Thursday, June 4, 2009

FT Looks at Dirigisme

The FT has a long feature today on French dirigisme. It's the tone rather than the content of the article that's surprising. Dirigisme is described as a sort of natural state for the French, who ran into trouble only when they turned away from dirigiste policies in a misguided flirtation with liberalism. M. Sarkozy is now said to be steering the ship of state back to its accustomed course.

It seems only yesterday that we were hearing that France's problem was that it had missed the liberal boat, and M. Sarkozy was frantically paddling to catch up as it steamed away from Le Havre.

Ah, well. Tempus fugit. For the record, I have consistently maintained that Sarkozy was a wolf in sheep's clothing, or, rather, a (temperate) dirigiste in Armani, and I think what has fluctuated is the view from the City, not the reality on the ground. Indeed, despite the current disappointment with markets, I think France still needs to adapt a bit more to market realities. But moderation in all things--and the FT is of course right to recognize that the French variety of capitalism has, and always has had, a distinctive Gallic flavor.

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