Writing in The American Enterprise magazine, Olaf Gersemann estimates that per capita income in the U.S. now exceeds that of France by 40 percent. The French unemployment rate is more than 10 percent -- 21.7 percent among 15- to 24-year-olds, and reportedly as much as 40 percent among Muslim youths. Since the 1970s, Europe has created only 4 million new jobs. The U.S. has created 57 million in the same period. Some Europeans may be enjoying their short workweeks and lavish paid vacations, but many others, particularly immigrants, cannot find jobs at all.
And welfare, while generous, does not quell the unrest -- it stokes discontent. Immigrants who cannot find jobs, particularly young males from traditionalist Muslim societies, need dignity as much or more than comfort. Yet French society, with its rigid socialist economy and intrusive state, lacks the engine that can provide jobs -- a vibrant private sector.
But socialism is an insidious poison. The vast majority of French voters seem wedded to their government-supplied goodies -- failing to recognize that their economic and therefore social lives are unraveling because of that dependence. When they rejected the proposed EU constitution last summer, most French voters told pollsters they were worried about losing welfare benefits and trade protections.
The cars aflame in French cities now underscore the dangers of economic stagnation. The French have imported a small army of socially, culturally and economically estranged young men. These Muslim men would have been difficult to assimilate under the best of circumstances. But in a sclerotic, socialist state, where the prospect of jobs and economic advancement is so remote, the task becomes titanic.
So, Monsieur Jospin, which economic system deserves the prefix "jungle"?