Jonah Goldberg

So parliament decided to add un petite peu of flexibility. Of course, they couldn't call it "flexibility" because the French consider that a code word for capitalism run amok or "Americanization." And what greater hell is there than Americanization? After all, between 1970 and 2003, America produced 59 million jobs. France, Germany and Italy put together managed to create fewer than 18 million jobs over the same period - and nearly half of that came from the demographic injection of the East German economy.

America, according to French politicians, journalists and intellectuals, is an economic state of nature. But in 2004, according to economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, only 13 percent of unemployed American workers couldn't find jobs in 12 months of looking. In France, 42 percent of unemployed workers couldn't find jobs within 12 months. (In Germany the number was 52 percent, and in Italy it was 50 percent.)

In response to the hint of "flexibility," students at the Sorbonne rioted with the aid of France's powerful labor unions. Fifty-eight percent of French voters now believe the First Employment Contract should be repealed.

The Sorbonne takeover is the most interesting and revealing part of the story because these are the best students France has to offer. In other words, these kids should have the least trouble finding work. But they're revolting because they understand that France isn't an egalitarian society - French propaganda notwithstanding. It is a system designed to lavish job protections, perks and, most of all, the French "lifestyle" on the upper-middle class. France pretends to be a great civilization, but in reality it wants to be an Epcot Center attraction, a "FranceLand" where everything is comfortable and protected. Liberating the job market, even a tiny bit, threatens a system designed to keep the French upper crust from working too hard and to keep those brown-skinned and lower-class slobs out of the best jobs and cocktail parties.

What should be so frightening about this episode for Americans is that it shows how even the best and brightest can become addicted to welfare.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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