Alex's Outlook

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The Decline of France

The Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell has an extensive and detailed analysis of the collapse of France here:

Today France has the highest youth unemployment in Europe, at 26 percent; only 37 percent of its over-55 population works, a world low. Its employment rate of 58 percent is at the bottom of the developed world. (The figure is 62 percent in the European Union and 75 percent in the United States.) And this grim employment picture is worsened--some would even say caused--by a political inequity. Over the past decade, public-sector employees have been able to enrich themselves in ways that private-sector ones cannot. Government employees can retire after 37.5 years on the job, versus 40 for private workers; they get 75 percent of their salary as a pension, versus 62 percent in the private sector; and the salary in this calculation is based on the best-paid six months for government workers, versus an average of their last 25 years for workers in private industry. So the latter wind up subsidizing the former.

France's decline on the foreign-policy stage has the same root cause, Baverez thinks: a desperate, retrograde clutching at institutions that no longer serve their original purpose. Nostalgic for the bipolar confrontation of the Cold War--not just because it was stable but also because it provided a context in which France could leverage its international power--France is stuck in the 1960s.

I think the article is applicable to Germany, Italy or any other Western European country, except maybe England. Europe faces a crushingly large public sector that has made leftist governments, including "centre-rightists" like Chirac, a permanent part of life. Europe's economies are averaging about 1% growth; England's pathetic 2.6% leads the Continent. Europe's people pay an average of 50% of their incomes in taxes, and their per-capita incomes average about 40% less. Finally, Europe's birth rate is about 1.35 children per woman, which means that the indigenous population is vanishing very fast. It's a devastating commentary on Europe's socialist-atheist culture.

France is only the most visibly declining Western European country. All the other Continental countries face the same problems, and are going down the same path to population and financial oblivion.

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