The Corner

The one and only.

A Tale of Two Countries


Interesting take on the troubles in France from the Business. While I am very far from subscribing to the ‘Eurabia’ thesis, the writer is a touch more skeptical than I would be on the impact of extremist Islam on the disturbances, but his key point is well worth noting:

“On the streets of the rougher French suburbs this past fortnight, we have just glimpsed the grim underbelly of the European social model. The British and American Left are envious of France’s 35-hour working week and its strong labour protection laws; and it is true that those who do work in France generally have a better time of it than most workers elsewhere in the world. But there is a high price to pay: a lot fewer people in work…The European social model has built a fortress around the world of work: once in work it is difficult to get thrown out; but it is even harder to get in if you are left outside… It is tragic to hear calls to smother these flames with yet more money. Throwing alms at the impoverished suburbs has been tried for 30 years in France: it is no substitute for market-led policies which find people jobs. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has proposed to add E100m in subsidies to local community associations, add 5,000 teaching assistant posts, offer 20,000 work contracts with local governments and set up an anti-discrimination agency. It is a dismal dirigiste prescription and shows he has learnt nothing.”

In that, clearly, France’s aristocratic PM reminds us yet again how much he has in common with the Bourbons.

Brits, however, should not feel too smug:

“The grim truth is that Britain is slowly moving towards the European social model – while bizarrely publicly denouncing it. Eight years of Labour government has resulted in the slow but perceptible adoption of French policies that bring rigor mortis to the labour market, with new laws making it easier to claim discrimination in dismissals and plans for six months paternity leave makes hiring more risky. The slow Europeanisation of the British economy has been one of the least-noticed and most destructive actions of Gordon Brown in his time as Chancellor. During his watch, Britain has been overtaken by Alabama in the world wealth league tables. The groaning pile of French-style new regulations taxes has already ground the UK economy to a 12-year low in growth and unemployment has risen for eight consecutive months. The headline unemployment rate of 4.7% figure conceals worklessness of 30% and more in British ghettos…”

Putting Alabama aside (A fine state, but I’m not convinced, I’m really not…), that’s a good summary…and another reminder of the destructive impact of eight years of Tony Blair.