Notes et baromètres

Is France really a victim of triumphant capitalism?

Economic Note / June 2005

The debate sparked by the French referendum on Europe’s Constitutional Treaty has been more lively than those which have preceded previous democratic consultations in France. It has in effect highlighted profound differences between the Treaty’s supporters and its opponents, to the extent that representatives from the same parties have been mutually accusing each other of going over to the other side. However, among this chorus of squabbling voices, one consensual opinion has been voiced more explicitly than ever before. It is, of course, the anti-liberal political consensus. Partisans of both sides have « sold » their positions as the best protection there is against the damage done by liberal capitalism and against Europe’s possible race towards even greater liberalism.

This presupposes the extremely widespread opinion that says capitalism rules in France. Otherwise, how could we blame it for unemployment, poverty, insecurity and the majority of difficulties experienced by the French people? But have these last few years really been marked by such a triumph? Does the State intervene so little in the French economy? These are the questions that this paper will try to answer. By considering the considerable role of the State in French society, we will demonstrate that we are far from experiencing « triumphant capitalism. » We will therefore have shown that it is impossible to criticise it simply by listing the misfortunes of our fellow citizens, as these could just as easily be attributed to the fundamentally interventionist nature of economic policy.

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