Happy Birthday Marge

It appears the French aren't very happy about having to work past the age of 60. In fact, they're so upset about the prospect, that they've downed tools and the majority of the country appears to have gone on strike.

Ahhh. Clever. See what they've done there? Even if they do have to work until they're 62, by protesting for long enough they could get two years off, and therefore not actually work as long as they're being expected to. 
(Photo via Reuters)

But why are they being asked by their government to work for a further two years? 

In the UK we weren't consulted  on the subject but from October next year employers would not be allowed to dismiss staff because they had reached the age of 65. We're being told that it's to deal with the deep financial crisis that the World economy finds itself in. Frankly I doubt that such a financial crisis even exists. In fact a more plausible story is thus:

A couple of large banks made some very bad decisions based on the fact that they'd told their shareholders to expect a constant stream of growth. The banks themselves had forgotten the rule that they happily jam down everybody else's throats. Namely, "The value of your" anything-you-care-to-mention "can go down as well as up". If they'd told their shareholders to expect no, or better yet just moderate, growth then the banks wouldn't have been motivated to over extend their borrowing and then panic when they couldn't afford to meet their responsibilities. 

In the real world, the solution to this is for these bad businesses to go bust.  But in the twisted financial world of high finance and big bankers entwined with expense extracting politicians that's not how it worked out. Instead the government used our money (acquired from us via taxation and set aside for retirement funds) to lend to these failing banks to meet their responsibilities. 

That leaves the government in the sticky situation of having robbed Peter to pay Paul and now having to get that money back from somewhere. So they've sold "shares" in the government (in the form of bonds) back to the banks (who have bought them with the money the government has lent them) which presumably in time, the banks will then sell again - to us most likely - to get the money back again.

What's all this got to do with Marge's Birthday??  

Well, the people (in France) on strike that can apply pressure to the government are government department employees. The likes of power/electricity workers for example.  In the UK during the 1980's, Marge Thatcher made it her mission to get rid of many of the nationalised industries the country had. Power generation in the form of British Gas is just one example. and then on top of that she systematically destroyed the Union's. The Miner's strikes are a bleak reminder of the times. If Maggie hadn't done that, would the UK be on strike to protest against the way the UK Government have been treating it's citizen's of late?

I suspect the answer is no. After all, that's not really the British way of doing things. We are after all is said and done, far more reserved and stiff upper lipped than the french and their students. Ultimately this is probably a bad thing.

You have to love the fact that while today is Maggie's Birthday, everyone in the world is watching the rescue of the Miner's in Chile.
(photo via the BBC)

A final thought - not everything that Maggie did was a bad thing - just the disassembly of the will of the people may not have been her greatest hour.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous