[Paleopsych] Muslim riots in France
Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D.
ljohnson at solution-consulting.com
Sat Nov 12 18:56:22 UTC 2005
[an interesting and likely correct view of the riots from the Wall
How to create a Muslim underclass.
Friday, November 11, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
Rioting by Muslim youth in some 300 French cities and towns seems to be
subsiding after two weeks and tougher law enforcement, which is
certainly welcome news. The riots have shaken France, however, and the
unrest was of such magnitude that it has become a moment of
illumination, for French and Americans equally.
In particular, some longstanding conceits about the superiority of the
French social model have gone up in flames. This model emphasizes
"solidarity" through high taxes, cossetted labor markets, subsidies to
industry and farming, a "Ministry for Social Cohesion," powerful
public-sector unions, an elaborate welfare state, and, inevitably,
comparisons to the alleged viciousness of the Anglo-Saxon "market"
model. So by all means, let's do some comparing.
The first thing that needs illuminating is that, while the overwhelming
majority of rioters are Muslim, it is premature at best to describe the
rioting as an "intifada" or some other term denoting religiously or
culturally inspired violence. And it is flat-out wrong to claim that the
rioting is a consequence of liberal immigration policies.
Consider the contrast with the U.S. Between 1978 and 2002, the
percentage of foreign-born Americans nearly doubled, to 12% from 6.2%.
At the same time, the five-year average unemployment rate declined to
5.1% from 7.3%. Among immigrants, median family incomes rose by roughly
$10,000 for every 10 years they remained in the country.
These statistics hold across immigrant groups, including ones that U.S.
nativist groups claim are "unassimilable." Take Muslims, some two
million of whom live in America. According to a 2004 survey by Zogby
International, two-thirds are immigrants, 59% have a college education
and the overwhelming majority are middle-class, with one in three having
annual incomes of more than $75,000. Their intermarriage rate is 21%,
nearly identical to that of other religious groups.
It's true that France's Muslim population--some five million out of a
total of 60 million--is much larger than America's. They also generally
arrived in France much poorer. But the significant difference between
U.S. and French Muslims is that the former inhabit a country of economic
opportunity and social mobility, which generally has led to their
successful assimilation into the mainstream of American life. This has
been the case despite the best efforts of multiculturalists on the right
and left to extol fixed racial, ethnic and religious identities at the
expense of the traditionally adaptive, supple American one.
In France, the opposite applies. Mass Muslim migration to France began
in the 1960s, a period of very low unemployment and industrial labor
shortages. Today, French unemployment is close to 10%, or double the
U.S. rate. Unlike in the U.S., French culture eschews multiculturalism
and puts a heavy premium on the concept of "Frenchness." Yet that hasn't
provided much cushion for increasingly impoverished and thus estranged
Muslim communities, which tend to be segregated into isolated and
generally unpoliced suburban cities called banlieues. There, youth
unemployment runs to 40%, and crime, drug addiction and hooliganism are
This is not to say that Muslim cultural practices are irrelevant. For
Muslim women especially, the misery of the banlieues is compounded by a
culture of female submission, often violently enforced. Nor should
anyone rule out the possibility that Islamic radicals will exploit the
mayhem for their own ends. But whatever else might be said about the
Muslim attributes of the French rioters, the fact is that the
pathologies of the banlieues are similar to those of inner cities
everywhere. What France suffers from, fundamentally, is neither a
"Muslim problem" nor an "immigration problem." It is an underclass problem.
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin almost put his finger on the
problem when he promised to introduce legislation to ease the economic
plight of the banlieues. But aside from the useful suggestion of
"enterprise zones," most of the legislation smacked of big-government
solutions: community centers, training programs and so on.
The larger problem for the prime minister is that France's underclass is
a consequence of the structure of the French economy, in which the state
accounts for nearly half of gross domestic product and roughly a quarter
of employment. French workers, both in the public and private sectors,
enjoy GM-like benefits in pensions, early retirement, working hours and
vacations, sick- and maternity leave, and job security--all of which is
militantly enforced by strike-happy labor unions. The predictable result
is that there is little job turnover and little net new job creation.
Leave aside the debilitating effects of unemployment insurance and
welfare on the underclass: Who would employ them if they actually sought
For France, the good news is that these problems can be solved,
principally be deregulating labor markets, reducing taxes, reforming the
pension system and breaking the stranglehold of unions on economic life.
The bad news is the entrenched cultural resistance to those
solutions--not on the part of angry Muslim youth, but from the employed
half of French society that refuses to relinquish their subsidized
existences for the sake of the "solidarity" they profess to hold dear.
So far, most attempts at reform have failed, mainly due to a combination
of union militancy and political timidity.
There are lessons in France for the U.S., too. Advocates of
multiculturalism might take note of what happens when ethnic communities
are excluded (or exclude themselves) from the broad currents of national
life. Opponents of immigration might take note of the contrast between
France's impoverished Muslims and America's flourishing immigrant
Above all, those who want America to emulate the French social model by
mandating health and other benefits, raising tax burdens and entrenching
union power might take note of just how sour its promises have become,
especially its promises to the poor. In the matter of "solidarity,"
economic growth counts more than rhetoric.
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