An American icon -- the Coca-Cola brand -- almost went to war to free common sense, which was being held hostage by the French government and knee-jerk socialism.
Now, I realize this column is about something happening way over in France, but by now it shouldn't be difficult to see how it provides yet another preview of what's in store for America if it continues its current socialist slide.
Like America and virtually every other Western country, France is deep in debt. Instead of the French government trimming the fat -- starting with all of it filling the seats at various useless levels of government -- Prime Minister Francois Fillon has somehow concluded that among all the austerity measures available to him, one of the most effective ways to replenish the state trough would be to tax sugared sodas by a measly one cent per can. Of course, it's poor form to just come out and say, "Hey, we need money, so we're just going to take it from you, OK?" Instead, he's spinning the cash grab as a health issue. In other words, "We're going to take more money from you when and where you deserve it -- for being an indulgent pig."
Judging by his own words and press releases, Fillon would like the French public to believe in two fairy tales. The first is that he can put at least 100 million extra euros in the social security account each year with this one cent tax starting in 2012. Fillon's other goal is to use a fiscal stick -- a twig, in this case -- to whack the Coca-Cola cans out of the fat fingers of those who exemplify the beefing up of the average French person by 6.8 pounds from 1997 to 2009. The myth here is that Fillon apparently figures that the extra cent will be enough to make citizens forgo their Coke and choose one of the many healthier, considerably more expensive alternatives.
The two goals seem mutually exclusive and contradictory: To fill the coffers one cent at a time, he'll need an awful lot of soda guzzling. Your country is counting on you, obese French soda junkies, to be the new French Resistance against economic uncertainty -- while the prime minister calls you fat, burdensome and problematic.
The French Coca-Cola affiliate stepped in to blow the whistle on this blatant socialist cash grab's massive logic gap, and did so in the best possible way for capitalists to get their point across -- by threatening to withhold money. French Coca-Cola said that its was going to have to rethink a new 17 million euro production-line investment in light of this stigmatization of their product.
Mistaking corporate expenditures for some kind of entitlement, French politicians and union representatives promptly freaked out. Two elected officials who represent a region that includes a Coca-Cola manufacturing plant called Coca-Cola's reaction "blackmail," apparently forgetting that the presence of a private company isn't a public right. And one of the officials didn't stop there. She proceeded to tell them how they could run their business, suggesting that they could just "make efforts on non-sugar beverages."
The representative of French Coca-Cola union workers said that the workers were scared, and worried for the future of their plant. It was a sober realization that no matter how strong unions may feel they are in their solidarity, they're still dead in the absence of a host company.
The company's European office has since appeared to soften the company's original stance and assured that all planned investments will move ahead. Still, this incident should serve as a reminder that socialism has consequences. When a government decides to tax or pester a business, that company might one day move to a more hassle-free place. And all this for what? One cent per can, in this case. Even at that price, we've just seen how expensive socialism risks being.