Is Paris (France, Not Hilton) Burning Yet?

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New riots in the heart of Old Europe, this time by France's answer to Jughead Jones over labor laws that threaten to put a dent in unemployment rates for them that run as high as 23 percent. Zut!

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at youths who pelted them with stones and torched cars in the heart of Paris.

The violence was part of nationwide protests against a new labour law that brought a quarter-million people onto France's streets. …

Their anger focuses on a new form of job contract that will allow employers to fire young workers within their first two years in a job without giving a reason.

The government says the flexibility will encourage companies to hire thousands of young people, bringing down unemployment rates that run at 23% among young adults and around double that in some of the depressed suburbs that were shaken by weeks of riots last year.

More here.

For a discussion of the connection between France's high unemployment and its labor laws that make employers less likely to hire workers, go here.

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  1. I know someone who’s likely to be affected. Sebastien in Antibes has been working off & on informally for years, cooking and fixing stuff as a “bricoleur”. He’d like to find employment in the USA (where he’d be in demand as a chef de cuisine), but he was threatened with losing his unemployment benefits if he spent too long here. Meanwhile, his absence of formal employment doesn’t stand him well in the construction field, where he doesn’t have the papers he’d need to prove qualification for most formal employment. He’s also been handicapped by intermittent respiratory problems.

  2. That’s as physically active as I’ve ever seen most French yout’s. I guess that’s what happens when the gov’t threatens to remove your guaranteed stipend for cruising bars, being misogynists and smoking bad cigarettes.

  3. Over the long run such reforms will make France richer and the world richer. Hey, its the Smithian in me.

  4. What assumptions? France has around a 2.5 bill trade deficit. Germany has a surplus. What assuption shall I question?

    JMJ

  5. Their anger focuses on a new form of job contract that will allow employers to fire young workers within their first two years in a job without giving a reason.

    Quelle horreur!

    On the other hand, France, like much of the EU, maintains trade balance that we only wish we had here in the USA.

    A lack of imports can be a symptom of low disposable income.

    good to see there’s still a Western power out there wherein the people are ready and willing rise up and take a stand.

    Somehow, taking a stand against individual responsibility, increased opportunity, and economic freedom isn’t exactly what I would call “good to see.”

  6. Their anger focuses on a new form of job contract that will allow employers to fire young workers within their first two years in a job without giving a reason.

    Quelle horreur!

    On the other hand, France, like much of the EU, maintains trade balance that we only wish we had here in the USA.

    A “good” balance generally consists in part of anemic imports of consumer goods and/or industrial equipment. The former is often a symptom of low disposable income, and the latter an indicator of low capital investment.

    good to see there’s still a Western power out there wherein the people are ready and willing rise up and take a stand.

    Somehow, taking a stand against individual responsibility, increased opportunity, and economic freedom isn’t exactly what I would call “good to see.”

  7. What assuption shall I question?

    That assumption that trade deficits are necessarily a bad thing.

  8. Hey, at least they’re speaking their minds and not cowing to their supposed betters. Right or wrong (personally, I sympathize with them), at least they’re doing something. Americans are like sheep these days. You see, you are looking solely at “individual responsibility,” but the French are thinking more about collective responsibility manifested by the state. The French actually care about one another and their happiness as a whole. Americans are cheap, short-sighted, pretend-patriot, morons.

    I don’t know about the disposable income thing. I’m pretty sure the French enjoy similar levels to most of their competitor states. Heck, Americans have more debt than “disposable” income. The French, by comparison, hold only about 57% of debt on that income.

    JMJ

  9. What assuption shall I question?

    The assumption that trade deficits are necessarily a bad thing.

  10. A “good” balance generally consists in part of anemic imports of consumer goods and/or industrial equipment. The former is often a symptom of low disposable income, and the latter an indicator of low capital investment.

    It’s a novel experiment–strap your economy down ’til you achieve some kind of third world parity and then emulate the Asian Tigers, circa the 1980s. …with all the progress in Southeast Asia, parity is all that much easier to attain.

    What do you mean they could emulate them now? …That’s not part of the plan–get with the program!

  11. Real Bill, trade deficits are acceptable when one is looking at the wealthiest nation on Earth. However, when said deficits start getting around 800 billion last year, combined with an income deficit of 10 billion, it’s HORRIFIC news.

    JMJ

  12. Ahh – America-bashing rears it’s ugly head before Francophobia appears. Nice JMJ.

  13. You see, you are looking solely at “individual responsibility,” but the French are thinking more about collective responsibility manifested by the state. The French actually care about one another and their happiness as a whole. Americans are cheap, short-sighted, pretend-patriot, morons.

    Exactly how is a 23% unemployment rate “caring about one another and their happiness as a whole?” The students rioting are some of the most well-off in the country. They want guaranteed employment at the expense of the less fortunate in the country.

    That’s your “collective responsibility”. They are collectively screwing everyone else.

  14. JMJ,

    Why is it horrific news? If you’re so economically literate, you ought to be able to explain it.

  15. “”The students rioting are some of the most well-off in the country. They want guaranteed employment at the expense of the less fortunate in the country.

    That’s your “collective responsibility”. They are collectively screwing everyone else.””

    Meanwhile capitalist robber barons love nothing better than a pliable, disposable labor force – a mere means to making a buck.

    How’s that Enron trial going, by the way?

  16. Sigh.

  17. Only mercantilist get in a tizzy over balance of trade issues. For some reason they think that money equals wealth.

  18. “”The students rioting are some of the most well-off in the country. They want guaranteed employment at the expense of the less fortunate in the country.

    That’s your “collective responsibility”. They are collectively screwing everyone else.””

    Meanwhile capitalist robber barons love nothing better than a pliable, disposable labor force – a mere means to making a buck.

    How’s that Enron trial going, by the way?

  19. Hak: It’s almost never worth arguing with a mercantilist. Their brains are as dead as Thomas Munn and David DeFoe.

  20. Huh. Starting to feel a little DailyKos in here.

  21. Timothy,

    Ha ha ha. 🙂

  22. Iron Chef, I am an American and proud of it. I am not, however, a moronic, blind sycophant.

    Marcvs,

    “Exactly how is a 23% unemployment rate “caring about one another and their happiness as a whole?” The students rioting are some of the most well-off in the country. They want guaranteed employment at the expense of the less fortunate in the country.”

    The “worst off” are imported cheap laborers. The French don’t care for them any more than the average American cares about illegals. Again, I sympathize with their complaints, but I never said I entirely agreed with them. But they are watching out for their own best interests, unlike idiot Americans who say, “The economy is growing!” while their income is flat and they are 10 billion behind on their credit card payments.

    Real Bill,

    The fiat is the value of our productivity – our REAL productivity and not the goofball numbers the gov’t puts out including low-labor agro and worthless service sector activity. We are not producing and therefore the dollar declines. Read the papers lately? And this is just a part of it. Also, our debt, gov’t and personal, is greater than our capacity to pay. The foreign entities that own that debt will eventually raise rates, stop buying dollars, etc. Then we’re all fucked. I could go on all day, but you’ll never listen. Go ahead, continue running up the trade deficit, morons.

    JMJ

  23. The Real Bill,

    Yours is the idea that wealth is some fixed amount and that the advantage of one is necessarily the disadvantage of all. But wealth is not fixed and increasing wealth of others makes all others wealthier.

  24. JMJ is either complaining about the lack of a gold standard, or believes in the labor theory of value. I can’t quite tell which.

  25. Also, JMJ, I’d suggest you go ahead and read David Ricardo. And Don Boudreaux.

  26. The French actually care about one another and their happiness as a whole. Americans are cheap, short-sighted, pretend-patriot, morons.

    *sigh* this is wholly incorrect. While it’s tempting to simply make a reverse cheap shot at a bunch of French surrender Monkeys(tm), I’ll avoid it get to the salient points.

    The French youth ONLY care about themselves- hence their rabid protests against the possibility of losing their personal benefits while not caring one whit about the 23%+ who are unemployed. The message here is “Screw everyone else, I want my government cheque”

    Let’s put it another way. I was listening to NPR the other day (yeah, I know) and there was some comparisons to the French youth protests of 1968. A sharp eyed/eared French newspaper editor quipped (roughly paraphrased) “This isn’t like 1968 at all. In 1968, the youth were protesting AGAINST crass consumerism and bourgois middle-class values, now they’re protesting FOR those things: a house, a car, and all the trappings of the consumerist lifestyle”. This comment was made immediately after several street interviews with French youth complaining that without their ‘benefits’ they won’t be able to have employment security, and as such, a car and a house and everything that goes with it would be much more elusive. The editor was on to something.

    While I suspect this editor was probably part of the 1968 protests (and retains his anti-middle class sentiment), and in general I would have little in common with him, he was, in the big picture, spot on. It’s just that the irony is that the current French yutes further squeeze these things by keeping their entitlements- but that’s a longer economic subject.

    I for one, hope the protesters win, because when French protesters win, France loses, and the rest of the world retains its economic strength. Go Protesters! The U.S. is slowly going down the European entitlement-rich road, and we need all the Eurpoean help we can get.

  27. Hak,

    Are you talking to me? All I did was question the “horrifying” nature of trade deficits.

    I have a $19.97 yearly trade deficit with Reason magazine. They don’t buy anything from me at all, bastards!

  28. Paul makes a fair point here, I’ll admit. The protestors are as if American kids from long Island rose up and complained about things. On the other hand, they see France for the French. Dangerous? Perhaps. But it may well be a sign of things to come in the EU. Their dependence on cheap foreign labor is going to bite them on their collective asses.

    JMJ

  29. Daniel,

    I hope you are not right about France needing to get a real dose of communism before things get better, but I fear you are.

  30. Meanwhile capitalist robber barons love nothing better than a pliable, disposable labor force – a mere means to making a buck

    Where did you learn that line, at the latest Communist Party meeting? Grow up.

    Despite the “best” attempts by the Eurocrat governments to hire as many people into government as possible, the government can only function off the taxes paid by wealth creaters. Which means that one way or another that “greedy capitalists” are responsible for all job creation, and responsible for all government.

    To put it another way, an entrepreneur must first take his hard earned money, then hire people, then have them produce stuff that people want, and only if they buy that stuff at a higher price than what he paid for all the labor and payroll taxes and materials and overhead, then and only then will he make a profit. This is incredibly risky, and if the potential reward isn’t there to offset the high risk, then the enterprise won’t ever start in the first place.

    And if he wants to make still more money, he must hire more people and produce more stuff that people want; he has to reinvest his profits. Profits=future jobs. No profits=unemployment.

    At any stage of the way, if the employees feel their job sucks they can work elsewhere. He can’t put a gun to their head and make them work for him, nor can he put a gun to his suppliers head and make them give him supplies cheap.

    Thus the clever entrepreneur must seek out the cheapest qualified labor possible, which if you passed common sense economics 101, you realize of course means those who need jobs the most.

    The clever entrepreneur must also seek out the least expensive supplies, which if you passed common sense economics 101, you realize means those goods whose components are sourced from the least scarce resources on the planet. While the talking heads of the world are frightened about a global shortage of resources, the clever entreprenuer is already automatically doing his best to alleviate such shortages.

    The clever entrepreneur must also seek out the cheapest overhead possible, which if you passed common sense economics 101, you realize means he seeks out the most underutilized real estate out there, where “no one” wants to live. He thus helps to make the “best” real estate available for ordinary folks to live in, which is to say residential real estate.

    The capitalists who are bad at what they do get punished with losses and must move on to something they are qualified at due to a lack of capital. Those who are good at what they do are rewarded with more money with which to create more jobs intheir pursuit of profit. This is in stark contrast with government which goes which receives money regardless of whether or not it succeeds or fails, and government programs which deliberately direct resources to their worst possible ends, such as farm subsidies and/or protections, textile subsidies and/or protections, paying people perenially to not work, etc.

    It is precisely because France believes the Immaculate Conception jobs theory that they are in the mess they are in right now, with an unemployment rate that hasn’t gone below 8% in twenty years, even during the go-go internet boom years.

    No wonder youth are rioting in the streets of France. No one is creating the jobs they need, because heaven forbid if a capitalist robber baron actually makes money in the process. We can’t have that, that would widen inequality.

  31. “The very people who most effected by France’s insane labor laws are now the ones protesting their reform.”

    Actually, John, these students have a much better chance of landing that “job for life” gig than the kids (the poor) who aren’t in school.

    Typical modern liberal hypocrisy. They only care for “the little guy” as long as someone else is paying the bill.

  32. I too hope the protesters win, but not because I want to see the French in poverty.

    Despite my ‘flippant’ comments, I don’t want to see the French in poverty either. I share your sentiment. It’s a bit like abortion rights activists who said (ironically) during the 90’s that the only way to cement abortion rights would to see it made illegal. That would galvanize supporters and bring the horrors of illegal abortion back to light, helping to remind the country of what it was like before abortion was legal.

    I too agree, that before it’s going to ever get better (in western europe as a whole, let alone France), it’s going to have to get a lot worse. A *lot* worse. My guess is a total economic collapse may be required. Anything less simply produces the infamous ‘but for’ argument: The economy would collapse, but for our social safety net.

    If the economy collapses WITH the safety net, then and only then can their logic can be shown to be a failure.

  33. I hope the French get what they deserve. If they support policies that will eventually make them poor, that’s their choice.

  34. “No wonder youth are rioting in the streets of France. No one is creating the jobs they need, because heaven forbid if a capitalist robber baron actually makes money in the process. We can’t have that, that would widen inequality.”

    Well there are jobs and then there are jobs. Slave plantations had full employment. I’m sure the plantation owners considered themselves “job creators”… Meanwhile their profits were a mere byproduct?

    Again, how’s that Enron trial with those Enron “job creators” going?

  35. Yes, Peter K. Everyone who works a paying job is just like a slave on a plantation. Where did you learn your economics, the Che Guavera school of policy?

  36. Again, how’s that Enron trial with those Enron “job creators” going?

    You mean the trial of those executives who lied to the investors, costing them billions of dollars?

    Don’t worry. The Enron guilty will get their due. The capitalist robber barons hate losing money.

    I mean, look what they did to Michael Milken, and he didn’t even do anything wrong!

  37. Well there are jobs and then there are jobs. Slave plantations had full employment. I’m sure the plantation owners considered themselves “job creators”

    Lord, I just snorted Diet Coke out my nose. Ouch.

    I haven’t laughed that hard in at least 45 minutes.

  38. HappyJuggler.

    Many see libertarians as stuck in an overly simplistic “Economic 101” world view. Your cartoon sketch is a nice just so story. But its “Atlas Shrugged 101” take on things looks only slightly more like reality than the “Robber Baron and the Victim Laborer.”

    You and Paul K. should hang out on a cable news rant. One could sit on the black chair and the other on the white. While the grey world watches the fun.

  39. I’m not convinced there is gray, perhaps you can give me an example.

    French unemployment is very much a simple matter of it being unprofitable to hire. Contributing factors to such a fate: High minimum wage, high payroll taxes that effectively make the minimum wage much higher than it already seems, incredibly expensive to fire, truculent unions with little alternative, high corporate taxes, regulations up the yin yang etc.

    Why hire someone in France when you can hire someone in Ireland? Or Hungary? Or Estonia?

  40. The Real Bill,

    There is nothing horrifying about trade deficits.

  41. Off topic, but I think the rioters in Spain have a better excuse… too much booze.

  42. Not to get in the middle of this (probably a dead thread anyway) but…

    HJ says “I’m not convinced there is gray”
    in response to MSM’s “One could sit on the black chair and the other on the white. While the grey world watches the fun”

    That’s just funny.

  43. Spanish kids are smarter than the French, and know what’s worth protesting:

    Spanish youths in mass drink binge
    MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of teenagers and students swarmed onto Spanish streets on Friday for mass drinking sessions, defying legislation introduced to stop the binges known as “botellones.”

    http://cnn.netscape.cnn.com/news/story.jsp?id=2006031716570002097487&dt=20060317165700&w=RTR&coview=

  44. The Spanish youths get my vote for best protest of the year. For once, young people are protesting something they actually understand.

  45. It is not hard to understand why the French hold on to their system. It is what they have known all their history. “Dirigisme” comes from when France was ruled by Kings, and the fact was that it was one of the richest, best governed countries in Europe. Then came the Revolution and it was an unqualified disaster until Napoleon came.

    “Dirigisme” is what made France great and rich. That’s all that their history has taught them. What are you going to say “if you had not done it, you’d be richer still”? It is not an easy sell…

    They might one day turn to libertarian principles, but I do not expect it to be any time soon.

  46. The French actually care about one another and their happiness as a whole. Americans are cheap, short-sighted, pretend-patriot, morons.

    All I can say is thank goodness idiots self-identify so loudly.

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