Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Is France Ungovernable?"

Well, it depends on who is asking. If you ask the French economic elite, the answer is "its the rule of the mob." If you ask everyone else, then the answer is "it's noisy and unweildy, but we're doing our best."

I came across this article on MLQ3 questioning France's "governability." Allister Heath writes:
In a devastatingly frank speech in 1961, he warned that “any country with three hundred different kinds of cheese is ungovernable”. Forty-five years later, as France braces itself for a fresh day of disruption on Tuesday when opponents of reform take to the streets again, De Gaulle’s successors are rediscovering that the French are simply not prepared to accept change, however necessary.
This is the typical sentiment of pundits in the United States. To a country which has never even dreamed of creating a welfare state, the strong opposition agains the French job law is viewed with contempt.

Robert Samuelson writes, the French are in denial:
Hardly anyone wants to surrender the benefits and protections of today's generous welfare state, but the fierce attachment to these costly and self-defeating programs prevents Europe from preparing for a future that, though it may be deplored, is inevitable. Actually, it's not the future; it's the present.
Lawrence Kudlow says France has no work ethic. To a country aggressively exporting democracy, Americans seem to balk at masses of citizens exercising their democratic rights:
Why is it that so many French people would rather riot than work? ...In France, you see, companies don't grow because it's too costly to hire while it's against the law to fire. Hence, since they rarely add jobs, French businesses under-perform, under-produce and under-employ. Think of it: It's awfully tough to increase output without a growing workforce to produce it.
The general sentiment from across the Atlantic seems to express the inevitability of the French welfare model knuckling under the pressure of even tighter competition in world markets. For French capital to compete, it must reduce all the "unecessary" expenses on people's work benefits and safety-nets. If you want to solve unemployment, boost the economy and even stand an iota of a chance against American capital, hop on the CPE train. Those who fail to do so, will be crushed.

The next few hours will be critical in the resolution of this stand-off. To whom is the French State answerable?

The unthinking hooligans of Jean-Luc Godard, Victor Hugo, Gilles Deleuze, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre's alma mater?

The lazy French unions?

The rest of them "unruly" yet well-organized-right-to-the-last-flight/train/bus/Eiffel Tower elevator ride-striking mob?

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