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The French Disease By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 20, 2006


The French Government a week ago caved in to student and union protestors who vowed to disrupt Paris and accept no compromise.

President Jacques Chirac announced that he would cancel plans to enforce a new law that allowed companies to fire for any reason new workers under age 26 during the first two years of employment.

 

The new law had been called CPE, the Contrat Premiere Embauche, a phrase with ironically apt French ambiguity. Embaucher can mean to hire, but its colloquial use can also mean to entice soldiers to desert. Such is the French mentality.

 

Because French law has made firing workers extremely difficult, companies must assume that they will be stuck with any new employee, however lazy or incompetent, for life. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (who until this week’s capitulation was expected to win the French presidency in next year’s national elections) had promoted the CPE as a way to encourage reluctant employers to hire young people.

 

Youth unemployment in France is 23 percent, and among Islamic and African immigrant young people runs 50 percent. This is because companies would rather pay existing workers overtime or invest in expensive machines (French companies spend 80 pecent more capital per worker than do the British) to get jobs done than to hire more unfireable workers.

 

Chirac now plans to replace the CPE with at least $300 million worth of government subsidies for businesses that hire young people. This is yet another socialist program to squeeze more dollars from taxpayer pockets.

 

The unions and students celebrated with champagne and cheeses at a “victory march” through Paris.  (As Charles De Gaulle once asked: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”)

 

On our side of the Atlantic the American Federal of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), headed by self-identified proud socialist John Sweeney, signaled its own long-term plans for similar union dominance and the end of capitalism in America. The AFL-CIO gave its support for the successful union shutdown of France, where “Workers Rule.” 

 

In the long run this economic situation means desperate trouble for France, which already has among the highest tax rates and unemployment rates in Europe as well as fewer and fewer workers to support more and more retirees and government employees.

 

What are the brightest French youth doing? They are voting with their feet not by protesting in Paris streets but by migrating to places such as Great Britain, where up to 400,000 mostly-under-35 French expatriates now live around London. They are happily employed at less secure, higher paying British jobs in a nation where taxes are lower.

 

Even the British Left Labourite newspaper The Guardian described the French unions as “marching into the past.” Its economic correspondent Ashley Seager went farther, praising the superior work opportunities for young educated French citizens in Great Britain but urging England to imitate business policies in Scandinavia and the United States that generate greater productivity.

 

"There is only one serious philosophical question, and that is suicide," said French existential philosopher and Nobel laureate author Albert Camus. Suicide is what the once-great nation of France is committing, one evidence of which is this new French brain drain of its best and brightest to countries with more economic freedom and opportunity.

 

The same happened more than three centuries ago when as many as half a million persecuted Huguenots, the nation's brightest free thinkers, fled for their lives from France. One scholar later estimated that 10 percent of all those who played important roles in American history were descendants of Huguenot French Protestants. One was Paul Revere (whose father’s French name was Apollos Rivoire).

 

Other revolutionary American Huguenot descendants were Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, two of the three authors of the Federalist Papers. Jay, who was also an American diplomat and first Chief Justice of the U.S., grew up in New Rochelle, New York, named for the Huguenot French seaport fortress city La Rochelle whose thousands of Protestant residents were beseiged, starved and slaughtered by a French monarchy that had promised them “irrevocable” religious rights.

 

Huguenot genes lived on in such powerful figures of American history as Gouveneur Morris, New York Governor James DeLancey, John D. Rockefeller and President Franklin Delano (from his French ancestral name De La Noye) Roosevelt.

 

France could have attained greatness, perhaps even supplanting the British Empire with its own. This article might have been written in French instead of English. But when France crushed freedom of thought by slaughtering the Huguenots, its best and brightest citizens fled to freer lands such as England and America. France has never recovered from that brain drain, as evidenced by the short-sighted stupidity of its current economic policies.  The exodus of the brightest is happening in France again, leaving the dullest behind.

 

A recent poll of the dregs who today remain today in a declining France found that two-thirds of French people, asked what ideal job they aspired to, answered that their highest ambition was to become a civil servant, a government employee.

 

Only one-third of today’s French residents in this poll wanted a job in the private capitalist marketplace.

 

I remember during childhood vacations that when we drove through any small town I would ritually ask my parents how people there made a living. My parents, laughing, would reply: "They all take in each other's laundry.”

 

In France today the most widely-held ambition has become to live on other people's taxes while doing as little work as possible. Who in his right mind would invest in such a degenerate nation?

This is the end of France’s long path in pursuit of glory. Today’s French disease, unless its symptoms can be reversed, will prove fatal.

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Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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