Chirac Does What The French Do Best

Jacques Chirac, in the true Gallic tradition of running away from the scene of battle has killed the jobs law that sparked violent protests across France for weeks.

This surrender has further legitimized the tactics of the student uprising, ensured that the French economy will remain stagnant, and shown the abject weakness of the government. The continued slide of France into statist collapse is not only ongoing, but it almost certainly just acclerated.

And as tempting as it may be to fall into shadenfruende over the failure of Slick Villy and Co., Michael Barone reminds us that we’re headed in the same direction, albeit much more slowly:

You can quibble about the numbers, but the overall trend is clear: We’re on a collision course. On the one hand, we have a private-sector economy that is vibrant, creative, continually transforming itself and producing millions and millions of new jobs — overcoming the stagflation of the late 1970s, the sharp recession of the early 1980s, the savings and loan bailout of the early 1990s and the trauma of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On the other hand, we have a public sector that is threatening to gobble up more and more of that economy as time goes on.

We know what things look like somewhere down the road: France. As students, union members and public employees riot in the streets against the outrageous notion that people should not be given lifetime jobs until age 26, France seems immobilized…

But at the moment, we don’t have anyone working to stop it — not the Republicans, not the Democrats. In the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton seemed ready to work with Sen. Pat Moynihan to put an investment component in Social Security and with Sen. John Breaux to institute market reforms in Medicare. But Clinton, at the behest of the liberals who rescued him by opposing his impeachment, pulled back, even though the political stars were otherwise aligned.

George W. Bush came to office with plans for market reform in Social Security and health-care finance. But he got only a little of the latter — health savings accounts and demonstration projects in the 2003 Medicare law. On Social Security, he was stymied by united Democratic opposition in 2005.

Barone is right – nobody is taking the problem seriously. The Democrats are hopelessly wedded to the growth of the state. The Republicans are proving to be scarcely better. Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs are a timebomb waiting to go off. There is absolutely no way we can maintain our economic solvency without reforming those programs – but unless the Republican Party grows a pair, the reformist agenda is all but dead. Once again, the interests of the nation are being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.

The fact is that the same factors that make France the basket case that it is – the sense of institutional entitlement, the immigration problems, the unsustainable social programs, the feckless political leadership, all of those things exist here, just in smaller amounts. However, what is happening in France could most certainly happen here unless we get a leadership that is willing to face the problem head-on and seriously push for reform. Bush has as yet failed to do that, and it seems unlikely that he’ll have the political capital to do so any time soon.

Pulling off the road to serfdom is never an easy thing to do – but if we want to avoid ending up like the French, we had better start changing course now before it becomes even more difficult.

3 thoughts on “Chirac Does What The French Do Best

  1. I have mixed feelings on the French “reform” proposal. Basically, it allows for a business formula that could and most likely would be equivalent to the “guest worker program” being debated here….where a revolving door of young French workers would be aimlessly recycled in and out of French companies, working for a year or two and then replaced with another warm body without just cause. Older workers who became unemployed would have virtually no chance of getting another job because young workers who are hired and fired on a dime provide the companies all the bang for their buck that they need.

    French companies definitely need more discretion to fire bad employees, but only if there are provisions in the new law that protect against systemic American-style employer abuse.

  2. Um, why don’t we just dismantle our entire social welfare bureaucracy and replace it with a GMI, like Milton Friedman was supporting forty years ago? You get the advantages of a welfare net without the creeping regulation and huge, wasteful bureaucracy… makes enough sense to me. Too bad there’s no way it will ever happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.