An American icon—the Coca-Cola brand—almost went to war to free common sense, which was being held hostage by the French government and knee-jerk socialism, but appears to have unfortunately retreated.
You’re going to have to bear with me for a second here. I realize this column is about something happening way over in France, but by now it shouldn’t be difficult to see how it might be yet another preview of what’s to come if America continues its current socialist slide.
Like America and virtually every other Western country, France is deep in debt, and instead of its government trimming the fat—starting right at its own navel, with all of it filling the seats at various useless levels of government—Prime Minister Francois Fillon has somehow concluded, among all the possibilities and ideas available to him, that one of the most effective ways to replenish the trough would be to tax sugared sodas by one cent per can.
Now Fillon can’t possibly think that a tax of a single cent will dissuade someone from a soda purchase, particularly when juices are still considerably more expensive, right? Wrong. Judging by his own words and press releases, Fillon believes very strongly in two fairy tales: The first is that he can put at least 100 million extra euros in the social security account each year with this one-cent tax starting in 2012. Fillon’s other goal is to use a fiscal stick—a twig really, in this case—to whack the Coke cans out of the fat fingers of those who exemplify the beefing up of the average French person by 6.8 pounds between 1997 and 2009.
The two goals seem mutually exclusive and contradictory: To fill the coffers one cent at a time, he’ll need an awful lot of soda guzzling. Your country is counting on you, obese soda junkies, to be the new French Resistance against economic uncertainty—while the prime minister calls you fat, burdensome and problematic.
The French Coca-Cola affiliate stepped in to blow the whistle on this blatant socialist cash grab’s massive logic gap, and did so in the best way that capitalists get their point across—by threatening to withhold money. French Coke said that it was going to have to rethink a new 17 million euro production-line investment in light of this nonsense and stigmatization of its product.
Mistaking corporate expenditures for some kind of entitlement, French politicians and union representatives promptly freaked out. Two elected officials who represent a Coke manufacturing plant’s region called Coke’s reaction “blackmail,” apparently forgetting that the presence and actions of a private company isn’t a public right. And one of them didn’t stop there. She proceeded to tell the iconic carbonated beverage maker how it could run its business, suggesting that it could just “make efforts on non-sugar beverages.”
The representative of French Coke union employees said that the workers were scared, and worried for the future of their plant. It was a sober realization that no matter how strong unions may feel they are in their solidarity, they’re still dead in the absence of a host company.
The company’s European office has since softened the original stance, and promised that all planned investments will move ahead. Still, this incident should serve as a reminder of socialism’s consequences. When a government decides to tax or pester a business, it might mean that one day the company will begone to a more hassle-free setting. And all this for what? One cent per can, in this case. Even at that price, we’ve just seen how expensive socialism risks being.