France: Too Much Welfare State 

France: Too Much Welfare State

It's remarkable to see a liberal Democrat, Matthew Yglesias, admit that the riots in France have something to do with a welfare state that is, in a way, too generous.

Viewed cynically, what you have here are two contrasting approaches to social control. After the riots of the 1960s, the United States acted to create an African American elite quickly and on the cheap via affirmative action. Now that we're into the second and third generation of that experiment, the truly disadvantaged don't derive much benefit (if any) from affirmative action because inner-city kids can't compete for slots in college with the children of the black middle-class. At the same time, despite the unpopularity of affirmative action among the public at large, it's embraced by business, political, military, and other elites of both parties as a quick-and-dirty way of lending broad legitimacy to social and political instutions.

In France, by contrast, everything is run by the homogenous quasi-meritocracy of Grandes écoles graduates and there are essentially no prominent government officials or big corporate executives of Arab or African extraction. On the other hand, France does much more to subsidize and assist the French underclass, which enjoys a higher standard of living than its American counterpart even though France as a whole is significantly poorer than the United States. Somewhat unfortunately, the French model seems to work much less well than the American one.

Of course, he's a liberal Democrat, so he suggests that affirmative action has done some good in the U.S., even while "the truly disadvantaged" are left behind. What would be more interesting would be to talk about welfare reform. Wasn't it an effort to mainstream the disadvantaged into a society where heads of households basically have to work for a living, instead of leaving them in ghettos (no matter how much cash floats around the ghettos)? Isn't this a worthy goal, even if it is tough on single-parent families to have the parent putting in long hours at work? Isn't this the approach of immigrants to the U.S. who work hard and try to avoid depending on government? Is France foolishly bribing people not to get ahead in mainstream society?

I've been working on some family history. I had written a paragraph or two suggesting it was tough on my maternal grandmother to be a single, working parent during the Depression. My aunt (my mother's sister), read this, and commented indignantly that there was nothing unusual about their childhood except that their mother worked. She wanted more Waltons Mountain, and less Grapes of Wrath. Maybe she had a point.

Return to Main Page


Add Comment

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting