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George Zachar

3/8/05
Bull Market in French Blacksmithing, by George Zachar

One profession booming in France is that of blacksmith. Adam Sage reports from Paris for the Times that two decades ago there were only 500 blacksmiths left in France, with no more than 20 apprentices learning the trade each year.

Now there are 1,300, with 200 apprentices. The reason for the revival is not difficult to ascertain. A recent survey showed the number of French people who ride horses has increased by 50,000 to 484,760 in the past three years, with the trend expected to continue. More horses means more demand for horseshoes, and that means more work for blacksmiths. One of them, Marc Souliť, explains the rise of his trade:

One reason is that people only work 35 hours a week in France now and so they have more time for leisure activities. Horse riding is amongst the activities which are booming.

France as a nation has committed itself en masse to the fixed supply of labor fallacy, supposing that if you limit the number of hours which each can work, more people will have to be employed. It enacted a 35 hour week, but with just over 2.7 million people now out of work, the unemployment rate has risen by 1.2 per cent in the past 12 months alone. It now stands at over 10%.

France may be an expensive place to hire labor or create jobs, but it is a good place to be a blacksmith, given the use to which the French put their enforced leisure. And they have no problem finding a good use for the horses afterwards.

George Zachar is principal of Greensward Capital, a money management and trading firm in New York. He focuses on U.S. and European debt futures and options thereon.  "I try to integrate market directional and volatility trades, with "living to fight another day" my central guiding philosophy," Zachar says. "When I was a child, I remember watching a cheesy spy movie, where one spook says to his opposite number, "The object of the game is to stay in the game."