June 7, 2005
TRY, TRY AGAIN:
French prepare themselves to resist all advances from perfidious Albion (Charles Bremner, 6/08/05, Times of London)
ANYTHING but the British might be the motto for Dominique de Villepin, the new French Prime Minister, when he announces today how he will fulfil his pledge to bring down France’s chronic high unemployment without recourse to the dreaded modèle Anglo-Saxon.
L’Albion Perfide has loomed large over France this week as M de Villepin has staked his name on his plan to restore confidence in 100 days, after the rejection of the European constitutional treaty in the referendum on May 29.
President Chirac’s appointed Prime Minister has promised to pull off what employers and foreign experts regard as the impossible: creating jobs but keeping the protective French social model that helps to generate the country’s chronic 10 per cent unemployment.
With characteristic bravado, the poet-Prime Minister has promised to try something new. Above all, he says, this will not be modelled on Britain, whose prosperity is depicted in France as the product of poverty-line wages, social injustice and medieval public services. Instead, M de Villepin wants to copy the Danish model, which has become the Paris fashion this early summer.
This is a system, called “flexicurity”, in which the workers accept very flexible hire-and-fire rules in return for extensive welfare benefits. It also requires a tax rate even higher than that in France. M de Villepin, a diplomat who has never held elected office, has run into a predictable hurdle before he unveils his scheme to Parliament. Trade union leaders told him on Monday that they would call strikes if he even hinted at touching the sacred French labour laws.
The Anglo-American model (liberal democracy, protestantism [small "p"], capitalism) has been reasonably well understood and largely effective for over 200 years now--with only the Great Depression causing an unfortunate fifty year deviation here in the States. The French, meanwhile, have spent that time in a steady decline, following their own statist egalitarian model, which has been applied with even more disastrous results from Germany to Russia to China and beyond. The idea that they'll be able to give their model a little tweak and it will suddenly work is truly insane. Posted by Orrin Judd at June 7, 2005 11:36 PM