Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85

By Andrew Graham; Anthony Seldon | Go to book overview

Chapter four

France

Frances Lynch

Introduction

In 1945 the French economy had to be reconstructed not only from the effects of war and occupation but also from a decade of depression. France had been the only industrial economy not to recover from the international depression of 1929. Industrial production in 1938 was only 75 per cent of its peak level of 1929. The percentage of the labour force employed in industry had fallen from 37 per cent in 1929 to 32 per cent in 1938 while the agricultural labour force, although declining, still amounted to nearly one-third of the total by 1938. With food prices falling in the international economy throughout the 1930s the French government was unable to prevent agricultural incomes in France from declining. But due to the relative inefficiency of much of French agriculture, food prices were still considerably higher in France than in the international economy. This served to push up the cost of living and depress domestic demand. As a result French producers cut back investment and production and redirected exports to the limited but protected markets of the French colonies. Most governments abdicated responsibility for this industrial decline in the 1930s. Their reaction to the devaluations of sterling and the dollar and the disintegration of the international economy into protectionist trading blocs was to increase the level of protection for French industry and agriculture, and to reduce public expenditure. The autonomy of the Bank of France and its decision to defend the value of the franc was not challenged until 1936 when the Popular Front government under Leon Blum was elected.

Blum's policies aimed at stimulating recovery in the short term by increasing domestic demand. The longer-term strategy relied on increasing state control over the economy. To this end a new Ministry of National Economy was set up and steps were taken to reduce the autonomy of the Bank of France. However the failure of the short-term policies put paid to the long-term strategy. Blum's initial refusal to devalue the franc or to impose exchange controls in the face of higher domestic costs led to a speculative outflow of funds and a forced devaluation of the franc. The

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Government and Economies in the Postwar World: Economic Policies and Comparative Performance, 1945-85
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Figures x
  • Tables xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Part I 7
  • Chapter Two - The International Environment 9
  • Chapter Three - The United Kingdom 30
  • Chapter Four - France 54
  • Chapter Five - West Germany 79
  • Chapter Six - Italy 104
  • Chapter Seven - Spain 125
  • Guide to Further Reading 153
  • Chapter Eight - Scandinavia 154
  • Chapter Nine - Eastern Europe 179
  • Chapter Ten - The Soviet Union 205
  • Chapter Eleven - The United States 225
  • Guide to Further Reading 252
  • Chapter Twelve - Japan 253
  • Part II 271
  • Chapter Thirteen - Comparative Economic Performance of the Oecd Countries, 1950-87: a Summary of the Evidence 273
  • References 283
  • Chapter Fourteen - Benefits of Backwardness and Costs of Continuity 284
  • References 293
  • Chapter Fifteen - Economic Policies and Traditions 294
  • References 302
  • Chapter Sixteen - The Meaning of Hard Work 303
  • References 313
  • Chapter Seventeen - Political Institutions and Economic Performance 315
  • References 322
  • Index 323
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