Le Plan returns?

by Henry Farrell on October 23, 2008

“Arthur Goldhammer”:http://artgoldhammer.blogspot.com/2008/10/france-inc.html (whose blog on French politics is one of the treasures of the blogosphere).

Sarkozy has announced the creation of a French investment fund with a capital of $200 billion. He is also temporarily suspending the taxe professionnelle. Call it an investment fund or sovereign wealth fund. Call Sarkozy a socialist in wolf’s clothing (as one MEP did the other day). Mock his inconsistency or praise his political versatility. In fact he’s merely doing what leaders of all the advanced industrial countries will be doing shortly, if they are not doing it already: trying to minimize the damage of the recession by turning on massive government investment. This can do a lot of good, especially if it is seen not solely as countercyclical spending but as a chance to do something about decaying infrastructure and make foundational changes with a chance for long-term impact. In France it’s hardly unprecedented for major capital spending to be directed by the state, whether under the Commissariat au Plan, through state-controlled-or-influenced enterprises, or directly by the Ministry of Finance. Sarkozy always danced nimbly between the neoliberal and state-capitalist camps. If the last two decades were the neoliberal decades, the coming two are likely to consecrate the hegemony of state capitalism. Sarkozy has been quicker than most to draw that conclusion and try to get ahead of the tsunami. Let’s see what happens next.



DC 10.23.08 at 4:35 pm

To parrot Gideon Raichmann (sp?) in the FT, does Europe really have the spare cash for a sovereign wealth fund? Also, Sarko seems to be thinking more of protecting European firms from Asian takeover bids rather than the kind of infrastructure investment/stimulus plans advocated by Gordon Brown (and Obama).


Topaze 10.23.08 at 5:18 pm

As a french I’m happy to see we return to an ideology to fit much more to us, like it was after second world war under De Gaulle for instance.
In fact Sarkozy is from the Gaullist party, so it’s not so strange.
As a french conservative (by french standard of course) I applaude the end of neoliral decades.
In my opinion the money came from a state owned called “Caisse des Depots et consignations” an entity who manage 220 billion Euro.


a 10.23.08 at 8:19 pm

Sarkozy is the brilliant light who ran for office claiming that the French didn’t have enough debt.


Antti Nannimus 10.23.08 at 8:52 pm


I am trying very hard to resist making a comment on the suggestion that there is anything about French politics that is a “treasure”. As you can see I’m not altogether succeeding. But if you were talking about American politics instead, ESPECIALLY concerning finance and economics, I admit I would now be going abrasive on you.

Have a nice day!


Fr. 10.25.08 at 3:10 pm

Topaze : As a [F]rench[man] I’m happy to see we return to an ideology to fit much more to us, like it was after [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar under De Gaulle for instance.

– The fact that Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in the same way his predecessors were (offering to push reforms he eventually turned down in less than six months) does not seem to bother you.

– The fact that Nicolas Sarkozy drives the country by looking at very-short-term indicators built on client politics towards the richer fractions of his electorate does not seem to bother you.

– The fact that the same political elite governed during the “neoliberal decades” that you loathe and the post-war context that you miss does not seem to bother you (can you take a look at the nationalities of the higher civil servants who worked at the IMF to write the rules of Bretton-Woods global finance? they were French and German as much as they were British or American).

You are French indeed: the world seems to be a different entity from France to you, and the worst type of democratic politics seem to have no effect on your confidence in the French state and political regime.


Alex 10.26.08 at 12:21 am

For what was a very good post, the comments are dire. France was right about Iraq, and a yet-to-be-determined number of other economic issues; get the fuck over it, whining bitches.

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