Socialism Burning

Gregory Djerjian has an excellent backgrounder to the escalating violence in Paris and what it means for Europe. Already the violence in France has spread across the banlieues of Paris into cities like Nantes, Nice, and Cannes. Muslims in Denmark are also beginning to protest, and other European governments are wary that their own population of unassimilated Muslim immigrants may also begin to engage in riots.

However, Djerjian doesn’t see this wave of violence as the beginning of Eurabia, but the result of decades of state socialism failing in its very goal of class equality:

Now, I am not one who believes that some pan-Eurabian intifada is in the offing, or that the implications of these riots rival 9/11, or that Shamil Basayev’s guerilla tactics are being adopted off la Place de la Republique–as breathless, under-informed ‘commentary’ has it in some quarters of the blogosphere. But we certainly have a pivot point here, one where the ruling elite’s inefficacy and ineptness is being laid crudely bare for all the world to see. They have been tone-deaf and caught off guard by the depth of the alienation in their midst, and it has now caught them very much unawares and seemingly clueless on how next to respond.

The conditions in the cités are deplorable – and France has long since wagged their fingers at the “racism” and “inequality” of America while their own country festered. The fact is that this should very well be a wakeup call to liberals here in the United States. The state socialist model doesn’t work -it’s failing in Paris right now. The subsidies and welfare benefits provided to residents of the cités did nothing to stem the tide of alienation and resentment among an underclass who had little to no chance at finding work in a society that strictly managed every facet of their labor market and economy.

While it’s certain that radical Muslims are taking advantage of this situation, it wasn’t radical Islam that started it – it was the failure of the French social model that provided a perfect breeding ground for this terrorism. A state with an unemployment rate in the double digits cannot expect to have a stable and prosperous society. A society in which enterprise is systematically stifled by paternalistic regulations cannot hope to keep their level of unemployment down. A state with a low birth rate cannot sustain its economic base, but importing foreign labor and not assimilating them into society creates tensions. Everything about the current French societal model has led to this breakdown, and after 11 days the government is still looking powerless and confused.

For all the Gallic moaning about the terrors of the “Anglo-Saxon” model, their supposedly more “humanistic” French model has produced vast concrete ghettoes with levels of unemployment that makes the American inner city look positively prosperous in comparison. The state socialist model is failing in France, it’s failing in Germany, and the most prosperous parts of Europe are that way precisely because they’re either too small to experience the shocks of their larger siblings, or they’ve abandoned state socialism for free market reform.

Europe must now realize that their social contract is failing. The state cannot afford the benefits they promised for everyone. In order to create a more equitable society, a society in which vast swathes of angry and unassimilated immigrants are treated as children by a paternalistic and disinterested society, France and the rest of Europe must step back from the road to serfdom – and make no mistake about it, the inhabitants of the banlieues are treated as little more then serfs – the spirit of entrepreneurialism that lifts people up out of poverty has been drained from France. Why should a company bother to hire a Maghreb immigrant when French labor laws mean that even a minimum-wage worker is virtually impossible to fire and has a prohibitively high labor cost? No employer can afford to take that chance, so the level of unemployment in the immigrant community is double that of the rest of the country – as high as Saudi Arabia’s. If someone can’t get even an entry-level position, how can one expect to move up the economic ladder? The residents of France’s soulless cités are mired in life in which the escape of economic improvement is fleeting at best.

The paternalism of welfare can never serve as a substitute for economic opportunity, and the situation in France is a warning of what happens when a state fails to understand that simple precept. A country that prides itself on liberté, egalité, et fraternité is finding that its system pays only lip service to those values. Putting down the riots will be easy compared to repairing the fractures to French and European civil society – the key question being whether the European intelligentsia has the strength of will necessary to correctly understand and fix the problem in the first place.

3 thoughts on “Socialism Burning

  1. But – the global test! Alors. The god that failed fails again. And the usual suspects will murmur at cocktail parties and in faculty lounges that socialism “didn’t fail at all, because it hasn’t been done in its pure form yet.”


  2. A drift towards American-style plutocracy will not leave French immigrants any better off than they are today. If segregation and ethnicity-based fear are as rampant in France as is being reported, why would we suspect that the immigrants would find employment even if more jobs became available? No matter how low the unemployment rate falls in America, it hardly moves an inch on our Indian reservations…and it sounds as though France’s self-contained immigrant communities have a similar dynamic. Shifting towards America’s economic structure would merely reduce the safety net that helps keep the immigrants from the kinds of living conditions they fled in North Africa, while job growth in their communities wouldn’t come close to meeting the demand after the safety net is yanked from beneath them.

    Rather than lecturing France about the need to transform their economy in the wake of riots, I would recommend Americans shift policy priorities at home to avoid a similar scenario from unfolding here. With the number of uninsured rising at the same time as we cut the Medicare and Medicare budgets, not to mention the deindustrialization of America which has helped keep America’s low-skill and semi-skill population above the poverty line, what we’re seeing on the streets of Paris’ suburbs is very likely to be our future.

  3. So although Socialism fails again to solve the problem we need more..wait for it…Socialism. How revolutionary ! Thats a logical call, then throw in another group that doesn’t want to intergrate into the main society and whola, we need more entitlements. What a circle jerk. I thought we had a flourishing immigrant community, and just so you know Native Americans aren’t immagrants all the rest of us are. Just a few thoughts:

    “For France, the good news is that these problems can be solved, principally be deregulating labor markets, reducing taxes, reforming the pension system and breaking the stranglehold of unions on economic life. The bad news is the entrenched cultural resistance to those solutions–not on the part of angry Muslim youth, but from the employed half of French society that refuses to relinquish their subsidized existences for the sake of the “solidarity” they profess to hold dear. So far, most attempts at reform have failed, mainly due to a combination of union militancy and political timidity.
    There are lessons in France for the U.S., too. Advocates of multiculturalism might take note of what happens when ethnic communities are excluded (or exclude themselves) from the broad currents of national life. Opponents of immigration might take note of the contrast between France’s impoverished Muslims and America’s flourishing immigrant communities.

    Above all, those who want America to emulate the French social model by mandating health and other benefits, raising tax burdens and entrenching union power might take note of just how sour its promises have become, especially its promises to the poor. In the matter of “solidarity,” economic growth counts more than rhetoric.”

    WSJ-today go ahead and read it.

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