France or the Imaginary World :)

There is something highly ironic about seeing hundreds of thousands of students in France demonstrate against the CPE “contrat de première embauche”, a more flexible labor contract for those under the age of 26 with more flexible redundancy rules for two years after which full job protection kicks in.

In the past student demonstrations have been a force for social change (e.g.; 1968 demonstrations); however, now the students are demonstrating to preserve the status quo. The revolutionaries have become conservative! It would be partly understandable if the status quo was worth preserving, but a society that has 23% unemployment rate for people below the age of 26 and unemployment rate as high as 50% for the youth in the urban ghettos “les banlieues” is not creating opportunity for its people and itself!

By fighting the CPE, most students believe they are fighting against institutionalizing insecurity and to preserve the full time job for life that rightfully awaits them upon graduation. Unfortunately, the ideal of the “job for life” that the students are fighting for is an illusion that has not existed in decades whose mirage survives only in certain parts of the public sector. In a competitive environment where companies continually adjust to demand and changing conditions, expecting them to have a fixed labor size is incongruous. Even Japan had to shed its policy during the deflationary period of the 1990s.

As a result, the students are really demonstrating to preserve an extremely unjust society where the insiders – those who get jobs – are protected at the expense of a large numbers of outsiders who can’t get jobs.

That is not to say that the CPE cannot be criticized. The, unelected, prime minister pushed it by decree without parliamentary debate – a highly undemocratic process that gives the impression that the idea would not stand debate and scrutiny. If anything it’s about time France had a real debate about where it is and where it is going.

Moreover, in its own way, the CPE continues to entrench a two speed society – those with temporary flexible contacts and those with the traditional protected contacts. This may not give a great incentive for employers to give traditional full time contracts once the two year CPE is over. Wholesale liberalization and moving to “at will” employment for everyone would be far more effective, but suggesting that in France is a sure way of getting stoned.

That is not to say France should ditch its attachment to social equity. Each society should make the moral and value judgment to select the amount of social equity it seeks to have. France would likely preserve its more redistributive choices than the U.S. However don’t sacrifice efficiency on the altar of fake equality and ideology!

  • Hi Fabrice,
    What you say is true. Let’s also have your readers consider that what started as a leftist manipulated strike against a government perceived as right-wing (although this one did sometimes passed plain Trotskyites socialist laws against private property for example) rapidly turned into a much broader reaction to its way of handling the situation: plain autism and a very stubborn way of taking and imposing decisions without consensus or at least a minimum of previous communication skills and faked efforts to wrap the fuss beforehand. Ultimately, not understanding politics in democracies and particularly in the French society where propaganda needs some sort of intelligence. So much that even those in need for more liberalism in France rapidly turned into thinking that this little bill really was not worth all that mess. Diplomacy was awfully handled in this issue right from the beginning, up to now. Very strange and sad from an ex diplomat. And the political and communication game was lost step by step every day more. Unions took over the issue easily and “brightly” but the most worrying today is that they do not handle anything really themselves. This public disorder has been growing and growing for weeks for the same reasons that started it all: some rewarded technocrat turned into an overpowered politician totally isolated in its palace betrayed by his humongous weaknesses in communication and in politics overall. This apparently loveable prime minister had already advised Chirac to dissolve a Parliament that was in their favour (how stupid in that?) and is again becoming an example of some strange outdated specificities of France where some pure technocrats who never set foot in a private company except for an hour try to organise our brave new world. France still is fighting against its monarchist system without really wanting to get rid of it and without really wanting true liberty to entrepreneurs neither.
    The worst today is that this strike is not about this CPE anymore and noone really knows where it is going to and what the reasons are, hence, the solutions. Enjoy your situation. Take care.

  • JaB a raison. Ce n’est plus Ă  propos de la loi du CPE. C’est autre chose,bcp plus large et profond. Un debat Ă  la TV française samedi soir a rappelĂ© le principe de “la goutte de trop” dans l’histoire de France. Exemple: Louis-Philippe a rĂ©gnĂ© dans le conservatismet et la rĂ©signation totale pendant dix-huit ans. La petite opposition a organisĂ© les “banquets rĂ©publicains” a propos d’une loi qui rĂ©duisait le nombre de votants aux Ă©lections (il fallait ĂŞtre propriĂ©taire pour voter, Ă  l’Ă©poque!). Il Ă©tait interdit de se rĂ©unir, de manifester; Mais il Ă©tait permis de se rĂ©unir en banquet.Les opposants, très minoritaires, ont donc organisĂ© des banquets rĂ©publicains pour en dĂ©battre. Dans l’indiffĂ©rence gĂ©nĂ©rale. Jusqu’au jour ou le pouvoir, toujours aussi arrogant, a dĂ©cidĂ© d’interdire le tout dernier banquet rĂ©publicain, qui se tenait dans le quartier des Champs-ElysĂ©es. Et voilĂ . Indignation, trainĂ©e de poudre, barricades, rĂ©volution, abolition de la monachie louis-philipparde. Le CPE Ă©tait visiblement la goutte de trop après le CNE et le fait que les +50% de non au rĂ©fĂ©rendum sur l’Europe n’ait Ă©tĂ© suivis d’aucun dĂ©bat et changements (au passage, j’ai votĂ© oui). Les choses semblent certainement carricaturales et retrogrades vues depuis New-York. Le sentiment, de l’intĂ©rieur, est qu’ĂŞtre gouvernĂ©s Ă  coups de lois d’exception, d’Ă©tat d’urgence( Ă©vĂ©nements de novembre dernier)et d’ordonnances, est insupportable. Bonne journĂ©e.

  • bonjour,

    c’est avec un peu d’ironie et un certain lyrisme que je lis aussi ces lignes d’un gĂ©ant de neteconomie US.

    ce cpe est me semble-t-il aussi un recul,
    et c’est certainement pour cela que nos jeunes font grĂŞve.

    En France et en 20 ans, il y a 20 Millions de jeunes (+10 M qu’en 1975 chiffre INSEE) et leur chomage a augmentĂ© de 20 %.

    C’est normal,
    ensuite qu’une entreprise prennent un rique financier en payant son stagiaire plutĂ´t qu’en le laissant tout seul dans un coin travailler pour peanuts,

    c’est autre chose!


  • Hi Fabrice,

    Though I’m French, I’ll make my comment in English so everyone can follow the story. I just can’t agree more with you and can only be frustrated when people try to give lessons “on they way things are said or done”. The reality is most the people on strikes are above 26 and/or public workers with a job for life – in other words, people who have actually in no single way any link to the measures taken by the government: except that they simply hate it. And why they hate it? Because, in France, the people working in the agriculture, people living on welfare (RMI), people on assedics (unemployment insurance), public workers, all have a common point: they live thanks to the state. And all those people have a single interest, that anyone who claims to want to maintain or improve the income of the state-depending people get into power. And those people are simply the people, in France who belong to the “official” left. “official”, because even the most extreme right parties in France are on the left side by World standards as all parties in France believe in free education, free healthcare and so on. Yes, in France the left is actually a right wing by its willingness to keep a piece of the people to get money doing nothing or almost nothing, basically, France is today more royalist than before 1789 where people where giving only 10% of their income to the church… somehow we wished we were still then… France is like most third world countries today, it just has its brain-powered people – like Fabrice – coming for a visit during vacation season. That’s it. I just wished that talented people like you, Fabrice, were investing a bit of yourself to make things changed, knowing that the return is no longer about money but civilisation – yours -‘s stake. I lived myself in US, Asia and France. I’d be glad to help you on getting a blog showing what is the left project: North Korea, Cuba, Soviet Union – and its goulag. I’ve travelled in many former soviet union states. A Chinese -hence communist – girlfriend told me: you know Ben, doing strikes isn’t communist, because those people doing strikes in France are just plain selfish, and communism isn’t about that, it’s about common interest, and its their interest, not the common interest. Yes, definitely royalist the French left.

  • Ben: How do you propose I help? I would love to run and fix France but no one is inviting me 🙂 Also something tells me that preaching economic liberalism, even when combined with strong protections for the less fortunate is a sure way to get stoned 🙂

    I am submitting my article to French newspapers. We’ll see, but I am already expecting a barrage of criticism…

  • Fabrice: I’m really warmed up that you still consider helping France. And I know too much how tough, how unfair, what you do is. What many people often forget, is that you have no single financial interest in getting France back on track, and somehow you’re taking pure risks, you’re doing that only at cost. That’s certainly not the case of neither the French politicians nor the people demonstrating.
    Now, honestly, I wished I could tell you exactly how you could help. I can only give clues, starting points… The same way when I look at your new ventures my curiosity is triggered by knowing it’s Fabrice Grinda behind, there’s a lot to do with who’s going to work on this. What I can tell you is I’d be glad to present you some like-minded, high grade (and famous) entrepreneurs who are responsible for thousands of jobs in France and that I can’t name in that comment the next time you come to France – you’ve got my email let’s initiate talk.
    The second thing is that one key issue is the caricatural situation of France: people think entrepreneurs want the defeat of workers and vice-versa. People think that high taxes are needed to finance education, healthcare. All those are non-truths highly harming France. Most of what’s happening is out of fear of the unknown. My experience is fear can be fruitful, but it has, for that, to be fearing the right things. The right things to fear, from a business point of view, is the competition of the other world-class economies, and that education, that fear is extremely missing. Yes, politics fortunately or unfortunately is about emotions. And what i’ve seen is that jealousy, fear, if put on the right things can be turned into stimulation, challenge. And I think showing more what the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Americans are doing and that we better start moving could be a way to unite France. Can you believe that I’ve met some abroad-located public workers of France, who live thus abroad, and they just agree 100% with me… in all our discussions they were 100% agreeing with me – but how? why? because they see the growth of the other countries day by day… they see that entrepreneurs love to create jobs, careers, growth, loyalty with employees. Alright let’s email and skype, and see what happens. I’ll just guarantee honesty. Cheers. Ben

  • ben ça a vachement bien marchĂ© le cpe,
    le chomage a baissé
    l’Ă©conomie va mieux
    les dernières élections sont catastrophiques

    la jeunesse cultivée et diplomée reste en France.

    les “financial interest” courent,
    les pauvres restent.
    comment ça ce fait?