A French Cure

PARIS – France is widely regarded around the world as a country that has failed to embrace globalization or to modernize its economic and social model. Its own citizens have been more pessimistic about its future than ever in recent decades. The question is, can the French map out a way forward, dispel the prevailing gloom, and rebuild prosperity?

The starting point must be a lucid diagnosis. In comparison to countries that enjoyed a similar level of development 25 years ago, France has underperformed economically. The gap is not wide – six percentage points of per capita GDP – but the trend is worrying enough to call for a correction. Unemployment, moreover, has remained at shamefully high levels. And, whereas France ranks higher for some social indicators related to health care, income inequality, and poverty prevention, the price for this performance has been a steady rise in public spending and debt.