Sunday, November 18, 2007

French unions testing Sarkozy

French president Sarkozy has said he admires America, especially its admiration for and encouragement of productive work, and has said he'd like to make France more competitive and less protectionist. He's experiencing just how difficult it is likely to be to make even modest reforms in a country in which special privileges have come to be viewed as entitlements, and so much of the economy is more public sector than privte sector. He wanted to reform the special, unusually generous pension provisions transit workers get, so transit workers have gone on strike, and other unions are joining them.

He is not without allies, however. Depending on which news story you read, either 6,000 or 10,000 people marched in Paris yesterday to urge Sarkozy not to back down.

It will be interesting to see whether Sarkozy turns out to be the Reagan of Frence or yet one more leader who ends up having to bow to the power of public-sector unions, assuring that France is not likely to break out of its economic torpor.

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