Over the past week, France has been slapped by its worst wave of rioting in decades, surpassing even the destructive riots of 2005. There is always a temptation in the rest of the West to dismiss these instances of widespread chaos as “France being France.” But at least in this case, doing so would be unwise. Nor is it prudent to focus entirely on the woes of mass immigration and the failed assimilation of Muslims into European society. These issues are no doubt relevant here, but beneath the surface lurks something even more frightening that has barely been discussed: a cost-of-living crisis more severe than most of us have seen in our lifetimes.

France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, like similar agencies across Europe, publishes a wide variety of economic data for public use. In recent days, one bit of data came out that raises serious questions about where Europe is headed today. The chart tracking monthly consumption expenditure on food for French households suggests a development unprecedented in our lifetimes.

For at least four decades, the total food expenditure of French households has grown steadily, with essentially no interruptions. Even the Great Recession only depressed the curve momentarily; by 2010, it had resumed its normal upward climb. Then Covid happened, and food expenditures spiked much higher. After that, the food expenditures dropped slightly, to a still-high level. But in 2022, food expenditure suddenly started to collapse precipitously.

There have been a number of economic crises and recessions since 1980, but none of them managed to make anything but the tiniest, temporary dent in total food expenditures—until 2022, when the massive collapse began. Food inflation in France is running extremely hot, the population isn’t shrinking, and the economy isn’t currently in recession.

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