Ain't Gonna Play in the Suburbs

|

In the Wall Street Journal, Guy Sorman blames French riots on apartheid-like conditions in the suburbs:

The French would be shocked to be compared with South Africa of the past, but our suburbs bear more social resemblance to Soweto than Paris. We live in a discriminatory society where an invisible line separates the insiders from the outsiders. The insiders happen to be French, with a French family history extending back many generations. They are well educated, and reasonably well-off.

The outsiders happen to be from Africa—first, second or third generation, poorly educated, jobless and from a non-mainstream culture or religion. According to the French republican ideology, they all are French with the same rights. But the reality differs. Our economic policy has created a strong public sector and job market protected by high walls of restrictive regulation. If you're educated enough, you pass a civil servant exam and get a plum job for life. If you have the right connections and talent, the private sector treats you as a quasi civil servant. Firing an employee is nearly impossible. The outsiders without the right connections and education remain outside: All the regulations play against them.

It's a solid piece, though I'm not convinced sclerotic labor markets, absent mobility restrictions, fully merit the apartheid comparison. And Sormon fails to mention the French (and American, and Swiss, and Australian) policies most analogous to the indignities of Soweto and Langa. As Harvard's Lant Pritchett points out in an upcoming issue of Reason, restrictive border policies–which, as with apartheid, discriminate based on conditions of birth–uphold larger inequalities than South African segregation ever did. Further regulation of the labor market helps uphold that system by making liberal immigration policies untenable.

Elsewhere in reason: Tim Cavanaugh on how Anthony Burgess predicted all of this

NEXT: Never Mind the Paulmania, Here's the Huckster!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. BUT THEY TOOK UR JOBS!

  2. “BUT THEY TOOK UR JOBS!”

    DUKKER DERR!

  3. Ils ont pris nos travaux !

  4. Zey pretended to take our jobs!

  5. There’s no possible way that the pathologies of the Parisian suburbs could be explained by policies that inhibit economic opportunity. Surely it must be something about religion and ethnicity!

    I mean, to think that there might be adverse consequences from policies that lead to lots of unemployed young men. Why, it’s just ridiculous!

  6. An “invisible line” would mean that Muslims in France are living next to old-line French people, attending the same schools, etc.

    That doesn’t seem to be the case. The lines separating the po’ folks in the projects (which happen to be in the suburbs in France) from the rest of society seem to be pretty gosh darn visible.

  7. thoreau,

    Well, many (most?) of the “ethnic neighborhoods” around Paris aren’t by any means made up of folks from North Africa. A lot of people who immigrated from (or whose parents immigrated) from the Caribbean and other places also live there.

  8. “I thought you said your dog does not bite?!?”

    “Zat iz not my dog.”

  9. Comparing a country to South Africa???? But that’s inherently Anti-Frenchitic!!!!

  10. thoreau | December 4, 2007, 1:53pm | #
    There’s no possible way that the pathologies of the Parisian suburbs could be explained by policies that inhibit economic opportunity. Surely it must be something about religion and ethnicity!

    Paging dr donderoooooo?

    He can explain that it’s because its teh Islams! Hamas backed the gunmen! They burned the bus that burned the lady! They dont want jobs, they want to restore teh caliphate! Plus they’re french, which makes them… like…. terrorist-appeasing-terrorist-sympathizing-actual-terrorists too! They threaten our ways of lives!

  11. Hey, Jim, did you see that Prime Minister Olmert compared his country to Apartheid-era South Africa?

    Clearly, the Prime Minister of Israel hates Jews.

  12. Joe, Olmert’s just not a good Jew like, say, Glenn Reynolds is.

  13. I’m expecting an order of a Grand Chalupa from Taco Bell any minute now to arrive in this thread.

  14. What we need is someone to tell us which Jewish people have proven themselves to be anti-semites by expressing political opinions about Israel.

    Maybe Cathy Young. She’s good at that, if you recall.

  15. Anyway, I can’t recall if anyone made any comparisons to South Africa before, but this sort of bifurcation and the problems associated with it has been the topic of growing discussion at least I’d guess the 1990s.

  16. Growing discussion in France that is.

  17. “There’s no possible way that the pathologies of the Parisian suburbs could be explained by policies that inhibit economic opportunity. Surely it must be something about religion and ethnicity!

    I mean, to think that there might be adverse consequences from policies that lead to lots of unemployed young men. Why, it’s just ridiculous!”

    Perhaps it can go both ways and re-enforce each way? There have been AFrican Muslim immigrants to France going back two or three generations now. They never had these problems until recently. Isn’t it possible that the rise of Islamic radicalism in the past decade has made the French more suspicious of Muslims which in turn created more unemployed men which in turn creates more radicalism. Should the French treat Muslims better? Absolutely. But maybe Muslims should help their cause a little bit by not burning their own neighborhoods down and telling radical Imams to shut the hell up.

  18. John,

    The sort of seperation we are talking about here has been in place since the first significant waves of non-European immigrants starting coming to France in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Isn’t it possible that the rise of Islamic radicalism in the past decade has made the French more suspicious of Muslims…

    No, not really.

  19. The problem with the “radical imams” theory is that the rioting is being done by kids in hip-hop gear. They’re not jihadists, they’re punks.

  20. John,

    Also, I will note that immigration from outside of Europe has been heavily regulated in France since the mid-1970s.

  21. Re: “growing discussion”

    Yes, the french do LOVE to talk…

    I can totally see 2 french law students sipping wine in a cafe, having a healthy and amicable debate about the nature of post colonial cultural assimilation trends, and the way Lacan and Derrida had presaged the whole discussion in their explication of the arbitrary role of signifiers…and meanwhile, someone is setting their shittle little Renault on fire

    I have a small crew of french expat friends here in NYC, and few things will tick them off more than trying to get them to admit that they may actually have a problem in their home country. Seriously. They’ll lecture me endlessly about how “Race is an American problem – we’ve never had the history you’ve had – “french” can mean someone of any race… we are an enlightened country…this current fuss is just a bunch of kids who are poorly raised…it is a mistake to pay so much attention to it…”

    I got the same line from 3-4 people (all of whom were/are postgraduate students at Columbia, and came from fairly well to do backgrounds)

    Basically, the more they protested that it was an “overblown” issue, the more I realized that it was probably a big deal. They were frightened to even talk seriously about it. Seemed to be one of those “dont look at the man behind the curtain!! I am the great and powerful La France!” type moments.

    when I asked about the french rioting in 2005 (different context), I was told by visiting French tourists, “You Americans make so much of this… it is because your country is still racist…you want to point fingers and make other people look like you… but that is not what is happening”

    I mean, that one got me thinking…it surprised me how defensive they were about the whole topic, and tended to always twist the discussion around to “America’s historic race issues”.

    Apartheid – maybe not. But the way in which a lot of the social barriers play out in france…. I dont think saying it’s *like* apartheid is unfair. Then again, once you say that, it does open the door for anyone to basically call anything and everything Apartheid… like, Income Inequality is American Apartheid! Access to the Internet is Intenet Apartheid!

    Kinda like the recent devolution of the word “Fascist” to include “non-state theocratic suicidal terrorists”

  22. sorry = “SHITTY little renault”

    I think that one was probably self explanatory though

  23. I mean, to think that there might be adverse consequences from policies that lead to lots of unemployed young men. Why, it’s just ridiculous!

    What’s the incarceration rate for “black males 16-30 w/ less than HS education”?

    What’s the murder rate for this group?

    I wonder what Gov’t policy leads to over 60% being unemployed

  24. There have been AFrican Muslim immigrants to France going back two or three generations now. They never had these problems until recently.

    My cousin (the child of a Hungarian father and an American mother would had adopted France as their home) was severely beaten by a gang of Arab youths in the early eighties. His only crime appears to have been that he tried to cross a footbridge in their neighbourhood.

    Mind you he might have been a little too cocky too. He had just been discharged from the paratroopers and maybe didn’t realize being outnumbered about five to one wasn’t good odds.

    They fucked him up pretty badly and the family learned that this was not an isolated incident. I found out there was a real problem with the North African youth.

    I also learned that the vaunted French tolerance so praised by Black veterans of WWI & II and some jazz artists was rather shallow as I heard these youths referred to contemptuously as “les beurs” by otherwise perfectly respectable citizens.

    Remember those youths are now middle aged men and it is their children who are doing today’s mischief.

    The problem with the “radical imams” theory is that the rioting is being done by kids in hip-hop gear. They’re not jihadists, they’re punks.

    Yep, that’s about it. But they’re punks with huge chips on their shoulders.

  25. Gilmore,

    Yes, the french do LOVE to talk…

    Well, if the blogosphere is any indication, so do Americans. 🙂

    How many years have we been talking about “reforming” Social Security now? 😉

    Anyway, any number of “solutions” have been tried over the years, so there has been more than talk. Of course the argument from a lot of quarters is these have been the wrong solutions.

    I can totally see 2 french law students sipping wine in a cafe…

    Oh and French wine consumption amongst the newer generations is way, way down.

  26. Isaac Bartram,

    I’d say this uneasiness with immigrants goes back to the 1970s – at least with some portions of the French population.

  27. Cara Lutetia

    This uneasiness appears to be limited to only some immigrants.

    My Aunt and Uncle and their children seemed to get get perfectly assimilated into French society. A letter from another aunt in the 1960s said something to the effect that, “wild horses could not pull B___ away from there.”

  28. Isaac Bartram | December 4, 2007, 3:50pm | #
    There have been AFrican Muslim immigrants to France going back two or three generations now. They never had these problems until recently.
    My cousin (the child of a Hungarian father and an American mother would had adopted France as their home) was severely beaten by a gang of Arab youths in the early eighties. His only crime appears to have been that he tried to cross a footbridge in their neighbourhood.

    hey man, the same thing can happen on footbridges in manchester, rome, germany, moscow, etc. by nativist local thug kids. there is no monopoly on assholism and criminality by wayward youth

    fortunately, nyc these days is so ridiculously safe compared to the 80s that its becoming increasingly hard to relate to this urban-strife stuff. we can at least relate to the french transit strikes, since the MTA pulled something similar (albeit short term) couple years ago, during *christmas* no less…

    i still seek vengeance. Die, MTA, DIE!!!!!

  29. I can totally see 2 french law students sipping wine in a cafe…

    Oh and French wine consumption amongst the newer generations is way, way down.

    OK – sipping stoli/red bulls and railing about the inherent evils of global capitalism. whatever.

  30. hey man, the same thing can happen on footbridges in manchester, rome, germany, moscow, etc. by nativist local thug kids. there is no monopoly on assholism and criminality by wayward youth

    It can also happen in Detroit. Or New Orleans. Or Petersburg, VA.

  31. “restrictive border policies–which, as with apartheid, discriminate based on conditions of birth–uphold larger inequalities than South African segregation ever did”

    It’s not surprising a libertarian thinks the lesson of the French riots is immigration policies are too restrictive, but it’s perplexing seeing concern for “inequalities” stemming from “conditions of birth”. Has Reason changed its stance on estate taxes?

  32. I say, GILMORE, old man, I protest,

    hey man, the same thing can happen on footbridges in manchester, rome, germany, moscow, etc. by nativist local thug kids*. there is no monopoly on assholism and criminality by wayward youth

    What you say is absolutely true. As Cesar says above:

    It can also happen in Detroit. Or New Orleans. Or Petersburg, VA.

    However my remarks were addressed specifically to John | December 4, 2007, 3:21pm who said:

    There have been AFrican Muslim immigrants to France going back two or three generations now. They never had these problems until recently.

    My comment simply addressed the fact that this sort of shit was happening at least a generation earlier.

    Like you say, this shit happens everywhere. My daughter, who lived for a time in a medium sized satellite of a major Canadian city, related to me the story of a gang of local thugs who beat a young man senseless in her town. His crime apparently was wearing a kilt, which apparently made him some kind of sissy. Now, when you consider that the full dress uniform of something like a third of the Canadian Army’s Regiments is a kilt, it makes you wonder what kind of morons consider that unmanly attire.

    But my story simply concerned a young guy (to whom I have a strong familial attachment) who ran afoul of punks in a local setting ( a setting, which, might I add, is absolutely relevant to the thread at hand).

    And he was beaten by Arab thugs in Paris twenty-five years ago, while John above thinks this only started recently.

  33. Carter,

    It’s perplexing that someone would oppose state-sanctioned discrimination based on race, sex, or place of birth and also oppose instances of forced redistribution? Well, sorry about that. Guess that whole “minimal state” concept really threw you for a loop.

  34. Its amusing how quickly some people tried to get this thread to focus on Israel..

  35. The libertarianoid concept of a minimal state which spontaneously arises (never to be confused with the concept of the state “withering away”) only after borders are erased and millions more people from the Third World move here does throw me for a loop. It’s absurd – if it weren’t reasonable arguments would be made for it, instead of the comical guilt by association tactic of equating national borders with apartheid.

    It’s “apartheid” for governments to enforce borders, but the wealthy isolating themselves in gated communities is peachy, or “slums for thee, but not me”. If the former is immoral it would seem likely many would be tempted to conclude the latter is also, but (we are told) once here the newcomers will surely respect private property rights, because inside everyone is a little libertarian dying to get out. Now if only we could get those rioters in France to read Hayek…

  36. It’s “apartheid” for governments to enforce borders, but the wealthy isolating themselves in gated communities is peachy, or “slums for thee, but not me”. If the former is immoral it would seem likely many would be tempted to conclude the latter is also

    Preventing people from voluntarily associating with each other: Immoral.

    Allowing people to voluntarily associate with each other: Moral.

    It’s really not that hard.

    The rest of your comment could keep Rumpelstiltskin busy for a month…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.