This story from the Washington Post is a few days old, but I’ve got to rant about it, because it’s such a textbook example of how our mainstream-media journalists gush about everything French–so as to preach to us loutish Americans about how we oughtta lead our lives.

So here goes, with a Jumeauville, France, dateline, from Post journo Molly Moore:

“When the municipal day-care center ran out of space because of a local baby boom, the town government gave Maylis Staub and her husband $200 a month to defray the cost of a ‘maternal assistant’ to care for their two children.

My first thought was: Oh brother. A “municipal day-care center.” Sure, I’d like to park my kids in one of those.

The point of the Moore’s story is that France is such a family-friendly country that it has a relatively high birthrate compared to most of the the rest of Europe, which is in population free-fall. The reason, according to Moore? All those “municipal day-care centers” and taxpayer-funded “maternal assistants”:

“France heavily subsidizes children and families from pregnancy to young adulthood with liberal maternity leaves and part-time work laws for women. The government also covers some child-care costs of toddlers up to 3 years old and offers free child-care centers from age 3 to kindergarten, in addition to tax breaks and discounts on transportation, cultural events and shopping.

“This summer, the government — concerned that French women still were not producing enough children to guarantee a full replacement generation — very publicly urged French women to have even more babies. A new law provides greater maternity leave benefits, tax credits and other incentives for families who have a third child. During a year-long leave after the birth of the third child, mothers will receive $960 a month from the government, twice the allowance for the second child.”

So, according to Moore, population bureaucrats from all over the rest of Europe, Japan, and Thailand make pilgrimages to France–at the expense of their own taxpayers, no doubt–to see how the French do it. (You’d think the functionaries could just stay at home and learn the same thing from policy papers and the Internet–but hey, they’d miss out on an awful lot of good wine and cheese!)

I found the money graph of Moore’s story to be this:

“While falling birthrates threaten to undermine economies and social stability across much of an aging Europe, French fertility rates are increasing. France now has the second-highest fertility rate in Europe — 1.94 children born per woman, exceeded slightly by Ireland’s rate of 1.99. The U.S. fertility rate is 2.01 children.”

My thought was: Um, why don’t the population mavens visit Ireland, which has an even higher fertility rate than France? Or the good old U.S.A., which probably has one of the highest fertility rates on earth? Oh–they’d maybe have to lunch at MacDonald’s instead of a three-star restaurant.

At any rate, Moore’s article informs us that Jumeauville maman Maylis Staub, 35, is a “project manager for a French cellphone company.” Well she’s one lucky lady. Not because she got to take a year off when her twins were born, but because she has a job. Here’s a story from yesterday’s Financial Times, Deutschland:

“France is losing share in the global export market twice as fast as the US and three times faster than Germany, because of its weakening competitiveness.

“A sharp drop in French industrial productivity gains over the past five years has cost the economy the opportunity to create more than 700,000 jobs and risks exposing the country to a flood of low-cost imports, a report from McKinsey, the management consultants, warned.”

And France’s unemployment rate is already in excess of 10 percent.

Maybe those population bureaucrats ought to shelve the Beaujolais and tartes tatins and take a little trip to America, after all. They’ll discover that here, we don’t spend our money on “municipal day care centers,” free nannies, and cash handouts to the middle class. Instead, we let people keep their money and invest it in a productive economy that generates low unemployment rates and the confidence in the future that inspires people to want to have children. That’s one big reason why our fertility rate is more than a third higher than that of France. But that would mean forgoing beaucoup de foie gras.