This year, the French have “done a fine job portraying their country as broken”, says The Economist. There has been mass unrest – first over pension reforms, then policing – and Emmanuel Macron’s minority government seems to “lurch from crisis to crisis”. Yet behind the headlines, France is doing rather well. Since 2018, its economy has grown twice as much as Germany’s, and outpaced Britain, Italy and Spain. It’s home to more of the 100 largest companies in the world than any other European country, and its industry-leading luxury brands “were more profitable in 2022 than American tech firms”. Last year, it registered nearly twice as many patents as Britain.
What’s behind this “under-hyped French performance”? One factor is that state interventionism, long part of France’s DNA, is back in fashion. With the EU now less strict about public subsidies, Paris has been “freer to indulge its core instincts”. Another is stability. Macron is the first president in 20 years to win re-election, and Bruno Le Maire has had the longest stint as finance minister since the Fifth Republic was established in 1958. And, crucially, the two men have stuck to their promise not to raise taxes. France hasn’t got everything right, of course: its wages are flat after inflation; all those subsidies are stretching public finances. There hasn’t been a balanced government budget “since before Mr Macron was born”. But as the French begin their “enviably long” summer holidays, it’s worth nothing that their model “continues to defy those who predict its collapse”.