The election of center-right Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France prompts Ralph Peters to observe, “I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime.” Election of a real reformer, that is. More:
Sarkozy is the first top-level French politician who openly accepts that the United States possesses virtues from which France might take a lesson. While Sarko’s attraction to things American can be overstated – he sees our system’s deficiencies, too, and won’t always agree with our foreign policy – he’ll be a leader who examines issues on their merits, not on the basis of shopworn Left Bank slogans.
What’s striking about this victory is Sarkozy’s bluntness. Instead of mumbo jumbo about la gloire, he speaks frankly about the mess in which France finds itself.
Peter’s also provides a few quotes from Sarkozy’s book, “Testimony,” to provide a window on the man’s policies:
* “The best social model is one that creates jobs for everyone, and this is obviously not ours since our unemployment level is twice as high as that of our main partners.”
* “I admire the social mobility of American society. You can start with nothing and become a spectacular success. You can fail and get a second chance. Merit is rewarded.”
* “France is no longer the country that comes up with new ideas.”
And Sarkozy offers some hard truths to those Americans who mindlessly praise the imaginary social justice and “better” quality of life in a France they know only from privileged vacations that tend to avoid the Muslim slums and collapsed industrial areas:
* “The French have never spoken so much about justice while allowing so much injustice to prevail . . . The reality of our system is that it protects those who have something, and it is very tough on those who don’t.”
* “France has been discouraging initiative and punishing success for the past 25 years. And the main consequence of preventing the most dynamic members of society from getting rich is to make everyone else poor.”
* “It is hard to exaggerate the damage done to France by the 35-hour workweek. How can anyone think that you’re going to create wealth and jobs by working less?”
* “Thirteen percent of retired women live below the poverty line, and a further 25 percent are barely above it . . . The unemployment rate for unskilled workers is 15 percent . . . It is 22 percent for those under 25 and nearly 40 percent for low-skilled youth who live in [immigrant ghettos].”
Froma Harrop also weighs in, and cogently observes:
A conservative, Sarkozy has summoned the French to work harder and longer, but one has to understand the context. The French can work harder and longer without working particularly hard or long, by our standards, anyway.