Wednesday, 5 April 2006

French students rioting for the right to be ignorant and poor

When it comes to rioting in the streets, who does it better, more often, and so regularly for the wrong reasons than the French?

The present riots are protesting laws planned to make it easier to sack employees aged under twenty-six; and the present protests, in my submission, are dumb -- even on the terms of those protesting.

Let's just review some of the low points of French employment law: Compulsory thirty-five hour 'working' weeks; five weeks mandatory holidays; a minimum wage law set at eighty-six percent of the average salary; labour laws that mean every sacking is likely to end up before a labour court.

Little wonder that France is stagnating, that unemployment is at ten percent, and that the unemployment rate for under-twenty-sixes stands at twenty-three percent. Employers are too scared to take risks in giving unproven and inexperienced employees a try because they can't get rid of them if they aren't any good, and they're often too expensive even if they are.

Hence the introduction of this law. Even the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin realises the idiocy of present employment laws and the damage done to those seeking to get on the employment ladder. Idiocy, however, is the only way to describe the reaction to the law's announcement from unions, protestors and students: chanting, marching, blockading, car burning, rock-throwing.

The dumbest of the rioters has to be the students - in some ways a gratifying sign that it's not only New Zealand students who are dumb. It is these students who will soon be trying to get a foot on the employment ladder who the present laws harm more than most, yet it is these very students who are protesting more than most. They're not just dumb, they're almost too dumb to survive, as Thomas Sowell explains:

Why are students at the Sorbonne and other distinguished institutions out trashing the streets and attacking the police?

Because they want privileges in the name of rights, and are too ignorant of economics to realize that those privileges cost them jobs...

The fact that many students can think only in terms of "rights," but not in terms of consequences, shows a major deficiency in their education. The right to a job is obviously not the same thing as a job. Otherwise there would not be a 23 percent unemployment rate among young French workers...

It is elementary economics that adding to the costs, including risks, of hiring workers tends to reduce the number of workers hired. It should not be news to anyone, whether or not they have gone to a university, that raising costs usually results in fewer transactions.

The fact that such profound ignorance of basic economics and such self-indulgent emotionalism should be prevalent at elite institutions of higher education is one of the many deep-seated failures of universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

So how dumb are those students? And what does their being so dumb say about what they're being taught?

LINKS: Rioting for ineptitude in France - Capitalism Magazine
French student riots - Thomas Sowell

TAGS: Politics-Europe, Minimum-Wage, Education, Economics


  1. Are they all really dumb? Or are the riots being led by students who, having a better chance of getting jobs than their less educated chums, are protecting their chances in the already slim job market.
    Actually, since this law would help productivity and so create jobs, perhaps they are dumb after all.

  2. Damn, someone beat me to it. Yes, the Sorbonne students are the young people most likely to lose out in the short term from this legislation at the expense of the less educated. They are still morons, but clearly they have given it some limited neanderthal thought.

  3. Well, they are stupid, but the law change is still just more bureaucracy on top of itself. First you create idiotic laws - but rather than repeal then, you create loopholes that are poorly targeted. We shouldn't have a youth wage - but that's because the minimum wage itself is the problem.


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