Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 2005 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan,
The French way implodes
Through a combination of socialism at home and appeasement
abroad, the French believed they had found a viable alternative to, in
former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's phrase, "jungle capitalism," as
practiced by you know who. Jacques Chirac was more direct, condemning "ultra
liberal Anglo-Saxon" economic policies, while also famously boasting that
France would anchor a European pole in a "multipolar" world, with American
influence vastly reduced. With 300 French cities in flames, French
pretensions lie singed and shriveled.
By "ultra liberal" Chirac of course meant free market, not
liberal in the American sense. American liberals are equivalent to European
socialists. And French socialists have set the table for the current crisis.
Yes, the rioters are all Muslim youths from North Africa and the Middle
East. And the racism of French society may fuel the flames to some extent,
but the most important factors in this story are economic. The French have
accepted wave after wave of immigrants with no prospect of employing them.
In the U.S., the unemployment rate among natives and immigrants is the same.
Not so in France.
The French have enacted all of the economic policies that
liberals would like to see implemented in this country. So, for example,
jobs are protected. If a French company employing more than 600 people wants
to fire someone, it must endure administrative procedures that last an
average of 106 days. Because it is so difficult to fire employees, French
companies are less willing to take risks in hiring. This hurts young,
inexperienced workers disproportionately. Once unemployed, 40 percent of
French workers can expect to remain so for more than a year. Not only are
jobs hard to find, but joblessness is softened by generous benefits.
Unemployment benefits range from 57 to 75 percent of the worker's last
salary and can last as long as three years (with a cap of 5,126 Euros per
The French boast of (and American liberals drool over) France's
35-hour workweek. But French economic growth slowed to 0.1 percent in the
second quarter of 2005 and is unlikely to reach 2 percent for the year.
American economic growth, by contrast, was 3.8 percent in the first quarter
of 2005. Payroll taxes are higher in France than in any of the other 30
nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Writing in The American Enterprise magazine, Olaf Gersemann
estimates that per capita income in the U.S. now exceeds that of France by
40 percent. The French unemployment rate is more than 10 percent 21.7
percent among 15- to 24-year-olds, and reportedly as much as 40 percent
among Muslim youths. Since the 1970s, Europe has created only 4 million new
jobs. The U.S. has created 57 million in the same period. Some Europeans may
be enjoying their short workweeks and lavish paid vacations, but many
others, particularly immigrants, cannot find jobs at all.
And welfare, while generous, does not quell the unrest it
stokes discontent. Immigrants who cannot find jobs, particularly young males
from traditionalist Muslim societies, need dignity as much or more than
comfort. Yet French society, with its rigid socialist economy and intrusive
state, lacks the engine that can provide jobs a vibrant private sector.
But socialism is an insidious poison. The vast majority of
French voters seem wedded to their government-supplied goodies failing to
recognize that their economic and therefore social lives are unraveling
because of that dependence. When they rejected the proposed EU constitution
last summer, most French voters told pollsters they were worried about
losing welfare benefits and trade protections.
The cars aflame in French cities now underscore the dangers of
economic stagnation. The French have imported a small army of socially,
culturally and economically estranged young men. These Muslim men would have
been difficult to assimilate under the best of circumstances. But in a
sclerotic, socialist state, where the prospect of jobs and economic
advancement is so remote, the task becomes titanic.
So, Monsieur Jospin, which economic system deserves the prefix
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.