Surrealism is Alive and Well in France

20 Jan

Another very excellent article from Roger Bootle in “The Daily Telegraph” today.

On the face of it, he announced at last a seismic change of direction which involves reducing these three apparent evils:

– the size of the state
– taxation
– the cost and complexity of employing anyone and therefore
– unemployment

WONDERFUL! one might say. Hollande – the archetypal socialist – at LAST comes out with a programme worthy of Mrs Thatcher. And yet ………. an experienced France-watcher is forced to repeat the time-honoured phrase. “Zee proof eez in zee pudding.” WHERE will he find the FIFTY BILLION EUROS of cuts in government spending? Most of this is wrapped up in state employment, so how many of his own supporters is he going to make redundant? Which bits of the French state apparatus is he going to amputate and toss into the furnace of history? On this, there is a deafening silence.

Sadly, as in the UK, there are plenty of morons in France who think that economic problems are always someone else’s fault, in particular, “the rich” – hence the 75% tax rate which has inspired thousands of well-off French people to flee their country, often for the economic freedom of London, which now has a population of 400,000 French.

Back in France, the lunacy of all this will take some time to sink in, but once all the rich have all left or been taxed out of existence, then just the poor and poorer will remain, only even poorer and poorer. At that point the French mob will revolt and guillotine those responsible – and if they can’t find those responsible (their having escaped to Switzerland) they will guillotine someone else.

This is called “socialisme a la francaise”. It is a system that has its admirers, principally Ed “My Dad was a Marxist and I’m proud of it” Milliband.

Francois Hollande is truly amazing, quite apart from the fact that marriage is apparently too “bourgeois” for him to indulge in it himself. His country is in a death spiral and so he announces – after a delay of 18 months while he was thinking about it – reforms worthy of Thatcher – and indeed those arch-socialist role-models Francois Mitterrand and Gerhard Schröder. However, the evil, loathsome, capitalist sector (which just happens by pure coincidence to be the wealth-creating bit of society) is supposed to create loads of jobs NOW, and yet the govt side of the “responsibility pact” won’t deliver cuts to employers until 2017. (Thanks for this bit of data, Roger Bootle). When the employers can’t employ any more people as they are too busy with the paperwork involved in going bankrupt, they will naturally be labelled “irresponsible”.

This really is “Alice in Wonderland” stuff. It is of course, perfectly logical for French socialists, since the problems are all the fault of employers for not employing enough people. There is a certain logic in this:

  • Not enough jobs?
  • Simples – employers are not employing enough people.
  • ERGO -> it’s employers’ fault.

We’ve seen this sort of logic before in the 35 hour week, which went something like this:

  • There are too many unemployed.
  • We will make those employed work less so that
  • Employers will have to employ more people to do the work required.

This hilariously-surreal reasoning is based on the theory that there is an immutable x amount of work to be done, which should therefore be shared out by all those capable of working.

Surprisingly for the highly-diplomaed ENA graduates of the political elite, this cunning plan did not actually reduce employment much at all. This was of course hardly surprising to everyone else, since it was a plan so cunning that Baldrick himself would have rejected it as insane. Still, rather than admit they were wrong, the French elite pressed on with it with gritted teeth and determination; even Sarkozy could not bring himself to abolish it at a stroke, which would have been the sane thing to do.

“It hasn’t had long enough to work its way through the economy,” said my French friends.

However, as I pointed out to them at the time, we dastardly Anglo-Saxons would look at this from another logical viewpoint:

  • Forcing people to work fewer hour creates more jobs (according to you)
  • The number of hours people are allowed to work is clearly in inverse proportion to the jobs that will be created.
  • We therefore propose legally limiting the number of hours people can work to ONE per week.
  • This will obviously create absolutely teeming millions of jobs.

My friends looked at me sadly and smiled: “British humour ….”

I was in fact serious – a dose of Reduction ad Absurdum being sometimes required to make a point – but they just didn’t get it – and still don’t. I was as it happens working in France when all this lunacy was put in place, and I remember very well listening to someone from the local Chamber of Commerce coming to explain it to our workforce of 6 people. We sat there for an hour until my head was spinning with numbers of hours worked, holidays taken off and/or added, cumulative minutes here and there, what happened about “overtime” and so on, until I could take it no more and asked:

“Yes, but how does this actually affect ME in practical terms.”

Whereupon this bod said. Ah, this doesn’t affect YOU at all since you are a  ‘cadre’, (executive) and they   have a completely different status.” (Everyone MUST have a “status” in France.)

“Well, what am I doing here, then? I do actually have work to do …..” I riposted.

“But you do need to know how the new law works,” was the reply.

Naturally, I wanted to ask WHY I needed to know I (I had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with employing or paying anyone myself) but decided that life was too short and rapidly getting shorter, and so I excused myself and left.

So, from then on the French worked fewer hours but – as far as I remember – without losing any money (THAT would not have gone down well, even with the faithful socialist sheeple), while the rest of the world – and the ant-like labouring Asians in particular – looked on in astonishment and with no little hilarity. “Have the French discovered the equivalent of perpetual motion in employment practice?” was the cry that rang out all around the world.

Well, unfortunately, “No, they hadn’t.”, though it made the new law’s inventors quite famous for a while, except that fame in these matters does have a habit of mutating into notoriety in the face of reality: Russian communism being just another example.

This was all about ten years ago, but nothing much has changed in French logic. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Still, once the French political elite has reduced France to an economic wasteland, it will be so cheap to go there on holiday that millions will pour in from booming Anglo-Saxonia, Scandinavia, Asia and elsewhere to boost the economy, while at least there is the lush farmland to ensure nobody starves, even if half the French population will have to return there to find anything useful to do at all.

Eventually, we will have reached the Socialist Nirvana of 100% taxation and 0% tax revenue – or maybe Hollande will work a miracle?



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2 responses to “Surrealism is Alive and Well in France

  1. duckfatchips

    January 20, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Bit of an odd approach from Bootle if you ask me. I live in France and I’m self-employed. Although this makes me a hate figure in the eyes of the dreaded functionaires at URSSAF, RSI and so on there are some good aspects to the way things are run.

    The cities, towns and villages look tidy because people are paid to clean them. Doesn’t that make more sense than paying benefits for no work? Isn’t it true that the cuts in the UK are achieving little other than increasing misery among the poor because of the rising benefits bill?

    Where is the evidence that huge numbers flee countries with high tax regimes? Small numbers of multi-millionaires maybe but they have little impact on the overall tax take and are mostly protected by accountants anyway.

    My wife is cadre at work, she’ll be very amused to hear that she is an executive. He is just plain wrong on that.

    Ranting and raving about French socialists is missing the point entirely. Sarko changed very little and Hollande will change very little. The French state is run in the interests of the French state regardless of the claimed political stance of the party that is supposed to be governing.

    Hollande will continue to muddle along with an imperfect array of attempted fixes. This is possibly less damaging to the fabric of society than Cameron’s ideologically inspired attack on the weakest and poorest.

    Actually it isn’t an odd approach from Bootle at all. It is just typically slavish support for the Tories with a little dash of francophobia to spice it up.

  2. Chris Snuggs

    January 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for your comment, and in particular your moderate and reasoned tone! I usually inspire a more robust response from most people!

    I actually lived and worked in France for ten years and we still have a house there which we haven’t been able to/wanted to sell yett. I am normally a bit nervous about commenting on other countries. After all, it’s their country and problem. However, as I still pay taxes in France – which of course have gone up a lot since Hollande came into power – I feel I have the right to say my piece.

    When I was working there many of my French colleagues expressed similar comments to mine in the above post. You are right about Sarko changing hardly anything: that’s the way it is in France. Just one example: I remember that he also tried to reform the crazy taxi regime in Paris, but backed down in the face of stoppages on the peripherique. Hollande has done exactly the same.

    This is of course why many French people themselves desperately complain about not being able to change anything: there is an inertia set by the weight of the state and the French socialist/statist mindset. What leads me to think that this time there MIGHT be some real reform is that it is getting to the crunch point, and everone can see it. If they DON’T do something pretty drastic then things could get much worse. You cannot fly in the face of economic reality for ever. Ordinary families have kids leaving college who just cannot get jobs, and this HAS to filter through to the major parties at some point, otherwise they WILL vote for Le Pen – which of course will make things MUCH worse.

    PS “cadre”? I was a “cadre” and the 35 hour week definitely did NOT apply to me. I was not “a worker” (or so I was told). Whether there is an intermediate stage between “worker” and “executive” to which I (and presumably your wife) belong or belonged I don’t know.

    As a “cadre”, I also had a special regime regarding pensions, which is pretty generous to people of my “status”.


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