The Banque de France and
the Politics of Facility
Traditionally, the French government has been considered more powerful and efficient in the realm of economic policy-making than any of its European counterparts. According to many observers, the French advantage results from the political strength of the state and from its relative independence from all societal pressures. Among the principal sources of the state's autonomy, four have most often been identified: the existence of a centralized bureaucracy; an elite corps of highly trained civil servants; extensive state control over financial flows; and finally, a prevailing national consensus on the legitimacy of state intervention. Together, these endowments, it has been argued, provide France with an impressive capacity to define and pursue a coherent economic strategy. And that strategy, during the postwar period, has produced both rapid modernization and strong national growth. 1.
In recent years, however, scholars have begun to question the validity of this view of the French state. Digging deep into the particulars of national policy-making, they have found a state that lacks the power and the coherence commonly attributed to it. France, they suggest, is____________________