The Atlanticist

Sarko’s Thatcher Moment

Nicholas Sarkozy promises to reform France’s sclerotic economy. While France produces cadres of brilliant engineers and entrepreneurs who build businesses in Silicon Valley, the Gallic system encourages many of its most talented to become fonctionnaires impeding wealth and job creation, discourages risk taking, and rigidly protects today’s firms and jobs at the expense of preventing tomorrow’s.

Imagine Sarko’s temerity, pressing public railway motormen to work past fifty and to end guaranteed job security at private firms. He could hail from Wyoming or Texas where dreaded Anglo-Saxons are still dreaded Anglo-Saxons.

Trimming France’s railway motormen’s mind-bogglingly generous retirement benefits and gelding militant unions who routinely employ violence is Sarkozy’s Thatcher moment.

When Thatcher took power Great Britain was in thrall to the unions and a socialist ethos, and drifting seemingly inexorably away from the first world. The iron lady decisively vanquished Arthur Scargill and Britain’s coal miner’s union at the outset of her epic reign bringing Britain back from the brink of the abyss.

Across the pond after four years of Jimmy Carter and a Democrat Congress the US was suffering from staglation, a national loss of confidence, and ceding ground to the Evil Empire. One of the early tangible signs the Carter malaise was ending came when Ronald Reagan fired and replaced striking air traffic controllers.

Breaking the back of the public sector unions is the first test of Sarkozy’s resolve and capacity to reform France. Godspeed Sarko!

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