Thursday, March 16

Protesting Too Much

I hate to post this, because I do love France, but some of its citizens have some bizarre ideas about running an economy. Just when I think that Old Europe has come to its senses and realized that flexible labor laws are not only inevitable but desirable if they are to avoid chronic decline, and that the future under Merkel and (hopefully) Sarkozy, is looking brighter, 250,000 students and union supporters take to the streets to protest the most innocuous and reasonable compromise changes to French employment law.

For those who haven't been following this story, under the old law, employers had to provide new workers with what was effectively guaranteed lifetime employment from the moment they were hired. Chirac recently introduced an amendment to this law, which allows employers to hire young employees (under 26) for two year probationary contracts, during which they may be fired just like employees at any job in North America or Britain (i.e., two way at will employment). After these two years, the old guaranteed employment rule still applies. Hardly a radical change, but you wouldn't know that if you listened to the student protesters.

The students, who have occupied administrative offices at the Sorbonne, clashed with police, and stoned government buildings, have compared the government to the SS (which shows a poor understanding of National Socialism's employment policies) and the new law to "slave labor." Funny, but I don't think that slaves generally complain that they might be relieved of their duties. More typical student rot is described in this account of the protests from the BBC. (Best quote: "Students fear the First Employment Contract (CPE), which passed into law last week, will erode job stability in a country where more than 20% of 18- to 25-year-olds are unemployed - more than twice the national average."

I hope that this is supposed to be sarcastic.) I don't want to see one of the cradles of Western Civilization continue sliding into irreversible social and economic acedia, but the French Left makes it hard not to fear the worst. Sarkozy may be their last best hope.