France is beyond remedy. The country is heading for collapse, and its fate will be well deserved. As expected the French trade unions and the rioting leftwing vandals (aka “students”) in the streets won the fight for political supremacy over parliament and the government. Yesterday the French president Jack Chirac withdrew the French youth labour bill (CPE), approved earlier by a parliamentary majority, while the man he stabbed in the back by doing so, Chirac’s former dauphin and France’s Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, announced that he will not stand for the presidential elections next year.
Villepin’s CPE would have enabled French employers to lower the cost of job creation by allowing them to hire first-time employees under the age of 26 for a conditional two-year period during which they could be fired without much hassle. Last August a similar bill was introduced allowing small companies, with fewer than 20 employees, to fire new employees during a trial period without the normal prohibitive procedures that make it impossible for companies to hire and fire in response to market demands. As a direct result of the new bill, these small companies were able to create 335,000 new jobs. France’s students, however, have made it clear that they would rather not have a job – and live at the expense of the state welfare system – than have a job which is not guaranteed to be virtually life-long.
It is to Villepin’s credit that he fought for his bill. It is to the discredit of his rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, whom we at one time mistakingly took for a defender of law and order and of free-market reforms, that he called for surrender to the demands of the rioters and the trade unions. With Villepin’s announcement that he will not stand for the presidential elections the road is now wide open for Sarkozy to become the presidential candidate of the governing UMP. However, those who assume that Sarkozy, if he becomes president, will be bold enough to deliver the market reforms that France badly needs, are deluded. His stance on the CPE has made that clear enough. Sarkozy has proved to be a worthy successor to Jack “Spineless” Chirac.
Last December 17th The Economist wrote an analysis on the situation in France, entitled “After the riots” (referring to the previous round of rioting in la douce France in November). Here is a quote, which shows how in barely five months a political situation can change dramatically:
“Mr Sarkozy’s success is not guaranteed. A [poll] ranked him as only the fourth most popular politician on the right. Mr de Villepin came top, with a seven-point lead. UMP deputies know that the prime minister has wider appeal to the centre and the left, making him a better second-round candidate. [...] The more Mr Sarkozy leans to the right, the more space there is in the centre for Mr de Villepin.”
In the end it did not turn out to be a competition between the politician of the right and the one of the centre, but between the principled and the unprincipled. As almost always, the unprincipled man won the day.
In this respect there is not much difference with the situation in Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi might narrowly lose or win the elections in which the Italians were given a non-choice, between two unprincipled politicians, neither of them willing to introduce the economic reforms that Italy badly needs. The same was true during last year’s German elections. Waldemar Ingdahl’s contribution today also refers to the European disease. The “old continent” is dying from welfarism, but the patient is refusing treatment. The citizens are forced into voting for populists, most of whom do not want to reform the welfare state either and simply hope to prolong its survival by throwing out the immigrants, bad ones (Islamic jihadists) and good ones (Polish plumbers) alike.