Plucky Little Belgium Clubs Itself in the Foot

December 23, 2009 4:30 PM

Recently the executive director from Belgium presented the International Monetary Fund's managing director with a CD of music by 17th century French courtier Jean-Baptiste Lully, best known today for dying from a gangrenous infection after clubbing his own foot with a conducting staff. The Belgian constituency is threatened with consolidation as part of reforms aimed at streamlining the Fund's board from its current unwieldy number of 24 representatives. The reforms would also rebalance the board's membership by reducing the votes from Europe and expanding the votes of the increasingly powerful economies of the developing world.

Given Belgium's political travails it is understandable that it is sensitive to maintaining its remaining perquisites at the Fund. The Belgian representative confirmed that it was not accidental that the CD consists of 24 short pieces noting that "24 is indeed the right number, and that in the coming year, you (the managing director) will look forward to conducting this orchestra many times more."

The composer may indeed prove an inspiration to the managing director, though presumably not in the way the Belgian representative intended: When Lully was appointed as the court composer, he was given an orchestra consisting of 24 violins, the 24 Violons du Roi. He found the Grande Bande unwieldy and undisciplined however, with the monarch's permission, he downsized it to the more manageable les Petits Violons du Roi (also known as les Violons du Cabinet).  

Unintended humor aside, in the wake of the less-than-stellar outcome of the Copenhagen climate talks, the Belgian gift serves as a sad reminder of the ongoing inability of the world to find viable mechanisms for collective action.

With all the shenanigans on 19th Street, the next thing you know they'll be campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize.