August 1, 2005

French Adman: We Are A Nation Of Children

The president of France's largest advertising agency has delivered a scorching assessment of the state of his nation, blaming politicians for turning France into a nation of children and the electorate for demanding such treatment in the first place. Maurice Levy wrote a front-page opinion essay in Le Monde, the leading French newspaper, warning his fellow citizens of France's steep decline and pointing to the loss of their Olympic bid as a result:

Maurice Lvy, the head of the media giant Publicis, whose company owns Saatchi and Saatchi and has offices in 100 countries across six continents, said France had failed to get the 2012 Olympics because the world now saw it as a nation of perdants - "losers".

For good measure, he described the 35-hour week as "absurd" and the wails of complaint that followed Paris's loss of the Games to London as "pathetic". ...

"Later, when it was necessary, alas, to make redundancies, the compensation was set at 90 per cent, therefore allowing those made redundant to earn yet more without working. Why in that case, make any effort to find a job? In doing this, trying to avoid any difficulties for them, we have turned the French into children.

"The final straw has to be the absurd decision to introduce the 35-hour working week when we were told repeatedly that we could work less and earn more. How on earth in this context can we expect the same French people to accept necessary reforms?"

With French unemployment soaring, one would have expected that the ranks of job searchers would have put tremendous pressure on Chirac and the government to improve the economy. Chirac has bought them off instead, giving 90% of their former wages as unemployment insurance to the workers, making them uninterested in change -- and in working altogether. At the same time, the French have cut back work to 35-hour weeks and maintained the month-long holiday that starts today.

Levy wants to wake the French up from their nanny-state hallucination of French vigor and power, and oddly, the Olympics may help in dashing cold water on French illusions. We may not relate to the crushing disappointment of the French in losing this bid, for two reasons: we have won a number of these bids over the past twenty years, and our bids involve regional pride rather than national standing. Certainly the French associated a great deal of their self-image into competing for this bid, and losing to the British turned out to be a crushing blow. For the first time in a generation, it has the French doing some badly-needed introspection.

Will it make a difference? The economics of France have deteriorated so badly that it will likely take much more than a lost Olympics and a front-page scolding before French voters reject the socialist nightmare they have brought onto themselves. Their time has almost run out, however. With the dangers of massive immigration now coming to life in their burgeoning and increasibly radical Muslim population, further immigration has become almost impossible, which means less low-level workers to fuel the nanny state. Their neighbors just rejected the EU pact that might have helped France maintain its socialist structure for a little longer, uninterested in paying for France's shirking of work through their own sweat. Paris may be forced to give up its protectionist tariffs on agriculture, meaning that farmers will have to compete at lower prices.

All of this adds up to a terrible adolescence for the French electorate. Unless the French can find and support courageous French leaders who will roll their sleeves up and seriously move the French state away from their socialist addiction, the French will not likely grow up at all until their state completely collapses.

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