The French disconnection
Published 25/10/2010 | 05:00
Charles de Gaulle once asked: "How can anyone govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" President Nicolas Sarkozy now tries to govern the same country, which has almost as many varieties of protest as of cheese. He is winning, but has not won yet.
He himself chose the ground for his confrontation with the French trade unions, the numerous parties of the left, the students -- a term which in France includes schoolchildren -- and the millions of others who dislike him. He may have underestimated the size and strength of the opposition.
But he certainly appeared to choose his issue well: the legislation, now going through the parliament, to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62. Few indeed are the countries with such a low retirement age. Fewer still will they be in the future. For a number of reasons, of which increased longevity is the foremost, there is a world-wide pensions crisis.