The self-rightious sloth of the French
IN solidarity with protesting students from elite universities, French labor unions decreed a national celebration of self-righteous sloth - known elsewhere as a general strike.There is more.
Workers of France, unite! You have nothing to lose but your competitive edge.
Why have the students been demonstrating? Because their government proposed that young workers should not automatically be granted a (short) lifetime of job security from the first day they're hired. Under the proposed reform, the first two years of employment would be a probationary period (under siege, the government offered to compromise at one year).
The regime's hope is that employers might be more willing to take a chance on hiring more young workers if they aren't automatically condemned to keep even the most inept or lazy workers on the payroll - and on their tax rolls.
Reasonable? Mais non, Monsieur le Anglo-Saxon Capitalist Cochon! The burdern must be on the employer to pay, not on the worker to work!
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is hardly a sympathetic figure, yet this time around he's right. It's essential for France to create more jobs - especially for the blue-collar youths and the slum-dwellers who rioted out of hopelessness last autumn.
By American standards, the minor reforms proposed seem common-sensical. But common sense has fled the land of Cartesian rationalism. To gratify the world's most-spoiled workers, employers must be treated as bridegrooms forced to marry blindly and for whom the cost of divorce is exhorbitant. And, of course, striking is the French national sport.
But consider who's doing the striking: Workers who already have tenure, plus fashionably left-wing students. Those students ultimately will get their degrees and they'll either find jobs at home or have the credentials to migrate - to that nasty Anglo-Saxon capital, London, if they can't get work visas to the United States.
French students from elite schools can protest and riot all they want. For them, there are no consequences.
It's different for the blue- collar kids. In la belle France, once you leave the Disneyworlds of central Paris or Provence, a quarter of the young are unemployed (the rate's almost 50 percent among those whose skin isn't white).