February 12, 2006


French swing behind Sarko’s revolution (Matthew Campbell, 2/12/06, Sunday Times of London)

ONLY a year ago it might have provoked angry demonstrations and even a humiliating government retreat, but when Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative interior minister and presidential hopeful, unveiled radical measures last week to curb immigration there was scarcely a murmur of dissent.

Under the new rules, highly skilled immigrants will be favoured over those coming to France to join family. The government will also have greater powers to expel illegal immigrants. “We no longer want immigration that is inflicted on us,” said Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, whose “zero tolerance” policing and American campaigning techniques have shaken up French politics.

Muslim groups were infuriated, interpreting it as a blow to north Africans in favour of Asian job seekers.

The relatively mild response from the left, however, suggested a change of mood in France, as did the surprisingly muted protests against a government scheme that would make it easier to sack young workers in their first two years in a job: unions had promised a turnout of at least 1m people. It was only a fraction of that.

“French opinion really is changing,” said Nicolas Baverez, an economist and author. “People understand that we must make radical changes if we are to continue to have an influence in the world.”

The extraordinary popularity of Sarkozy — “Sarko” — who is competing with Dominique de Villepin, the aristocratic prime minister, to succeed Jacques Chirac as president next year, is one measure of a revolution already under way in a country often described as allergic to change.

Another factor promoting the shift is France’s recent run of turbulent events, from the rejection of the European Union constitution to the loss of the 2012 Olympics and the rioting that broke out in many French cities late last year.

The French may be renowned for whingeing about their woes but these calamities have bolstered the doctrine of doom-mongering to such a degree that worried politicians have given it a name: “declinology”.

They can't influence their own dismal future, nevermind the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2006 11:02 PM

The French may be renowned for whingeing about their woes but these calamities have bolstered the doctrine of doom-mongering to such a degree that worried politicians have given it a name: declinology.

Here in the United States, we called it "the Carter administration."

Posted by: Mike Morley at February 13, 2006 6:19 AM

If history is any indication, the reports of France's death are greatly exagerated.

Speaking of the Carter admin, I'm old enough to remember when America wasn't the globe straddling behemoth of today. Quite the contrary. For a while there it looked as if America was going to end up on the ash heap of history. Back in the 70s it really did seem that the American century was about to end three decades ahead of schedule. The fall of Saigon, Watergate, the oil crisis, the Japanese auto industry, the Iranian hostage crisis, the decay of our military, disco music, inflation and unemployment all pointed to American decline and demise. We were becoming like a guest actor on an episode of the "Love Boat" - a second rate has been. Ford was building Pintos for gosh sakes, if that didn't indicate the sorry state of our nation nothing does. We spent the whole decade getting our butts kicked and our teeth handed to us.

France too can stage a come back, as it has so many times in its history after major defeats and humiliations: the Viking siege of Paris, stunning defeats at the hands of English lonbowmen, defeat of the Valois by the Hapsburgs, Waterloo, defeat by Bismark's Prussia in 1870, the Dreyfuss Affair, the train car at Compeigne and Vichy collaboration, Algeria and Dien Ben Phu.

France has had more years of defeat and despair than America has existed. Each time, France has managed to get it house in order and restore its prestige under Jean D'Arc, the Sun King, Napoleon, Clemenceau, and DeGaulle. The problem now is that there hasn't been a major defeat to shock the French into action, only a feeling of slow inexorable decay. And they must rid themselves of that deceitful idiot Chirac.

I hope they snap out of it soon, otherwise Mankind will lose one of the brightest treasures of civilization. There could be no greater tragedy than to see the land of liberte, equalite et fraternite subsumed under the oppressive hand of theocratic sharia law.

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 6:33 AM

Doomed, I tell you, DOOOMMMED!!!! :-)

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 7:15 AM


Except that they've been in decline since the Revolution without ever getting their house in order. Their culture is disordered.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 7:19 AM


Luckily it is a joke--they aren't a country we need to care about.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 7:29 AM

How do you measure "decline" OJ, what metrics do you use?

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 8:25 AM

Pick one.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 8:33 AM

Average GDP per capita - measured over at least a decade.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 10:08 AM


Perfect. In the 1780s they had one of the two or three highest in the world. They've been slipping since and will soon drop out of the top 30.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 10:39 AM

So OJ by this (or any other standard) those Islamic theocracies you so admire and love are nothing but abject failures. Aside from higher birthrates (which are about to collapse or have already fallen below replacement rate in countries like Iran and Tunisia), how exactly is the Muslim world superior to secular Europe?

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 10:50 AM


Yes, Islamicism, like secularism, doesn't work.

But it will be easier for Islamic culture to reform along Anglo-American/Judeo-Christian lines than for secularism to arrest its descent into oblivion.

Religion isn't a generic good. Judaism and Christianity are.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 10:57 AM

For Islam to reform itself along AA/JC lines it must abandon its claim to superiority over all other relgions and cultures. That it will never do.

One of the false assumptions Europeans seem to be making is that they can sit down and negotiate with their Muslims as reasonable people dealing with equals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims don't consider Europeans, or anyone else for that matter, to be equals.

Thomas Friedman made an excellent point when he remarked that Muslims see Judaism as God v1.0. They see Christianity as God v2.0. Their own faith is the culmination of God's revelation to mankind and surpasses all previous versions, making Islam God v3.0. As "People of the Book" official Muslim teaching extends a certain amount of respect and charity to Jews and Christians. In fact, Jews and Christians can also enter Paradise along with Muslims. This is actually far more generous and tolerant than the Fundamentalist Christian view that only Fundamentalist Christians will go to Heaven.

Despite this generosity, they will never lose the belief that their religion is superior. And it is one of the sources of their frustrated rage. How can those who follow the pure path to God be so decidedly inferior to lesser peoples in the areas of economics, science, warfare, etc.? This cognative dissonance lies at the heart of their anger and feeds their rage.

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 11:28 AM

If J/C is the secret to our success why are the birthrates of both America and Israel also below the 2.1 replacement level along with secular Euros and Islamicists?

Posted by: bplus at February 13, 2006 11:30 AM


By your definition, the United States is in decline too since our GDP per capita is "shrinking" relative to both China and India. We're doomed!!!

This illustrates how you assume trends that match your worldview will continue forever (e.g., France's "decline"), while trends that conflict with your worldview (e.g., China's ascendency) will be short lived.

All trends end eventually.

France will get richer slower than us (and China) for some period of time, then things will change.

If you really think that trends are forever, then the U.S. really is doomed because of China's ascendency. In 100 years, given the current trends, China's GDP per capital will be 10 times ours. Bummer!

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 12:21 PM


No, it won't. Challengers arise and they fall. We just keep pulling farther ahead. We are ordered. They're disordered.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 12:42 PM


Because some portion of each followed European secularization trends. American is at replacement thanks to higher Christian birthrates. Israel's Orthodox have high rates. But you're right that Israel will likely become majority Muslim soon.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 12:50 PM


Yes, it's the cognitive disonnance that is forcing Reformation along Judeo-Christian lines.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 12:51 PM

oj wrote: "Challengers arise and they fall."

It's the "fall" part where we disagree. They may not rise as fast, but everybody getting richer. Not rising as fast is different than "decline".

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 1:09 PM


You doisagree with reality, not with me:


Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 1:19 PM


Ummm, how do those articles contradict my position?

For example, "if China produces Nobel-quality science, it won't put the United States out of business; rather, Chinese discoveries will help American scientists discover more, too." The same is true for China vs. Europe and U.S. vs. Europe. Europe will benefit from other's leadership in technology.

Again, you seemed to be concerned with relative position. I'm only concerned with absolute. France is getting richer and will continue to get richer, perhaps mostly by riding on our coattails. That's not decline, that's making material progress less quickly.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 1:37 PM

It's declining economically, politically, culturally and demographically. What more is there?

But I'm all for the secularists whistling past their own graveyard. More power to you.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 1:43 PM

No, it's not. Let's summarize:

Economically: they're still getting richer, albeit at a slower pace than we are currently.

Politically: I'm not sure how you measure this, but they have the same form of government and we have the same form of government. Where's the decline?

Culturally: This is subjective. You (and I) prefer American culture, but I find nothing in European culture that's getting worse. In other words, I liked it equally 20 years ago. I (perhaps) liked ours better 20 years ago, so if anything, ours is in more of a "decline" than Europe's.

Demographically: A decline in population will greatly benefit very overcrowded Europe and Japan in the long run. Lower birthrates are a feature, not a bug.

Obviously, there's room for a difference of opinion on how well Europe is doing, and certainly, they have problems. But the concept that they're on they're way the "their own graveyard" is simply alarmist and unsupportable. Europe will live far longer than you, oj.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 2:01 PM


What makes you think Europe is overcrowded to the same degree as Japan is?

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at February 13, 2006 2:22 PM

Your right, Europe is not anywhere nearly as crowded as Japan (see for population densities of Japan and some European countries). However, some places in Europe are nearly as crowded as Japan, and as a whole, western Europe has several times the population density as the United States. I think that declining population, in the long run, will be beneficial.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 2:39 PM


Economically it's declining with high unemployment., no wayt to pay for social programs, and it creates nothing.

Politically it can do nothing but react to us.

Culturally it has non. No authors. No music. No painters. Etc.

Demographically it's not reproducing its French population and becoming increasingly non-French.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 3:51 PM


Name a people who's ever benefitted from such population decline?

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 4:01 PM

Well, for example, I believe the black death which hit Western Europe in the mid 1300s and greatly reduced the population (especially in the cities) accelerated and extended the renaissance which, of course, led to modern times. It did so, I believe, by increasing the productive capital (farm land, infrastructure in the cities, etc.) per person, with that wealth enabling a portion of the populace to pursue science and technology.

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 4:22 PM

While absolute decline is a disaster, relative decline matters. China continued to prosper under the Manchus, but it declined relatively to Europe. The result was 100-200 years of humiliation, unequal treaties, dismemberment, and eventually civil war.

Much of the international system reflects Western values to Western benefit. A decline in a major part of the West will not just mean trouble for Europe, but for all the West in general. A growing Islam or China will overturn those areas that mean most to us and least to them.

A minor defeat in a far off land (Vietnam) was enough to make the world mad for decades. If Europe fails, expect disaster.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at February 13, 2006 4:27 PM

One of OJ's worse fallacies is the idea that Islam will conform more to Western values than secularism. It won't.

Secularism and the Enlightenment are offspring of Christianity no matter how much people want to deny it. They simply take ideas inherent in Christianity and run with it. Any problems with it can be reformed and it brought back to the fold. The Borgia Papacy had a more deleterious influence, but Catholicism still survived and prospered.

Islam is not a product of the West, and does not share the same foundational story. The story of Judaism begins with bondage and escape from it. The story of Christianity is the cross and suffering, and then being persecuted. The story of Islam starts from a conquering army. When Muslims ask, "What would Mohammed do?" the answer is probably - create an army and attack.

This creates problems, as distressed communities go back to their foundational story for inspiration and guidance.

The narrative of the West has been one of freedom ever since Herodotus. It has been challenged and usurped on occassion, but we always go back to it. There is no comparable narrative in Islamic civilization.

Islam may be completely reconciled with Western notions of liberty and freedom, but it is one unlikely option among many others, and unlikely to occur without a much larger upheaval than present.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at February 13, 2006 4:36 PM


No, Rationalism/Secularism is just about the artificial elevation of the self and is incompatible with a decent society. Note that Muslims easily can and Rationalists can not accept the foundation of the American Republic: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

A bit of upheaval is a healthy thing.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 4:48 PM

The Europe that meant something is long gone.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 4:51 PM


That's not fertility decline but a natural disaster. Wars too have little long term effect. The conscious decision to decline demographically is never reversed.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 4:52 PM

Oh, I see, we're playing the oj definitional game again. If we asked 100 people on the street what "population decline" meant, I'd bet at least 90 of them would say any reduction in population would qualify.

But, ok, I'm curious. Which examples of "population decline" did you have in mind? Any with an actual reduction in population? Or all they all declining in some other sense?

Posted by: Bret at February 13, 2006 5:01 PM


Yes, not many folks, particularly you, grasp demographics.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 5:22 PM

What's hard to understand about "population decline". If the replacement rate is greater than 2.1 and there's a disaster that kills 50% of the people---then the population takes a drop down but continues upward at the same slope, just from a new lower base. Kinda like the stock market.

If the replacement rate is 1.5 or any number significantly less than 2, then the population size is on a downward slope and shrinks exponentially with each generation.

To paraphrase Jim Cramer, "it's where the number is going that counts".

Posted by: ray at February 13, 2006 7:17 PM

Bret, Europe may indeed live longer than OJ, but it won't live longer than his great-grandchildren. I don't think you have a good intuitive grasp for what happens when you are on the righthand side of an exponential curve. It drifts slowly, gently, but gradually steeper and steeper----and then suddenly it goes vertical.

Posted by: ray at February 13, 2006 7:22 PM


Secularists measure things by their own life spans.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2006 7:53 PM