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What’s Going on in France?

Scenes of urban mayhem filled the cable news programs in recent days as university students and their allies filled the streets of Paris with rioting and protests. The students want no changes to France’s impossible and impractical labor laws — laws which currently make it virtually impossible for French employers to eliminate any job or fire any worker, however justified such a firing might be. Given the currrent laws, employers are just not hiring young people. One might think that the young would look with favor at changes that might open jobs. But not these students. They want a job from which they can never be fired, or no job at all.

Writing for Foreign Policy, Elizabeth Eaves calls these students “The ‘Let Us Eat Cake’ Generation.”

From her article:

With strikes and demonstrations seizing France again this week, French politicians and protesters appear to be radically at odds. In fact, they are strangely allied. From the president on down to the sign-waving teenagers, no one seems to have any idea how the global economy works.

More:

France can change and thrive or it can drift into economic obscurity. It can preserve its villages and city centers in aspic for tourists, send its best and brightest abroad for work, allow employers to slink away, and build bigger and better barricades against the restless unemployed. It’s a clear choice, but the French leadership still seems inclined to duck it if at all possible. On Friday night, Chirac hedged his bets on the CPE, pledging to sign it into law but to modify it before implementation. Protest leaders, in response, vowed to hit the streets again.

There’s one bright spot on the horizon. The Easter holidays start next weekend. Students and workers were more than happy to man the barricades when it meant missing exams and skipping work. Just as Marie Antoinette played at being a shepherdess, these kids are playing at revolution. It’s unlikely that they’ll stick around once their vacations begin.