A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

23 November 2007

A Thatcher Moment

According to this article (linked from Drudge), Nicolas Sarkozy has scored the first points in the "Real World versus the Trotskyist Unions" battle in France; 42 of the 45 branches of the railroad and transit unions have agreed to get back to work. Apparently, the French people could only tolerate so much solidarity with the unions, whose members tend to retire with a full pension at the ripe old age of 50, as they have done for many, many years.

The Real World has finally caught up with these unions. It was once that a pension at 50 was considered reasonable for a transit worker; these jobs were legitimately considered dangerous, and not infrequently, the pensions were delivered to the widows of rail workers, rather than to the rail workers themselves. Furthermore, the state developed the attractive pension system in part to secure the allegiance and loyalty of the unions; at a time when international socialism was in vogue, this measure served in fact to moderate, rather than radicalize these workers.

That was then; this is now. The somewhat anachronistic French labor unions are not really in step with the majority of French -- or European -- society any longer. They represent the radical aspects of much of French society. Conservatives in America may scratch their heads, but it was the socialist Left -- not the semi-liberal right -- who overwhelmingly voted against the EU Constitution a couple years ago. The French and Dutch who voted "No" largely did so because they felt the Constitution was too liberal (in the Locke sense, not the Clooney sense).

Unions on much of the continent (and in the UK) are dominated, as in the US, by public sector employees; the allegedly brutal hand of private capitalism no longer serves as the motivation for unity, and union membership in France has fallen to 9% of workers. Moreover, Sarkozy was elected by the French people because of his recognition of the need for a more dynamic French economy, which means a more capitalist economy. Part of this will be to liberalize other parts of the labor law, which will make it easier for employers to fire -- and thus to hire -- young people, who now have an unemployment rate of 22%.

Bear in mind that Sarkozy's idea is only to add 2 years and 6 months to the length of time one has to work to draw a full rail pension. In theory, the rail workers would be able to retire after working for 40 years. In an age where people live to be 80, 90, or even occasionally 100, Sarkozy's reforms may bring France into at least the Twentieth Century.


Post a Comment

<< Home