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In his May 20 article, “France’s economy shines,” William Pfaff argues for the “centralized, interventionist” French model of the capitalist economy. The neo-Gaullist Nicolas Sarkozy’s France has produced better results than the so-called Anglo-Saxon model, he says.

But what does “economy” mean? If capitalism is the only game in town, then how best to get it to work for most people? The British tested out the Hayek/Friedman model under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Tony Blair was her disciple in that respect). The British, as a result, got a freed up economy that led to a run on some of its banks in late 2008.

France’s older model of capitalism with safer banks weathered the storm much better. But any final judgment on an economy should take into account the lives of ordinary people. To take the old line about “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” are people either more or less driven by anxiety concerning health and basic security? The economy is not just a matter of numbers and statistics. It looks like the average man or woman in the street.

n.r. williams

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