French women may not be obese, but the French bureaucracy is. "As much as 55 percent of the state budget currently goes to pay for civil servants and state pensions," says the New York Times, which means a significantly entrenched interest group violently opposed to change, and with abundant time on their hands.
French president Nicholas Sarkozy has a simple plan to trim the fat, says the Times, which is simply to replace only half the number of bureaucrats who retire. With this rather timid approach, Sarkozy hopes to cut 22,900 civil-service jobs this year, and 35,000 next year. Hardly radical, considering there are more than 2.5 million Frenchmen and women enjoying a comfortable berth in the bureaucracy, but enough to get hundreds of thousands out on strike in defence of the status quo.
As this elephantine bureaucracy inexorably calcifies the French economy, the need to deflate the civil service bubble is enormous. What's needed is not timidity, but a genuine circuit breaker.
Perhaps I could recommend to Monsieur Sarkozy an easier method by which to break the deadlock and to really empty out the civil service, a method I'd recommend to local politicians as well. It is this: Why not offer every single civil servant -- every bureaucrat sucking off the state tit -- offer them all a year-long holiday at taxpayers' expense.
Who would object? Well, apart from the taxpayer, of course. At first, anyway. You see, I'm suggesting a very special kind of holiday.
First of all, the effect would be a sort of bureaucratic moratorium; businesses struggling under the weight of Gallic red tape would have twelve months of relief to get a few things done for a change. That would be a relief to every business, and to every one of their customers.
Any difficulties that would arise from the temporary loss of those few bureaucrats who do perform a useful service would be allayed by the loss of those whose job is only to create difficulties.
Which points to the second main benefit: Who's going to miss most of these bastards when they're gone? If most of them aren't missed in twelve months, most people will be asking why not make it twenty-four months ... or thirty-six ... or, permanently. Bingo!
Over those twelve months of the bureaucratic moratorium it would become apparent even to the most dedicated bureaucrat-lover that the positions occupied by most of their heroes are utterly worthless -- that they are holding down jobs that are really not worth doing, or in their doing are only creating difficulties for others. Sure, some of them will have been missed --and this will give an easy indication of which ones can't be done without -- but at least ninety percent won't be missed at all and be swiftly sacked on their return (should any even bother to return at all).
I would suggest that wherever the weight of public opinion is now, in twelve months time the momentum would be with Sarkozy and their sackings, without any unrest in the streets. What do you think?