Problems in France
To anyone who cares about Europe's future, the French demonstrations and street riots protesting the government's new labor law must be profoundly disturbing. It's the French against France -- a familiar ritual that mirrors Europe's larger predicament. Hardly anyone wants to surrender the benefits and protections of today's generous welfare state, but the fierce attachment to these costly and self-defeating programs prevents Europe from preparing for a future that, though it may be deplored, is inevitable. Actually, it's not the future; it's the present.
The dilemma of advanced democracies, including the United States, is that they've made more promises than they can keep. Their political commitments outstrip the economy's capacity to deliver. Sometimes the commitments were made dishonestly. Sometimes they were made sincerely based on foolish assumptions. Sometimes they've been overtaken by new circumstances. No matter. The dilemma is the same. To disavow past promises incites public furor; not to disavow them worsens the country's future problems.