Thanks David for this amusing and useful article. I’d suggest that the French aren’t deferential to authority per se so much as deferential to tradition. Hence gilets jaunes chant Macron demissioner! while supporting retention of retirement at age 50. The French habit of responding with Non, mais… is also indicative of the deep fear of failure you talk about. A oui could open up all manner of complications while a non, perhaps later modified a little, is far safer.
That said, for all the drawbacks of living in France (including a red tape that makes everyone else’s red tape look like pale shade of pink by comparison) the benefits compared to living in the USA are overwhelming. French schoolchildren aren’t traumatized by active shooter drills, French families don’t go without (unaffordable) medical care, French people aren’t alienated from each other; etc. etc. and they receive in general a far more adequate education.