Thursday, March 31, 2005

Is France Our Future?

You really should take the time to read Macomber’s latest. It kicks the French for their self-destructive socialist ways and does it in what may be the most thorough way I can imagine. Specifically, it relates to the rescinding of the French law that mandated no more than 35 hour work weeks.

The law took on a Darwinian/progressive air when a 2003 heat wave killed 15,000 elderly French men and women while their families were on vacation and medical personnel were restricted from working overtime—even to save lives.
NEVERTHELESS, THIS SHOULDN’T BE a debate on the merits or failings of either the free market or command economies. The real question is what should be the role of government in the working lives of individuals in a free society? After all, forcibly limiting individuals from doing whatever they choose with their lives, including setting their own working hours, is authoritarian on its face.

As the former French Industry Minister Alain Madelin has noted, such a law is “an attack on the freedom to work.”

While it is fun to kick France (though “cheese eating surrender monkey” has grown stale), the truth is that France is a not-so-pretty picture of America’s potential future. Where we haven’t gone quite that far down the road, and while we may never get there, it is still a powerful warning about our own socialized systems.

Consider, when welfare went through meaningful reform, the cry from the left was that we were rolling back decades of social progress--that a wealthy society could afford more compassion for the poor, not less. The same accusation is being made about Social Security. Even people who lean right on social issues can fall into the “wealthy can afford it” trap; they believe that the wealthy can afford higher taxes to supplement health care or education or the National Endowment for the Arts or whatever pet program that someone, somewhere might believe will change the world for the better.

The sense of entitlement coupled to a willingness to delve further into income redistribution in the name of societal progress leads to, as Shawn put it, “shackling anyone with motivation to a sinking raft of bureaucrats and the lazy.” He says that about France, but it would take a blind man to ignore the implications for American society.

Heinlein was, and always will be, right. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch; and that means that if you aren’t paying for it, someone else is. While I’ll always support the idea that governments are necessary (no anarchist here), the level of intervention and control that a government has to have to support its primary functions is something substantially less than the size and scope of our current government.

Bureaucracy tends to self-perpetuate, and if citizens are unwilling to prune the growth back from time to time, a nation will become like France: moribund, overburdened, and under-motivated with a stale economy and marginal industry. I don’t really want that future for the United States.

Click on through.


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