Tuesday, April 04, 2006

National Death Wish

Young people make impassioned pleas to be heard and respected. They march, wave flags, burn cars, in frustration over their lack of prospects. Meanwhile, Villepin fans the flames by publicly hobnobbing with the rich and powerful, champagne glass in hand. And so the cycle goes, with each iteration inching closer to complete meltdown. The French seem bent on committing slow suicide.

The problem is that the desperate and highly sympathetic youth in the street is asking for the wrong things. In solidarity with the labour unions, he wants lifetime job security while only having to work 35 hours per week (and only those 43 weeks he actually has to work). The tragedy of the workers and students is that they seem to have internalized the idea that work is a bad thing. (And, Americans, don't laugh--we invented a restaurant chain called Thank God It's Friday!) They have taken the spirit of worker empowerment and turned it into a right not to have to work. Just who do they think will produce the stuff and perform the services that make their lives so comfortable in the first place?

One short-term solution is to outsource it all to the third world. Outsourcing, of course, the worst sin of all. Leaving that aside, even if they were contract it all out to people from developing countries, where is the money going to come from to pay for stuff? The decline will just spiral more rapidly out of control. How is it that at least 60% of these people don't understand this? We are no longer talking about masses of exploited workers, slaving away under the watch of robber barons. We are talking about a country that survived some horrific tragedies to make itself, partly through hard work and resilience, into one of the richest and most desirable places in the world to live.

As with so many disputes in today's world, the French dispute over employment laws has become an all-or nothing fight, a struggle not to yield an inch. In part, it reflects the understandable fear that is seeping into the consciousness of many in the industrialized world, the fear that their cushy lives are getting a little less cushy. But to respond to that fear with a complete retreat from competing is, well, suicidal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must not have to work, or you wouldnt be so contemptuous of people who think "it's a bad thing". Why should people have to accept slavery?

April 07, 2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Carlos Zapato said...

That's pretty silly--it might have applied in the Age of Coal, but come on, have you been to France? Workers there already have some of the best deals in the world. But my point is, if no one wants to work, who supplies all the stuff that people want? Where do you draw the line? 35 hours? 20 hours? Zero?

And why should anyone have infinite job security until they have at least proven they can do the job well?

April 07, 2006 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just another nail in the French coffin. Sometimes, we all get angry and would like to suspend the laws of economics. But, we cannot. As usual, the French govt. is acting irresponsibly by caving in to the demands of the students. Now, there will be fewer jobs in France and the students will wonder why?

April 11, 2006 5:59 PM  

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