February 28, 2015

FRANCE AT THE eND OF hISTORY:

France's Anti-Terror, Free-Market Socialist : Prime Minister Valls talks about 'Islamofascism,' his personal experience with rising anti-Semitism, and the necessity of economic reform. (SOHRAB AHMARI, 2/28/15, WSJ)

Though Mr. Valls is careful not to reduce one to the other, France's social crisis is owed in part to the country's economic failure. Growth is nonexistent. Unemployment remains above 10%. A quarter of French youth are unemployed. The most talented young French men and women are more likely to be working in Silicon Valley or London than in Paris. Foreign direct investment in France fell 94% over the past decade, thanks to the country's high taxes, labyrinthine regulations and rigid labor-market rules.

With the old left incapable of addressing the economic problems that are largely its creation, Mr. Valls has emerged as a leader of the reform wing of the Socialists, emphasizing law and order, personal responsibility and free markets. "For 30 years France got used to massive unemployment, to too-high public spending and to not undertaking courageous reforms," the prime minister says. "France must prove to itself and to the world that it is capable of reforming itself."

Departing from traditional socialism, Mr. Valls says, "I very much believe in the role of the individual, the responsibility of each individual and individual accomplishment. I don't believe in egalitarianism. You have to support, including at school, each individual according to his potential. We have unemployment benefits that somehow sponsor unemployment." Instead, he wants to "sponsor going back to work."

He has already made significant progress, though at a high political cost. Mr. Valls's government is cutting public spending by €50 billion ($56 billion) and social taxes and fees on businesses by €40 billion ($45 billion) over the next three years. The government last year introduced a law to privatize some public assets, open 37 highly regulated professions to greater competition and allow shops to stay open 12 Sundays a year, from five currently, among other measures.

Sensing the law would face tough opposition from hard-left Socialists, Messrs. Hollande and Valls last week invoked a rarely used constitutional loophole that allows bills to bypass the National Assembly and go directly to the Senate for approval. The government survived a subsequent no-confidence vote.

There is no longer a Second Way.

Posted by at February 28, 2015 8:21 AM
  

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