How Economic Nationalism Hurts Nations

"The impetus for these policies included the desire to accelerate France’s postwar recovery, fast-track the economy’s modernization, address perceived pre-war injustices, and realize certain national security goals. Over time, dirigisme sought to mold France’s economy through incentivizing industry to undertake activities they might otherwise not have, especially in R&D. Dirigiste policies also sought to help certain French economic sectors attain and maintain comparative advantage in the global marketplace. In other cases, the objective was to preserve sectors like agriculture deemed important for cultural and political reasons in the face of foreign competition.

One distinguishing feature of dirigisme is the extent to which it was devised and implemented by professional civil servants. Having been among the few accepted into the grandes écoles like the École Nationale d’Administration that dominate the French elite, such people thereafter rotated between the private sector, the civil service, state-controlled enterprises, and politics. Whatever their political orientation, these individuals were confident there were instances in which they could and should outsmart the market in ways that benefited France."