An infantilized society

September 7, 2010

The economic troubles in Europe are leading to public unrest, as EU governments try to pare back their bloated public sectors, in some cases trimming wages and benefits, in others by delaying access to them. In France, plans to save the national pension system by raising the retirement age from 60 (!) to just 62 has lead to a massive strike of over one million people:

French strikers disrupted trains and planes, hospitals and mail delivery Tuesday amid massive street protests over plans to raise the retirement age. Across the English Channel, London subway workers unhappy with staff cuts walked off the job.

The protests look like the prelude to a season of strikes in Europe, from Spain to the Czech Republic, as heavily indebted governments cut costs and chip away at some cherished but costly benefits that underpin the European good life — a scaling-back process that has gained urgency with Greece’s euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout.

In France, where people poured into the streets in 220 cities, setting off flares and beating drums, a banner in the southern port city of Marseille called for Europe-wide solidarity: “Let’s Refuse Austerity Plans!” The Interior Ministry said more than 1.1 million people demonstrated throughout France, while the CFDT union put the number at 2.5 million.

(…)

French protesters are angry about the government’s plan to do away with the near-sacred promise of retirement at 60, forcing people to work until 62 because they are living longer. The goal is to bring the money-draining pension system back into the black by 2018.

As debate on the subject opened in parliament, Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the plan was one “of courage and reason” and that it is the “duty of the state” to save the pension system. He has said the government won’t back down, no matter how big the protests.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon reminded the French that it could be worse: In nearly all European countries, the current debate is over raising the retirement age to 67 or 68, he said. Germany has decided to bump the retirement age from 65 to 67, for example, and the U.S. Social Security system is gradually raising the retirement age to 67.

That sense of perspective was missing from many of the French protests, where some slogans bordered on the hysterical. One sign in Paris showed a raised middle finger with the message: “Greetings from people who will die on the job.”

Nothing like Gallic hysterics, eh?

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised at this: statist societies like France and much of the EU use ever-expanding government-provided benefits as bribes to buy social peace, making dependents out their citizens and, in effect, infantilizing them. It’s no wonder, then, that the public then throws a tantrum when the state is forced to cut back.

But before anyone indulges in some schadenfreude at French expense, bear in mind that President Obama and his progressive allies want to take us down this same statist, dependent, and infantilized social-democratic road. (And, to a lesser extent, big-government Republicans have been willing to accommodate them.) We’re already seeing that with the growth of public sector unions in the US and their outlandish benefits*.

While Europe seems to be in for a season of unrest, the problem isn’t yet so bad in the US and, importantly, many people agree that it is a problem in the first place. Hopefully we can make the necessary reforms before we have our own mass tantrums.

*(For the record, I’m a member of a quasi-public union, and apparently it’s one of the dumber ones; we’ve never received the over-the-top wages and benefits the other unions do. I tell ya, it ain’t fair…)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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France criminalizes insults

July 1, 2010

Showing once again that Europe’s commitment to free speech is tenuous at best, the French parliament has approved unanimously a bill that makes insulting your spouse a crime:

Couples who insult each other over their physical appearance or make false accusations about infidelity face jail, under a new French law making “psychological violence” a criminal offence.

The law – the first of its kind – means that partners who make such insults or threats of physical violence faces up to three years in prison and a €75,000 (£60,000) fine.

French magistrates have slammed the new legislation as “inapplicable”, as they argue the definition of what constitutes an insult is too vague and verbal abuse too hard to prove.

Nadine Morano, the junior family minister, told the National Assembly that “we have introduced an important measure here, which recognises psychological violence, because it isn’t just blows (that hurt), but also words.”

Miss Morano said the primary abuse help line for French women got 90,000 calls a year, with 84 per cent concerning psychological violence.

And no, I’m not minimizing domestic abuse, but I have to agree with the French judges that this is just too vague to be good law, let alone the obvious problems arising from the state inserting itself into private life and criminalizing offensive speech.

So, the next time she asks “Does this make me look fat?”, think twice about your answer, Pierre; it may cost you more than just a night on the couch.

Via The Jawa Report, which has the best observation:

Of course, at the outset someone should clarify whether referring to French as “surrender monkeys” is now a crime. Surely, it’s insulting to somebody.

Nah. Not if truth is a defense.


That’s gotta hurt

October 2, 2009

Krauthammer on Obama’s French Lesson:

When France chides you for appeasement, you know you’re scraping bottom.

Ouch!  Feeling beat up

Read the rest and enjoy Charles at his acerbic best.