A few random thoughts come to mind after my week-long trip to Paris:
First of all, U.S. economists are always telling us how we must run our society, in order to generate prosperity. Their prescription includes allowing corporations to do pretty much anything they please, with little or no government oversight. Capitalism is at its best, they insist, when there is a minimum of organized labor and little or no government red tape, bureaucracy, or anything else that gets in the way of free enterprise.
But there's only one problem. Nations like France break every single one of these rules. And yet, far from being any sort of economic basket case, France is actually outperforming the U.S. these days. In fact, France and Germany recently emerged from recession---ahead of the U.S.
In fact, I'd suspect that the "official" GDP numbers really don't do justice to the European model. GDP stats, after all, don't factor in things like annual worker vacation time, high-quality medical care, maternity leave, or most other quality of life issues.
The Tea-Baggers and their ilk often chastise President Obama, saying that the Dems "want to turn the U.S. into France." Of course, few, if any of these morons have ever actually been to France.
I'd suspect that most Americans, if they got the chance to visit France would be astonished at how high the quality of life is.
The French, after all, still know how to enjoy their leisure time (and indeed, believe that leisure is as important a component of life as work is). By contrast, most Americans wouldn't know "leisure" if it ran over them on the highway.
A culture that knows how to enjoy leisure also has lower stress levels. And I'd suspect this is one reason why the French have a higher life expectancy than Americans do. This, despite the fact that the French still smoke like it is the 1950s. Indeed, French people don't obsess about dieting, or exercise, the way Americans do---and yet, walking around Paris, one encounters very few overweight people.
The French have a high quality of life. And they're willing to take to the streets to defend their way of life, via massive social protests, if need be.
By contrast, American workers are a bunch of wussies. We let the corporations, the rich and the powerful crap all over us and we don't bother to lift a finger. Over the past 30 years, we've seen our workweeks increase, our average paychecks stagnate and our standard of life deteriorate. And while our nation is going down the toilet, we're too smug, fat, and ignorant of the rest of the world, to notice, or even care.
France is a nation that offers a textbook example of how the U.S. model of deregulation and unbridled, dog-eat-dog capitalism isn't the best way for a society to increase its prosperity and quality of life.
No wonder the NeoCons hate France so much.