As student demonstrations in France mount, the government finds it increasingly difficult to dismantle restrictive labor laws that are directly tied to high unemployment rates. Michael Miller examines the political and cultural factors that are behind the French fear of economic risk taking.

Read the complete commentary here.

  • William Gissy

    I have to laugh whenever someone from the Acton Institute talks about other people not understanding economics….you guys spew nothing but Austrian hogwash….to bad data doesn’t always support Austrian theory…for example Austrian business cycle theory….but then..I guess the problem is with the world because Austrian theory is infalliable

  • Jude Chua Soo Meng


    I’m not sure Acton Institute has any strong commitment to the Austrian business cycle or Austrian economics, anymore than they are committed to the idea that during Mass there is true transubstantiation. For just as there are Catholics and Protestants, so there are those who are sympathetic to Austrian economics, and others who are not. The Institute, if you will be fair, has published material that is not sympathetic to Austrian thought. Some time ago I questioned Menger’s theory of value, my paper was published in their JMM. I think we need to be fair and objective: we need to make important distinctions. Or else you could even call St Peter a marxist, given that like communists the early church shared goods in common. I recall that Sam told me that what is important is "sound economics", whatever it is.

    (BTW I dunno if it is fair to speak of Austrian economics as hogwash, although I am not as competent here as you might be as an economist.)

    What Acton is committed to, however, it to bring religion, morality and theological thinking to bear on economics. And I think this is what in fact Miller’s article is trying to do: if you read it carefully the slant is to steer the reader’s attention away from merely economic ignorance to a whole lot of otherwise ignored causal conditions, which he lists in bold. And all these other moral and religions conditions (or the lack of them) takes up the major part of the essay.

    Speaking of which I remember Sam’s article on hope, atheism and the lack of entrepreneural spirit. I think that made a lot of sense. I was just reading Grisez’s AJJ paper which argued that religion should be the organizing principle admist the quest for incommensurable basic goods. HE argues that although the basic goods have no theoretical priority amongst themselves, there can be a proceedural priority to seek some first: and religion is one of them. Religion opens one up to the world beyond the present and the merely visible, and is indeed the source of hope. St Paul says, that as Christians we hope against hope, and were it true that the Gospel were false, we would be the most pitiable of all men–meaning that with this hope we do things that we would not otherwise do without it. Taking risks, venturing forth into the unknown without immediate promises of rewards, are such acts. So Sam’s article makes a lot of sense to me.

    But I am sympathetic to the French young people. There is obviously unpleasantness in insecurity, and my worry is that it may not be helpful to the family. Families generally need a kind of stability of the kind that is economic. If young people know that they can be sacked any now and then it is difficult for them to be willing to settle down and have children. Perhaps this does not make much of a difference in France: I dunno if having children is a desire, but in Asia there is a tradition of wanting to have children and so on, and economic instability is not helpful. It is frightening to have 5 mouths to feed and loans to pay off and then be found without employment overnight. The result is that fewer people want to have children. These decisions are not based just on fear: it is also part of being responsible. I’m not at all saying that Villepin is wrong–if France is to survive as an economy this may be necessary. Six weeks of vacation does sound like a lot! (I am open to discussion here: I have not settled position) Perhaps it will be religion once more to the rescue!–couples venturing forth like Joseph and Mary admist all the uncertainties.

    Anycase as I see it, for any nation what is important is that as we make the nation competitive in the global arena, we must balance our policies in a tender way that supports families and human development. There is a real danger in Economic Analysis of laws which is concerned merely with promoting wealth. There is no way to commensurate the human being or the family or to reduce these things into dollars and cents. We must not run the country the way some countries run its coal mines. At least I would argue this way.

  • Thomas

    It doesn’t seem like you give any economic reasons for any of this.

    The french are bored? They have a 35 hour work week (as opposed to 46 hours in the US), they have 6 weeks vacation. They have time for family and other things

    So theyre bored, economically retarded, and irresponsible? The truth is that they live better, make more money(after taxes and the cost of healthcare and education), and live longer