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Francestein: The Next European Shoe to Drop


After Grexit and Spain comes the 'Francestein' French monster.

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I have been brewing an article on Francestein for a few weeks, and while I procrastinated, The Economist beat me to it, and made France, the Time-Bomb at the Heart of Europe the (controversial) cover of this week's edition.

I am left to offer an alternative look at the reasons why France is the next European shoe to drop, why it must drop, and maybe when it will drop.

If you are pressed for time, here is my conclusion: France must fall, must clash, and must almost collapse because it knows no other way to reform. The tension is unavoidable; it is the only thing that can cause a change. In a way, think of it as the US fiscal cliff -- we need it to offer long-term US solutions. And because of this, we'll likely avert a severe escalation of tensions. But in France, the underlying tension needs to be taken to another level so that reforms are enacted. It cannot be averted. Far from clichés of all sorts, this is the greatest difference between Latin European societies and the US: The US reforms based on fear of danger; they reform based on consequences of danger.

If you are not pressed for time, I would like to offer an unconventional look deep under the French hood. French people work hard, and have excellent productivity and top skills. They lead hard in diplomatic advances and they fight hard in wars. They have been out on all major fronts and the Foreign Legion would give any unit a run for their money. The issues plaguing France are much deeper than and farther from a perceived issue of laziness and workmanship.

It all starts very much like it does in Spain and Italy: Latin Europe can seemingly only reform through rebellion against what I call the "father complex." It can only be a violent, spurting form of reform, a societal reflection of a mental scheme, where one can only advance by fighting against the father figure: "L'Etat," or "the State."

Here are some of the least covered sociological realities of the French (and Latin Europe, at large) societies:

1. They are historically driven by a strong father education, father power, and pyramidal families, where the first-born is groomed to inherit and protect the wealth accumulated through generations. This mental model has shaped the societies for centuries. In France, the only way out is to become a physician, an engineer, or an attorney. Of course, you can add veterinarian, pharmacist, architect, or notary, but you get the picture: The way out has not included becoming an entrepreneur.

2. Over the years, these ways out have evolved into being groomed for the best schools: The National Administration School (ENA) or Polytechnic (the French equivalent to the USA's MIT.). But again, going down this path ensures a certain future and working for the best companies... but it doesn't include entrepreneurship.
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