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Monday, November 07, 2005

Riots in France: What in the world is going on in France?

I don’t think the riots in France have anything to with religion. Instead, I think they have everything to do with economics and culture.

In particular, I blame the socialist economic policies have brought the French economy to a halt. Unemployment is high, especially in the suburbs, and economic growth is slow so it’s not clear when the economic problems will be resolved. Government intervention in the economy, high taxes and over-regulation have done serious damage to the economy. According to the chart in this article unemployment among those under 25 is 23%! Overly generous social benefits have created a welfare underclass comprised primarily of immigrants and their children. Worst of all these policies may be directly responsible for the dysfunctional culture that reigns in these communities. A good review of the French economy can be found in the 2005 Index of Economic Freedom.

I submit that these French suburban ghettos are almost identical to the American inner city disasters that were created by 50 years of our own socialist welfare policies. These communities on the outskirts of Paris are dominated by state run or subsidized housing projects where unemployment is higher than in France as a whole.

The complaints sound similar to those we have heard in the past in America:

“Many immigrant families are trapped in housing projects that were built to accommodate foreign laborers welcomed by post-World War II France but have since succumbed to despair, chronic unemployment and lawlessness. In some neighborhoods, drug dealers and racketeers hold sway and experts say Islamic radicals seek to recruit disenchanted youths by telling them that France has abandoned them.”
Even the racial undertones are similiar:
"Eric, a 22-year-old in Clichy-sous-Bois who was born in France to Moroccan parents, said police target those with dark skin. He said he has been unable to find full-time work for two years and that the riots were a demonstration of suburban solidarity."
If this isn’t an almost perfect parallel to the problems we have seen in America, I don’t know what is. The high-unemployment rates, neighborhoods controlled by gangs, and disaffected youth are almost identical. We experienced our own riots in American cities as a result of the policies of the Great Society and the War on Poverty. France is now reaping the harvest of their own economic policies.

Let’s be very clear about this. These riots are the direct and almost inevitable result of government policies that create a dependent underclass of citizens not able or willing to participate in the economic life of the country.

“French governments have injected funds and job-creation schemes for years but failed to cure ills in suburbs where car-burnings and other crimes are daily facts of life."
Let’s be very clear about what will NOT solve these problems. More government programs, money or job-creation schemes will NOT solve these problems.

The only thing that will solve the economic problems of the French suburbs is less government regulation of the economy, greater incentives to work in the form of lower taxes, and fewer restrictions on labor and capital. Once France has quelled these current riots they ought to turn their attention to remaking their economy.

If France is looking to find “hidden hands” behind the riots, they ought to look no further than their own policies.

UPDATE: Micky Kaus raised a related question "Does Welfare Cause Terrorism" back in 2001 and applied it to the French situation:
"In fact, there's a good argument that "welfare benefits + ethnic antagonism" is the universal recipe for an underclass with an angry, oppositional culture. The social logic is simple: Ethnic differences make it easy for those outside of, for example, French Arab neighborhoods to discriminate against those inside, and easy for those inside to resent the mainstream culture around them. Meanwhile, relatively generous welfare benefits enable those in the ethnic ghetto to stay there, stay unemployed, and seethe. Without government subsidies, they would have to overcome the prejudice against them and integrate into the mainstream working culture. Work, in this sense, is anti-terrorist medicine. (And if you work all day, there's less time to dream up ways and reasons to kill infidels.)"

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