Tough Times Ahead for France?

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I have friends who go to France and when they come back, they tell me things. So I wasn't surprised to see a commentary in The Wall Street Journal the other day called "France's Free Fall."

In this commentary was a French writer of some repute whose theory was that the wheels are finally coming off the French system, and the French are finally and belatedly waking up to it.

This matches what my friends returning from Provence had to say. They reported that everybody in France is worried about international competition. Since forever, they've been producing lavender in this one village in France my friends were visiting. Now they're worried about the guy in China who produces lavender for a fraction of what the French want to charge.

All this is closing in: Unemployment runs at 10 percent. And it's much higher — 23 percent — among the youth.

France is a nanny state. People get tremendous benefits and are required to not work much. They have what seems like endless leisure time to enjoy themselves.

For instance, August — the month we're in now — is one of the many months France essentially closes for vacation.

Those heroic French flight attendants at that Toronto jetliner crash were working, but they were hauling many French to vacations in Canada.

As the writer in The Wall Street Journal put it, "France is caught between a dwindling productive base and soaring collective costs."

In other words, they don't produce as much as they consume and they consume so much because they have so much time off from working to consume.

More work would help.

So why comment on all this? Well, for all our troubles and inefficiencies and systems that don't work, there is usually somebody else who has it worse. And often it is someone who is holding him- or herself up as better than us.

The good news is that the French are about to have a few years of troubles and that might occupy their thoughts and attention. And maybe we won't hear so much complaining about us for a while.

A break would be nice.

That's My Word.

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