Making a Better System: France, America, and Capitalism
Over two million people crowded the streets of Paris on Thursday, in protest of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent inaction in light of increasing unemployment. Job loss in France, according to the Telegraph, was the final straw in a string of incidents that have decreased Sarkozy’s popularity exponentially in recent months. Critics, including dissenters within his own party, are calling for his removal. In a nation where people depend largely on the “welfare state” to take action, little is being done.
Across the Atlantic in the United States, national unemployment reached 7.2% in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer confidence is taking a nosedive, making businesses desperate for some sort of activity. The divisive stimulus package which contains $819 billion in goodies is the first step that the new Obama Administration has decided to take.
Why, then, haven’t Americans revolted? It seems like their economic concerns are just as immediate. Could it possibly be that with a little bit of regulation, capitalism in America will persist after all?
Only a few short months ago, the entire world condemned Western capitalism and predicted its demise. Sarkozy himself pointed the finger to American cowboy-style capitalism for the cause of the current financial catastrophe. Given the recent election and budgetary adjustments, American capitalism seems to be on the road to recovery. Meanwhile, the crisis in France seems to have upset the populous enough to organize riots and call for societal shift. The nation that has become a beacon for labor rights and the Welfare State is in complete social and economic turmoil.
Moral of the story: every economic system has its flaws. Corporate executives are guilty of allowing self interest and profit to compromise the security of the global economy. But at the same time, economic liberalism may have produced a way out at the end of the day, at least in a way that allows society to numb itself and quell the urge to run for pitchforks and torches. Social justice is certainly not a mirage that we can never achieve, but fiscal responsibility and political know-how are necessary prerequisites for any economic system to work. I’d love to see the labor market and corporate leaders put aside their discrepancies to create a just and fair economic system. But it makes more sense to spend more time at the bargaining table than running from cops in riot gear. If this system we call capitalism works, then maybe we ought to not condemn the entire structure for the crimes of a few bad CEOs.