Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Monday, June 09, 2003

Is it bad luck yet to start a blog with an anti-French post? I don't know..... but what if it is, or what if I'm just picking on an easy target? Nevermind, I'll start with something favorable. As usual last week I was reading instapundit and came across this article that I quickly forwarded to my former (not old) college professors, with subject : "The Modern Female Frederic Bastiat?" she isn't yet, of course, but after you read about 21 year old Sabine Herold read this from author CLAIRE BERLINSKI an email cut and pasted again from instapundit and note the hostile climate.... in *gasp* France:

For the past few days, helicopters have been circling noisily above the center of Paris. No one I speak to knows why -- there are dark murmurings that something, somewhere has been tipped to explode, or that the water supply is scheduled to be poisoned, but no one knows for sure. The choppers are making a huge racket outside my window and driving me nuts. But that's not the big story, at least not yet. The story, which isn't getting much attention outside of France, is that the trade unions' protests over the government's pension reform scheme have become outrageously violent, and France is in chaos.

The scale of the lawlessness and thuggery would generate endless anguished editorials in the English-language press if France were Iraq, and if somehow the United States could be blamed for it. The demonstrators have barricaded roads and railway tracks, ransacked and occupied administrative buildings, set fires, reversed over one another with their cars, sealed off city centers, emptied garbage onto the streets and rendered public transportation throughout the country unusable. Air traffic has been brought to a halt. Demonstrators cut off power lines at the Gare de Lyon. Tourists have been stranded everywhere. The national railway company, the SNCF, has lost $140 million in six days.

This is not a loss the shaky French economy can tolerate. And why? Because the government has proposed to increase the number of years public sector employees must work to receive full retirement benefits, from 37.5 years to 40 years -- a move that would bring them in line with the private sector. Are these reforms necessary? You bet. Will France go broke if they're not implemented? Without a doubt -- retirees will account for a third of the French population by 2040, and the best projections suggest that if the reforms aren't implemented, France will be running a 50 billion Euro annual deficit by 2020. Have the reforms been proposed by a democratically-elected government? Indeed. Are they supported by the public at large? Yes. Pretty much everyone, save the demonstrators themselves, acknowledges that pension reform is necessary.

What's interesting, sociologically, is that the account given by the demonstrators of their behavior simply doesn't correspond to reality: There is no objective grievance commensurate with the scale of the violence. An especially interesting fact is that the violence has been whistled up and spearheaded by the transport workers, who are for the most part unreconstructed communists, and who would not be affected by the proposed reforms. Given that the ideology championed by the leaders of these protests has been, over and over again, completely discredited, how should we account for their influence? The only conclusion I can draw from this is that a segment of French society can be easily inspired to smash things for the fun of it. I wonder why."

For more on the violence in French labor demonstrations read Steven Den Beste......

.....and then ask youself what the hell is going on in France where the most rational voice is a 21 year old female student. This is the country that is supposed to be a leader for the EU? For years we've been hearing about the European legally mandated 8 week paid vacations given to employees, their shortening work weeks and why, oh why can't we just have that here!?!? Look at unemployment rates in Europe, look at the above links. I think we're seeing the counter-argument.

But what does all this mean for the European Union and its future economic and political power? It means that the EU is political, not economical.... at least for now. More on that tomorrow.


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