Why France is underrated – Marginal REVOLUTION

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That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

Since the West European economic boom ended in the 1970s, the French civil service has been at best a mixed blessing. French administrators have gotten a lot done, reflecting their impeccable education and internal culture. But they have also helped to make the French economy overly static and too reliant on bureaucracy. A lazier, less activist civil service might have been better.

Fast forward to 2023. War and conflict are now more common on the global scene, a trend that shows no signs of abating. Populist governments are on the rise, and China and Russia are active and restless. None of those problems is easy to solve, and they all require greater involvement from the public sector. Nations with high-quality leadership and civil-service traditions will stand a better chance of navigating the turmoil.

So the bureaucracy that was once a hindrance to France may now turn out to be a comparative advantage. And at a time when governance seems to be deteriorating around the world, Macron continues to have a reputation as a relatively responsible leader.

This year has shown how this advantage plays out. Post-pandemic France has been a bit of a mix, with soaring energy prices, inflation, rising interest rates, continuation of the Ukraine war, labor strikes and protests, and a variety of European migration crises. Yet France avoided a credit downgrade and the French economy continued to create more jobs. Performance has hardly been perfect and the risk of recession remains, but France has done better than might have been expected 18 months ago.

I also consider the relatively successful French start-up scene, including in AI.


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