Welcome BBC News World Edition "World Have Your Say" listeners and Winds of Change readers. This is the post referenced on the live interview with Dawn's Early Light on November 2, 2005 (10:30 am PST). Part II of this post can be found here.
American capitalism is often derided by the socialist nations of Europe, especially the French, for its "ruthlessness". It is ironic that the French are experiencing their sixth night of violence in the suburbs of Paris. The riots are in North African Muslim immigrant neighborhoods and are being framed as a result of chronic youth unemployment.
A summary of the damage done from the riots according to this Washington Post article:
- Fires in 9 towns
- 15 burned cars in Aulnay-sous-Bois, 69 total vehicles
- Molotov cocktails thrown at Aulnay-sous-Bois's courthouse and fire station
- Stone throwing rioters clashing with police
- Local businesses set on fire
- Over 150 individual fires reported including a primary school
The region of France with the riots is north to northwest of Paris, in the suburbs.
France's socialist policies are working against their immigrant communities. In an article from last November, The Economist states:
"The French model has not sheltered its people from poverty as sturdily as is often claimed. Despite devoting 30% of its GDP to social spending, among the highest shares in Europe, France's poverty rate (after social transfers) is not much below that in Britain, and is higher than in Finland or Sweden. Young people, unqualified and often Muslim, are isolated in the grim tower blocks that ring France's cities, which are becoming fertile recruiting grounds for radical Islam.
Some elements of the French public sector are efficient, but not all. The state spends 54.7% of GDP, compared with 44% in Britain. Too many people, filling in too much paper, enforcing too many rules and extracting too many taxes; the system is unsustainably piling up debt for future generations.
A heavy price is paid in job creation, too. High non-wage employment costs, coupled with tight redundancy rules, mean that companies make do with small payrolls. If hotels and restaurants employed proportionately as many people in France as they do in America, says the Camdessus report, the country would create 3.2m extra jobs overnight—albeit the sort of low-paid “McJobs” at which French governments tend to sneer. Over-protection of permanent jobs has prompted employers to recruit increasingly on precarious short-term contracts: these now account for over three-quarters of new jobs created. This two-tier job market particularly traps the young and low-skilled."
French socialism, to protect the domestic population from capitalism, Anglo-Saxon style, instead is producing a country with high unemployment, chronically around 10%. In the same Economist article above, the results of these policies are compared versus the Anglo-Saxon model:
"For 20 years, France's unemployment rate has been stuck between 8% and 10%. The young and the (not so) old are largely shut out of work. The employment rate among under-25s is now just 24%, where the OECD average is 44%, but that of 55-64-year-olds is 34%, compared with 50% in other OECD countries."
Inverting the number of employed above leaves a stunning 76% of French youth unemployed!
"Between 1980 and 2003, the total number of hours worked in America jumped by 39%, and in Britain by 8%; in France, it fell by 6%. This by itself almost entirely explains the differing economic growth rates over the same period in these three countries."
Needless to say each country's GDP relates a similar response, with the US increasing by 100%, the UK by about 75% and France by less than 60% over the 23-year period cited above. France is failing on providing jobs to its citizens and, maybe more importantly, to its Muslim immigrants, which is creating an opening for those who preach radical Islam to find more terrorists.
France's largest contribution to winning the Global War on Terror would be reforming its own economy and giving economic hope to its immigrants. There is a growing divide between France and the Anglo-Saxon way, and the riots outside Paris are just the beginning spark of worse fires to come.
Update: Famed international relations professor and thinker Francis Fukuyama writes a brilliant piece in the WSJ (November 2, 2005) that frames my above argument in a more cogent way.
"Contemporary Europeans downplay national identity in favor of an open, tolerant, 'post-national' Europeanness. But the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and, to differing degrees, it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan. Integration is further inhibited by the fact that rigid European labor laws have made low-skill jobs hard to find for recent immigrants or their children. A significant proportion of immigrants are on welfare, meaning that they do not have the dignity of contributing through their labor to the surrounding society. They and their children understand themselves as outsiders.
It is in this context that someone like Osama bin Laden appears, offering young converts a universalistic, pure version of Islam that has been stripped of its local saints, customs and traditions. Radical Islamism tells them exactly who they are--respected members of a global Muslim umma to which they can belong despite their lives in lands of unbelief."
The whole piece is well worth reading. While it helps explain why radical Islam is appealing in Europe, it doesn't address why radical Islam is appealing in the Muslim world where religion is a part of the state. While he doesn't address the economic aspect of radical Islam's attractiveness in Europe, he does make a sound cultural argument.