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NYT: How France is confronting change

The New York Times had a piece the other day talking about the French economy and political system and its confrontation with social realities. “A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline”.

This is certainly not a new theme. Indeed, in my travels and living in France, I often heard the refrain “France changes not by evolution, but by revolution.” It echoes perhaps true today, with a political system that sees its citizens protest in the streets in an attempt to get their voices heard – it’s the French equivalent of citizen lobbying and activism that can come off as much more noticeable than activist efforts through citizen groups like NGO’s in the US.

It’s an insightful read, no matter where you stand in the political spectrum.

Here are the first few excerpts:

The New York Times
Steven Erlanger
August 24, 2013
Memo from France – A Proud Nation Ponders How to Halt Its Slow Decline

“For decades, Europeans have agonized over the power and role of Germany — the so-called German question — given its importance to European stability and prosperity.

Today, however, Europe is talking about “the French question”: can the Socialist government of President François Hollande pull France out of its slow decline and prevent it from slipping permanently into Europe’s second tier?

At stake is whether a social democratic system that for decades prided itself on being the model for providing a stable and high standard of living for its citizens can survive the combination of globalization, an aging population and the acute fiscal shocks of recent years…”

  1. London
    August 27th, 2013 at 15:53 | #1

    A bit too doomsday for my taste. Not sure why the world is obsessed in seeing who can work longer and harder.

  2. Lafayette
    September 2nd, 2013 at 14:34 | #2

    I was no fan of Nicholas Sarkozy, but his rather nervous way of confronting problems at least got things done – not always rightly but they did not stagnate.

    With “François”, the intellectual socialist, he’s all smiley faced, and refuses to make the very deep changes to the French economy – changes that even baffled Sarkozy.

    But there is a reason for the bafflement, that many Americans can understand. The French cannot because they have never had a two-party system that see-saws between the two blocs.

    It is the fact that Sarkozy (like any American PotUS) was always thinking during his first term of his second term in office. (And, unlike the US at four-years, for a French prez its five years.) So, Sarkozy put off the hard part till the second-term, and was not elected.

    “François” is committing EXACTLY the same error. He will not anger the unions by undertaking profound corrections to French Labor Laws that are overly protective because he thinks he needs them to get re-elected. Neither will he do anything to the 35-hour work week that has hobbled French productivity.

    Just consider the number of hours worked by France and others (from (OECD Stats, Sept. 2013):
    France – 1479 (100%)
    Germany – 1397 (-5.5%)
    UK – 1694 (+14.5%)
    Spain – 1686 (+14%)
    Italy – 1752 (+18.4%)
    Sweden – 1621 (+9.6)

    Japan – 1745 (+18%)
    Korea – 2090 (+41%)
    Turkey – 1855 (+25.4)

    Even Germany, when Schroeder was exiting as PM, took an axe to laws and regulations that impeded German productivity. The Germans work less, yes, but they also have only half of France’s unemployment rate.

    So, what is France to do?


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