French-American Ideas for Paris

In a time of increasing international rivalries and economic uncertainties emanating from China, historic allies of the Western World have much to gain by becoming closer, even if only by considering their own versions of each others' policies. In light of the recent 'Grexit' debate and renewed internal commercial tensions, the European Union could draw inspiration from the federal states of North America. And as questions arise their multicultural models, the United States and France could inspire one another on several policy aspects, while fighting more and more against religious extremism.

As well illustrated by the heroic intervention of American servicemen in August on a French train to foil a terrorist attack, the United States and France have historically been there for one another. Even if these two nations do not always understand each other, they admire one another and are strong, deeply linked allies -after all, the United States would not exist without Lafayette, who himself was George Washington's godson.

The American model offers food for thought amidst France's current economic slowdown. For the Hexagon, economic liberalization is now a priority and a must, not only in order to move back towards solid growth, but also to be on par with European peers. The 'Loi Macron' ('Macron Law', named after the Minister of Finance which, among other measures, supports some deregulation and would allow limited Sunday opening hours for businesses) is a first step. Nevertheless, change must continue with a clear reduction of social charges for companies, as well as more freedom to hire and dismiss workforce (in other words, easing labor laws for employers). Such measures would act as a stimulus to the development of businesses, industries, and the economy as a whole. A labor contract similar to the American 'independent contractor' status -very popular since it allows an employee to work for one or more organizations in an independent fashion, without its employer being allowed to impose strict work or office hours- should be debated and perhaps adapted to France. It would, in particular, be very useful to start-up companies, which seek to rapidly grow but can only hire limitedly and for specific tasks, and are unable or unwilling to undergo the constraints to French work contracts.

France is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, but is now the most multicultural country in Europe -a society akin to the U.S. Despite the Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston events, the United States are a land where communities live, indeed, with some degree of separation, but nevertheless together and with mutual respect. Racism, antisemitism and overall discrimination are severely sanctioned, both by law and by public opinion. Upon the Paris January 2015 terrorist attacks, and as France needs to reinforce homeland security, in a well-thought fashion at that, it can look to its own version of the Patriot Act of 2001. And Paris ought to carry out security increases with measures and initiatives protecting, or even fostering, mutual tolerance and respect of all communities, in order to not compromise the future of an inevitably diverse nation.

In sensitive, impoverished urban areas where the 'ascenseur social' ('social elevator') is restricted and radical Islam has found a public, France should look to create a 'French Dream' in the way of the American Dream. Youths must be given hope. From the Californian Watts to New York's Bronx, the American flag can be found floating on doors of even the lowest-income neighborhoods. That testifies to a certain patriotism and an attachment to the values and opportunities that the country provides. The Hexagon could and should promote a deeper sentiment of adherence to its values among its populations, especially the sensitive ones. Concretely, and in particular in the 'banlieues' (poor, ghettoized suburbs) the French state could come up with policies enabling the educational system to be more personalized, pushing children to learn early about topics and/or professional skills they are attracted to, with clear, flexible and available possibilities for retraining later on in life -somewhat akin 'continuing education', so popular across the Atlantic. Besides, encouraging programs teaching entrepreneurship and self-reliance would enable to channel and focus both energies and vocations early on in life. If coupled with the liberalization measures discussed above, a real likelihood of job creation, auto-emancipation and auto-satisfaction is enabled.

France has enormous talent. For centuries, it has produced world-class entrepreneurs, intellectuals, inventors and politicians. And it shall continue. The current state of the domestic economy has created an opportunity to cease. Well-chosen ideas, inspired by what is commonly done in the Anglo-Saxon world, will at least provide for an enlightening public debate. By creating its own version of select American social and economic policies and values, France will by no means sacrifice its identity, but on the contrary, will keep positioning itself very well on the increasingly competitive and fast-moving global stage. Both Tocqueville and Benjamin Franklin would certainly appreciate.