Shocker: French Socialism Drives Young Frogs Abroad

Matt Welch|May. 21, 2013 10:31 am
So how is France's lurch to the left working out since the election last year of Socialist Party President François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande?

Well, as readers of Reason's great 24-7 newsfeed know, French unemployment last month reached an all-time high, and Hollande has responded to his plummeting poll numbers and protests from the left by proposing new taxes on business, calling for the eradication of tax havens and threatening rule by decree.

What happens when you punish citizens (sometimes taxing households more than 100 percent of their income) for the sin of their government spending too much money?Time magazine's Vivienne Walt has the answer: "Stymied by Socialist Policies, the French Start to Quit France." Excerpt:

Charles-Marie Jottras, president of Paris's biggest luxury-real-estate company Daniel Feau, estimates that during the past year his company has sold hundreds of homes of wealthy families leaving France, driven out by what he calls "a very bad atmosphere." Jottras says the departure of wealthy clients is reminiscent of the early 1980s, when the previous Socialist President François Mitterrand was in power. The difference this time, he says, is that "it used to be just rich people who left, not business people."


In fact, the sense that the world beyond France might hold a lot more promise for French people than home does has so intensified that in recent months two weekly magazines, L'Express and Le Figaro — both fiercely conservative critics of the Socialist government — featured the same cover headline: "Why they are leaving France."

added the subtitle: "It's not just the rich!" as though the editors were amazed that regular folk would opt to try their luck elsewhere and forgo cherished French benefits like minimum five weeks' annual paid leave, decent public health care and free schooling.

The magazines cite the 300,000 French estimated to be living in London, and the 200,000 French residents of Belgium, a 25% rise since 2010, according to Le Figaro. Each magazine interviews young go-getters who've upped sticks for New York City, Dubai, Shanghai and elsewhere for better pay, more-rapid promotion and a chance to make their mark — things that those profiled say are all-but impossible under a sclerotic French system. Alexandre Perrot, 30, featured in Le Figaro, moved to New York City a year ago and works for a business-intelligence company, is quoted as saying that France's system "does not value or stimulate active youth."

I live in an old Italian part of Brooklyn long famous for its pizzerias, mafia, and Old World seniors sitting on benches and stoops kibbitzing about the neighborhood, and yet the foreign language you hear most on the streets is French. They may not all be economic refugees, but they tend to be far more dynamic than your average fonctionnaire. France is working on maybe its second consecutive Lost Generation of young people fed up with scleroris. Quelle honte.