[Opera House staircase, Paris, France] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
Alain Olive, general secretary of the French trade-union UNSA (Union nationale des syndicats autonomes: National Union of autonomous trade-unions), during the demonstration against the law project about retirements reform on october 2010, 12th (Paris, boulevard du Temple). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Annick Coupé, spokewoman of the SUD, French group of trade unions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have increasingly been pondering the question:
Is France going to the dogs?
This week France has seen strikes cripple air travel; this was followed by a train strike. Also this week the Economist describes France as statist with weak leadership.
This week, I have blogged about the impact of financialization over the last thirty years, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries like the UK and the US. Apart from the financial services industry itself, driving forces have been free trade, globalization and economic liberalism, especially the reduced power of organized labor, the trade unions. For decades France has been in denial, arguing that global trends are Anglo-Saxon and need not apply to France. Weak leadership, strong unions, and high taxation have driven French citizens and French industry overseas. Both London and Hong-Kong have enormous French expat communities. Many argue that France’s political classes are especially arrogant and patronizing.
Germany wants Southern Europe to be frugal with good budget management, following German best practice. Meanwhile, France looks to protect French interests before all else.
Geographically, France is part of Southern Europe but France regards herself as a cut above Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus, all of which have had severe economic crises and international financial bailouts in the last few years. Further, early moves to find a permanent solution to the Greek crisis were probably diverted by France to avoid crystallizing a French banking crisis; the greedy French banks had the biggest exposure to Greek debt.
Many years ago I was with a German colleague in Paris and he joked:
The Germans eat to live but the French live to eat!
France continues to have the longest holidays (vacations) in Europe and the shortest working week, so surely something must give? French citizens typically retire younger with fatter pensions too!
Will France continue in free-fall until there is a financial, economic, social and political crisis, like in Greece, for example?