France: not as inefficient as post-Thatcher Britain

As is often the case when large-scale strikes break out, those deeply professional people in the mainstream press have been sitting on the fence as neutral reporters of the news.

The Times has managed a doozy today:

The civil service strike, led by leftwing unions, is a warning shot by the forces of conservative resistance to Mr Sarkozy's attempts to ease the burden of regulation and subsidies that choke the French economy...

Mr Sarkozy's plans to slim down the country's mammoth civil service.

In the first sentence, we have the implication of a left wing conspiracy drawing in otherwise decent people (who later in the same sentence are accused of 'choking' the French economy) to strike against their best interests, the left characterised as 'conservative' for wanting to maintain living standards, while Sarkozy is painted as a reforming champion of common sense.

In the second, we have a simple lie. For a civil service to be 'mammoth', it would have to be demonstrably much larger than its peers. However, the French civil service in total takes up 1/5 of the working population. The UK civil service which is geographically nearby, with similar responsibilities but with far more of its work now outsourced, in total takes up... er... 1/5 of the working population.

Doubtless the Times, if this is pointed out to them, will shriek with indignation about the huge size of the British civil service - but fair is fair, to do that they'll have to start pointing to the more nationally-run French system as an efficient use of government funding, while the children of Thatcher are lumbered with inefficiencies galore. In which case, their consistent painting of Sarkozy as a breath of fresh air and a visionary leader falls flat on its face.

If they want a more efficient UK service, they'll have to call for the firing of management and overpriced consultants, the retraction of PFI and privatisation, and maybe even the renationalisation of major industries - like the French have got.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of nationalisation (roll on an interlinked network of syndicalist workplaces), it's a bit of a no-brainer to say that it's going to be more efficient than paying a profit-based company to take on the same systemically monopolistic roles, while also paying legions of consultants and administrators to provide a layer of governmental management for it all.

The British press is throwing stones at an inefficient French civil service, but fail to note they are living in a glass house of mammoth proportions, built on the very ground Sarkozy wants France to occupy.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Nov 20 2007 14:32


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jef costello
Nov 20 2007 20:44

Incidentally the inefficient French economy has proved better at creating jobs (outside of job creation schemes) over the last few years than Britain has been.
Has The Times mentioned Sarkozy's 175% pay rise by any chance? smile