Et Pourquois Pas?
You would oppose law to socialism. But it is the law which socialism invokes. It aspires to legal, not extra-legal, plunder.
Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50)
Porcupine has to admit, he didn’t think it was possible that he would ever feel bad for French President Jacques Chirac. But he’s getting there.
It appears that Pres. Chirac is going to be the person without a chair when the music stops, as many chickens come home to roost in French society.
First, there were the Muslim student riots of last year. Porcupine wrote at the time that a concerted indifference to the ghettos that ring Paris had finally caught up with the French authorities, (see HERE) and that France ignored this volatile situation at its peril.
But when trouble came again, it was from a different source. Today, more than 1 million people took to the streets across France in protest of a new, highly contested labor law. Riot police armed with batons and shields moved in on more than 200,000 demonstrators gathered at the Place de la Republic in Paris, and according to police estimates, 31,000 marched Tuesday in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, 28,000 in the southern port city of Marseille, 26,000 in the Alpine city of Grenoble, 17,000 in Lyon and hundreds of thousands in nearly a dozen other cities and towns.
Protesters in Paris said they wanted to defend the status quo. "We are here for our children. We are very worried about what will happen to them," said Philippe Decrulle, an Air France flight attendant. "My son is 23, and he has no job. That is normal in France." In fact, France has an unemployment rate of about 23 percent.
What is also normal in France is a 35 hour week, five weeks of paid vacation, and a virtual lifetime job once hired. This is not entirely due to unions, but to French socialist employment laws, which make it almost impossible to fire an employee once hired. The new law would allow employers to fire those under age 26 during a two year trial period. By targeting the youngest workers, who presumably have greater flexibility in seeking employment and fewer responsibilities, Prime Minister (and Presidential Candidate) Dominique de Villepin was hoping to end the tailspin of unemployment, and bring France out of the worst economic situation in western Europe by encouraging employers to hire additional people, with the promise that they could be fired without the usual court challenge if they didn’t work out. Villepin also faces pressure from the rival UMP Political party led by Interior Minister (and Presidential Candidate) Nicolas Sarkozy, who helpfully suggested that all the troublemakers be locked up. This is the ‘Sarko’ of the Muslim riots, a sort of Pat Buchanan figure in France.
Chirac is backing his Prime Minister for now, but it is difficult in the face of smoke drifting across the Eiffel Tower once again, and water cannon (shades of Birmingham!) trained upon rioting youth. Porcupine would like to hear once again from the Chattering Classes, who have extolled opulent European labor laws for so long, and ask them what they think of this logical conclusion.
And President Chirac must try to reconcile the two opposites of socialist featherbedding and global competition, even as he hears the music draw to a close while he scrambles for his chair.