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More French Riots

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This time, they're rioting against a law that would make it legal to fire workers under the age of 26 during their first two years of employment.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/03/28...ests/index.html

Wow, France is messed up.

-Q

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The seeds of Socialism are bearing their fruit. France has a 22% unemployment rate among young people and these people are demonstrating against a law that might help change the situation. How bizarre.

If they work, they will get less welfare from the government (I was going to say they won't get any more welfare, but this is France we're talking about).

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  • 3 weeks later...

good opinion piece from TIME:

Essay

Liberty, Equality, Mediocrity

The strangest revolution the French have ever produced

By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER

Apr. 17, 2006

The French are justly proud of their revolutionary tradition. After all, 1789 begat 1848 and 1871 and indeed inspired just about every revolution for a century, up to and including the Russian Revolution of 1917. Say what you will about the outcomes, but the origins were quite glorious: defiant, courageous, bloody, romantic uprisings against all that was fixed and immovable and oppressive: kings, czars, churches, oligarchies, tyrannies of every kind.

And now, in a new act of revolutionary creativity, the French are at it again. Millions of young people and trade unionists, joined by some underclass opportunists looking for a good night out, have taken to the streets again. To rise up against what? In massive protest against a law that would allow employers to fire an employee less than 26 years old in the first two years of his contract.

That's a very long way from liberty, equality, fraternity. The spirit of this revolution is embodied most perfectly in the slogan on many placards: CONTRE LA PRÉCARITÉ, or "Against Precariousness." The precariousness of being subject to being fired. The precariousness of the untenured life, even if the work is boring and the boss no longer wants you. And ultimately, the precariousness of life itself, any weakening of the government guarantee of safety, conformity, regularity.

That is something very new. And it is not just a long way from the ideals of 1789. It is the very antithesis. It represents an escape from freedom, a demand for an arbitrary powerful state in whose bosom you can settle for life.

Nor are the current riots about equality. On the contrary. Their effect would be to enforce inequality. The unemployment rate in France is 10%. For young people under 26 it is 23%, and almost 1 in 10 kids who leave high school don't have a job five years after taking the baccalaureate. Much of that unemployment encompasses those of the alienated immigrant underclass, who are less educated, less acculturated and less likely ever to be hired than the mostly native student rioters. And these young rioters want to keep things just that way--to rely not just on their advantages of class, education and ethnicity but also on an absolute guarantee from the state that their very first job will be for life, with no one to challenge them for it.

Ironically, the better imitation of the spirit of 1789 came from precisely those immigrant challengers kept locked away in France's satellite suburbs. It is those poor ambitious huddled masses who late last year lit up the country for three weeks with nights of burning cars. Those underclass riots were politically inchoate, but they did represent the fury of people desperate to escape the marginality imposed on them by their ethnicity and the rigidity of the French bureaucratic state. Those immigrant riots, which had an equal touch of the existential anarchy of the student revolution of 1968, were, if anything, a revolt for precariousness--for risk, danger, upheaval.

Against precariousness? The vibrancy of a society can almost be measured by its precariousness. Free markets correlate not just with prosperity and wealth but also with dynamism. The classic example is China today, an economic and social Wild West with entire classes, regions, families and individuals rising and falling in ways that must terrify today's young demonstrators in Paris. In France not a single enterprise founded in the past 40 years has managed to break into the ranks of the nation's 25 biggest companies.

Precariousness is an essential element in the life of the entrepreneur, a French word now more associated with the much despised Anglo-Saxon "liberalism" and its merciless dog-eat-dog capitalism. But these days the best examples of the entrepreneurial spirit are hardly Anglo-Saxon: China, India, Korea, Chile, all rising and growing, even as France and much of Europe decline.

Against precariousness? That is perhaps to be expected in a country where 76% of 15-to-30-year-olds say they aspire to civil service jobs from which it's almost impossible to be fired. This flight from risk is not just a sign of civilizational senescence. It is a parody of the welfare state. Yes, the old should be protected from precariousness because they are exhausted; the sick, because they are too weak. But privileged students under the age of 26? They cannot endure 24 months of precariousness at the prime of life, the height of their energy?

There have, I suppose, been other peoples in other places who yearned for a life of mediocrity. But leave it to the French to make a revolution in its name.

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