The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Chirac Sparks Old-Age Taunt from Supermarket Chief:
PARIS (Reuters) - President Jacques Chirac was told by a French
supermarket magnate on Friday that he may be too old at 71 to
understand the hard-nosed retail business.
Michel-Edouard Leclerc, chief of the E. Leclerc supermarket empire,
riposted after Chirac voiced caution about his campaign to scrap rules
that strictly limit price discounting in France.
"Chirac is advocating a soft approach, which is normal at his age,"
Leclerc told i-TELE television...
"...As for those who do not want prices to go down -- no matter how soft
their rhetoric is, they're going to have to put it in their election
manifesto and justify it, whether they are president or candidate for
the presidency," Leclerc said.
A supermarket entrepreneur wants to sell things more cheaply than his competition and the government won't let him? This one of those things I will never understand about France: the French allergy to anything that smells of capitalism.
Of course, the French talk of protecting the little guy: the guy with the expensive local food stall. After all, he is part of French culture!
The French will, as a result of this short-sighted policy, spend even more on their food. A man free of competition will raise prices. That means consumers will have less money in their pockets to spend on other things. Less things being sold means less things being made.
Ultimately, this means less jobs for the French.
French unemployment is currently about 9.5%. The unemployment number for people under age 35% is much higher (nearly 20%). Unemployment numbers like that would cause riots in the US. But the French tolerate it, because of their enomorous welfare state.
But fewer workers (fewer taxpayers) and an aging population will put that very welfare state in jeopardy. And the French - believing that everything is the responsibility of the state - will learn a potent lesson in economic realism: L'etat, cest moi.
For Louis XIV, the government was his because he controlled everything. In a democracy, the state is under the control of the voters. The future of France depends on French voters waking up and deciding that their government is not some separate entity that solves problems cost-free. The welfare state will cost them dearly, and the money they will lose will be their own.
Maybe it is time to let consumers decide whether the little guy selling expensive food can justify his prices.
Not if France. Not yet.
If France was a stock, I'd be selling.
(Of course, I'd like to think I never would have bought that dog in the first place).