Polish plumbers, an Indian steelmaker, Italian electricians...: hardly a month passes without hearing anxious cries from the zealous protectors of French industry. As long as globalization meant more jobs one heard few critics of it: as French firms bought up foreign ones, there was much crowing and the "cocks", their chests puffed out, boasted of how competitive French firms were. But when globalization works in the other direction, as it often does, the response is very different.
For some time now the defenders of the threatened French economy have heard a new tune. For years "economic intelligence" was thought to be synonymous with spying and "undercover agencies", and the French behaved like enthusiastic free-marketers abroad but strongly protectionist within the country, i.e. the exact opposite of the English-speaking nations. Today, how times have changed!
At all levels, in all political parties, the talk is all of economic warfare and economic patriotism, often involving little more than repeating slogans. Suddenly the dairy products firm Danone has become a strategically important company and an Indian living in London (L. Mittal) has turned into the symbol of a surge of takeovers considered to be particularly unfair because it comes from a "developing" country. Shame! A new fad? In fact it is old hat, as can be seen from this satire by Frédéric Bastiat, a champion of the free market, who as early as 1845 was making fun of the French tendency to break the rules when they no longer suit France, even if the country lacks the means to do so.