Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Les Enfants Are Alright...

…it’s just that the ones with jobs don’t want to be able to lose them, which would make it easier for the ones without jobs to actually land one and help reduce the double-digit unemployment in France. And I thought young people in North America complained too much – at least most of us recognize that part of having a job is doing your job, unlike this girl:

If the CPE [the new law] is enacted, said one young woman, "You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked."

Well, we simply can’t have that.

Like most measures meant to protect someone, this one is full of unintended consequences. Like the fact that companies are very selective about who they hire because once they employ them they’re stuck with them no matter what, making it very hard to find work or for companies to grow. The root of the problem lies with the larger issue of an unwillingness to admit that the French economic model is ass-backwards. As Claire Berlinski writes in this must-read piece in the Washington Post:

No one in France -- not one single politician, nor anyone in the media -- is willing to say it: France's labor laws are an absurdity, and if they are not reformed at once, France will go under.

We should keep in mind that this is coming from a country where only 36% of respondents felt that the best economic model is the free enterprise/free market system. What year are they living in, 1956? To be fair, The French essentially have made the choice (whether they actually thought about it in this way or not) to have a very high level of job security - resulting in high unemployment, which is then supported by high taxes on those who work. I personally think this is not a wise decision, given the costs it will impose on economic growth in a competitive, globalized world (which might explain why the French are so fearful of globalization). But what it comes down to is that I just can't shake the image of French youth burning cars to fight for a ridiculous law aimed at protecting special interests at the expense of larger society.


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