As a country go, France has much to recommend it. The food, the wine, the cheese, the fashion and the art… what could be wrong with that?
And for those who believe in welfare-statist social democracy France is a beacon.
The Guardian reports:
The country has a generous welfare state, plus universal and free access to healthcare, hospitals, public schools and universities. It also has a 35-hour working week and many foreigners aspire to make it their home – 150,000 Britons have chosen to live there.
What could be wrong with that? Doesn’t the French way of life represent everything that the Obama administration and Paul Krugman hold in high esteem?
And yet, for all that, the French are miserably unhappy. A cynic might believe all the government programs are sacrificing human happiness, to say nothing of freedom in favor of material comfort.
Surely, it’s demoralizing to be told that you cannot take care of yourself. In a culture that systematically demoralizes everyone it makes sense that everyone would lack confidence in his ability to compete in an open market.
Now, Claudia Senik, a professor at the Paris School of Economics has studied the problem. Her report linked here. The Guardian reports her striking conclusions:
Yet the French are gloomy. A recent WIN-Gallup poll found that their expectations for the coming year ranked lower than those in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The World Health Organisation notes that the suicide rate in France is much higher than in any of the "old European countries", with the exception of Finland. Suicide is the second biggest cause of mortality among 15-to-44-year-olds after road accidents, and the primary cause among 30-to-39-year-olds.
Read through her report and you will see that Senik blames the culture. Correctly so. She explains that it begins in the public schools. The French educational system teaches students the habit of misery from an early age.
But, we should also consider the possibility that mental health professionals are contributing to the problem. Surely, they are not helping to solve it.
We emphasize the outsized influence that psychoanalysis continues to exercise in France, not only within the walls of analysts’ offices, but on the culture at large. At a time when psychoanalysis is a relic in America it is a thriving enterprise in France.
Last year, many of us were surprised to discover that the French mental health profession continues to use psychoanalysis to treat, or to mis-treat autism. While the rest of the world now uses the cognitive therapies that have worked the best on this condition, French psychologists and psychiatrists still insist on psychoanalysis.
If the French are depressed and demoralized, if they are nay-saying complainers, we will have to accept that some of the credit goes to psychoanalysis. Where else would people have learned that human desire is based on saying No and that relentless self-criticism is the proper treatment for psychoanalytically-induced guilt?