Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Capitalists of Convenience

Nicolas Sarkozy wants the French to work on Sunday. I probably lost you between "French" and "work", but if you can compose yourself for a moment and stay with me, the ambitious young playboy President wants the smell of over-priced wine and fromage wafting through the air and mimes in striped shirts and berets to punch in for a normal work day on Sunday at their employer's discretion. Perhaps if the French could be made to work during the normal work week this little dust-up wouldn't have started in the first place.

Debate will begin today in the National Assembly to overturn a 1906 law declaring Sunday a day of rest, with the exclusion of some fresh food providers that can still remain open until noon. A small side note to this story, which I find wonderfully delicious, is that special arrangements had to be made for the Obama's during a recent visit so they could do a little high-end shopping at an exclusive luxury clothing store. Apparently, the horrors of unabated capitalism don't apply to it's most ardent detractors.

All jokes about 3 hour lunch breaks and neglectful personal hygiene aside, Sarkozy deserves some credit for trying to inject some desperately needed deregulation into France's nightmarish economic labyrinth, but the fallout West of the pond has produced some curious insights into the left's knee jerk politics.

On various political message boards and comment sections of internet editorial pieces, America's liberal foot soldiers were strangely silent, until some thoughtful folks interjected the most dreaded word in America's political lexicon into the argument - God. Once that happened, any sympathies they may have had for the "workers of the world" in their battle against "the soulless capitalist corporations" were quickly thrown out the window. The left often defines themselves by using what they are "not" as a guideline. When Al Gore, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry believed deposing Saddam Hussein by military means was a National Security priority, I don't remember the moveon.org crowd mobilizing their code-pink protest brigades into the streets. When a Republican President decided to act instead of simply paying lip service to the idea, the same cast of characters went nuts.

When I first shared my observations about Sunday shopping in another forum I frequent, a progressive friend of mine went absolutely apoplectic. To be fair, his argument was simply that he was annoyed at being "inconvenienced" when in France on a Sunday, which was all the more disconcerting to me.

There is a non-religious argument for keeping shops closed on Sunday. Sunday shopping is pretty much the norm, at least in Eastern Canada. When Sunday shopping legislation was first introduced in Nova Scotia, pompous government employees who still enjoyed a regular 9 to 5 work week complained "When are we supposed to shop?"

Many retail workers were infuriated by this. Government employees could shop after 5 every day of the week and all day Saturday. The folks on the lower rung of the economic ladder just wanted some time to spend with their families - one day out of the entire week. This is a similar argument to what trade unions and those on the left in France are making.

But in North America, it's strange how liberals become capitalists of convenience when God comes into the equation. Because there is a religious element for some people in this debate, the left has suddenly become Adam Smith incarnate.

Aren't these the people who are supposed to stick up for the little guys? The poor single mother who wants to know she can have at least one day of the week to spend with her kids? I guess not at the expense of sharing political elbow room with conservatives, or the horror of having to eat stale bread because they couldn't be bothered to get to the bakery before noon.

This seems like a rather small blip on the radar, but it's opened my eyes to an entire array of issues where the left adopts a more right-leaning stance when it directly affects their lives. Over the weekend, I witnessed one of the most astounding examples of this, which we'll explore more broadly in the coming weeks. This is definitely a phenomenon, and I think we may be on to something.

In the meantime, I guess my European friends will have to wait until Monday to buy that 211EUR purse they had their eye on, and suffer the indignity of having to munch on a baguette they bought at 11 am.



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