Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

Sarkozy's cry for help

Sarkozy's cry for help

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected five years ago by promising to modernize France's societal infrastructure and bring it more into line with America's: less government reliance, more freedom in life and work. It was a tall order, but his mandate was overwhelming, with a 6-percentage-point win over Socialist rival Segolene Royal. Mr. Sarkozy was full of vigor and free-market, limited-government ideas imported directly from across the Atlantic.

But then something got in the way: France. It's a case of ambition being unable to surmount the overwhelming power of entrenched history.

The battle of independent-minded men against the French nanny-state mentality didn't...