Mario Monti published an Op-ed in Le Figaro which comes back on the French' sanguine resistance to free market principles and economic liberalism in general (recently illustrated by Fabius' in a large-audience newspaper).
A few months ago, a 20-nation poll by GlobeScan revealed that only 36 percent of the French agreed that the free market economy is the best system, while 50 percent disagreed (see here for the results of the poll).
Monti explains how misconceived and dangerous the distrust for free market principles is. His paper contains a number of interesting things. I picked up the following:
- Monti underlines that a similar feeling existed in England when it joined the EC in the 1970s'. At the time, English citizens feared that joining an area governed by free market principles would actually jeopardize economic recovery;
- The author also recalls that the Germans, with the support of the French and the Italians, were very much in favour of free market principles in the 1950s'. This ideological support culminated with the adoption of the Rome Treaty in 1957.
I'll just add (as a French citizen I feel quite comfortable with the debate) that the French, who are often (overly?) prompt (arrogant?) in stressing the important legacy of French intellectuals, curiously fail to act similarly when it comes to the history of economics. In fact, the concept of economic liberalism owes a lot to influential French economists... (and does not deserve - as Monti observes - to be pejoratively labelled 'anglo-saxon'). Think of Say, Bastiat, Walras, Debreu, etc. Think also to the outstanding contributions of Cournot and Bertrand which still have far reaching consequences in the field of competition policy. Think finally to the Décret d'Allarde and the Loi Le Chapelier from 1791 which find their roots in the 'liberal' intellectual stream that followed the 1789 revolution.