The obvious problem with French economy

Larry Kudlow:

Why is it that so many French people would rather riot than work?

For nearly a fortnight, French students repeatedly have taken to the streets in protest of a modest labor reform proposed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. It seems that Villepin had the audacity to suggest that companies hiring workers under the age of 26 have the ability to fire those workers in the first two years of employment. Villepin's far-from-Draconian reform is a reaction to the country's government-planned entitlement state, overregulated labor laws, and sky-high jobless rate.

But French students apparently prefer their little worker's paradise just the way it is. The overall jobless rate in France hovers around 10 percent, so-called "youth unemployment" is 23 percent, and in some of the Muslim-heavy suburbs, joblessness is nearly 50 percent. Some paradise.

In France, you see, companies don't grow because it's too costly to hire while it's against the law to fire. Hence, since they rarely add jobs, French businesses under-perform, under-produce, and under-employ. Think of it: It's awfully tough to increase output without a growing workforce to produce it.

The Villepin reform, of course, would make it a lot easier for firms to hire since they would no longer have to lock-in high wages and benefit costs without first confirming worker productivity, at least for two years. But in response to this mild capitalist reform, a reported 500,000 students have emerged in angry protest. There's now even a threat of a general strike, with government unions, trade unions, and student unions possibly teaming together to shut down the entire French economy (or what's left of it).

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Indeed, at the heart of the French problem is a statist-run socialist economy that is massively overtaxed and overregulated. France's public government sector, for instance, accounts for more than 50 percent of GDP. In other words, private business in France is in the minority.

Added to this, France's top personal tax rate is 48 percent, with a VAT tax of nearly 20 percent. So that means French laborers face a combined 68 percent tax rate on consumption and investment. No wonder France has created less than 3 million jobs over the past twenty years, compared to 31 million in the United States. Economic growth in "cowboy capitalist" America has exceeded that of France's worker paradise by nearly 50 percent.

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There is more. The real question is why the French are so persistent in their application of bad econmic policy.

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