April 17, 2007

Will France Abandon Socialism?

With the upcoming presidential election, France appears on the brink of making a momentous choice. The decades-long infatuation with socialism appears to be at an end, the London Telegraph reports, as the electorate has tired of the entrenched economic ennui it has brought. The news will not bode well for Ségolène Royal, the Socialist challenging Nicolas Sarkozy:

Rungis is Paris's larder.

Those who work there - from socialist porters to Right-wing suppliers of Paris's top kitchens - agree on one thing: France, for so long hampered by stifling employment laws and a groaning welfare system, needs to get back to work.

"Socialism, well we've done that. We don't need more of the Left, we have all the social protection we need. If they win, it's the end of the road," said Thierry Dumesnil, 40, shifting huge wedges of brie and other cheeses for his wholesale employer. He intends to vote "without passion" for Nicolas Sarkozy, the Right-wing front runner.

In the next section, Florient Sicard, 26, plunged a cheese-cutter into some gruyère and said he was undecided between Mr Sarkozy or the centrist François Bayrou, the surprise "third man" of the campaign. "Sarkozy can sometimes be too extreme but I'm also worried that Bayrou won't shake things up as much as Sarko. He's too soft," he said.

Roland Druais, 56, a wholesale grocer, was stacking crates of sweet gariguettes strawberries from the Dordogne. "I'm voting Sarkozy," said Mr Druais, who has worked in Rungis for 23 years. Mr Sarkozy, the head of the UMP party, is the only candidate who clearly wants to dismantle the 35-hour working week and ease employment laws.

The problem has reached a point where the French Left now believes that they cannot compete with the Right, in the form of Sarkozy. Activists want Royal to team up with Bayrou in order to form a center-Left coalition that might challenge Sarkozy, but so far both candidates have refused. Both of them undoubtedly hope to be the challenger who makes it past the first round of voting, and who then can hopefully generate enough support to best Sarkozy.

However, decades of economic stagnation and a growing catastrophe in the Muslim banlieus have taken the shine off of socialism. Small wonder. After the riots of last year and the protests over a modest reform of the labor contract, France finally had to face its decline in a global economy on the rise. Sarkozy insists on reforming the laws that constrain businesses and force them to endure unproductive workers, a position that would have disqualified him three years ago. Now the French, while still resisting the "Anglo-Saxon" model of capitalism, understand that their French model of socialism won't do, either.

This points towards a massive victory for Sarkozy, if the Telegraph reads the tea leaves correctly. If not, they had better find a better place to shop in France.


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Comments (4)

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 17, 2007 7:28 AM

France pretty much has all of the policies Democrats propose implementing here. Heavy regulation, heavy union influence, huge welfare state.

Since these policies are a miserable failure in France, can we just skip implementing all of their bad ideas over here?

After all, we don't really have the option of turning our country into a Busch Gardens type theme park, if all of our other industries go belly up.

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 17, 2007 8:07 AM

france has had a fork stuck in it since WW I. with an entire generation of its best and brightest killed in the trenches it has never recovered. WW II ended any sliver of hope it had--all its financial resources wiped out along with its shrinking colonial empire.

even if they had a Thacher or Reagan show up they are now going to be brought low by homegrown radical islam. as part of any weaning off of a government tit (50% of french life) thousands of folks get dislocated. in france that number is in the millions with poor, uneducated, algerian arabs a very large group. actually if eurpoe is not to become Eurabia it will probably be the french that lead that revolution.

i wish them a lot of luck over the next twenty years--they are going to need it.

Posted by scott [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 17, 2007 10:28 AM

There are an estimated 300,000 young French people living in Greater London, and there are dozens of French-owned firms in southeast England, from London through Kent.

These are the entrepreneurs of France; seeking their fortune in the UK due to Britains' high performing economy, lower taxes, and less regulation of business.

They will not return to France until the system there is reformed to allow businesses to grow and thrive.

Ireland has many back-office sites for French firms as well, again due to differences in taxes and labor regulation.

I hope Sarko can make it all work.

Posted by lexhamfox [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 17, 2007 1:19 PM

France is not abandoning Socialism under the proposed legislation. It is reforming its tax and regulatory regime to encourage more business and this is badly needed in France. Even if the legislation is passed in its entirety there will be many features of Socialism in France just as there are in the UK.

The US will be left behind unless they reform their business tax and regulation similarly. Much of the growth in the finance sector of the UK and Europe is due to businesses running away from the onerous regulatory regimes in the US and the poor fiscal underpinnings of the US economy.