The Moment

10|19|10: Paris

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Demonstrations and strikes are to France in the fall as pumpkins are to the U.S.--life wouldn't be the same without them. The latest wave of protests have as their origin proposals by President Nicolas Sarkozy to revise the rules governing state pensions. Sarkozy wants to increase the age at which one can first claim a pension from 60 to 62 and the age at which the full amount is paid from 65 to 67. Outside France, the strikes have provoked the usual clich├ęd berets-and-baguettes responses: The lazy French don't get it; they don't understand that pensions and other benefits have to be paid for by taxes on productive workers; they won't admit that better health care and longer life spans mean that everyone can work longer than they once did. All of which is far less important than the fact that yet another rich European nation (see Germany and the U.K.) is proposing to bring its spending on entitlements in line with economic realities. Americans have long enjoyed lecturing Europeans on their supposed fecklessness. Teacher: it's time to take a few lessons from your students.