‘Our work for our political generation is to tame the market economy,’ said Segolene’s spokesman Arnaud Montebourg, dismissing the never-ending stream of share prices running across the television screen on which he was being interviewed. He had come to teach the capitalists a lesson. His message to supporters of the unfettered market economy is that their time has come to pass.
‘Deregulation has brought globalisation to a dead end,’ he said. ‘Environmentally, it’s destroying the riches of the planet. Socially, it’s exploding inequalities. Politically, most countries don’t accept the market economy without limits.’
To be fair, he is reflecting the wishes of French people, who a recent poll showed are the most sceptical on the planet about the benefits of free trade. A poll by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes and GlobeScan showed only 36 percent of French answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Is the free enterprise system and free market economy the best system on which to base the future of the world?’ France was the only one of 22 countries where a majority voted against the free market.
So what is Montebourg’s answer? The Socialists want an industrial policy that protects against shareholders whose ‘single interest is profits,’ he told me. In France, ‘taxes are accepted and appreciated. Re-distribution of profits can help the economy by boosting the purchasing power of the poorest. ‘Those who feel the most deprived can participate in the re-discovered growth in France and in Europe.’
But where does the money come from in the first place? Even the rich need to make money from somewhere. ‘Arnaud Montebourg has many ideas, but on the economy he has no ideas,’ said Emmanuel Ferry, an economist with Exane BNP Paribas SA.