Saturday, January 17, 2009

France, an Economic Model? That's How Bad Things have Become!

If nothing else this article in Newsweek proves how bad the economic situation has become - I had to pinch myself when I read it, especially when I realized that the article had been written by the chief European economist at............ Bank of America! Oh the irony!

The Last Model Standing Is France

For better or worse, French-style intervention is gaining the upper hand as other economic models lose credibility.
When financial markets were working well, the Parisian penchant for supporting state-favored industries and national policy objectives was met with deep skepticism abroad. But with the unfolding crisis, the French habit to readily intervene in market processes has become a more widely accepted norm.

Of course, you can't expect the article to be all positive

At its core, the French approach to economic management reflects a deep-rooted suspicion that the free movement of capital may not always yield politically desired outcomes. Unfortunately, the global credit crunch has strengthened this French argument, although closer inspection suggests that much of the financial excesses that turned to waste can be traced back to misguided signals sent by governments and central banks, rather than to alleged private-sector malfunctions. We expect France to continue its calls for tighter regulation of global capital markets.

Fortunately, France's forceful president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is not only an interventionist. He also champions a common-sense approach to labor markets, with a strong emphasis on old-fashioned work ethics and a contempt for socialist lunacies such as the compulsory 35-hour workweek. So far, the European Union has been characterized by a very liberal regime for capital markets, and often grossly inefficient labor markets. If the French model continues to gain steam, this may be flipped—labor markets may be allowed to work better, while financial systems may be more regulated than before. Global investors can only hope that Europe gets the balance right. If ad-hoc interventionism spreads too far, the continent may eventually have to pay a hefty price in terms of constrained opportunities for innovation and growth. Europe would then be outclassed once again by the eventual resurgence of the more flexible United States.

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