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Paris, 27 March 2013
LE GOUVERNEMENT IMPUISSANT FACE À LA MONTÉE DU CHOMAGE
[Government helpless in the face of rising unemployment]
Such was the headline over the lead story in Le Figaro this afternoon when we rocked up in Paris for Easter.
Talk about the bleedin’ obvious!
Newspapers are supposed to publish news, not truisms, aren’t they?
What else did they expect?
Most countries of the world are now paid-up card-carrying members of the globalised market economy.
France, like the other countries of Europe, is no exception.
It is a founding member, moreover, of the regional club of nations known as the European Union (EU), whose raison d’être – excuse my Greek – is the promotion of free market capitalism both within the states that belong to it and in their relations with the rest of the world.
Like the other EU member states, France joined the club willingly and with its eyes wide open. Having joined, it must therefore obey the rules. And, except in exceptional circumstances and for a strictly limited period, those rules exclude state intervention in the economy. In the EU the state – as concretised in a parliament and government elected by the people to represent the nation’s best interests – no longer has the right to interfere with the workings of the national economy. Governments are no longer permitted to plan out the type of economy they consider best for the people that elected them. Least of all can the state intervene itself as an economic actor in its own right (for example, by running industries or providing services). Everything must be left to the market. The market knows best what is good for the country, not the elected representatives of the people.
So it’s no use countries that voluntarily succumbed to the blandishments of free trade complaining about market capitalism when it fails to produce the goods. This is the system they wanted. Within the straitjacket of the global market, there is nothing they can do about it.
So what has the invisible hand of globalised free trade brought us in the first decade of the twenty-first century? Well, let’s mention just a few things:
– the near-collapse of the world’s private-sector banking system – which had to be bailed out with trillions of dollars of public money – yes, public money;
– mass unemployment worldwide;
– the shrink-down of giant industries hitherto deemed invulnerable (think Motown);
– the ravaging of the global environment (deforestation of the Amazon basin, tar sand exploitation in the Canadian plains);
– the exploitation of quasi-slave labour in India and China, countries to which western companies (think Apple or Gap) have shifted production, thus putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work in their home countries;
– In Europe, the creation, around the turn of the century, of the single currency market (the eurozone) has brought not the promised milk and honey, but economic collapse (in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain) and recession elsewhere (in Italy, France and Britain), accompanied inevitably by historic spikes in unemployment (around 26 per cent in Spain and Greece).
And now we arrive back in France to find the country moaning that its government can do nothing about rocketing unemployment.
Give us a break, fellas.
This is what you wanted.
Get over it.
The market rules, okay?
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.