April 13, 2009
Shut Down Eiffel Tower: A Preview of Socialism
A Rasmussen poll here in America has just
found that only 53 percent of Americans
prefer capitalism to socialism. Care to see
what the alternative looks like?
“Strike closes Eiffel Tower; worker’s
demands not known,” read the headline of a
Canadian Press story this week. Apparently
500 people who work at the city’s largest
tourist attraction all just walked off the
job. No one even needs an excuse not to work
in France anymore. Coming up with things
like “demands” takes work and effort. And
why bother going through the rigmarole of
requesting time off, jockeying for prime
vacation days with your colleagues, or even
notifying your boss of your absence when
they could have it so much worse and really
should be so lucky that you just decided not
to show up?
For those French bosses who audaciously
impose things like “schedules” and “work
days” on their underlings, the French will
be willing to foist work upon themselves as
prison guards, holding their boss hostage in
the workplace. That’s what happened recently
to the executives at France’s 3M,
Caterpillar and Sony plants. With 45 percent
of French approving of this tactic,
according to a poll this week, it’s not like
things will change, or are likely to be
changing, anytime soon.
Having spent some considerable time recently
in Paris, I just happened to be there during
one of the country’s national strikes. From
where I was that day in the upper-scale 16th
arrondissement, it wasn’t too noticeable.
The subway operated normally, and students
whose teachers were on strike appeared to
have some studying to do. Mainly because
they’re told that unless they qualify for
certain universities and programs, they can
pretty much kiss their entire lives goodbye.
Attending the right schools in France
determines whether you will, in the future,
be locking up a superior in a private
industry job . . . or, alternatively, being
wrapped up in duct tape by an underling.
But just south of where I was, at the Place
de la Nation, the police spent the evening
of national strike day fighting off rioters,
who apparently had nothing better to do
after a long day of being paid not to work.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people who
work in France – I mean, aside from Nicolas
Sarkozy and the people around him. There are
the entrepreneurs who can’t, for example,
just walk off the job at their handbag store
in the Palais des Congres at 2 p.m. They’re
just as frustrated and fed up as anyone in
America would be with the same situation.
But they are seriously outnumbered.
I sat down with some of the people in charge
that week and asked them why the government
just doesn’t take away strike pay, and
therefore remove any incentive to stay off
the job. I also wanted to know why there is
any fear of unions in France when President
Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law after the 2007
strikes mandating a minimum service level.
“He has a parliamentary majority,” I said,
“So he can do whatever he wants. Why doesn’t
he?” Apparently the fear is that France is
so heavily unionized that if they all wanted
to walk out, there wouldn’t be enough police
power to stop them or enough jails to hold
them. It’s not like Sarkozy could just fire
everyone, like Ronald Reagan did with the
air traffic controllers – unless he wants
the kind of paralysis that his predecessor
Jacques Chirac saw in the mid-1990s.
Sarkozy was elected to reform France – which
he is trying relentlessly to do – but his
message is getting lost in the viciously
leftist French media. The guillotine has
been replaced by French printing presses:
“The Zombies of the Republic”, screamed the
front cover of Le Point, promoting a
story portraying all of his ministers as
either puppets or crybabies. “Divorce: Why
The French Are Abandoning Him”, read the
cover of Marianne magazine, before
going on to call Sarkozy’s denial of
economic stimulus funds for people already
swimming in the public trough of French
social services “the unpardonable mistake.”
Every day, La Liberation newspaper
attacks those “rich bosses” in its cover
story, further fanning the flames of class
envy, ignoring that Sarkozy himself, who
didn’t go to any of the “right” schools, is
hardly wealthy himself.
The best Sarkozy can ever hope for is a fair
shake in Le Figaro, whose editorial
slant is about the ideological equivalent of
the New York Times.
And then there’s the treachery within his
own party – the people who have one hand on
his shoulder and the other on a sharp knife
tucked behind their back. They see the media
dogpile as an opportunity to possibly
exploit for the sake of their own political
career and future.
“Sarko The American” isn’t one to suffer
fools gladly. He’s not the type to meet 20
times about an issue, after which everyone
has forgotten why they were even meeting in
the first place. No – Sarko is the closest
thing the country has seen to a leader of
action and impact since Generals De Gaulle
and Napoleon. And that scares people who
would rather sit around and talk about
something ad infinitum and “think tank” it
to death, for fear that any action might
provoke a consequence.
Napoleon himself best sums up Sarkozy’s
current battle: “Four hostile newspapers are
more to be feared than a thousand
If only there were a mere four.