Why France Needs A Thatcher

Glenn Reynolds has a good compendium of links on the meltdown in France caused by out-of-control labor unions. Reynolds receives a lengthy report from Claire Berlinski (whose book is on my summer reading list) about the dire situation occuring as French union members have essentially shut the country’s transportation system down. Another grim report comes by way of Steven Den Beste who has run a letter from one French citizen who is worried about unions threatening individuals and another noting the silence on this issue in the mainstream media and yet another that elucidates the faulty worldviews letting all of this go on.

Mitch Berg made a very insightful comment in my previous article on the subject that the current labor situation in France resembles the situation in Britain in 1984, when the coal miner’s union went on strike. British miners not only went on strike, but they threatened the families of anyone who wanted to return to work, and committed numerous acts of violence. The miners were also heavily supported by Soviet-linked groups and others who wanted to see Thatcher removed from power like her predecessor Edward Heath had in 1974.

Except Prime Minister Thatcher and her government didn’t budge. They didn’t give in to the pressure the unions were putting on her government. She broke the backs of the striking unions, and ended the wave of nationalization started by Clement Atlee shortly after World War II. The results of this fundamental transformation was a modern and vibrant economy that provided a far better standard of living than Britain had seen since the days prior to World War II.

It is one of the many ironies of history that Thatcher was swept into power by the union shutdown of Britain in 1979, which caused a vote of no confidence in the Callaghan government. Now France may be facing the same junction in its history. It is clear that the Chirac government is no more able to deal with the violence outbreaks at the hand of the labor unions than Callaghan was in 1979. What France desperately needs is a Margaret Thatcher.

The reasoning is simple. The unions in France are no longer about protecting the rights of the workers. They are about insuring that the government remains in control of the commanding heights of the economy – a government that is heavily corrupt and largely in the pockets of the unions. The current system in France is not economically feasible. The unions believe that the state can simply take more money from the capitalists and give it to them. What they fail to understand is if the government were to do that, the capitalists would simply go elsewhere and the French economy would enter into a tail-spin.

The government must stand against the unions if the government is to survive. The unions have gained far too much power for the good of the nation, and any system in which a small group of people can use terror and intimidation to shut down a country is unacceptable. If French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin bends to union pressure, the Fifth Republic could very well be in a state worse than Britain in 1979. As The Economist argues, Raffarin must not back down if France is to defuse the time bomb of an ossified labor market, a pension system that is near collapse, and the sea of red tape that prevents France from performing on the world market. If Raffarin does not have the guts to stand, then France desperately needs someone who will.

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