Jean Tirole on Scaling Back Government
By David Henderson
Around the same time, Canada cut government expenditure by 18.9% without social turmoil – and without greatly reducing health, justice, or housing programmes. They did this while maintaining tax levies, so the result was a reduced public deficit and falling public debt. Spending that could not be clearly justified in terms of the resulting service to the public was pruned. Subsidies for entrepreneurial projects and privatisation facilitated the elimination of one in six positions in the civil service. Indeed the sort of government reorganisation undertaken in Canada could only be dreamed of in France with its often nightmarish collection of laws and fiscal regulations. The Canadians have a single service for the calculation and collection of taxes and a one-stop-shop for government-business relations.
This is from Jean Tirole, “Four Principles For an Effective State,” which was originally published in 2007. HT to Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution.
For more on Canada’s budget cuts, see my “Canada’s Budget Triumph,” 2010.
Hours after he won the economics Nobel Prize, Tirole said he felt “sad” the French economy was experiencing difficulties despite having “a lot of assets”.
“We haven’t succeeded in France to undertake the labour market reforms that are similar to those in Germany, Scandinavia and so on,” he said in telephone interview from the French city of Toulouse, where he teaches.
France is plagued by record unemployment and Tirole described the French job market as “catastrophic” earlier on Monday, arguing that the excessive protection for employees had frozen the country’s job market.
“We haven’t succeeded also in downsizing the state, which is an issue because we have a social model that I approve of – I’m very much in favour of this social model – but it won’t be sustainable if the state is too big,” he added.
Tirole remarked that northern European countries, as well as Canada and Australia, had proven you could keep a welfare social model with smaller government. In contrast, he said France’s “big state” threatened its social policies because there will not be “enough money to pay for it in the long run”.
HT to Patrick R. Sullivan.