April 5, 2006

THE SECURITY MODEL:

French ‘Security’ and Economic Reality (Michael Miller, 4/05/06, Acton)

The preoccupation with the self and the obsession with security that leads young people to protest productive labor laws in the streets reflect deeper problems in society. This preoccupation, while pronounced in France, exists in other countries as well, including the United States. Here are a few of the problems:

Failure to recognize trade-offs. French protesters and their sympathizers don’t understand trade-offs in economics. They want it all: job security, full employment, economic growth, universal prosperity, and entrepreneurial innovation. Paradoxically, they are unable to understand both scarcity and economic growth. They incorrectly see the economy as a zero-sum game, yet are simultaneously unwilling to accept trade-offs as a consequence of scarcity.

The lack of prudence. I mean prudence in its classical understanding: the ability to see reality as it is and act accordingly. This flight from reality explains the inability to see trade-offs is part of a larger economic problem.

Failure to take personal responsibility. This is an interesting paradox in France, the home of existentialism. A central message of the existentialist doctrine is freedom and no excuses, yet French young people want the state to be responsible for their future.

Lack of an entrepreneurial spirit. The unwillingness to tolerate risk and creatively launch new businesses is rooted in a cultural problem. This was pointed out by Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, in an editorial in the European Wall Street Journal last year. A lack of entrepreneurial spirit, he said, is connected to a lack of hope which, in turn, is a result of the practical atheism that dominates Western European life.

Boredom. French young people, like so many others, are just plain bored. People need something to live for besides security, six weeks vacation, and the pursuit of hobbies. Young people, especially, need opportunity, risk, and the possibility for heroism. But in a culture that relegates truth, beauty, and goodness to subjective whims, and ridicules classical virtues as arcane, it is not surprising to see young people taking to the streets looking for meaning.


France and the Anglo-American world diverged when the French chose to make security/egalitie their highest ideal and unless they admit to the failure of their model and adopt the Anglo-American instead there's no reason to hold out any hope for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 5, 2006 2:56 PM
Comments

A lack of entrepreneurial spirit, he said, is connected to a lack of hope which, in turn, is a result of the practical atheism that dominates Western European life.

That's why athiests are so notoriously bad as entrepreneurs. Just look at this list of athiest failed entrepreneurs: Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffett.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 5, 2006 5:24 PM

They aren't atheists, they're Americans.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 5:29 PM

"This is an interesting paradox in France, ... A central message of the existentialist doctrine is freedom and no excuses, yet French young people want the state to be responsible for their future." There is no paradox here,the French have their freedom from the ridiculous demands of their employers. Once they got their jobs, they can give their employers their fingers, and there's nothing the employers could do about it. They don't have to give excuses such as my cat died last night to get a day off. On the other hand, the Americans are not free. They have to spend most of their lives toiling for the pittance to support their families, they only have two weeks of vacations. They have to make up excuses if they want to stay in bed after a hang over. They are always under threats of being fired if they dared to pull a no call no show. Worst of all, they have to do what their employers hired them to do. What kind of freedom is that?

Posted by: ic at April 5, 2006 5:37 PM

notice that those examples are not european successes.

Posted by: toe at April 5, 2006 6:02 PM

The Americans rebelled against their British government. The French likewise rebelled agaist their French government, but took one more fatal step. They rebelled against God.

Posted by: jdkelly at April 5, 2006 7:30 PM

Yes, America is my God. For you Christians to say that would be idolatry, but that's what you believe anyway.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 5, 2006 7:32 PM

ic - the freedom to live as high on the hog as they like.

France is depressingly grey and black. That's fine for film noir, but for living, it's not so fine.

My granddaughter loves it here because, in her ten year old words, everybody is happy and smiles at her.

Posted by: erp at April 5, 2006 7:37 PM

Robert, America is not God, but may well be the best manifestation so far. An instrument of God, perhaps. One must be very cautious in these waters. Presumption. Hubris. But nevertheless...hope. Obviously, much room for improvement.

Posted by: jdkelly at April 5, 2006 7:59 PM

Your belief in American ideals allows you to be a Christian without actually acknowledging to yourself that you believe in God. That suffices.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 8:03 PM

oj: You've gotten it again, very well done.

We've been reading our John Paul II, or at least our Michael Novak, eh?

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 5, 2006 8:42 PM

If that is the case, then it's good that Christian ideals can be expressed in purely secular terms. It's a very flexible religion.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 6, 2006 11:37 AM

America is not God, but may well be the best manifestation so far.

The only good is that which is manifested. I'm no Platonist. You can't pull a cart with an idea of a horse, no matter how perfect that idea is.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 6, 2006 11:42 AM

Yet it moves.

Posted by: oj at April 6, 2006 11:57 AM
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