M. Frederic Bastiat petitions the French govt.
Victors can afford to be magnanimous and that is what President George W. Bush is being during his brief visit to the Economic Summit of the Eight in Evian, France. Losers, when historic reality hits them between the eyeballs, try to rewrite history.
French President, Jacque Chirac, continues to pretend France is a great power when, in fact, that has not been the case since 1815. Moreover, as presently constituted, France is destined to remain a third-rate power at best.
Every since World War II, France has suffered from Fabian Socialism. No, Virginia, that is not about a singer popular in the days of Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” This is a non-revolutionary, generally non-violent economic system that favors government ownership of most of the means of production governed by a large bureaucracy staffed by cultural elites.
The reformed German communist, Willi Schlamm, said, “The problem with socialism is socialism; the problem with capitalism is capitalists,” – meaning, of course, that capitalism is a sound economic system which is sometimes plagued by the greed of some of its operators. Enron is a case in point. But socialism is fatally flawed by its very nature.
Indeed, socialism has, with a few exceptions, been a failure every where it has been tried. The Scandinavians seem content with their womb-to-tomb welfare states; however, unlike Chirac, they understand they are not great powers now and will never be. They are small in size, have ethnically and culturally homogeneous populations and are content to be what they are.
In 1971, through U.S. diplomatic channels, I took delivery of a brand-new VW SuperBug in Oslo, Norway. I paid $1,966 US dollars. My Norwegian host told me the same car would have cost him over $10,000. About $9,000 of that in taxes. Lovely as it is, I crossed Norway off my list of places to live.
France’s biggest problem is a society that assigns low prestige to work. The large and elitist bureaucracy that administers France on behalf of what the elitists think of as its “peasants,” wants to retire on full pension at age 55. Currently, France’s retirees constitute over 25 percent of her population. At the current rate, it won’t be long until only half the population is going to work each day.
When President Chirac suggested extending the retirement age by 2.5 years, prospective retirees took to the streets in protest.
But a large and unresponsive bureaucracy is nothing new in France, a country with a history of thinking the government is the key to solving its problems. And why not when you train your so-called best and brightest to seek government jobs rather than to go out into the private sector and create meaningful jobs for others? In other words, practice capitalism.
In the 18th Century, the French philosopher, Frederic Bastiat used satire to illustrate the French penchant for government solutions to trade issues and the willingness of the government to engage in anti-capitalistic practices. On behalf of the candle making industry, he petitioned the French government as follows:
We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival which apparently works under conditions superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears our sales cease, all consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us mercilessly. We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of windows…skylights, shutters, curtains and blinds… through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of our fair industries.” -- M. Frederic Bastiat.
Amazingly, Bastiat’s “Petition” was given serious consideration by some. Probably, by the ancestors of President Jacques Chirac.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2003. William Hamilton.