly worthy of debate whether titans of industry should control so much wealth as to be able to make such big gestures on their own volition. Or whether their generosity might be better spent on things with more concrete advantage to the less-well-off.

    Second, because I don’t see this response as scalable. The pledges are roughly $1 billion for a one-time emergency. That’s $15.28 per French citizen. That’s not going to cure poverty.

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    Let no good deed go unpunished.

    The blow back to the pledges was predictable as we now live in a zero sum world. And as far as les miserables are concerned, even as a liberal I find limited empathy for them, given that the French welfare state is among the most supportive in the world.

  16. Lounsbury says:

    @Tyrell: The French cathedrals are property of and under the control of the French state and not owned nor controlled from an asset & repairs PoV by the Catholic Church. The French nationalized their cathedrals about 200 years ago…

    Religious activities are by contract with local religious associations.

    The Vatican has little to say here.

  17. mattbernius says:

    I don’t think “white privilege” is the right framework for analysis here.

    I also think there’s a slightly different point worth considering in all of this. Notre Dame was literally falling apart for decades. It would have been great if some of these altruistic donors had gotten off their asses before now. If they had, the Cathedral probably wouldn’t have burned.

    Honestly, this fire could honestly have been the thing that saved Notre Dame.

    (aside: the go fund me to help rebuild the three historic African American Churches in the US burned down by an arsonist has passed it’s $1.8 million dollar goal via an outpouring of small donations. There is still time to give: https://www.gofundme.com/f/church-fires-st-landry-parishmacedonia-ministry )

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  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    Obviously white privilege is real. I lived in this country for two decades without ID, was repeatedly allowed into positions where I had access to the cash flow, or where I had keys to people’s homes and offices. Not once was I asked for ID. I was even involved in altercations and no cop ever confronted me. The odds of doing that with black skin? A whole lot worse.

    Quotidien example of white privilege: Sausalito on-ramp to the north-bound 101. (Some may know it.) Two lanes, stoplight, merging into a single lane but with like a quarter mile run-up. I’m stopped in a black Mercedes convertible, top down. Beside me a black BMW, top also down. Obviously a situation for a bit of genteel bit of drag racing. Obviously. Thing is, the other driver is black. I have to worry about getting a ticket, he has to worry about being thrown face down over the hood of his car. What could have been a fair (if possibly immature) race between two old dudes with expensive German machines, is a race I can’t initiate without profiting from the security that comes from being white.

    That said, calling this corporate generosity ‘white privilege’ is absurd and trivializes an important issue.

    And while on the subject, white privilege is just one of many differences. At birth we are dealt a hand of cards. You get to be white, you get to be tall, oops you’re going to be fat and you’re going to be born without legs. We each have strengths and weaknesses, things that give us an edge or hold us back. Being white is like being dealt an ace in your opening hand. It doesn’t mean you’ll win, but it makes winning more likely. Denying white privilege is just denying reality. But hauling the idea out willy-nilly is self-defeating.

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  19. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Being white is like being dealt an ace in your opening hand. It doesn’t mean you’ll win, but it makes winning more likely. Denying white privilege is just denying reality.

    Well put. I’m partial to John Scalzi’s use of the “easy mode” on a video game as a good framing device.

    https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    I think you both might have a future in this writing thing or something…

  20. James Pearce says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    “They’ve been pummeling white people all week about Notre Dame,” says nobody but white people who are proving the point about white privilege.

    I guess that’s the beauty of “white privilege.” To dispute it is to prove it, and so on.

    People around the world are mourning the damage to the Notre Dame cathedral as a loss for human culture, but who’s over here hissing about white people?

    Again.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Obviously white privilege is real.

    Obviously. We never have to worry about getting pulled over or manhandled by police. We get every job we apply for. Our artists dominate the culture, especially in music and fashion. Our athletes dominate every major sport. Every white man, even the ones sleeping in the gutter, privileged, no allowance for circumstance or nuance or people’s lives as experienced by individuals.

    And this is where some smart guy is going to tell me I’m missing the point. No, I get it.

    I’m not going to get pulled over when I go to Boulder. But it’s not because I’m a privileged white man. It’s because the people in Boulder are assholes.

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  21. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My problem with “white privilege” as a concept is that it is almost always used a rhetorical cudgel to avoid an actual debate on the merits. This Notre Dame thing is a perfect example.

    Those who actually want “white” people to care about and consider “white privilege” should probably avoid constantly deploying it as an intentional bludgeon to shut down debate.

  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Of course you’re missing the point, you aren’t very smart James, a fact you make worse by also being stubborn and narrow-minded. Arguing that you might also be pulled over by cops would be an example of laughable logic.

    Two identical Usain Bolts, 100% identical. Identically-trained. Race them against each other and they would tie every time.

    Now take a small pebble and put it in the shoe of Usain #2. Now 100% of their contests will be won by Usain #1. 100%. Because any disadvantage affecting just one of two equally matched humans will be devastating to the chances of the one afflicted. That pebble is racism. The absence of that pebble is white privilege.

    Now, get busy moving the goal posts.

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  23. Kit says:

    @mattbernius:

    It would have been great if some of these altruistic donors had gotten off their asses before now. If they had, the Cathedral probably wouldn’t have burned.

    That really rubs me the wrong way! A guy lends a hand and you bitch that he should have saved your ass earlier? Come on! In your world, a man might have silently saved a hundred cathedrals but still only receive your scorn for the one he missed. Or maybe, because of a short circuit, the repairs he silently paid for inadvertently burned down what he wished to save. Those are not only impossible standards, but they are counter productive. Talk about your white privilege!

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    I said as much. It is both real and overused. But it’s overused in part because it is still denied. If someone insists the world is flat you might reach for every available example to correct them.

    Not for the first time in my life I’m on the side of people who cannot stop themselves from making politically stupid moves in support of otherwise laudable goals. I was 14 when I started seeing North Vietnamese flags being flown at anti-war rallies. That was a mistake. And the Yippie thing was a mistake. The ’68 convention was a mistake. I was against the war, but I was also an army brat and I knew vilifying the military was beside the point and self-defeating. The war lasted seven more years after the ’68 convention, and it lasted that long in large degree because the opposition was too fucking stupid to avoid discrediting themselves and alienating voters.

    Happened again with Occupy. And it’s happening now with MeToo. And with the Green New Deal. And the whole call-out culture. The Left has no self-discipline, that’s why the Left either ends up being co-opted (Ex-radicals in McMansions) or trivialized (cultural appropriation, snail darters) or devolve into one party states (USSR et al.)

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  25. Kathy says:

    Focus on the invisible pachyderm in the room for a moment: how many of these very generous donations will be written off come tax season?

    Effectively the government, meaning the people, will wind up picking up a part of the moneys donated.

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  26. Kit says:

    @Andy:

    My problem with “white privilege” as a concept is that it is almost always used a rhetorical cudgel to avoid an actual debate on the merits.

    The concept, as I understand it, is: instead of imagining yourself in another’s shoes, change the perspective and try to think of the hundred ways in which your own life rolls along friction-free only simply because of the color of your skin. That’s an interesting exercise. The problems are twofold: 1) racists will never play such games, and hated the phrase from the get go, and 2) stupid anti-racists (a subset of the Left’s #owngoal brigade) parrot the phrase no matter the context, doing their best to get the rest of us to hate the phrase too.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You’ve left out the other end response: the left fragmenting into the People’s Liberation Front of Judea vs. the Liberation Front of Judea for the People. And then sub-fragmenting. And sub-sub-fragmenting. And….

    (Sorta reminds me of the time that a tiny fundamentalist Protestant cult that had moved to Canada to shield itself from the bad wicked world had a fight with itself against concerning doctrine, split, and then each half immediately excommunicated the other. )

  28. Kit says:

    @Kathy:

    Effectively the government, meaning the people, will wind up picking up a part of the moneys donated.

    To the extent that the government has already committed to rebuilding the cathedral, this is still a major win for the people.

    Question: Does France treat charitable donations the same as the US with regards to taxes?

  29. Monala says:

    @James Joyner: I think he was addressing James Pearce, not you.

  30. mattbernius says:

    @Kit: @Kit:

    A guy lends a hand and you bitch that he should have saved your ass earlier? Come on!

    There have been giant efforts to get people to care about the deteriorating condition of Notre Dame for years. See for example: http://time.com/4876087/notre-dame-cathedral-is-crumbling/

    The people who are now stepping up to save it because it’s so important to western civilization or France weren’t willing to spend a penny of their money until it burned and they could be seen as the saviors of the Cathedral.

    I am grateful they are doing it. But it would have been far more impressive if they had do it before it made them public heroes.

  31. Kit says:

    @mattbernius:

    I am grateful they are doing it. But it would have been far more impressive if they had do it before it made them public heroes.

    I agree, and immediately am put in mind of global warming: we should have acted ages ago, but that ship has sailed. Still, whoever acts today should be treated as an ally.

  32. mattbernius says:

    @Kit:

    Still, whoever acts today should be treated as an ally.

    But what exactly does that mean? Or at least mean to you. I’m asking that in an honest way.

    Is there anything wrong with saying to an “ally” — “thanks, we appreciate your contribution it will definitely help… its too bad it took Notre Dame burning for you to actually care enough about it as a national symbol to actually invest a small amount of your vast personal fortune to save it.”

    Or is being an ally in your mind mean ignoring/not speaking uncomfortable truths so long as they’re paying the bills.

  33. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:
    BTW, I appreciate how the question of how to treat a powerful ally is one that is deeply intertwined with realpolitik… So the reality is that if we want to get things done on a big scale, the answer is “yes” we don’t bring up uncomfortable truths in front of the money people.

    But if that’s the decision then its important to own it and the reasons behind it.

  34. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Why it’s almost as if authoritarianism and tribalism have advantages over liberalism! While the first two show remarkable discipline in sticking together, liberalism holds sacred that you can believe in moon men, vote for moon men, take financial advice from moon men, have sex with moon men, work with moon men, go to school with moon men, and blame moon men for the 2016 election.

    I’m joking of course, but I think one problem of the Left/liberalism is people misconstrue tolerance for do your own crazy thing.

  35. VIjay says:

    @James Pearce: You are right – white privilege works in such subtle ways that it is almost surprising to the whites themselves but it has existed for several generations now. Just see America and its ways – despite the abolition of slavery over 100 years, blacks has improved very marginally in economic and social status.

  36. mattbernius says:

    In your world, a man might have silently saved a hundred cathedrals but still only receive your scorn for the one he missed. Or maybe, because of a short circuit, the repairs he silently paid for inadvertently burned down what he wished to save.

    Kit, to be clear, I would completely rescind my criticism if we were to find that these individual gave to the repairs.

    However, what’s been less than well covered was that Notre Dame couldn’t get funding for fundamental repairs — in fact, the current repairs were being done on a shoe string (which might have led to the fire). I personally think its important to not lose that part of the story either.

  37. Kit says:

    @mattbernius:

    But what exactly does that mean? I’m asking that in an honest way….

    It means that I wish to see Notre Dame rebuilt, and I wish that more than I wish to see some sort of emotionally satisfying, practically impotent finger pointing of who should have done what when. And I believe the warnings of just what global warming will bring. We are on a listing ship in a world without land: either we right her by all working together, or we score political points in the time remaining. I want effective action, and I want it now. When a member of the oligarchy recognises a shared interest and decides to support it, I’m not eager to shit on him.

  38. Kit says:

    @mattbernius:

    I personally think its important to not lose that part of the story either.

    You are right, but, I think, too quick to change the focus. Still the focus will ultimately fall to where you are pointing.

  39. mattbernius says:

    BTW, @Kit, I want to be clear that I’m not hostile to your position. I work at a non-profit in the criminal justice space. That requires working with, or receiving funding from, people whom I’m aligned on views of what needs to change in CJ systems and very little else. So there is a lot of realpolitik in our approach (or definitely knowing what topics should not be discussed out of respect for both sides).

  40. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    However, what’s been less than well covered was that Notre Dame couldn’t get funding for fundamental repairs — in fact, the current repairs were being done on a shoe string (which might have led to the fire). I personally think its important to not lose that part of the story either.

    The cathedral is owned by the French state which made a choice to underfund maintenance in leiu of other priorities. Rather than get angry at individual rich people who, for whatever reasons, did not give money for something the government was supposed to be doing, I would direct my anger at the those failed in their responsibility to maintain and manage the property in the first place.

  41. just nutha says:

    @Modulo Myself: Just wondering, which one are you thinking is the genocidal prick? I ask because I looked in my mind’s eye and couldn’t decide, it seemed an appropriate sobriquet for most any of them.

  42. mattbernius says:

    @Andy:
    The story is far more complex. From Time:

    Under France’s strict secular laws, the government owns the cathedral, and the Catholic archdiocese of Paris uses it permanently for free. The priests for years believed the government should pay for repairs, since it owned the building. But under the terms of the government’s agreement, the archdiocese is responsible for Notre Dame’s upkeep, with the Ministry of Culture giving it about €2 million ($2.28 million) a year for that purpose.

    […]

    Finally accepting that the government would not pay to restore the cathedral, the archdiocese launched Friends of Notre Dame in October to appeal for help. It hopes to raise €100 million ($114 million) in the next five to 10 years. “There is no part of the building untouched by the irreparable loss of sculptural and decorative elements, let alone the alarming deterioration of structural elements,” the organization says on its website. The cathedral, it says, “is in desperate need of attention.”

    [Emphasis mine.]

    So there had been an agreement in place that the Church was responsible for the upkeep efforts. And was engaged in fundraising.

    I’ll note that the same wealthy people who are donating to this also played a roll in working to minimize the amount of taxes they are being charged by the French government (which in part would go to the upkeep of national monuments like Notre Dame).

    BTW, this arrangement isn’t all to different from how things work within the US, where a significant amount of upkeep of public buildings and lands is handled through private donations (in part because people don’t want to pay taxes for said upkeep).

    So color me not impressed by “this is really all the government’s fault” line of thought — especially if the Government was intentionally structured to avoid paying for these types of renovations to minimize taxes on these same folks*. It strikes me too much as a “this is proof that the government is always wrong type and private money is always right” type of Randian tautology.

    * – To be clear, I’m not suggesting that it’s just the rich that might not want to pay taxes on these things. But it is worth honestly acknowledging their outsized ability to influence said discussion.

  43. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: Even so, the donor will only get back the part that donation. It’s not like donating 100 million lowers your tax bill by 100 million. Unless, of course, the 100 million donation represents 100%+ of your tax liability, but that usually only works for large multinational corporations, Trump Enterprises, and old people ruled to be living in nursing homes (like my mom before she died–the IRS allowed her to write of her rent and expenses at the retirement community she was at as “medical expenses,” so the last year, she wrote off $68,000 in expenses against about 28,000 in income, but that’s fairly rare overall).

  44. James Pearce says:

    Michael Reynolds:

    That pebble is racism. The absence of that pebble is white privilege.

    “White people are privileged” is a racist idea, and if racism is a pebble, that counts as a pebble.

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  45. Andy says:

    @mattbernius:

    The Church is responsible only for day-to-day upkeep, maintenance, and salaries (some of which is funded by the government), not major renovations or repairs. The Church turned to fundraising (primarily from abroad, the US specifically) for renovation when the government didn’t provide the needed funds. The Church didn’t even have access to the entire building until a few years ago. From the Time article:

    The church was not fully aware of the extent of the problem, say those at Notre Dame. Until a few years ago, the government effectively made the private areas off-limits. “There used to be about 200 old keys, so it was very, very difficult,” says André Finot, a spokesman for Notre Dame. Eventually, the government standardized the keys and allowed its tenants to climb the hidden stone staircases and access the upper levels. “We were shocked when we got up there,” Finot says.

    Even the French Ambassador to the US stated categorically that the French Government is responsible for maintenance.

    Bottom line is the government owns the building, therefore they are responsible for its maintenance (or lack thereof).

  46. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: Yes because the real racism is pointing out stuff like blacks are pulled over at higher rates than whites AND are 20% more likely to get a ticket than whites….

    https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/findings/

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  47. James Pearce says:

    @Matt:

    the real racism

    There’s no “fake” racism or “real” racism. There’s only racism.

    And when you ascribe certain qualities to a group of people based on their skin color….that’s racism. Period.

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  48. Matt says:

    @James Pearce: So that means my post of a study which shows how white privilege works out in the real world is racist…

    I could see how this is convenient for you as it keeps you from facing the reality of white privilege. Because you know that link is just racist so I’m not going to read racist statistics!!

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  49. de stijl says:

    The issue is that France has real integration problems and the billionaires publicly and loudly fund the restoration of Notre Dame and do not fund initiatives that try to alleviate and prevent societal ills.