I have had a lot of folks ask me why I haven’t posted in a while. Many are complete strangers. It is really flattering, so thank you.
The short version is that I haven’t had anything to say. And I don’t want to post for the sake of posting
I have tried to write an entry about the situation in France, but I just can’t seem to get my arms around how to say what I want to say. I mean I am just flummoxed. It is a strange thing to watch the culture that invented liberal free market democracy begin to implode under a sense of righteousness (the anti-Muslim stance) and entitlement (the current labor problem).
Those two issues are so large – and are in some degree faced by every Western country – that it is difficult to write a pithy blog entry pretending to solve them. But we blogger types know everything, so I’ll give it a shot.
France has 2 problems that I think are causing the fissures in their culture right now.
They are a Christian country but they don’t generally believe in God. That disconnect puts them in a position to feel like people who are different are a threat. My solution? France needs to become a purely secular government with no state sponsored religion.
Now, not to get too patriotic or anything (hums national anthem), but people often say the greatest gift America ever gave the world was democracy. I disagree. I would contend that the greatest gift is secular democracy. And the distinction is meaningful. Even though the US is the most religious Western country by far, and the vast majority believe in the same god, the kind of animosity that France has to deal with just doesn’t exist here. Because the framework does not allow it. The arguments become about how to interpret the separation of church and state, but never about actually breaking that covenant. Having a government that specifically implies that one class of people are "French" and others are somehow lesser…well, it causes serious problems.
I recognize that this solution is so fundamentally difficult that it seems impossible. Maybe it is. But I think it will happen regardless. Either through courageous legislation or painful uprising.
The second problem is entitlement. Again this is a problem everywhere, but France is a poster child in the Western word.
Here’s the thing: The government can only do so much. Controlling the natural flows of labor and capital is a short term feel-good solution. Artificially created full employment doesn’t work. Everyone is the Soviet Union had a job. But because wealth creation does not necessarily follow full employment their quality of life was very low. France is caught up in the sense of entitlement that certain private citizens (employers) owe other private citizens a livelihood. Again the creation of 2 classes. One class feels entitled to coast on the success of the other. And again, the problem is institutional. It’s not that there is some inherent laziness on the part of the folks who have jobs there, it’s that the government has set in place a framework to make that seem normal. A guaranteed lifestyle that cannot be sustained. The choices to fix this problem are exactly the same: Legislation or uprising. I think one will happen in our lifetime.
So what can we ( me and you) do about the problems of France? Probably nothing. But we can stop looking at it as a "French" problem and focus inward. Are we creating a culture of righteousness and entitlement? Are we heading down the same path? Can we stop it? Can you or I specifically learn from the French and head off those kinds of problems? Can I stop assuming that someone else will pick up the litter I just walked past? That the government will ensure my retirement? That modern medicine will have a fix for the problems I’m causing myself every time I eat onion rings?