Economic Planning in France

Economic Planning in France

Economic Planning in France

Economic Planning in France

Excerpt

Economic planning has at last acquired an honourable status as a branch of theoretical and, even more, of applied economics. Indeed, in the present decade, after a period of isolated experiments in the post-war years, it seems likely to become the dominant theme of national and international economic policy. At the same time, planning is moving out of the arena of purely political passions. The respective virtues of 'socialist' and 'capitalist' varieties will continue to evoke lively debate, but it is more and more evident that such polemics cover a large measure of common ground. This is particularly the case where the techniques of drawing up plans are concerned. But the same is true of the methods of executing them; whilst on the left, opinion has come to recognize that market mechanisms, decentralized decision-making and indirect controls have their value, on the right there is increasing willingness to envisage forms of control and public action formerly felt to be anathema.

It is not the intention of this book to deal with these broader issues in vacuo, nor to attempt a synthesis of planning techniques. Its object is more limited and more concrete. Whatever may be the virtues or shortcomings of the French system of planning -- a subject which inter alia this book attempts to deal with -- it is the most advanced example of such a system in an industrially developed economy whose essential structures remain capitalistic. Also it is one which has a comparatively long history behind it as the current fouryear Plan, when it ends in 1965, will complete two decades of planning since the war. The French experiment is naturally one which attracts interest from abroad now that a number of countries are initiating similar efforts themselves. But it should be emphasized that the authors have not sought to write a recipe for other countries, though it would be less than frank not to admit their conviction that the French system does contain valuable lessons for them when faced with the multiple problems of growth; if these lessons appear implicitly in the course of this book, they are left to the reader to draw or not as he thinks fit.

In France as well the advent of the Fifth Republic has coincided with a burst of interest in planning for which there is no precedent since the war. Although the Plan had become a permanent feature of the economic landscape, whose existence was not seriously contested, and although the final publication of a new Plan, or the appearance of the annual report by the Commissaire General, was in the past the occasion for newspaper articles, and other comment of short duration, neither the day-to-day process of planning nor the theoretical . . .

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