|President Bush and the Mandate of Heaven||Beating the Bureaucrats in Education|
by Christopher Chantrill
November 06, 2005 at 1:43 pm
LAST WEEK Paris was burning. Now it is the little town of Evreux where 50 cars were torched on Saturday night by Muslim teenagers.
No problem? Evreux is 25 miles from Giverny, the home of Monets garden and its famous Japanese bridge. The garden was restored in the 1970s by American publishing heiresses.
After the Los Angeles riots in 1992 the French were supercilious. It couldnt happen here, they sniffed. The French social model made such a thing impossible. But on Sunday after ten nights of riots, French President Jacques Chirac convened an emergency security meeting to address the crisis.
He could start by ordering the French pompiers to put out the blaze in the social model, a system designed to frustrate opportunity and job growth for the poor and the marginalized.
Inspired by the social model, the French have a very high minimum wage, about twice the level in the United States. Ten years ago, the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress issued a bibliography on how the minimum wage reduced employment, reduces employment among teenagers more than adults, hurts the unskilled, hurts low wage earners, increases the number of people on welfare, and hurts the poor generally. The minimum wage is so high in France that supermarkets dont hire people to bag groceries.
Encouraged by the social model, the French have extremely rigid employment laws that make it difficult to fire employees. As the consulting firm Triplet & Associés puts it, employment in France is not at will... [and] dismissals are subject to stringent, and often bureaucratic, procedural statutory constraints. This makes employers in France hesitant to hire permanent employees. They do hire interns, of course. And now the interns are starting to protest. They are getting fed up with serial internships but no jobs.
The French also have generous unemployment benefits. They have recently slashed them, according to Deutsche-Welle, from 30 months to 22 (compared to US state unemployment benefits that mostly last for 6 months.) Research on long-term unemployment indicates that the unemployed are hurt by overgenerous benefits. They lose skills while they are unemployed, and after a year, the skills erosion gets serious. So it is not surprising that Evelyne Zylbermann, 22 months after she last had a job, doesnt know what she should do now that her benefit has been cut from $1,780 to $500 per month.
The French have always strongly believed in protecting French companies from global competition and administer a complex system of subsidies and preferences that privilege French enterprises over non-French, and producers over consumers. But researchers such as William W. Lewis in The Power of Productivity assert that the way to grow a healthy economy is by removing all privileges and subsidies for producers and entrenched interests: Undistorted competition in product markets is essential.
What about discrimination and racism? Surely nothing will change while the children of Muslim immigrants in the Paris suburbs remain underprivileged and oppressed? Actually, light to moderate discrimination is not much of a barrier to advancement. In New York City the Irish went from No Irish Need Apply and 50,000 streetwalking nymphs of the pave to respectability in fifty years and the Jews went from the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe to Harvard in a single generation. Blacks in the United States made more rapid economic progress in the years before the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s than afterwards, according to Thomas Sowell.
The French are lucky. While they have been pompously digging themselves in deeper with their brilliant social model, we Anglo-Saxon cowboys have figured out how to dig out of the social model hole. For macroeconomic policy, set tax rates low and uniform. For the labor market, lower the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and dodgy disability benefits. For the business arena, wipe out subsidies, rigidities, and privileges that distort the markets for products and services. But it is unlikely that the French are ready to bite the bullet. Not yet.
In the wake of the US riots in the 1960s the Kerner Commission called for the addition of 1 million government-created jobs, the institution of a higher minimum wage, significantly increasing welfare benefits, spending more money on education and housing. That was how the political elite in the US proposed to deal with urban riots.
After the long hot summers of the 1960s it took 15 years in the US to cut tax ratesin the teeth of opposition from the US political elite. It took a mere ten years before the US started deregulating transportation and telecommunications monopolies. But it took 30 years to reform the welfare system to put a time limit on benefitsin the teeth of opposition from the Democratic Party.
Why should we assume that the French are any smarter than we are?
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,
Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop
discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
[Every] sacrifice is an act of impurity that pays for a prior act of greater impurity... without its participants having to suffer the full consequences incurred by its predecessor. The punishment is commuted in a process that strangely combines and finesses the deep contradiction between justice and mercy.
Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values
Within Pentecostalism the injurious hierarchies of the wider world are abrogated and replaced by a single hierarchy of faith, grace, and the empowerments of the spirit... where groups gather on rafts to take them through the turbulence of the great journey from extensive rural networks to the mega-city and the nuclear family...
David Martin, On Secularization
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
The Union publishes an exact return of the amount of its taxes; I can get copies of the budgets of the four and twenty component states; but who can tell me what the citizens spend in the administration of county and township?
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America