Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Idle Hands: Marriage, France, and Gaza

In the marriage debates, one of the ideas often raised is a sociological benefit of marriage, that of the "cilivizing influence" of marriage on men. The notion is that if men were not married, then we'd have young unattached men roving around in packs and that could only spell trouble. While obviously a generalization, I think there's some truth to it. Along similar lines, I think we'd have to admit that gainful employment provides a similar civilizing influence. When unemployment soars, unemployed young men can be like gasoline-soaked kindling just waiting for a match. This is certainly a significant contributing factor in the French riots. As noted in this Economist article, "France’s overall jobless rate of nearly 10% is worrying enough; its latest youth unemployment rate of 23% is among Europe’s worst (see chart). In the 'sensitive urban zones', as officialdom coyly calls them, youth unemployment touches a staggering 40%." This is why I was especially heartened to hear this morning's news about Israel and Palestine coming to an agreement about opening a Gaza border. This tentative first step absolutely must be encouraged, as the ability to move people and goods across Palestinian borders and through Palestinian ports is essential to the development of any Palestinian economy, which in turn is essential to achieving peace. The UN estimates that 80% of the 125,000 Palestinians who used to work in Israel or in "joint industrial zones" have lost their jobs, and the CIA estimates unemployment in Gaza at about 50%. With unemployment like that, it's almost a wonder that more people aren't strapping on explosive vests. Congratulations to the leaders of both nations who have taken this important step, and to Secretary Rice for her efforts in brokering the deal. The sooner more Palestinians can become productively invested in their own economy, the better for Palestine, for Israel, and for the world.

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