Nicolas Sarkozy has restored France to preeminence in Europe and repaired his country’s alliance with America that was left in tatters by the Iraq War.
On the economic front, his achievements have been less impressive.
Although leader of the French right, Sarkozy has little affection for the free market. He blames “freewheeling Anglo-Saxon” capitalism for the economic crisis and means to demonstrate “the victory of the European model” — which, presumably, means the victory of French étatisme.
The heavy hand of the state is one reason France has weathered the recession relatively well. One in five workers are employed by the government. Sarkozy has conditioned aid, for example to automaker Renault, on companies creating or retraining jobs in France.
There is a cost. French debt has skyrocketed. Sarkozy runs a deficit of 8.5 percent, far higher than the eurozone’s treaty ceiling of 3 percent.
Tracy McNicoll argues in Newsweek the problem isn’t that Sarkozy isn’t a capitalist; it’s that he has no economic principles at all:
Sarkozy has the flexibility to win battles but not the single-minded vision to define or win a war, as Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher did.