Let's start with the Washington Post - the view of the establishment?
Ah, springtime in Paris.
The sight of riot police outside the Sorbonne.
The smell of tear gas wafting along the Seine.
The sweet sounds of hypocrisy floating from the National Assembly and the Elysee Palace.
And, next Tuesday, a national strike, perfectly timed to create a four-day weekend.
Again, that image of lazy, frivolous, selfish strikers. The usual intorduction to any American article on the strikes, it would seem.
What inspired this season's revolutionary festivities is a radical new law that would give employers up to two years before deciding whether to give new young employees the kind of lifetime job security conferred by French law.
What lifetime security? really, is it ignorance or wilful lies? I'm still willing to bet on ignorance as, after all, everybody else repeats the same thing, but it's still damn close to incompetence.
To those of you brainwashed by Anglo-American market capitalism, this might appear like the sort of labor market flexibility they babble on about at meetings like this week's European summit -- the kind that might actually entice a French company to create a new job.
France doesn't create jobs, it just hangs to those that were created, somehow, in the 50s. And any criticism of the law is racist anti-Anglo-Saxonism...
But when viewed through the dark prism of the French imagination, these aren't real jobs -- they're "garbage jobs" and "slave contracts" meant to undermine the birthright of all Frenchmen to be shielded from all economic risk. Give in on this, and who knows what could go next? The 35-hour workweek? The six weeks of paid vacation? State-mandated profit sharing? Retirement at age 60?
Yeah, who knows, considering that the current legislature has already dropped both the 60-year retiremement and the 35 hour week (and that we have 5 weeks of paid vacation by law).
What's so galling about the French is that, in the name of equality and solidarity, they are well on their way to creating not only one of the least vibrant economies in the industrialized world, but also one of the least equitable.
Care to substantiate that "less vibrant"? or the "less equitable", for that matter?
The "insiders" of this economy consist of a shrinking pool of older, middle-class workers who enjoy the full panoply of worker protections. Most of them are in the public sector or heavily regulated private industries, with the rest in a dwindling number of competitive private firms.
Ah, the dwindling number of private firms... all created in the 50s, again, presumably.
And why make "heavily regulated" (not that it has any reality, at least no more than in any other country) sound like an insult?
And then there are the "outsiders." This growing pool includes the unemployed young men of the mostly immigrant suburbs who went on a rampage last year, throwing rocks and burning cars. But it also includes the children of "insiders," who tend to hang around the university until they are 24 or 25, then drift between unpaid internships, temp jobs and welfare for another five years before finally getting "inside."
You'd think that, with all that time they spend chatting away in cafes, these young "outsiders" would have figured out by now that this system, which protects and cossets the "insiders" at all costs, is sucking the innovation and vitality from the economy. But rather than supporting the reforms that might generate more jobs and more income, the outsiders have bought into the nostalgic fantasy of a France that once was, but can never be again, making common cause with the very "insiders" whose selfishness and pigheaded socialism have left them out in the cold.
Hah. Pigheaded socialism. (Does that mean that plain "socialism" is okay?) And selfishness. Riiight. And the reform will generate "more income". Again, any substantiation?
That said, you can hardly blame the kids for being confused about their economic predicament.
After all, the supposedly center-right government that pushed through the new youth-employment contract is the same government that adamantly refused to give up subsidies for farmers, stepped in to prevent foreign takeovers of French companies and, just last week, demanded that Apple iPods accept music downloads from iTunes competitors (read: French competitors).
Subsidies to farmers are ONLY provided by left wing governments, of course/ And Sony and Microsoft are well known French companies. And what takeover has been prevented, exactly?
But having declared, in effect, that markets cannot be trusted to generate socially and politically acceptable outcomes, the same government is now shocked to find that it doesn't have much credibility when it asks workers to trust markets when it comes to the terms of their employment.
This sort of calculated hypocrisy among the French political elite, which likes to "talk left, act right," has now completely undermined support for market capitalism.
So, "act right". So are they "supposedly centre-right" or really right wing? It's sooo confusing.
A telling poll released in January by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that only 36 percent of French respondents felt that "the free enterprise system and free market economy" is the best system. That's the lowest response from any of the 22 countries polled and compares with 59 percent in Italy, 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain and 71 percent in the United States.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Forbes magazine's latest list of global billionaires includes only 14 from France, without a single new entry this year. Germany, a country not twice its size, has four times as many, while Britain, which is about the same size, has 24.
Indeed, when you ask French university students who is the Bill Gates of France, they look at you blankly. It's not simply that they can't name one. The bigger problem is that they can't imagine why it matters, or why that has anything to do with why they can't find a good job.
Yes, the number of billioniares is a good criteria to judge the health of the middle or lower classes. Nice. The fun thing is that the first non-American billionaire is French (Bernard Arnaud, the owner of LVMH), and the top billionairess is French (Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to l'Oréal), so even that argument is full of shit...
Now on to the LA Times
IT'S SPRING, AND THE FRENCH are rioting again. This time, it's students and labor unions protesting a minor reform of the country's employment laws that was imposed to help solve the problems that spurred last fall's riots. If the protesters get what they want and the law is rescinded, the result will be continued high youth unemployment -- which will doubtless spur more riots. And that, Simba, is the Circle of Life in French politics.
Yes, it's spring, and the French riot. Yawn. The law "will solve the problems thart spurred the riots". Wow. quite a statement...
The latest hubbub has been percolating since Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin pushed a law through the National Assembly in February creating a new type of employment contract that would restrict generous job protections for the young workers who sign it.
WHAT "generous job protections"? Can you actually list them? You mean, not being fired because you're black, or pregnant, or unionised? Or not being fired because you've only been in the company for 700 days?
The controversy exploded over the weekend, when more than half a million protesters took to the streets and shut down the Sorbonne. Demonstrations were initially peaceful, but the largest march ended with violence and overturned cars -- frighteningly reminiscent of the riots that tore through the country's working-class immigrant suburbs last year.
"initially peaceful"? So it was mostly violence after that? Riots, even? Hundreds of burnt cars? Hundreds of deaths, maybe?
The students get high marks for civic engagement but Fs in Economics 101. They are furious because the new law allows employers to fire without cause anyone under 26 who has signed the contract and been on the job less than two years. That might not seem revolutionary in the United States, but in France, workers who obtain long-term contracts are essentially guaranteed tenure after no more than six months. In order to fire them, employers must prove the dismissals are justified, plus pay extensive compensation -- and endure all the appeals that fired French workers are entitled to file.
"civic engagement" is a bad thing these days, we know, especially when it goes against the economic common wisdom (the "Washington Consensus"?).
Note the use of the word "tenure", which DOES mean lifetime employment for those that do get it, but, of course, has nothing to do with the reality of work in the private sector in France (which, strangely enough, still exists)
It's little wonder that French businesses are reluctant to take on the burden of hiring new employees. The result is a persistent unemployment rate of 9.6%, and more than 20% for young people (for immigrants in the suburbs it's even worse, at up to 50%). De Villepin recognizes that the only way to change that is to reform the nation's rigid labor laws.
France has not hired a single person since 1957, presumably.
The students are right about one thing: The new law is discriminatory, creating a second class of young workers with less protection than their elders. A smarter response would be for the students to demand that job guarantees be loosened for workers of all ages. Instead, they are simply pushing for the same damaging job protections that allow older employees security at the expense of those seeking work.
Yes, job protections are "damaging". Precarity for all.
France is having a harder time than other European nations adapting to a globalized economy, largely because the French would rather blame "Anglo-Saxon capitalism" (i.e., free markets) for their problems than examine their own self-defeating policies. De Villepin, who is paying a heavy political price for common sense, should hang tough. The youth labor law doesn't go far enough, but it's a start.
What self-defeating policies, exactly? Substantiation, please... or should we rely again, on "common knowledge"?
And, what would be "far enough", exactly? Fucker.
And no the IHT.
French protests, again
For the second time in four months, French streets are filled with riot police, tear gas and rampaging youths. But the similarity between then and now is deceptive. Back in November, it was the sons of North African immigrants in their dreary suburbs exploding in frustration at lack of jobs, prospects or programs. This time, privileged university students are protesting what they see as an assault on the job security that they consider their birthright. The connection between the two waves of unrest is that the labor reform to which the students are so opposed was proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin as a partial answer to those who set fire to the suburbs.
"Privileged students"? What the hell? That's the heart of it, isn't it? The middle classes are shamelessly privileged, and that has to go. How dare they pretend to do the same kind of things as the global elites? We must put them back in their place!
That comment is especially silly coming form the IHT, a Paris-based paper where people should know that university students are NOT privileged (these go to the Grandes Ecoles). And "job security as a birthright"? Please. Most students go, as stated elsewhere in these articles, through years of internships and temp jobs. How can they be described in anyway as privileged or coddled?
A new law essentially allows companies to fire workers under 26 within the first two years of employment without having to give a reason. The idea is to encourage employers to hire youths on a trial or temporary basis. There is an obvious downside: young workers could be fired on a whim, or simply to make room for another wave of disposable workers. But the alternative is the current state of affairs, in which jobs are sinecures. Unemployment is at 22.2 percent among the young and close to 40 percent in the poor suburbs, compared to 9.6 percent nationwide.
Unemployment is at 22.2 per cent among th active youth, and 8% among the youth, but why bother with the distinction?
Villepin, a patrician notoriously deaf to the streets, did a bad job of presenting and selling the law to the students, the unions and the general public. The unions are now threatening a general strike unless Villepin backs down, the prime minister's ratings are plunging, and politicians of all stripes are pouncing on him as support for the protests grows. But his law is a valid and necessary attempt to remedy a serious problem, and the reaction of the students, and of labor unions ready to leap on any pretense for a show of force, is selfish and out of line.
The law is "valid and necessary". Necessary to whom? Even the employers don't want it! And the students are selfish and out of line. Strange, I've never heard fund managers being called that way when they ask for an extra percentage point of profitability...
Resistance to the law has been based less on practical pros and cons than on a knee-jerk defense of the job security that the French, or at least those who have a job, hold sacred. That has created widespread support for the protests. In the suburbs that the law was meant to help, unemployed youths fear that if they did get a job, they would be at higher risk than other workers of losing it because of racial discrimination or other factors.
However dramatic the images of the disturbances, the clashes have been localized and relatively brief, the damage far less than last November, the police restrained. Before it gets any worse, students should stop defending their privileges and heed President Jacques Chirac's call for a creative dialogue about how they can help resolve the real problem facing their generation.
Students should stop defending WHAT privileges, exactly?
Damn, this is exhausting.