If inertia were a deity, its Vatican would be in France. Though slightly less advanced in demographic decline than, say, the Germans or Italians, the French surely lead the way in social and economic fossilization. Nothing can be changed without bringing about a strike, which in turn petrifies the government into backing out of the change. The Great Fear of the population is the future.
Theorore Dalrymple, best of the wise heads at City Journal, provides a simple example of perfectly French inertia: the failure of the French Government to produce the biometric passports required by our government in lieu of visas.
The French government has granted the Imprimerie Nationale, one of those subsidy-gobbling entities that France abounds in, the legal monopoly to print all official and state documents. Unfortunately, the Imprimerie is not equipped to produce biometric passports, unlike the private company that printed them for Belgium and elsewhere. Yet if it cannot produce the passports itself, it can at least mount a legal challenge to the government’s attempts to use instead the services of private companies — and that is exactly what it has done. After all, the government passed the law giving the Imprimerie its monopoly, so, legally speaking, it is clear who is in the right. As a consequence, half a million French citizens have found themselves seriously inconvenienced, and no doubt humiliated in the bargain.
The poet Verlaine wrote of “the empire at the end of the decadence” — he lived through a similarly inert period for the French. And once the empire was finished, he mused, he would just watch the barbarians swarming in. I believe Dalrymple, who now lives in France, has identical expectations.