Saturday, July 02, 2005

Thomas Friedman: More Economic Freedom in Ireland Produces Prosperity
There is a huge debate roiling in Europe today over which economic model to follow: the Franco-German shorter-workweek-six-weeks'-vacation-never-fire-anyone-but-high-unemplo yment social model or the less protected but more innovative, high-employment Anglo-Saxon model preferred by Britain, Ireland and Eastern Europe. It is obvious to me that the Irish-British model is the way of the future, and the only question is when Germany and France will face reality: Either they become Ireland, or they become museums. That is their real choice over the next few years - it's either the leprechaun way or the Louvre.

Because I am convinced of that, I am also convinced that the German and French political systems will experience real shocks in the coming years as both nations are asked to work harder and embrace either more outsourcing or more young Muslim and Eastern European immigrants to remain competitive.

As an Irish public relations executive in Dublin remarked to me, "How would you like to be the French leader who tells the French people they have to follow Ireland?" Or even worse, Tony Blair!

Just how ugly things could get was demonstrated the other day when Blair told his EU colleagues at the European Parliament that they had to modernize or perish.

"Pro-Chirac French [parliamentarians] skulked at the back of the hall," The Times of London reported. But not all. Jean Quatremer, the veteran Brussels correspondent for the French left-wing newspaper Libération, was quoted by The Times as saying, "For a long time we have been talking about the French social model, as opposed to the horrible Anglo-Saxon model, but we now see that it is our model that is a horror."

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