Anti-firing laws, rioting stymie French economy

Let's start a business in Paris! We have to be very, very reluctant about hiring anybody, because if we have a problem with the employee or slow business, we can't fire anybody. And if we lobby to have the right to hire and fire whom we want, we can expect riots, which may result in destruction of our business. Is it any wonder that the French economy drastically lags nations where employers have more rights?

"With commerce snarled in some cities, people asked whether Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin would stand firm on implementing the change that he says is needed to encourage hiring." Do these rioters understand economics?


Tom Philpott said...

And yet the French may have something to teach us yet. Ford and GM fire at will, drawing cheers from Wall Street when they do, but who wants their cars? Aren't Peugots (Sp?) to be desired to say, a Chevrolet? Stumble in Paris and you'll land on an earth-shaking bakery. Even today, even in a place like Manhattan, you really have to know where to look to find one. Most California wine tastes like Australian wine tastes like every other wine. In France, most wine makers cling to traditions that produce distinctive and wonderful product. The food readily available to travelers in the the French countryside is lengendary; in the US, it's excrable. Here, government bureaucrats have seen fit to strictly regulate raw-milk cheese. Probably wise, given the industrial production techniques of the great bulk of cheese made here. In France, well, you get the picture.

Paul Hue said...

Tom: Overall, France has a stagnant economy that lags the US in just about every regard, including unemployment, which is -- and nearly always is -- about double that in the US. Peugots, I believe, suck even worse than Fords and Chevys, though is probably owned by one of the US car companies.

I agree that France produces better food. Is this because the French have better taste in food? At the risk of enraging Nadir, I will state that Americans's taste in food is, overall, backwards and unsophisticated. ("Backwards" here is somewhat problematical without clerification. American food progressed at some point to a mass-produced model that disregarded nutritional value and stressed unnatural color, taste, shelf-life, etc., but a new food paradigm has emerged here, practiced by you and me, and very often by Nadir. Thus I may call Alexis's school cafeteria, and the diets of all her friends, "backwards," as it ignores what I consider to be an advance, as exemplified by what I put into her lunch box.)

Happily, France's overall food requirements coincide with small shops with few employees and is less affected adversily by laws that make it hard to fire employees (and thus hard to hire them).

I think I could convince you that even with America's commercial dairy practices, we Americans would be better served if pasturaztion (ironically a French invention!) were voluntary.

Nadir said...

I will concede that American food production is backward and unsophisticated because the food manufacturers have adopted Paul's philosophy that profit is more important than quality. But then this is "progress", right?

The EU's ban on GMO food and its labor laws (35 hour work weeks? 4-5 week mandatory vacations per year?) are "primitive" by US standards. No wonder the French economy lags the US. They care more about people than money! Such neanderthals!

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I think you have all of this backwards. "Profits" is merely the manifestation of public approval in a free market. American food manufacturers do not exist to dictate what we eat; they exist to provide us what we want to eat. We consumers are the backwards and unsophistcated ones. More correctly, consumers and producers constitute a feeback loop (I forget the correct phrase): both influence the other. The producers want to know what we want, and to provide it to us, each competing with the other to convince us that they have done a better and/or cheaper job of having accomplished this. Sometimes this quest to discover and provide what we want results in new products (aragula) or new charactoristics for existing products (Lay's potato chips eliminating trans oils). And of course producers sometimes try to seduce us into purchasing items that market research shows we don't even want, the most famous recent example being the personal computer.

Your view on this matter would not predict that the grocery stores that invest the most concern for food quality and nutritional content are absolutely the most profitable and fastest growing: Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Wild Oats. These companies, like Apple Computer, violated all the marketting research, and have profitted (remarkably!) from both providing foods that weirdos like you, me, and Tom want, and seducing people like Andrew and Monifa to spend more in their stores for milk, cookies, cereal, etc., then they ever would before. This new consumer and producer interest in nutritional and other quality aspects -- and rejection of artificial adulterants -- has been so profound that conventional grocery stores no regularly have impressive health food sections!

Why? Because of the quest for profits.

The same works for the EU's labor laws: which would you rather have, a 40 hour week job, or no job at all? I came into work last night for 7.5 hours. Would this have happened if a law required me to get paid 1.5 times my normal rate? Would I even have a job if a law limitted my normal week to 35 hours?

I oppose GMO food, but I also oppose banning it. If my neighbors want to eat it, I want them to have that right. Governments that can ban GMO can also ban raw dairy. At most I want the government to ensure that what I purchase has accurate labels.

In my assessment, the European standards of food are much more sophisticated, cultured, advanced, informed, civilized, etc., than those of the US. When Monifa brings her kids over to my house and they are sucking on Now-Laters and slurping Pepsi, I am as horrified and disapproving as if she suggested reverting to the brutal form of government first instututed thousands of years ago: royalty.