Arnold Kling  

Paris in the Springtime

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"Concentrated Poverty" Decline... Anti-Consumer Regulation...

Two recent opinion pieces discuss the French ritual of strikes in May. The Wall Street Journal writes,


Four workers financed each pensioner in 1960 and two in 2000. By 2020 the ratio will be one-to-one. Mr. Raffarin has told the French that "If we do nothing today, in less than 20 years our pensions will be reduced by half."

...The average French worker now retires at 58.7 years old, earlier than workers in any of the other big European Union countries.

But the public unions are a powerful force against change. One-quarter of the French work force is employed by the government, which means the state-sector unions can create a lot of trouble.


Jean-Christophe Mounicq writes,

In France, public servants now have better salaries, fewer working hours, longer holidays, and earlier and more lucrative retirement packages than workers in the private sector. On top of that, they benefit from the "employment security," a priceless advantage in a country with high unemployment. A recent poll showed logically that 77 percent of French citizens between the ages of 15 and 25 want to become public servants. ...

As public services are also state monopolies, strikes are always successful. When public servants go on strike, the country is nearly paralyzed. The politicians have a tendency not to resist.


These stories bring together three phenomena that trouble me. One is the way that government pension programs and demographic trends are increasing the number of non-workers that each worker must support. Another is the political power of government workers.

The third phenomenon is intimidation by street mobs. As Brad DeLong wrote,


Democracy is not to be found in the streets. What we find in the streets are vanguard parties, the dictatorships they bring, and politics understood not as collective self-government but as expressive theatrical performances.

For Discussion. If there is no pension reform, what will the French economy look like in twenty years?


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CATEGORIES: Social Security



COMMENTS (4 to date)
Newt writes:

In twenty years there will be no France. French women are refusing to bear children and Algerian immigrants are taking up the slack with enthusiasm. The French people are making no effort to assimilate the immigrants, so they will remain foreign in culture.

So the numbers of french, especially french workers and men young enough to be police and soldiers, will crash. And the Algerians will be running the country under the direction of a small French-ethnic ruling class. The bulk of French-ethnic will be old and able to demand the bulk of state services and high taxes on the young Algerians. Soon the Algerians will decide to cut them off.

David Thomson writes:

The French are not among my favorite people and therefore I enjoy knocking them while they are down. In twenty years, France will likely be another Third World nation. Can it reverse its present downward slide? the answer is probably no. The intellectual virus of Socialism is not easily curable, and the patient is often similar to the proverbial frog who unknowingly is slowly being boiled alive.

French culture discourages rational thought. Silly people like Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault have long dominated their intellectual institutions. Have you ever heard the drivel coming out of the mouth of French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepan who just visited Yasser Arafat? Do I really need to add anything else?

Eric writes:

The French need to listen to Australian Secretary to the Treasury Ken Henry Powerpoint presentation on participation rates. If the Aussies have a participation rate proplem, the Frogs have a crisis.

Swamprat writes:

Like most Americans, I am really ticked with France. America is coming out of it's recession and the jobs are coming back by the tens and hundreds of thousands. France is mired in socialism which is only one step from communism. Like communism it is destined to fail from it's own inherent system weakness and the flood of Muslims who have no history of liberty and democracy. The French had better start kissing up to Germany because there wont be any help from the U.S. this time. It would be political suicide for a president or senator to suggest any sort of bailout for France. If you thought the result of your scrap with the U.S. would only be a drop in tourist dollars and wine sales, you are wrong. You will be drowning again before long and this time we will throw you an anchor.

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