March 20, 2008


Sarkozy rebuked: The French president is treating his local-election setback as a call for more and faster reform. Not all voters see it that way (The Economist, 3/19/08)

Mr Fillon insisted this week that the government would step up its reforms in response to the election. The message, he told voters, was that “you have invited us to put even more force into our policy of change.” There are plans for two new laws in the coming months: one to make it easier to shed workers and loosen the labour market, another to stiffen competition and cut red tape for entrepreneurs. In addition, the government is due to review its structure of social charges, as well as its public-pension rules.

Mr Fillon may be right that many voters are impatient for more and deeper reforms. Certainly, this is the case for the professionals who voted for the centre-right last year and now feel disappointed. In the long run, such changes should boost economic growth as well.

But it is less clear that the French in general want change. If anything, they are looking for more protection and higher pay, not for easier firing rules or more competition. Already interest-groups from taxi-drivers to retailers are fighting deregulation. The test in the months ahead will be whether Mr Sarkozy can resist making crowd-pleasing gestures in hopes of propping up his short-term popularity and instead recover the reformist reflexes that marked his early months in office.

...always throw the long ball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2008 9:23 AM
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