Dominique De Villepin avoids answers on CNN

The French Prime Minister and presidential hopeful, Dominique De Villepin was interviewed on CNN yesterday. It was a brilliant display of how to not say anything substantial, something French politicians and philosophers excel at. Most significantly, De Villepin avoids all kinds of answers. He avoids answering questions, and he ducks any answers to the French problems. I can only hope that France will not reward his unsubstantial bullshitting by making him a president.

His statements on what do do are either platitudes, like ”we want to make a very special effort in direction of the young people of these neighborhoods”; or saying that he will do the same thing as before (i.e. nothing), ”we have created tax free zones, we want to increase the numbers of these tax free zones”; and most significantly, more state meddling: ”we’ve decided to have our national agency of employment to receive all the young people in these neighborhood during the next month”.

De Villepin can also not resist blaming others. The immigrants themselves get a little blame, of course; ”we also want the people of these neighborhoods being able to accept the jobs outside of these neighborhoods”. I personally am pretty sure they are very able to accept jobs outside the suburbs. The problem is that they aren’t offered any. And the primary scapegoat of French politicians come up; ”whatever happened in France can happen as well in other countries, in Europe or else where. It is a part of a new phenomenon of globalization.” No, it’s not a part of globalization. Many countries that have embraced globalization have no such problems. In fact, the problems are rather a direct effect of protectionism.

The attitude is ”these people need help”. No, they don’t. They need jobs.

The answers that De Villepin is avoiding are not even particularily painful. France comes in 142nd place out of 154 countries when it comes to ease of hiring and firing people. Yes, France is the 12th most difficiult country in the world, only 11 other countries make it more difficult to hire people. How exactly does Dominique De Villepin expect poorly educated, muslim, black immigrants to get a job in that situation? Hiring somebody takes a lot of effort. Firing them if you made a misjudgment (either about how much work was needed or about the person) is even harder. Would you be willing to take a risk in that situation? Of course not. You’ll hire somebody with the same education, looks and values as you, because that is what you trust. Preferrably somebody that has recommendations from somebody you know.

The result is that getting a job relies almost solely on contacts. You can’t get a job, unless you know somebody who knows somebody. And poor kids in the suburbs don’t.

There is only one solution to the problems France has; get the economy running so more jobs are created and simplify the process of hiring and firing people. A lot. Most of the difficult in doing this is hidden in a notoriously complicated French bureaucracy. This bureaucracy is full of people whose only interest is in creating more job for themselves.

Here is a completely true story about how you get a paper from the French goverment:

  1. You go to the sécurité social and ask for the paper. After one hour of waiting, they give you a completely different paper. When you point out that this is not the paper you asked for, they say the computers are broken, and ask you to come back another day.
  2. You come back another day and ask for the paper. They tell you that they can’t give you this paper at your normal office, and that you need to go to a special office.
  3. You go to the special office. After one hour of waiting, they refuse to give you the paper, and say you should not have it.
  4. You print out the european regulation on the matter, and read through it, making sure you should have the paper.
  5. You go back, and ask for the paper again. This time, when they refuse to give you the paper, you read the law to them, having highlighted the required parts of the law with a handy flourescent pen. They agree that you should have the paper, and then as for a list of 10 different papers you have to give them, first, to prove that you should have the paper, several of which comes from other parts of the French administration.
  6. Rinse, repeat.

All this requires not only knowledge of French, of course, but knowledge of French and european law. And you need to know it better than the French administration knows it.

Do you really want to hire anybody in those circumstances? I know of several young europeans who came to Paris for a year, to have fun and see the world. Most of them work. Few of them pay any taxes. It’s easy to see why, and it’s not because the taxes are high. It’s just too darn difficult to pay them.

The only painful part of this solution, is that the unions are running France, and French unions will stop anything that sounds like ”liberalisation” or ”deregulation”. We need, therefore, to come up with an alternative name for these policies. Suggestions are welcome.