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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Liberte! Egalite! Socialisme!

Barbara Ehrenreich has a column on The Progressive's website that kicks off with:

"Was it only three years ago that some of our puffed up patriots were denouncing the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” too fattened on Camembert to stub out their Gaulois and get down with the war on Iraq? Well, take another look at the folks who invented the word liberté. Throughout the month of March and beyond, they were demonstrating, rioting, and burning up cars to preserve a right Americans can only dream of: the right not to be fired at an employer’s whim."

Oh man, somebody better tell the Supreme Court about this new fundamental right.  Invented the word liberte?  Where the hell did she get that idea?  Obviously she knows that words evolve, in this case from Latin (libertas), so it seems to me that she's trying to argue that they were so integral in the development of the concept that they created the word to communicate it (I'm thinking "Don't give me the 'it's not you it's me', I invented 'it's not you it's me'!" from Seinfeld), or something like that.  Whatever it is, it's a silly thing to say, so I won't dwell on it.

It's just the overall sentiment that rubs me the wrong way, the "oh aren't these people admirable for standing up to their government!", when what they're really doing is crying and screaming on the floor until their nanny state gives them what they want.  I'm not going to try to give a comprehensive definition of liberty here, but what these people want is not it.  It may be a right, but it's a rather fake, created, government dependent right.   Further on down:

"French youth weren’t buying this, probably because they know where the “Anglo-Saxon model,” as they call it, leads. If you have to give up job security to get a job, what next? Will the pampered employers be inspired to demand a suspension of health and safety regulations? Will they start requiring their workers to polish their shoes while hand-feeding them hot-buttered croissants? Non to all that, the French kids said."  

What next?  I think it's called a paycheck.  Her slippery slope argument is ridiculous, employers in France are far from pampered and there's no indication that those promoting the First Employment Contract reform have any intention to go any further, given how incredibly miniscule the reform is.  I'll let you read the rest on your own if you so desire, but be warned, reading Ehrenreich will probably make you want to re-read Atlas Shrugged, which is fine, except that you should probably be outlining.  Now, if you do go that route, make sure to bring yourself back to the real world by reading Whittaker Chambers' review of the book from 1957.  The better course of action is to read Jonah Goldberg's column today that seems at least in part inspired by reading the Ehrenreich column.  It's good, as usual, though he does go off on a strange plan promulgated by Charles Murray to deal away with welfare as we know it (but to put strange flat rate payments in its place).  Goldberg used to be pretty anti-libertarian (not anti-liberty, just anti-libertarian, trust me), but has softened a lot recently.  
ADDENDUM:  I was moving around NRO and saw that the second title given to Goldberg's column (NRO pieces usually have one title when on the front page and a different one when listed on the sidebar, as in The Corner) is Egalite, Liberte, 401K.  Much, much better than mine.  I think I will cry myself to sleep now.      


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