Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vive le Joblessness



Son John and girlfriend Lynora just returned from Paris. It sounds lovely.

Paris is beautiful, even when it is cold and cloudy in the winter. It must be spectacular in the summer when everything is blooming! On day one (Saturday) we found Kevin's apartment, then went to explore his neighborhood called Passy. There were a bunch of little food shops so we got roasted veal at one, cheese at another, and bread at a bakery and had dinner at home. Then we went to a burlesque show that has been continuous since the 50's (amazingly tasteful!), and then went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night. It was cold!

On Sunday we explored the Marais which is a cool, old part of the city that is popular, with a lot of shops and restaurants. We had high tea at a famous place called Mariage Freres that has been around since 1854. Very good... I bought you a tin of the tea we had. Then we went and explored the Ile de Cite, which is an island in the Seine river where the gothic cathedral Notre Dame is located. We explored Notre Dame, and then after dinner saw a classical concert in another amazing church on the island called Sainte Chapelle. Sainte Chapelle is relatively small and oval shaped with huge floor to ceiling (40 feet?) stained glass windows the whole way around. It was spectacular.


Monday we went to the Louvre and got a 4-day museum pass. There is an Ingres exhibit that Lynora wants to see at the Louvre, and another 60 or so museums included. We decided to actually start at the Picasso Museum, and then went to the modern art museum called the Pompidou. Then a nice, authentic French dinner at a neighborhood place a friend recommended.

Today I got up a little early and went to get croissants, pain du chocolate, apple-almond tart, baguette and cheese, fresh strawberries and lattes for breakfast at home. Then we headed off to a cool neighborhood called Montmarte...


But then there are the university students rioting over a labor law and the jobless young rioting against the students.

Two-thirds of France's universities are being seriously disrupted by protests - practically a rite of spring in la république. At Jussieu University in Paris insurrectional excitement is palpable. We are in our fifth week of blockade, Marie Gombeaud, a 19-year-old biology student, says proudly. (See picture)

Supporting the students, French labor unions have called a national strike to put pressure on Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to axe a law they say will create "Kleenex workers" whom employers can throw away at will.

And what is this all about? To stimulate hiring, de Villepin spearheaded a new law that allows employers to fire anyone under age 26 who has been on the job for less than two years. Imagine that! You might get fired from your first job. The law was a response to last year's riots of youths in France's immigrant suburbs over joblessness that reaches 50% in some places.

Those French students marching in the streets of Paris must realize that their quest for guaranteed lifetime employment is utterly counterproductive. France's rigid social compact, which all but prevents companies from firing workers, has all but extinguished hiring. In other words, those suffering most from France's restrictive employment laws are the ones protesting to preserve them. It all seems so, well, French.

But it’s more complicated than that. The university students are in the social class that are virtually guaranteed jobs when they graduate. And they want to be assured, like their parents, that those jobs will be theirs for life whatever their work performance. As a result companies are loath to take risks in hiring and the poorly educated suffer most. Thus the student/union protesters are being attacked by poor rioters, many immigrants, who would benefit from the liberalized hiring that the law encourages.

The rampaging French youths set fire to cars and looted shops in Paris on Thursday. Riot police fired tear gas in clashes with youths, dubbed "casseurs" by the French, in the Invalides areas near the Foreign Ministry. A civil war is erupting between the upper class and the poor.

Dennis Prager explains the socialist paranoia that drives the protests. France is so frightened of the utterly rational idea that a young person should have a two-year trial period at work before being granted a lifetime job. Such an innovation in France would mean that young people would have to work hard and earn the right to lifetime employment. But if socialism means anything, it means that one shouldn't have to earn anything. One merely has to breathe.

1 Comments:

Blogger fetching jen said...

Great post. Let's hope the libs in this country are not watching France right now... they could be getting ideas!

4:13 PM  

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