AT PRESENT FRANCE IS a good example of how not to run a country. President François Hollande says he’s a socialist, but he has an upper-class lifestyle and refers to the working class as “the toothless ones,” by which he means people who cannot afford to go to a dentist.
Hollande has raised France’s income tax to 75%, and the result is an exodus of the hardworking and efficient. There are at present some 300,000 French young people living in London, where they can escape their nation’s horrifying levels of unemployment–11% overall, about 25% in their age group.
The great majority of French people who are employed work 35 hours a week and enjoy six weeks of paid holiday. The bureaucratic obstacles to starting a new business there are pretty well insuperable. France’s deficit is enormous and growing, and half of those employed work for the state and cannot be fired. Economic growth is nil or negative, and investment is at its lowest level in a generation.
France, in fact, is in danger of joining the “southern tier” of the euro zone–Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain–countries that are chronically unable to pull their economic weight and teeter on the edge of national bankruptcy. Indeed, Germany is the only major economy in the euro zone that is still expanding, though it’s doing so at only 1% a year.
France’s appalling state should act as a dire cautionary example, especially to parties on the Left. Yet the British Labour Party–which, if polls are to be believed, will oust the Tories from government at next year’s elections–seems bent on following in France’s footsteps. Its leader, Ed Miliband, leads an impeccable private life, so England would be spared a similar embarrassment to Hollande’s constant public rows with his mistresses. But Labour’s electoral platform shows that in other respects the party has learned nothing from the French socialists’ glaring errors.