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>World’s worst country hates free trade

>Most of you should by now have worked out that I have a low opinion of France, which I deem to be the World’s Worst Country. As a colonial power they oversaw the abject destruction of nearly every society in their empire. The debacle of Vietnam came about due to their miserable incompetence. As one of the Big Three of the EU they’ve used that power to extort unconscionable agriculture deals from politically weaker states, which is what’s been propping up their dodgy economy for the last 10 or so years. As a member of the Security Council they’ve ensured that anything that makes the US look good is vetoed, or horribly hamstrung so it can’t be effective, in spite of its moral correctness such as was the case with Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Somalia. As an ally they’ve proved feckless at best and treacherous at worst. As a direct enemy they’ve proved to have no spine or moral conviction. It’s a pity that they weren’t on the other side during the last two world wars. Would have made our task much easier.

As reported by the BBC:

Many French people say they are anti globalisation, but paradoxically France has launched dozens of world beating brands and grown rich on free trade.

Lucky for France that there are still a few realists in the place who understand how the world works, have embraced globalisation and reaped the rewards that are used to pay for the majority of cocooned from reality, nanny state no-hopers.

A poll recently conducted by an American university sent shock waves through the Finance Ministry in Paris. Researchers found that only just over a third of French people think a free market economy is the best system to develop the country.

Most of us would think that the shock waves are due to the figure being so low. Au contraire, mon ami. Surely it was because the figure was at least triple what they expected? The result was so good that it probably caused much celebration within the Finance Ministry whose management immediately broke out cheese and wine and took the rest of the day off. And why not? After all, it was 10AM.

By way of contrast, the survey found that a majority of citizens in 19 other countries were in favour of the free market, including 65% of Germans, 59% of Italians, 66% of the British and 74% of the Chinese. Even the Russians, many of whom have suffered in a painful transition to a market economy, were more favourable at 43%.

What the heck do the other 35% of Germans, 41% of Italians etc want? A closed market? Do 34% of Britons really want to go back to the pre-Thatcher days when union chaos was tearing the fabric of society asunder? It goes without saying that today’s enviro-religious Brown Shirts are 100% in the camp of non-free trade. Didn’t any of them take a look at how bad the environment was in the state-controlled Soviet Union? Best not to let facts get in the way of fanaticism, n’est ce pas?

In a bar outside the National Library in Paris, I met two students, Laurent and Florence who told me globalisation is “scandalous” because it often means French jobs are lost to poorer countries with lower wages and harsher working conditions.

“I think globalisation today is the modern equivalent of the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean,” says Laurent. “I am for human globalisation, but I am against the capitalist economic system and I think we need to make capitalism history.”

When people say that education needs to return to a focus on the three Rs – reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – can I be so bold as to add a fourth R? Reality. Or Rationality. Economics should be a mandatory subject for all middle school students; then they might not have such a pathetic insight into how the world works. The movement of jobs overseas ensures lower prices for products in France benefiting those at the lowest socio-economic level. It also leaves more money in the wallets and purses of the better-to-do, increasing their purchasing power which has a direct positive consequence on local employment. However, the most profoundly positive effect is on those people to whose countries the jobs have moved. Why not ask them whether they’d prefer to work in those supposed ‘sweatshops’? The elephant in the room with this argument is that they have a higher annual pay rate than the average of the countries they’re in. Laurent and Florence need a good, solid arse-kicking if you ask me. Make capitalism history but promote human globalisation equals socialism. And hasn’t that been such a stunning success? What is truly “scandalous” is that these two fois-gras fattened French phonies could care less about the well-being of the supposedly oppressed foreign worker.

Laurent’s aversion to the market might sound extreme, yet it’s not untypical in a country that fielded one Communist and three Trotskyite presidential candidates.

Quite a few on the French right too are suspicious of free enterprise.

If the French right is suspicious of free enterprise then that tells you where their right is in the global scale of things. Sounds like what we call left wing here in Australia.

These attitudes have troubled Finance Minister Thierry Breton so much that he has decided to create a new organisation to make his fellow citizens more market friendly. It has got a distinctively Gallic name: Codice, or the Council for the Diffusion of Economic Culture.

The answer to troubling issues? More government organisations! Now why didn’t I think of that? There I was thinking that lower taxes and flexible labour rules did the trick. Thanks, Thierry, for the enlightenment.

Patrick Fauconnier, who edits a business magazine, is one of the Council’s members. He describes the findings of the American poll as “serious and traumatic”.

He says that the idea that profit is somehow unclean has its roots in French Catholicism and that business acumen is undervalued in French society.

“The brightest kids are encouraged to become engineers or lawyers or doctors. You only go into business as a last resort”.

Let me think about that. Kids only go into business as a last resort (sounds like the Left’s opinion of those that enter the military). Those kids run businesses that are so successful they make up one-third of Europe’s top 100 companies and keep the rest of France afloat. Seems like a recipe for disaster to me. And what notable successes have French engineers, lawyers or doctors achieved in the last twenty years other than managing to sew a dead person’s hand onto a patient that had lost theirs?

Fauconnier tells me he has come up with a formula to encapsulate the views of the average Frenchman.

“Economy equals enterprise, enterprise equals CEO (chief executive), CEO equals profit and profit equals exploitation.”

The main task of Codice, he says, is to educate French citizens about the way the economy works so they are better informed and less hostile. The council plans a slick new website, pamphlets and campaigns in universities and schools.

That ought to do it! Particularly the slick website. The chances of a French university allowing a campaign supporting free enterprise is about as likely as their promoting military service as an honourable profession.

Training journalists, says Fauconnier, is vital because economic stories are often covered in a one-sided way on French TV.

Everything is covered in a one-sided way on French TV. That’s why they’re so ignorant. Imagine if they knew the reality of what they did in Rwanda?

“When a factory closes or sheds jobs, for example, there are lots of emotional interviews with angry workers, but rarely any analysis of the reasons behind the company’s decision.”

In some ways, anti business attitudes are baffling, given that French multinationals are conquering world markets with everything from shampoo to nuclear power.

The French may moan about cheap, foreign imports undercutting their products, or jobs moving to China, but they seem to forget that their very own hypermarket, Carrefour, is the world’s second largest retailer after Wal-Mart, and is making huge profits in China.

But even France’s most successful firms cannot count on the affection of the public, says leading sociologist Gerard Mermet.

“Many people don’t have a positive view of these flourishing enterprises. They wonder if they have stayed French or whether they have turned into these awful multi nationals who play the perverse and dangerous game of globalisation.”

Globalisation is ‘perverse and dangerous’? I assume they think that global socialism is benign and harmless. No doubt that Carrefour is as widely criticised as Wal-Mart for its negative work practices, use of sweatshop labour et blah.

To some extent, such misgivings are understandable since nowadays French multinationals create most of their jobs abroad. That is partly because many business people say it is easier to operate overseas than in France.

Traitors! Monsieur Robespierre. The guillotine. At once!

Francoise Holder, who co-heads the Paul chain of bakeries, is one of the country’s top businesswomen.

She won’t co-head much at all, including her torso, once Robespierre is finished with her.

She complains about high corporate taxes in France and about the 35 hour week, which she says “unleashed a hurricane or tsunami” on working culture in France.

“The main obstacles we’ve come up against over the last 20 years, it’s true, are in France rather than abroad. We have franchises in faraway places like Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia or Japan and we can find good managers there who are willing to work hard and so have been very successful.”

It is worth remembering though that French labour productivity is still the highest in Europe and France has more foreign direct investment than anywhere in Europe except the UK.

While that’s true, and would come as a surprise to the Germans, productivity is based on a per hour measurement and a 35 hour working week, which people adhere to religiously, means that the French economy wallows in stagnation.

For Philippe Bloch, who set up a French chain of coffee shops, the main problem is over-zealous employment legislation. He protests that the Code du Travail, the book of labour laws, which runs to 2800 pages, is “bigger than the Bible”.

Sick of state meddling, he says he may start his next venture in America.

A Frenchman saying he’s going to set up business in America is like Kim Philby moving to the Soviet Union. Monsieur Robespierre! The guillotine! Again!

“I’m not quite sure I want to re-invest the same amount of energy and effort and money in an economy that does not want me to create jobs. I think France has the unemployment it deserves, France has chosen unemployment. We have chosen to pay jobless people benefits to keep the peace.”

“France has chosen unemployment.” What a terrifically insightful statement.

But after the 2005 riots in many French suburbs, that peace is looking shaky.

Not to mention the 700+ suburbs that are no-go zones for non-Muslims or the 112 cars burned every night by these supposedly peaceful, grateful immigrants.

France has an increasingly divided society. It is not just the gulf between those with secure jobs and the unemployed. The country is also on the brink of a war between the generations, according to Bernard Spitz, a former government advisor.

The premise of his latest book, Papy Krach, is that in the next 30 years the number of pensioners will double, but there will be even fewer people in work to support them. He thinks young people are being held to ransom by the ageing baby boomers and that they may refuse to foot the bill.

“Three quarters of young people believe, in France, that they are going to live less well than their parents.

“How can you expect a society to be dynamic, entrepreneurial and optimistic if they feel they are going to live worse in the future?”

They won’t just refuse to pay. They’ll leave. Simple as that. Many countries in Europe now have net positive emigration rates as people flee the high-taxation, no reward for effort, socialist spending regimes that also allow unfettered immigration while clamping down on freedom of speech and association. Europe’s loss is our gain. Even if they do speak French and smell of garlic. At least they recognise the value of work. With luck, they’ll also recognise the value of values.

Categories: France
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