20 November 2007
The French Strike
President Sarkozy says that economic reforms are necessary if France is to meet challenges "imposed" on it by worldwide competition. For him, the strike currently under way in his country is an ideological war. His is the camp that says the Market dictates the conditions of civilization in all countries. The other side we might tend to romanticize. We'd like to say that they're simply defending a civilized standard of living against the Market. Whatever our sympathies, objectivity requires us to admit that the government of any country has a right to question whether there are too many public-sector jobs, or whether early retirement with full pensions for certain workers is a tenable policy. Whether they bow to the Market or not, all countries have to make ends meet. For any labor activist to assert that the state can never reduce its workforce is unrealistic. So I can't support the French strikers wholeheartedly. At the same time, I reject Sarkozy's rationalizations. For any nation, when global competition threatens to force retrenchment of the civilized standard of living or civilized conditions in the workforce, the answer is not to capitulate to the Market and perpetuate competition, but to seek ways to end the competition and dedicate all the world's resources to providing a civilized standard of living to everyone on Earth. That's neither an easy task nor a "realistic" goal, but if civilization means the abolition of competition for existence, then this is the civilized goal and the civilized task. The French should know this better than almost anyone.