The Yellow Vest movement in France has marked its thirteenth week of constant protest in the streets of Paris.
Journalist Ford Fischer, who arrived in Paris this past week in order to live broadcast the protests to his site News2Share, in order to fill the gap in information by the American media, showed up in time to witness some of the most violent interactions between the police and the protesters yet in the movement’s brief history (all of which were recorded for the world to witness).
In a discussion with Fischer, I learned that the Yellow Vest movement is more of a coalition rather than a unified front. From populists raging against the immigration, the European Union, and obligations to NATO, to the anti-tax crowd and Marxists highlighting the apparent class struggle, this odd marriage of these multiple factions have united against President Macron’s expanded gas tax, which they claim disproportionally harms the French working and middle class. While the issue might be focused primarily on this one unpopular legislative decision, the roots of the now turned violent Yellow Vest protests run deeper than that.
While politically center-right sympathizers in the United States have been quick to side with the protestors due to the anti-tax mantra, the substance beneath the slogans is far more insidious. Fischer stated that the issue at hand among most of the protestors is not simply the implementation of the tax, but who the tax is being directed towards- French workers.
A majority of the protestors wish that the larger income earners and wealthy French elites would pick up more of the tax burden (as they already do with a top marginal tax rate of 45 percent), meaning they wouldn’t have too.
With a class warfare mindset brewing hotter and hotter each week the protests continue, the more the real reason behind all of this controversy might get lost in the context of it all. The French welfare state is a model “Nanny State” for progressive Europe, and over the years has had to balance pleasing both ends of a Democracy that demands more entitlements with each election.
The broad issue to paint things in simple terms is that compared to other developed nations in the West, the French don’t produce, and most don’t even work not because of a lack of opportunity, but because they have chosen not to. The Régime Général run by URSSAF (Union de Recouvrement des cotisations de la Sécurité Sociale et d’Allocations Familiales) is the largest entitlement fund in all of France.
According to CompleteFrance.com, “The majority of employed, unemployed and retired people are covered by this fund and, in all, around 85% of the population living in France are affiliated to this general social security fund.” This means that with a guaranteed handout and regressive tax rate, you work to pay those who are in some cases, choosing not to work.
The French abide by a basic socialist view of redistribution “based on the theory of repartition, with all collected funds redistributed to finance immediate welfare needs, such as unemployment, sickness benefit, and state pension payments.” This is the root of the issue, meaning that the French want to pass money around in a progressive style without wanting to directly understand the concept of other people having to foot the bill by producing the services, demand, and supply of which money can be freely allocated based off market principles.
The Yellow Vest movement may have been brought about by recent developments in their politics, but the reason behind all this issue lies in the fact that one group of the nation wants to significantly move the burden of a cumbersome welfare state upon the other; passing rapidly back and forth a jug of water hoping nothing spills so they can’t be blamed for the little that is left inside the jug.
While the father of Communism, Karl Marx, and his ideas are factually incompatible with the classical liberal view of individual autonomy and free markets, France seems to be falling in line with the Marxist’s view of history and cyclical, human behavior.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx stated what is to many people around the world a forced reality, that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, that each time ended, either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
In a free enterprise system, free men and women can move up and down the social latter and aren’t confined to the rigid class system humanity has known for so long.
However, the existence of the welfare state creates the false god the French are now prey to, having to sacrifice someone else’s liberty and treasure, never wanting it to be theirs.