On the search to “recapture the industrial spirit of capitalism”: From patient shareholders to shared governance

By Jean-Luc Gaffard and Maurizio Iacopetta

The government, buoyed by the law to recapture the real economy, the Florange act, which establishes the possibility of double voting for patient shareholders (who have held their shares at least two years), has just taken two significant decisions by temporarily increasing its holdings in the capital of Renault and Air France in order to ensure that in a general shareholders meeting the double voting option is not rejected by the qualified majority authorized under the law. The objective spelled out by France’s Minister of the Economy in Le Monde is to help “recapture the industrial spirit of capitalism” by favouring long-term commitments in order to promote investment that will foster solid growth. Continue reading “On the search to “recapture the industrial spirit of capitalism”: From patient shareholders to shared governance”

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Jean Tirole – an outstanding economist

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

Jean Tirole, this year’s winner of the Bank of Sweden’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is an exceptional economist. This is reflected in the academic quality of his published works, both in the discipline’s major journals and in books where he builds on his own research to engage with the major issues facing economics in the field of industry, regulation and finance. It is also reflected in his clear determination to address genuine issues that are important to an understanding of the functioning of market economies and in his concrete proposals for public policy to deal with this. It is also reflected in the way he explores these issues through developing powerful new analytical tools. And finally, it is reflected in the modesty of the judgments he renders on his results and their practical implications, a modesty befitting a true scientist. Continue reading “Jean Tirole – an outstanding economist”

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How to read the Alstom case

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

The situation of Alstom has hit the headlines since the company executives announced their intention to sell the energy branch to General Electric and to carry out a restructuring that strongly resembles a unit sale. The government reacted strongly to what it saw as a fait accompli, seeking another buyer, namely Siemens, with a view to creating one or more European companies in a sector considered strategic, along the lines of Airbus – before it came round to the General Electric solution, which in the meantime had improved in terms of both the amount paid for the buy-out and the arrangements for the future industrial organization. These events, important as they are, should not obscure the more general fact of ongoing deindustrialization, which is taking the form, among others, of the break-up of certain large companies, and which is resulting from inconsistencies in the governance of what French capitalism has become today. Continue reading “How to read the Alstom case”

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Why read Piketty?

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the twenty-first century has met with an extraordinary reception, one that is commensurate with both the empirical work performed and the political issue addressed, that is to say, the spectacular increase in inequality in the United States. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, both of whom are concerned about current trends in American society that they consider are threatening democracy, believe Piketty’s work confirms their fears. Continue reading “Why read Piketty?”

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The Barnier proposal on banking regulation: whence the wrath?

By Jean-Paul Pollin (Université d’Orléans) and Jean-Luc Gaffard

This time the evidence is there and it’s irrefutable: the reaction of the French “authorities” to the proposed structural reform of Europe’s banking sector proves that their law on the so-called “separation of banking activities” was nothing but a false pretence, a ruse to head off the European Commission’s initiatives in this field (see this OFCE blog). It was also an occasion for them to smoothly undercut the report by Bourget, whose most striking passage was the denunciation of finance as the “invisible enemy”, followed by its promise to create distance between deposit banks and trading banks (finance and investment banks). Continue reading “The Barnier proposal on banking regulation: whence the wrath?”

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The sources of an industrial renewal

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

French companies in many sectors have had to deal with a relative increase in unit labour costs, a relative decline in the price of value added, and lower margin rates, meaning that many of them are facing strong competition and are relatively uncompetitive on price due to not having innovated and invested enough in the past. The result over the last decade has been a significant loss of substance in France’s industrial network and a worsening foreign trade deficit. The challenge of carrying out an industrial renewal is clearly posed. This is not limited simply to manufacturing but encompasses any activity that is likely to deal with demand on a relatively large scale and is organized on an industrial basis[1]. Continue reading “The sources of an industrial renewal”

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Is it pointless to separate banking activities?

Jean-Luc Gaffard  and  Jean-Paul Pollin

It is at the European level that the last chance for a structural reform of the banking system can be found, that is to say, a separation between investment banking and retail banking. If we are to believe the banking industry and certain academic circles, such a separation is at best useless and at worst harmful. Separating risky activities from non-risky activities, or non-speculative activities from speculative activities, would, it is held, prove illusory. All banking activity is risky, if not speculative. Continue reading “Is it pointless to separate banking activities?”

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Higher taxes – a solution to the crisis?

By Mario Amendola, Jean-Luc Gaffard and Fabrizio Patriarca

This question, which may seem provocative, is worth asking provided that consideration is given both to the full dimensions of the crisis, and not just its financial aspects, as well as to the assumptions needed to make this a credible scenario. In the perspective discussed here, if tax hikes are to play a role, it would not be as part of a fiscal adjustment intended to restore public accounts worsened by the crisis, but rather with the aim of maintaining or restoring a level of productive spending that was altered by increasing inequality. Furthermore, everything would depend on the nature of both the taxation and the government spending. Continue reading “Higher taxes – a solution to the crisis?”

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Vertical networks or clusters: what tool for industrial policy?

By Jean-Luc Gaffard

The concept of a “vertical network” [filière] is back in the spotlight and is playing the role of an instrument of the new industrial policy. A working document of the Fabrique de l’Industrie [Manufacturing Industry], ‘What use are ‘vertical networks’?” (Bidet-Mayer and Tubal, 2013) recognizes that the concept has the virtue of helping to identify good practices and develop their application in relationships between businesses and between business and government. However, the same paper concludes by questioning the merits of a concept that emphasizes an approach to industrial organization that is more technical than entrepreneurial. Continue reading “Vertical networks or clusters: what tool for industrial policy?”

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Inequality and Global Imbalances: reconsidering old ideas to address new problems

by Jean-Luc Gaffard and Francesco Vona

The main challenge of the Bretton Woods agreements was to reconcile social justice and full employment to be achieved through domestic policies with an international discipline and progress toward trade liberalization (Rodrick 2011). After more than six decades, such division of objectives between international and domestic policies has been questioned by the current economic crisis, characterized by high debt levels, remarkable global imbalances and low global demand. It can hence be useful to reopen an old debate by reconsidering ideas that were discarded in the past, such as the proposal of Keynes to create global demand stabilizers. Our suggestion is that a global stabilizer that prescribes surplus countries to gradually increase their wages can have both a direct positive effect on global demand, without increasing public debts, and an indirect one by favouring a reduction in income disparities. Continue reading “Inequality and Global Imbalances: reconsidering old ideas to address new problems”

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