Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Observations on France

The riots in France have the pundits working overtime. Here are some trenchant observations:

Jonah Goldberg at the Corner at his most provocative and his best. In a post entitled "Stick with calling 'em 'SCUM'":

Indeed, the Chirac government has a very difficult problem in front of it. The Imams want to be the peacemakers here. They're issuing fatwahs telling rioters that they can't be good Muslims and keep rioting. On the face of it, this sounds like an attractive offer and constructive effort. But if the government accepts their help, then these riots will become "Muslim riots" and the Islamic establishment in France will not only get credit for putting a stop to them, but they'll be empowered by the Islamic "street" in France to make demands on the government. Or at least that's the risk the government faces. Frankly I think in the long run it makes more sense to stick to the talking point that these kids are "scum." If you Islamify them, you give them political credibility they don't deserve and invite all sorts of factors which will make France's long term structural problems even worse.

Joel Kotkin has a fine post on what ails France at OpinionJournal. Upward mobility for immigrants is extremely limited in France. I don't make the argument that deprivation is the cause or certainly an excuse for this hooliganism but the lack of prospects is an ingredient in this cauldron. It's summed up here:

Since the '70s, America has created 57 million new jobs, compared with just four million in Europe (with most of those jobs in government). In France and much of Western Europe, the economic system is weighted toward the already employed (the overwhelming majority native-born whites) and the growing mass of retirees.

Daniel Pipes' predicts that the French will take a big first step into the long night in the New York Sun:

The French can respond in three ways. They can feel guilty and appease the rioters with prerogatives and the "massive investment plan" some are demanding. Or they can heave a sigh of relief when it ends and, as they did after earlier crises, return to business as usual. Or they can understand this as the opening salvo in a would-be revolution and take the difficult steps to undo the negligence and indulgence of past decades.

I expect a blend of the first two reactions and that, despite Mr. Sarkozy's surge in the polls, Mr. Villepin's appeasing approach will prevail. France must await something larger and more awful to awake it from its somnolence. The long-term prognosis, however, is inescapable: "the sweet dream of universal cultural compatibility has been replaced," as Theodore Dalrymple puts it, "by the nightmare of permanent conflict."

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