Once again, socialism has put a silver fork in itself. Standard & Poor's has downgraded France's AAA credit rating, giving the country the side-eye on its claims to have its debt under control. This means the country will now have to pay it all back at an even higher interest rate.
Who are we kidding? No one's paying back any debts right now. You need money to do that. When was the last time France had any extra cash lying around? It's like raising the interest rate on the credit card of an addict who's pumping capital into his veins faster than any German, Chinese or Russian can slip him a tenner.
No amount of hot air and spin could ultimately keep socialism afloat. It's a good lesson for those in America and other parts of the world who think that Europe is in any way an exemplary, sustainable alternative to free-market, limited-government capitalism.
If capitalism is perceived to not be working in America -- as the Occupy Wall Street movement has argued -- it's because the system isn't capitalist enough. It's because a lack of oversight has led to corporate welfare and an unlevel playing field -- socialist government intervention in business, in other words. Similarly, if the U.S. health care system has problems, it's because of private insurers' heavy-handed lobbying of government and government's willingness, in turn, to meddle when its palm is adequately greased. That, too, is a problem for which more capitalism -- less government and a free-market -- is a cure.
And now, again, we have proof that the system long considered the model for successful socialism finally has been choked out.
This isn't French President Nicolas Sarkozy's fault. He's spent the five years since he took office doing his best to move the country off the rail of socialism and onto one of personal independence, trying to change the rhetoric and the way the French think about such things. But how do you explain to a Labrador retriever the exhilaration of being free like a wolf, despite not having someone place a full bowl in front of you at regular intervals?
The French want less debt, but they also want the same lengthy vacations and no government cutbacks in jobs or services -- mainly because those are precisely their jobs. They also expect their kids to all go to "management school," after which they will never have to produce anything in the French workplace -- not even a signature, as there will be a stamp for that ... made in China.
Mr. Sarkozy just happens to be the guy sitting in the hot seat now that the socialist policies of every president since Charles de Gaulle have finally taken their toll. Unfortunately for Mr. Sarkozy, he's facing re-election in the spring. The French can either re-elect President Sarkozy, whom they don't personally like because they find him hyperactive, somewhat grotesque and overly involved in petty matters, or they can do the same thing that's led to France's failure to date. That is, elect the friendly, funny, "aw shucks" Socialist Party candidate who only has personal qualities going for him.
Rather than get softer, President Sarkozy needs to use the credit downgrading as an opportunity to take an even harder line in favor of limited government. Stop talking and start swinging the ax like the killer in a bad slasher film. Start by decimating a few levels of French government. Flatten that baby like a crepe. Set the example with the political class and make these so-called elites go out and start real businesses. Have people with kids take financial responsibility for them rather than supporting them from cradle to grave. Limit immigration to those who can contribute economically or professionally as ascertained by a points system like the one in Canada. Those who want to import their entire families from another country can move back there if they're that homesick.
And businesses in France are paying enough taxes, as are the people. The problem is that their taxes aren't sufficient to support the nanny state, so get rid of it. Anyone who doesn't like it can move to Scandinavia, where apparently socialism still "works" for those who love paying exorbitant taxes.
This is France's big chance, its Overton window -- the moment when previously unforeseen possibilities suddenly become possible because of an unexpected and significant event. It's the ultimate shot at setting France on course with a bold new model, not just a rebooted version of an old, failed model. Until that happens and the root of the collapse is addressed, the problem won't begin to disappear.