FRANCE AND THE UNITED STATES currently appear to differ greatly in economic circumstance. During the decade following the first oil shock, however, the two countries have encountered similar economic problems: slow and irregular growth, serious inflation, swollen unemployment, and frequent corporate bankruptcies. To combat these problems, both countries resorted first to macroeconomic policy. As stagflation proved resistant to such treatments both sought new prescriptions for government policy. One such prescription is industrial policy.
Historically, the two countries are supposed to be opposites. France is said to rely on a powerful and knowledgeable civil service to compensate for a private sector obsessed with land-based, risk-free investments. The United States is said to rely on governments that govern little and entrepreneurs who energize the market system. France supposedly embraces industrial policy, while the United States allegedly treats it like the plague.
Although this caricature strays far from reality, it is true that the success of industrial policies will depend on the cultural, social, and historical environment in which they operate. For this reason it is useful to examine each country's experiences with industrial policy. A complete treatment of the French experience would require examination of a long historical tradition, ranging from the policies of Jean-Baptiste Colbert in the seventeenth century to the philosophy of Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, in the nineteenth to the economic planning of Jean Monnet after World War II. In this chapter, I first give a brief overview of French industrial policy during the recent government of Laurent Fabius, in which I served. Then I discuss the application of this policy to energy, the sector for which I was responsible.
Economic modernization was the major goal under former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius. The world is entering a new Industrial age. The technological
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Publication information: Book title: French Industrial Policy. Contributors: William James Adams - Editor, Christian Stoffaës - Editor. Publisher: The Brookings Institution. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1986. Page number: 115.
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