Lettre de Vaison-la-Romaine: Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Julian Crandall Hollick examines taxation in Provence in his latest piece. In a nutshell: all is not well outside Paris.

“Vaisonnais, like everyone else in the world, are convinced they are overtaxed. They look at the new high school, the new day care centre, the newly-restored town square – the Place Montfort – the repaved cobblestone street that leads up to the medieval village. They assume that their taxes have paid for all of this. Most people here are totally unaware that local taxes are directly siphoned off to Paris. Later, Paris sends some of it back to towns like Vaison, but always less than what was raised in the first place.

The warning signs are out for the so-called “rich” who live in the medieval village above the rest of the town. ‘You’re all rich, so we’re not going to spend a centime more on your village! We have to take care of the little people.’

It’s useless to point out that not everyone in the village is rich. There’s Yvette who somehow survives on $600 a month. But social services take care of most of the basics – food, health care, transport. And she’s not a solitary exception. There are others – now old, who were given free housing in the tiny medieval stone houses in the village after the Second World War, when there was little or no affordable housing for the young. But whether it’s because the village is perched on the rock that dominates, or because it’s also full of foreigners (Parisians count as foreigners round here) they are perceived as rich. And in an election year no one worth his political salt is going to be seen spending dwindling public money on them …

This profound mistrust of making money means seeking private money to pay for some of this building is problematic at best. In Paris it may no longer be totally taboo. But in Vaison it borders on apostasy. Agriculture may no longer be the dominant occupation, but it still conditions the Vaison mindset. Peasants have an ingrained mistrust of any innovation because ‘it must always be at someone else’s expense.'”

Read more about the tenuous relationship between Paris and Provence in the latest edition of Carnet Atlantique!

Read Carnet Atlantique

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