Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The sprezzatura of socialism

I just got back from Europe. I love the history and the scenery and the change of culture and all that, but I’m always reminded of just how bad socialism can be. 

We flew into Paris and took a train to Avignon. That’s in the south of France in Provence. We followed the signs in the train station to the taxis, but when we got there we found no cabs. About 30 of us stood in the hot sun for about 20 minutes before I walked back into the train station and up to the information counter. The nice lady behind the counter called two taxi companies in town. Closed.

We arrived in Avignon on Sunday about 6:15pm. Most taxi drivers in Avignon don’t work on Sunday, and those who do don’t work after 6pm. One taxi showed up to deposit someone at the train station and quickly sped off without picking up a new fare.

In a microcosm, this is what’s wrong with socialism. As it turns out, French taxi drivers are not only paid strictly on salary, they’re union. In America, there would be taxi drivers jockeying for position to pick up these people at the train station. Why? Because their pay is determined by how many people they service in a day. Some days are better than others in America. The more you hustle, the more you make. In France, every day is the same. You’re paid whether you’re driving or sitting. There’s no incentive to hustle. There’s no incentive to help the customer.

Same goes for restaurant servers. Although Americans typically tip, tipping in France is not the norm, and French servers act accordingly. What’s the motivation to take your order in a timely manner or get your food out quickly? You have to be aggressive to get good service. You have to constantly flag your server down and stay on them.

I had to laugh when I was researching this piece. Survey after survey ranked France near the top in productivity and I was left scratching my head until I realized the stipulation. These surveys were based on “productivity per hours worked.” In other words, the French work far fewer hours than we do, which means their overall productivity is much lower.

One opinion writer, James Sproule at the London Times, figured this out. He acknowledged that most surveys compared the UK to France based on hours worked. However, he pointed out that the employment rate in the UK is 72 percent compared to 64 percent in France. “If improving productivity is your sole aim,” he wrote, “British businesses simply need to reduce the number of people they employ, letting go the least productive workers. The results would be bad for society and terrible for the workers concerned, but such a move could boost productivity figures by 8 per cent.”

In other words, the motto of France could be ‘We don’t get a lot done, but at least we don’t work a lot.’

I think a much better way of looking at productivity is by taking the gross domestic product of a nation and dividing it by its population. When you look at it that way, the United States is almost 50 percent more productive than France. And what’s the difference? One country is driven primarily by capitalism while the other is driven by socialism. 

Socialism makes people lazy. It destroys their incentive to produce. It also makes life miserable, especially for people who expect decent service. We in America should take heed. We’re inching ever closer to European socialism. And it doesn't end well.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.


  1. Remember the company owner that decided to pay all his employees the same salary? The company no longer exists!
    Joe's Crab Shack, one of the restaurants that went to app $15 per hr for their servers has reversed the decision at some of their locations. Unhappy customers and some unhappy employees were cited as the cause for this decision. A decent server can make more than $15 hr and would have to pay less income tax.
    Socialism, as well as liberalism are mental disorders!

  2. It seems to me that there are fewer and fewer people who want to get out and work in America these days. Its hard to find good reliable help anymore...ones that can be on time and spell and pass a drug test. Love the show! Come over and set for a spell at the old car shop where Yesterday is.

  3. Why work when Uncle Sam will pay your bills while you stay in free housing, stay high, sell drugs and pop out kids? Reports state that a family 100% on the Govt dole has income and benefits $30,000+ annually. 94 million Americans are out of the workforce but they eat, have housing, new cars, computers and cell phones.
    We raised poor. My mother cooked and canned on a wood burning stove. I remember the first TV, telephone and electric range. I was out of school before my mother had indoor plumbing. Doing without made us all want more and work for it. These people will continue to live off our tax dollars as long as we let them.