For a few hours on 20 March, the occupants of the Salon of the Institut Francais were transported to the late 18th century to observe a battle of wits between rival groups of the Assemblée: the Montagnards and the Girondins. The two teams aimed to convince a prestigious panel of judges as to whether Europe should tax laziness or not, with the Montagnards defending the proposition and the Girondins in opposition. The timekeeper’s introduction included a philosophical exposition on time, and of course the importance of staying within its boundaries during a debate.
The Montagnards’ argument that a tax on idleness was a logical way of encouraging people to find means to occupy their time quickly won over a significant number of the audience members, with cries of ‘oyez!’ heard throughout their presentations. It was clear, however, that the audience was divided, with many voicing support for the Girondin argument that periods of idleness are actually the source of much creativity – John Lennon and others were cited as the most creative of daydreamers. Any tax on laziness, therefore, might set a dangerous drain of creativity in motion.
After all eight speakers had had their moment at the lectern, the jury were led away to reach their verdict, and the floor opened for questions from members of the convention. The Girondins emerged triumphant, the judges having been swayed by a cohesive team effort and deconstruction of the Montagnards’ arguments. The latter side’s attempts did not go unrewarded, however, with Cara Goldthorpe winning the prize for best orator. It is safe to say that the debate was a very enjoyable success, and all participants must be commended for the excellent presentation of their respective arguments, and also their good humour and sense of fun. The debate, organised by Révolte-Toi, a new cross-university Francophone debating society, was the first in what will hopefully be a long series of similar events.
Montagnards: Francesca Cartier (LSE), Cara Goldthorpe (UCL), Maris Blanchet (UCL), Stéphane
Girondins: Morane Bensoussan (King’s), Camille Von LOwis (Imperial), Tomasz Zamacinski
(Imperial), Louis Falgas (King’s)
Lord Julian Grenfell
Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords 2002-2008
Simon John Horsington
Vice-Président d’Honneur de l’Association des Juristes Franco-Britanniques
Prof. Hélène Insel-Zajdela
Responsable de la coopération universitaire de l’Institut Français
Présidente de la French Society de Queen Mary
Vice-Présidente de « Révolte-Toi »