And, as any tourist can attest, France has a lot to offer. Education, ambition, a strong technology sector. Any moderately competent government that doesn’t scare the horses – as Hollande did with its economically illiterate policies – should be able to guarantee respectable growth rates.
Modest as Macron’s reform efforts are, he is at least moving France in the right direction. Meanwhile, British policymakers appear to be learning their economic lessons from Macron’s predecessor: more public spending funded by higher taxation, more employment regulations and a series of top-down initiatives.
It says a lot about our pusillanimity that while the newly re-elected French President drives sweeping labor law reforms, our government is focused on enshrining a right to work from home and cares about regulating who can sit on the board directors of a UK company. the society.
Today, employing anyone in Britain entails a wide range of costs, especially given the recent increase in National Insurance contributions. Pension and maternity obligations have been significantly extended since France appointed Francois Hollande as president. The possibilities of suing your employer for a series of “discriminations” have widened considerably.
While we must of course protect employees from unfair treatment based on their race or gender, most employers find that these laws simply increase the cost of hiring, firing and reorganization while having little or no effect on discrimination.
Even Brexit, sold to many as an opportunity to break free from the shackles of regulation, seems unlikely to be a spur to serious deregulation.
In a speech earlier this week, Government Efficiency Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged that the “huge regulatory cost” of net zero will delay plans for a post-Brexit bonfire of bureaucracy. Moving to a “one in, one out” approach, let alone David Cameron’s plans for the “one in, two out” rule, now seems unlikely. The government has spent the last six years talking about deregulation, but it is failing to follow suit now that the opportunity has presented itself.
From online safety to net zero, we are doing a poor job of regulating only when “absolutely necessary”. The 108-page “Opportunities of Brexit” document published in January did not even mention labor law. The task force for innovation, growth and regulatory reform is not even supposed to discuss it.
Each year, around 3,500 new regulatory texts are drafted, each increasing – if only slightly – the regulatory burden faced by ordinary men, women and businesses.
More British workers than ever since the collapse of the guilds need a license from the state or their profession to practice their trade. Surprisingly, according to the most recent data, fewer workers in France – the land of closed workshops and overregulation – need a permit than in Britain.
Unlike our own government, Macron has at least shown some appetite for tackling tough labor market laws that have disproportionately hurt new entrants to the labor market. And, if Marine Le Pen’s popularity with young people was any indication, he did so without winning over the voters the measure was supposed to help.
But therein lies the problem. With the notable exception of strict Covid controls, deregulation is generally unpopular. Housing deregulation is unpopular. Employment deregulation is unpopular.
As the Cato Institute aptly put it: “In economics, deregulation is actually code to ‘undermine the rich and their lobbyists by opening the door to new competition’”. In politics, vested interests exert influence at the expense of the public.
And the government is not interested in cracking this nut. There is no pro-market reformist program on any issue. Given France’s starting point, the country is far from becoming a free market paradise.
But if we want to prevent Macron from taking over deregulation, it would be useful for our government to look at his limited successes, rather than the proven failures of Hollande.
Annabel Denham is director of communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs