Foreign Affairs

France loses AAA credit rating, socialism bombs out again

Well, it’s finally happened. Once again, socialism has put a silver fork in itself. Standard & Poor’s has downgraded France’s AAA credit rating, giving the country side-eye on claims to have its debt under control. This means the country will now have to pay it all back at an even higher interest rate. 

Who are we kidding? No one’s paying back any debts right now. You need money to do that. When was the last time France had any extra cash lying around? It’s like raising the interest rate on the credit card of a smack addict whose pumping his capital into his veins faster than any German, Chinese, or Russian can slip him a tenner.

No amount of hot air and spin could ultimately keep socialism afloat. It’s a good lesson for those in America and other parts of the world who think that Europe is in any way an exemplary, sustainable alternative to free-market limited government capitalism. If capitalism is perceived to not be working in America — as the Occupy Wall Street movement has argued — then it’s because the system isn’t capitalist enough. It’s because a lack of oversight has led to corporate welfare and an unlevel playing field — socialist government-intervention in business, in other words. Similarly, if the U.S. health care system has problems, it’s because of private insurers’ heavy handed lobbying of government and government’s willingness, in turn, to meddle when its palm is adequately greased. That, too, is a problem for which more capitalism — less government and a free-market — is a cure.

And now, again, we have proof that the system long considered the model for successful socialism has finally choked out.

To be clear, this isn’t President Nicolas Sarkozy’s fault. He has spent the five years since he took office doing his best to move the country off the rail of socialism and onto one of personal independence, starting mainly with trying to change the rhetoric and the way the French think about such things. But how do you explain to a Labrador Retriever the exhilaration of being free like a wolf, despite not having someone place a full bowl in front of you at regular intervals? The French want less debt and they know the country is in crisis because of it, but they also want the same vacations and no government cutbacks in jobs or services — mainly because those are precisely their jobs. They also expect their kids to all go to “management school,” after which they will never have to produce anything in the French workplace — not even a signature, as there will be a stamp for that…made in China.

Sarkozy just happens to be the guy sitting in the hot seat when all the socialist policies of every president since Charles De Gaulle have finally taken their toll. And unfortunately for Sarkozy, he’s facing re-election in May. The French can either re-elect Sarkozy, who they don’t personally like because they find him hyperactive, somewhat grotesque, and overly-involved in petty matters — or they can do the same thing that’s led to France’s failure to date. That is, elect the friendly, aw shucks, funny Socialist Party candidate who only really has personal qualities going for him.

Rather than get softer, Sarkozy needs to use the downgrading as an opportunity to take an even harder line now in favor of limited government. Stop talking, start swinging the axe like in a bad slasher film. Start by decimating a few levels of French government. Flatten that baby like a crepe. Set the example with the political class and make these so-called elites go out and start real businesses. Have people with kids take financial responsibility for them rather than supporting them from cradle-to-grave. Limit immigration to those who can contribute economically or professionally as ascertained by a points system like that which exists in Canada. Those who want to import their entire families from some foreign country can move back there if they’re that homesick. And the problem isn’t that businesses in France aren’t paying enough taxes — it’s that their taxes aren’t sufficient to support the nanny state, so get rid of it. Start with these things and just pulverize it. Anyone who doesn’t like it can move to Scandinavia where apparently socialism still “works” for those who love paying exorbitant taxes.

This is France’s big chance — its Overton Window — the moment referred to in public relations during which previously unforeseen possibilities suddenly become possible because of an unexpected, significant event. Don’t lose the opportunity.

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