The Phileas Club 66 – Generational Threat

On this episode we talk about:

  • Three strange things about moving to Finland
  • Saudi Arabia moving into Irak and Syria
  • Work reform laws
  • South China Sea issues
  • And more…

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  1. De Ruijter says:

    Great discussion about the influence of Saudi Arabia on its regional instability, due to diverse perspectives of the guests. When the discussion transitioned to France’s socialist policies, due presence of only self-employed people, it however turned into a bit of an unhealthy circlejerk following the pied piper of American-style capitalism.

    When you look at this from a macro-economic perspective most of a regular person’s budget still goes to fixed expenditures like housing, healthcare, energy, banking/insurance and government services, which in turn creates a lot of stable jobs. The actual jobs that were lost creating the increased unemployment are those dealing with irregular expenditures like industrial factory products (from consumer hardware to medicine to clothes to cars) or regular expenditures on easily outsourcable services (such as IT work or call centers) that went to low-wage countries and aren’t coming back. Meanwhile there are no new jobs in return, because that portion from the income of the rest of the population is now flowing abroad those cheaper countries. In this regard it seems people are forgetting the effect of the common market on the UK car manufacturing industry or moreover how keen America recently was to save its own, because something like that not only hits the main companies but also their suppliers and likewise self-employed people like yourself might lose customers when part of your audience loses their jobs due to these laxer employment laws. The only thing you could in turn achieve is to steal some of the limited good corporate jobs from other strong economies, but you’d be kidding yourself if you’d think there wouldn’t be trade repercussions (for example against French farming subsidies) and that all those laid off low-skill or unemployed underprivileged people are all of a sudden going to roll into a nice and quite complex white collar jobs. France will have to move to much harsher social policies like those of the UK to force people into that effort and even then the companies will have to factor in huge moving costs. The only way you really get them to move is through something like that Dutch-Irish tax construction, but that again only benefits the wealthy. In the end the only way to put the genie back in the bottle is to stop sending your irregular expenditures abroad and block their unfair competition driven by bad worker as well as environmental conditions. Otherwise relaxing your laws is only going to benefit the global optimization process of capitalism and may even cost you the social infrastructure you hold so dear in your quest to join the ranks of the USA. It was nice that at then end at least Annie came to the same conclusion in regards to not qualifying for an apartment when you don’t have a stable job anymore as a starter.

    • Honestly I understand this part of this issue, but I think you’re underestimating the specific situation in France. If you look at unemployment rates in western Europe, France is very much in the bottom half of the pile (if not worse), with an unemployment rate of over 10%, when many other countries that are a little bit tougher (I would rather say “make more sense” actually) on adapting their labor laws are faring much better. Germany and the nordic countries come to mind, but even if you don’t look at the top of the classe, there’s a world of difference between those amazing 3 or 4% and our 10+%.
      I also want to say that I reject the binary view of “good french socialism vs evil american capitalism” which you jokingly refer to: this is not about poor vs rich, and it is even less about socialism vs capitalism, as the model I would refer to in this case is the nordic countries that are definitely socialist in spirit, but value sensible reform of class dogma as we do in France. They usually have amazing social protections and pretty high tax rates, but they aren’t afraid to change things when they don’t make sense anymore, where this “acquired right” is usually THE huge issue for us (people will never give up anything, even if it means they are sinking the boat they’re on).

      And thanks for the comment, I very much appreciate it!

      • De Ruijter says:

        I’m partly playing devil’s advocate of course and I’m sure there are good reforms to be made, like the housing market you discussed or the very early retirement age in France. The old holding the young hostage, because the baby-boomers are a large percentage of the population right now, is definitely a thing. Even in those more competitive Northern European countries. Meanwhile those countries are however also overturning some of their laxer labour laws now, because they didn’t have the intended consequences. Hence I would say go slowly and experiment, but it seems from your words that the stubbornness of the French system and the urgent need for reform will instead lead to a big corrective push to the right.

        There is however the danger, like with the ongoing TTIP/CETA push, that this will cost you even more jobs because the current laws are actually preventing further outsourcing. The pie of work will only be so large at the moment and all those developing countries will do anything to just get a bigger share in the short-term, instead of gradually developing their own regional economy like we did ours. Just look at how dependent those oil countries are on our funding, while they have nothing to fall back on once we switch to renewables. Meanwhile all those big multinationals will gladly help them if that means reducing production costs and increasing profit for them, no matter the disruptive effects such mass-scale global efficiency optimization has in the West or how that might feed political strains like those of Donald Trump. It would be silly to ignore that this has been the bigger picture for many other liberalized Western European countries and might be in store for France as well. There are only a handful of those European countries that actually have those low unemployment ratings you mention and that has mostly to do with historical (knowledge) industries, geography/infrastructure and natural resources.

        Meanwhile those other Western European countries have well-educated people and lax laws as well, which is why companies are there now in the first place. Moreover I wouldn’t wish it on France to undergo the same development in their culture, like the obsession with status/money and the Seattle Freeze, that went along with their productivity development or the bad weather that helps it along (someone made a nice Kutzgesagt-like animated video of that but I can’t find it anymore). Hence it would be a pity if France had to go down to the USA’s lawless radical capitalist environment to actually be competitive on the global stage and seems to me more like a huge flaw in the system. It would really take away part of the collectiveness that is at the core of France and why people like it so much. Falling for that almost seems like falling for all those American people coming out of the woodwork after the Paris attacks saying all Europeans should have guns like in the USA.

  2. De Ruijter says:

    Loved the comment about women working blue collar jobs and I wish I would see that a lot more in my own very progressive European country. Even now I’m only seeing them in very stable support jobs (like company finance, HR, customer service or teaching) but nowhere near jobs that impose increased time demands (like corporate banking/consultancy), mental strain (like STEM jobs), physical strain (like construction work) or financial risk (like owning a small business). Not only does that lack of gender interaction create an uneasy barrier or even self-imposed segregation between the sexes, but it also makes it seem very self-serving when women are subsequently demanding quota’s in only high paying executive jobs. Meanwhile as a man I really wouldn’t mind if the government more strongly enforced some worker time/location flexibility, so both genders can for example be equally involved in parenting duties and hence also have equal career development, because by now it seems pretty clear that primarily profit driven companies just won’t do it by themselves. Especially when some people are advocating reducing workers rights …

    • Again, I’ll refer to the nordic countries, where parental leaves are very much encourage, or even incentivized. Sensing a pattern yet? Nordic countries have a lot going for them… 🙂

      • De Ruijter says:

        Hahaha, I’m imaging that place thawing down a bit more due to all the global warming and making you look brilliantly ahead of the curve for moving there 🙂

  3. Making it easier to fire people will reduce unemployment?

    Young French are held hostage by old French?

    French workers should be striped of their legal rights and protections because allegedly French bakes don’t have same rights?

    US is protector of freedom of navigation? By what international agreement or UN resolution?

    US is not imperial power and does not dictate policy to other countries?

    Red Army liberation or eastern Europe from Nazi occupation is, and I quote: “Land grab”?


    You know what Patrick, all four of you are the dumbest most retarded bunch of rabid right wing lunatics, dare I say neo-nazis, I had displeasure of listening in years. You four should seriously consider seeking employment in Fox news, they would absolutely love you.

    • patrick says:

      Wow, I think this might be the first ever troll comment on the show… I didn’t realize we were getting a big enough audience for that, we must be doing something right! 🙂

      Alright, I’ll entertain you for one singular reply:
      – It might.
      – Kind of.
      – Stripped? No. Changed? Possibly.
      – What?
      – Errr…
      – Ok.


      You know what Zoa? I think you have me pegged perfectly. Thank you for your insightful comment.

      Seriously though, if that is what you understood from the show and the way you actually choose to react, I think there is a lot you’re not understanding about the spirit of what I’m trying to do here. And I have to say, it makes me kind of sad… Anyway, have a lovely life, because I’m guessing I’ll never hear from you again.

  4. Patrick, et al –

    This was a fascinating show. I don’t know much at all about international politics and while much of what you teach me scares me almost as much as the Presidential Elections in the US, I feel it’s good for me to learn these different perspectives. Here’s a couple of things I learned (and maybe a comment or two along the way):

    Finland seems to think that as humans we’re capable of recognizing 7 different kinds of recyclables. We have 3 cans in California: trash, paper/plastic recyclables, and green waste like grass and leaves. I would never be able to learn 7.

    I had no idea that Saudi Arabia had laws (?) that said that as long as bad stuff wasn’t going to happen inside the country, then money could flow outside to whoever for whatever cause and that this has been a major funding source for ISIL. Really interesting, and terrifying.

    Fascinating discussion on French employment. I’m so glad that Patrick explained at the end that French socialism isn’t the same as European socialism. I learned about the French laws saying you couldn’t ever be fired. I always say that you should make laws/rules that encourage the behavior you want. Do you want people to be motivated and productive? Then don’t tell them that they can never be fired. I would goof around all day long if I knew I could never be fired! It was REALLY interesting that profitable companies couldn’t ever close plants if they were unprofitable in France. That’s a perfect way to motivate companies to never bring jobs to your country!

    One correction for Annie, and it’s altogether possible that I misheard, but we do not have guaranteed severance in the United States. It is possible to have severance pay but it’s an agreement of employment that some companies provide and usually it’s related to the number of years you’ve worked there. I worked for the same company for 35 years and so I had the highest possible severance pay (in a 60K person company) and it was 6 mos. 2 years is crazy talk! Here’s support for my statement:

    I found it interesting how things work (or don’t work) in Viet Nam as well. Learning that the poorest there are the ones suffering from the damage of climate change with the floods was disheartening. I wondered though that if the jobs weren’t there wouldn’t it be worse? The developed countries would still be poisoning the planet (but doing our little recycling so we feel good about ourselves) but the jobs just wouldn’t be in Viet Nam.

    I’m just getting into the part about the South China Sea. I may go watch election coverage to cheer myself up.

    Excellent excellent show.

    • Thanks for the kind words Allison, very glad you’re enjoying the show. We don’t always get it right, but we do try to present different ideas on some topics, and apparently that is working pretty well. 🙂

  5. Hi Patrick

    Thank you again for this podcast!
    Just one thing. You were all on the same side talking about labour laws in France. It will have been more interesting to hear arguments of other people who are against the new labour laws project or who can explain to people who are listening why some people want to defend their rights. France has a big labour history where workers won, in the past century, some rights that protect them being just used like a tool. You talked about it like “okay in France you can do nothing”. I am not living in France anymore and yes, it’s difficult to get a job or open a company. I left France because of that (And I think my name didn’t help me about it but it is an other thing)Laws need to be adjusted especially with little companies/self employed but France must keep protecting workers from abuses…HumanVsCapitalism 😀
    And about what Eric said about USA who grant freedom navigation, freedom in the world maybe as well? I’m gonna watch Avengers again to be sure 😀

    • *edit:It would have been

    • A couple of people have said this to me (interestingly, it was French or France-affiliated people only). I think an issue is that those people usually don’t realize how extreme the French reaction seems from the outside, because they’re immersed in it and it seems natural to them. (Again, the comparison to US gun laws come to mind). With this episode, the idea was to try and convey that side of the impression: this just seems completely nuts, and I would love for the French to realize it and maybe question their reaction a bit, before accusing me of being a right wing capitalist sell out (which I’ve actually been accused of after this episode – which is especially lovely since I’m usually accused of being a leftist nut by many non-French for every other episode…).
      So again, I think the issue of “getting out of your environment” is crucial, and too few people do it, period.

      That being said, I think a whole special episode with French left wing advocates would be very interesting indeed. Maybe I can do that sometime in the future…

  6. Hi Patrick, I’m have been a regular listener of the Phileas Club and a supporter on Patreon. I always enjoy the back and forth and the various perspectives of people from all over the globe, but I found this episode disturbing– or maybe just not nearly as enjoyable as usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and trying to figure out why and I think I’ve figured it out. What I really enjoy about the usual conversation is that each person brings their personal experience and speak not as scholars or journalists, but as people that live in diverse places and have their own personal points of view. Eric Olander, though he may be correct in the things he said, seemed to be speaking like a journalist and not from personal experience. I would not like to see the Phileas Club turn into just another political discussion of things that people believe based on what they’ve read or researched rather than what they experience. Eric seems to have traveled quite a bit and I’m sure he’s learned, but I feel he approached this much more as a journalist than from a personal perspective. Thanks for your work.

    • Hey Nancy, thanks for your comment! I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I agree there was a bit of that in the last episode. But worry not, while I enjoy some of it in our discussions, I completely understand that the value of the show is where it is the more personal. There is no danger of it becoming just that… Actually, the latest special episode that just came out has a lot more of that personal touch, so I think you might enjoy it. Let me know! 🙂

  7. StephSinalco says:

    Eh eh eh 🙂 As I was listening to the episode, more specifically, the part on the new “loi du travail”, I could already tell there would be more comments than usual. And, as you’re a well known French podcaster (yes, you are, stop being modest), I knew a good portion would be either aggressive ones or, at least, disagree with the general consensus you expressed. To be honest, as a French-speaking Swiss listener living in Geneva, I can assure you everyone follows very closely what happens in our big neighboring country. And, most of the time, we’re kinda amazed by what we see. The hostile reactions against this reform just are a new cause for this amazement… Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that, since the most vocal ones are protesting in the street, it’s interesting to hear that 1. we are not the only ones around the world not getting exactly where’s the problem 2. some educated people in France also seem to thing there’s an urgent need to reform the system.

    On the other hand, to be totally honest, even if I enjoyed the discussion, it was in my opinion missing the kind of debate usually happening in the show : you all were agreeing on this “a little bit too much” :-\

    Anyway, great show, great episode, thanks for everything 🙂

    • Point taken… and point taken. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment, and for letting me know I’m not the only one in this very strange boat!

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