Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

There are Two Kinds of Countries

      Some are brave, and some cowardly.  France is cowardly.  So far the U.S. has been brave, but that could change.

  • Protectionism is about being afraid of the future.  Nothing else.  God help us if we lose our nerve.
In detail:

      David Ignatius in The Washington Post, explains France's real problem, and Chirac's failure;
      Living in France for four years, I came to appreciate what a wonderful country it is, with a quality of life that is truly the envy of the world.  Not surprisingly, it is also an intensely conservative country, for all its reputation for liberality.  Whatever their class, age or political orientation, French people want to conserve what they've got.  They want to maintain inflexible management and labor unions, six-week vacations, a 35-hour workweek -- and also to be a growing, dynamic, entrepreneurial economy.  Chirac never had the guts to tell the French they couldn't have it both ways.  He never explained that rigid labor rules had led to a high unemployment rate, currently 10.2 percent.

      The French could use a Bill Clinton, whose most powerful theme as president was his 1996 campaign slogan of building "a bridge to the 21st century."  Clinton assured American workers that he felt their pain about outsourcing and global competition -- and so would provide the training and other help for people to find jobs in the new economy.  He never pretended that workers could opt out of competition.  Chirac was never able to sound that positive theme in his "yes" campaign.

      A lot of people who should know better (Jerry Pournelle comes to mind) also think we can have a brilliantly innovative, dynamic economy that somehow preserves the past intact at the same time.  We can't.



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