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Friday, 22 October 2010

Differing responses

I have watched with fascination, the different responses to the austerity measures being announced around Europe. The French Unions seem to be in open rebellion over their government's attempt to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the Greeks went wild over an attempt to move theirs from 55! With people in Britain having to work to 65 and in a few years to 66 to reach Pension age one does wonder how some of these State's expected to fund the early ages they originally set.

Perhaps the answer can be gleaned from a statement I caught earlier, from the spokewoman for the CGT in France. She declared that raising the retirement age of existing workers harmed the prospects of school and university leavers seeking work. Her argument seemed to be that by allowing older people to stay in employment meant that jobs would not become available for those starting out. This has echoes of the socialist pipe-dream of "Full Employment" so much trumpetted by the chattering classes who tried to seize the assets and investments of individuals in their "Nationalisation" programmes of the 1940 - 1970 period. The idea was that by centrally "managing" commerce and industry you could create job expansion programmes and ensure that there would always be jobs and everyone would be employed somewhere.

This is, of course, why they never allowed for investment of Pension Contributions and continually collected money for this and the health services which was then spent on social engineering schemes in all sorts of wasteful and now failed projects. And now that the population who paid for a pension would like to receive them, thank you very much, there is nothing in the bank.

Full Employment was a dream of the Communist planners and it works, assuming you can keep factories running on out of date machinery, producing goods no one wants to buy and which end up being recycled endlessly to make new appliances which end up being recycled... This is the sort of thinking which led, in the 1970's, to ports in the UK having to employ a "stevedore" to sit in the cab of every straddle carrier at container berths. He didn't do anything, there was nothing for him to do anyway, but why pay a man who could have retrained to do something economical? The same thing happened in the UK's shipyards, with demarcation between Unions which caused disruption and delays to new building and maintenance of ships to the extent that buyers went elsewhere. Apart from anything else, the Unions wouldn't allow the introduction of new building techniques - because these required fewer workers. One by one the Yards closed ...

The same happened in the mines culminating in the Thatcher years which saw mines, that had the ability to be viable and productive, closed, because the Union refused to allow any modernisation and the losers are still bitter and resentful - but they misdirect their resentment. It is the Union that destroyed thier jobs, not the government. Had the Miners Union allowed the modernisations and been less embedded in Soviet style thinking, many would now still be mining.

The French have evaded addressing these and other problems for several decades now. It may be too late, it may already be heading toward and fullscale civil war and that will be bad for the whole of Europe.

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