Tuesday, March 28, 2006

France On The Brink: of What?

French PM Villepin continues to resist the demonstrations in the streets of Paris and the imprecations of many in his own party to rescind the CPE, the controversial law strengthening right-to-fire rules in the highly statist French economy. The law was Villepin's ham-handed attempt to reform rigid regs that keep employers from hiring and his lofty aim of reducing French unemployment hit the unyielding rigidity of the French left which wishes to keep France's cushy "social model" intact even though it has led to economic stagnation and high unemployment.

This paragraph in the Financial Times piece caught my attention.
Violence erupted in central Paris again, adding a sour note to the demonstrations that students and unions said attracted 3m people across France. In Paris, police arrested more than 100 people after gangs of youths – most from poor suburbs – disrupted the march. Police stepped up their presence at railway stations to intercept the casseurs – or troublemakers – and used paint balls filled with indelible ink to identify the mostly hooded figures trying to rob student protesters and smashing shop windows. Police also fired teargas.

If the gangs of youths are young unemployed Muslim youths, then they are attacking the elites of students and unions. Last summer was a hint of a large socio-economic problem that, ostrich-like, the French pretend does not exist. Fantasies like a 35-hour work week pale in importance before the possibility of a class war between the poor
and the exempt French elites.

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