I am going to Paris this weekend, because the OECD invited me to present on law and technology. A visit to the city of lights should be a delight, but sadly it looks like mine will be darkened by national strikes. Unions are trying to pressure the Socialist government to drop mild reforms to French labor laws that would make it somewhat less expensive to discharge workers. Currently, workers who are not on short-term contracts have close to life tenure. The absurdity of this regime was underscored just this week, when a French labor tribunal held that a bank wrongly discharged a worker who had caused it billions of dollars of losses through illegal trades!
The sturm und drang about moving France ever so incrementally toward a free market shows the continuing importance of a nation’s founding principles. Our revolution and Constitution embedded principles of classical liberalism in the DNA of America. In contrast, the French Revolution created an enduring political norm demanding substantive equality, not merely equality under law. It is worth looking at the consequences of these different principles, because the renewed focus on inequality in the United States is fundamentally an attempt to make our core political concern be equality rather than liberty.
In the New York Times this weekend Anthony Banbury, a civil servant at the UN, told us why he was resigning. The UN bureaucracy, he has found, is insulated from political control and serves it own interests. The nation states that are in political control manipulate the UN’s operations for domestic advantage rather the promotion of world peace and security. As a result, the UN deployed soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo as peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, despite their well known tendency to violate human rights. The consequence has been not peace, but the rape and torture of innocent civilians.
Banbury seems to think UN could improve if the bureaucracy had better people and the nations behaved with greater attention to the UN’s objectives. But the problems he identifies are intrinsic to the UN’s structure. The inexorable failure of the UN instead underscores the indispensable role of the United States in providing the public goods of global peace and security that the UN claims to advance.