France in our future?

Following are excerpts from an opinion piece by Bret Stephens in the New York Times, December 6, 2019

I urge you to read the full article. There are lessons to be learned, not only from France, but all Europeon countries. If you are among those who support emulating their social structures, governments and taxes, it’s a good idea to understand all aspects of their systems.

It’s also important to understand that the more dependent each generation becomes on government largess the greater risk of intergenerational conflict and resulting chaos. Promises are perceived to be forever, governments are not.

The past three years have been hard ones for the United States, especially for anyone who cares about good governance, democratic decency and the fate of open societies.

But there’s been one bright spot: an economy that defies expert predictions by continuing to deliver jobs, growth, dividends and higher wages. We were reminded of this again on Friday, with news that the economy added 266,000 new jobs last month, bringing unemployment to a 50-year low.

That being so, maybe now is not the best time for Democratic candidates to suggest we turn ourselves into an economic facsimile of France.

That’s my way of reading a useful report from The Times’s Jim Tankersley, who on Thursday described the ways in which Elizabeth Warren and other progressives are trying to upend decades of economic thinking by insisting that sharp tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy would accelerate growth, not depress it. Under a Warren presidency, those hikes would be accompanied by monumental increases in government spending and fundamental alterations to the structures of the private economy. 🔴🔴🔴

🔴🔴🔴 Then again, the health service that used to be the toast of Francophiles is overwhelmed, understaffed, and “on the brink of collapse,” according to a report in The Guardian. French universities, while cheap, are overcrowded, underfunded, and notoriously mediocre: “Too easy to get in and too easy to get out,” as one local observer put it. French workers exercise their right to strike roughly seven times more frequently than German workers do, and 125 times more than Swiss ones.

As for income inequality, France is certainly much less unequal than the U.S. But France’s top 1 percent still held 22 percent of the country’s wealth at the beginning of 2018. That was despite a draconian effort by the previous Socialist government to impose a super-tax on high earners. It raised scant revenue while accelerating the exodus of the rich. Like many European attempts at imposing a wealth tax, it was quickly repealed.

All of this should stand as a stark warning to Democrats. France has the highest overall tax take among O.E.C.D. countries (46.9 percent of G.D.P.), the highest rate of government spending, (56.38 percent of G.D.P.), the highest rate of safety-net spending, and the third highest rate of pension spending.

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