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The future in France isn’t so bright for French youth. In fact, it’s all rather fuzzy. But now a movement seems to be gathering steam that’s encouraging young people to go abroad. So what is the operative metaphor here? Are young people fleeing a sinking ship of state? Are they little worker bees flying off to bring back pollen from far away flowers? Whatever the image, just make sure it’s compatible with frustration with the French ruling class. A recent article in the New York Times referred to the “decrepit, overcentralized gerontocracy” that French youth should shun.
Indeed, the generational divided in France is very real. The country is mostly run by a well-connected crowd of patricians in the plus-sixty age category. Not that this state of affairs is unique to France. The French, however, seem to possess a special gift for denial. President François Hollande has doubled down on high taxation, reform roll back, and growing government spending. When a youth unemployment rate of 25% (over 30 years!) is factored in, the desire of French youth to seek their fortunes elsewhere seems like a no-brainer.
The next question is: Will an exodus of young people somehow benefit France? Of course, such a scenario is fodder for the far right. Get rid of the French youth so that even more immigrants from North Africa can clog up the system. Maybe a mass exit of youth will serve as a wake-up call to the elite that the current status quo isn’t sustainable? Maybe young people will learn crucial lessons from emerging economies on how to jolt social and technical innovation?
I hope the youth of France learn the most important lesson of not imitating their elders. Enough with the infantile street protests and riots. They now appear as just so much sound and fury signifying the very real absence of substantive change. Riots also haven’t served the immigrant youth well, and will make their climb to respectability more arduous. Everyone needs to take a collective deep breath, roll up their sleeves, forget the entitlement state exists, and get to work.