mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Hollande's France: About to Become the New Mexico?

One of the constants of modern European history is that compared to the Germans, the Italians and the Brits, the French have stayed put. Since the French Revolution, the French have mostly stayed home. Emigration has just not been the French way.

That may be changing. London is already full of talented young French people looking for a country that still believes in the future, and there may be lots more emigration ahead. A twenty year old named Clara G, a second year history student at the Sorbonne, recently published an open letter to President François Hollande in the French paper Le Point. In it, she quotes a poll that found that 50 percent of 18-24 year olds and 51 percent of 25-34 year olds would, if they could, like to leave France for another country. Clara explains why she and so many her age want out:

I don’t want to work all my life in order to pay taxes that will, for the most part, only go to service the 1,900 billion euros of debt that your generation was kind enough to leave as your legacy. If these loans had at least been invested in a plan for the future of the country, if I thought I would profit a little from them, I wouldn’t have any problems repaying them. But they only allowed your generation to live above its means, to secure a generous welfare that I won’t be able to enjoy. In order to make your lives, I would say “cushy”, but I’m afraid that the word offends you.

My work and my taxes will also have to pay your pension that you haven’t bothered to fund, as well as all the health care and welfare costs for all these elderly people who will be, in less than twenty years, the majority in the country. Will this leave me enough money to live well and raise my children? A few days ago, I read a study by economist Patrick Artus that sent shivers down my spine: “With the low potential growth and given the aging population,” he writes, “young French have the prospect of undergoing continuous stagnation of their purchasing power during their working lives.” You must admit that it this is not a very gratifying life prospect. 

But the most depressing thing is what my life will be like if I stay in France. Once I graduate, with my beautiful useless diplomas, I will without doubt first join the large ranks of unemployed youth before spending several years in internships and the CDD [temporary work contracts]. I am, as I believe the experts say, the “adjustment variable” of a labor market that has deliberately chosen to exclude young people to protect the workers of the CDI [permanent work contracts] already in place. With such insecure and poorly paid jobs, I won’t be able to convince a bank to give me a home loan to buy an apartment in Paris. And if, by some sort of improbable miracle, I go on to earn lots of money, I know in advance that not only would I have to pay taxes, but it would also earn me the reproaches of my fellow countrymen and your personal contempt.

If you have some French, go read the whole thing; it’s a well-written letter that describes exactly the dark places to which shortsighted and greedy Boomers (called 68-ers in France after the narcissistic student “revolutionaries” of 1968) have prepared to condemn their successors. But France’s loss could be our gain. If college educated, ambitious European young people are looking for a place to go, America should open its arms. Without prejudice to any other immigrants (and it takes all kinds to make a country), the more of these kids who come our way, the better.

The trouble is, once Clara and her friends run the numbers on America, they may well decide we are becoming more like Europe every day.

Meanwhile, for a good read on one of the main reasons France has ended up in such an ugly place, take a look at Simon Kuper’s piece over at the FT. The French are finding out what happens when you give a narrow technocratic elite, convinced that it is smarter and more enlightened than everyone else, control over your government and your economy.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Jim Luebke

    The Politically Correct university system turns out to be absolutely the wrong way to select competent leadership for a country.

    Who knew?

  • JT

    I don’t get out onto internet sights as I used to, but recall recently on a health chat board I frequent seeing a French citizen expressing interest in immigrating to America for work. He was looking for information on how to do so. I remember recalling that wasn’t something one sees everyday. As you mention, the French tend to not immigrate as much, and from what I’ve witnessed in the past in chat rooms historically French citizens have generally not expressed the kindest of thoughts toward Americans. Made me wonder how bad the situation must be for the young in Europe to see this.

  • Luke Lea

    the more of these kids who come our way, the better.

    For who?

    I hope this whole age of immigration comes to an end. It’s not good for the sending countries and its not good for the receiving countries. It is good for the few, the rich, and the talented though, but at the expense of the majorities in all countries concerned. Would you care to argue the point? Seriously? You’ll lose.

    • Corlyss Drinkard

      “There is something off-putting about the privileged winners in the lottery of life painting self-interest to look like virtue.”
      But so much good has come from unbridled, even unapologetic, self-interest. I’m all in favor of it. Too many feckless utopians have made self-interest a four letter word, trying to persuade people that the only honorable motivation is altruism. Balderdash. That attitude has led to more dangerous mischief, as in Marxism and Socialism and Obama’s obsession with “fairness” and “equality” than rational self-interest, if for no other reason than it creates a false narrative about human nature. Sure, society needs cooperation and charity but it also needs greed and ambition and selfishness.

  • Corlyss Drinkard

    “But France’s loss could be our gain.”

    Won’t be the first time France’s blithe stupidity has benefited the rest of the world. Remember when they kicked out the Huguenot technocrats? France has been technologically backwards ever since. How about when they rampaged thru the monasteries, leaving them in ruins, so people like the Rockefellers could scoop up some and rebuild them in Ft. Tryon Park?

  • f1b0nacc1

    Perhaps we should welcome these cheesebacks, but only if the learn to speak English and refrain from overuse of those heavy sauces…

  • NoNewt

    Don’t worry, America will keep France’s high-skilled and educated emigrants out. I am currently living outside the US because my significant other was unable to get a work visa.

    I recently heard at a conference from many colleagues from Sweden and Holland than many of their friends (in their late 20s) want to move to the US because of the funk creeping over the European economy. None of them can legally move as skilled immigrants unless their employer is willing to pay thousands of dollars in visa-sponsorship fees to transfer them to the US. So many of them – lawyers, scientists, and other professional, educated people – are apparently pretending to be artists, who can gain easier access to visas. I have no idea why, but this is what I’ve been hearing.

    Meanwhile, we have a “Gang of Eight” preparing to give work permits – and ultimately citizenship – to tens of millions of people who just threw out our laws and came anyway. The Gang of Eight not only disrespects current would-be legal immigrants (and their American significant others forced into exile) – it also dooms us to indefinite mass future flows of low-skilled workers at the expense of high-skilled workers. Over the next 10 years, the Gang of Eight Amnesty would allow in 5 million skilled immigrants – and 25-55 million low-skilled immigrants and “chain migration” relatives.

    Why on earth do we bother to put money into education and other initiatives to “compete” in the knowledge economy when we only let in low-skilled people? Doesn’t that send the opposite message from what we keep hearing from politicians: that skills and education aren’t, actually, very important?

    Or, if skills and education are important in the global knowledge economy, why on earth are we moving forward with a future immigration system that continues to keep out the world’s talented, skilled and “best and brightest” and rely heavily on low-skilled migrants … whom we’ll then need to invest billions into so they can even consider participating in the global knowledge economy.

    Where, oh where, are our priorities? Where is any strategy that puts the national interest forward? We should be pursuing the restless educated youth of Europe – instead, we’re doubling down on dishwashers and landscapers from Central America because there are ethnic lobbying groups that want to prioritize them based on their ethnicity. That’s not right, not fair – and it strikes me as highly racist, no?

    • Jim Luebke

      So is this simply a case of the Credentialed Elite protecting itself and its interests, rather than looking after the interests of the nation as a whole?

      That looks like a theory consistent with the facts, anyway.

  • James C. Brown

    All very well and true, for the situation is quite serious. Just two points which I hope will shed light on the above newspaper articles.

    1) The French don’t emigrate. Today’s situation, howsoever bad it is, is nothing like the bad old days after WW1, the Depression and WW2, and yet the French didn’t emigrate – en masse, that is. And even going back further, in the 19th century and its lot of wars and upheavals, France didn’t become an emigrant nation. Sure, there is the historical precedent of the “émigrés” like the Dupont de Nemours, who left Revoutionary France. The émigrés were a mobile, educated elite who, despite relatively small numbers made an impact – sort of like the Huguenot emigrants in the 17th century. And maybe like today’s young, educated, or the capital-endowed & mobile elite for whom London & Switzerland are a hop, skip & jump away. This isn’t emigration as a Salvadorean or a Mexican might understand it.

    2) The French have long acquiesced in – or had to put with – being run by a technocratic elite. The most striking example of this elite’s cluelessness was the “débâcle” that led to France’s quick defeat against Germany. I don’t think the French are under any illusions in this regard, though I don’t think they imagine being governed anyway else

  • Boritz

    First, France’s economic woes are impressive considering they racked this up by welfare state spending while the U.S. footed the bill for most of their defense and also any military heavy lifting worldwide.
    Second, I don’t see U.S. immigration policy embracing people like this young woman, but she and others like her can take heart that there isn’t yet a wall on the southern border if she in atypical fashion wanted to come to the land of burgers and freedom fries.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service