The United States has not been traditionally called the land of opportunity for nothing, despite the efforts of certain politicians to transform it into the land of entitlement. Whether one is a Latin American peasant wanting to escape poverty and violence or an entrepreneur from India looking to start a business, America is still an attractive place to wind up in.
According to a recent piece by AFP, the United States should get ready for the next wave of economic refugees, that being the French. “The official statistics agency INSEE said this week that between 2006 and 2013, the number of French emigrating jumped from 140,000 a year to 200,000, 80 percent of them between 18 and 29 years old.”
The reason for the uptick in emigration is not hard to understand. France has a generous social welfare system of the sort that Bernie Sanders seems to be enamored with. But the French have to pay for it with high taxes, chronic unemployment, a stagnating economy, and a mind numbing set of regulations that makes it all but impossible to start a business. According to Trading Economics, youth unemployment in France is at a staggering 24.5 percent. And American millennials think they have it bad! It is only natural that an ambitious young person in France may find living in North America or Australia attractive.
The situation has become a political issue in France. The conservative opposition maintains that the policies of the ruling socialist parties are driving away France’s youth. The socialists, who don’t have a good answer to the points being raised, are accusing the opposition of a lack of patriotism, of “France-bashing.”
Thus far the number of French people living abroad is relatively small, about 2.6 percent compared to 4.6 percent of Germans and 6.7 percent of British citizens. But if economic conditions and government policies continue to provide a disincentive for French people to stay in the land of their birth, one can only expect the numbers to grow.
Ironically, many French expats are winding up in New York where, if anything, the cost of living, taxes, and regulations are even worse than they are in France. The young French entrepreneurs making a go there have not grasped the idea of the United States being a diverse country and of the concept of red and blue states and their different approaches to economic and social policies. Eventually, one suspects that French expatriates will learn that states such as Texas and Florida are much friendlier to business than the states of the northeast, governed as they are by people too fixated on the governing models that the French economic refugees fled from.
When Rick Perry was governor of Texas, he used to travel to high-tax, high-regulation states such as California and Illinois and tout the business-friendly culture of Lone Star State, the idea being that businesses would be induced to tell the politicians and regulators in their home states, in the immortal words of Sam Houston, “You can go to hell. I’m going to Texas.” Now that Perry is no longer running for president and has some time on his hands, perhaps he can journey to Paris and evangelize French youth about Texas as a place where their energy and ambition will cause them to thrive. It would be a fascinating experiment to see how many French people could be persuaded to decamp to Houston and Dallas. Both they and Texas would likely benefit tremendously.