Jospin's Giant Step Backward

It seems so obvious: The last thing France and Europe need now is anything that even remotely recalls the days when Francois Mitterrand and his Socialist Party cronies held sway in Paris. The wholesale nationalizations of banking and heavy industry launched after Mitterrand triumphantly captured the presidency in 1981 have taken a full decade and a half to undo. Instead of the painful restructuring which took place in the U.S. and Britain during much of the 1980s, Mitterrand's union-cosseting economic policies touched off the worst French recession in decades. And the 14 years during which Mitterrand occupied the Elysee Palace witnessed a degree of wholesale corruption in the French administration with few parallels in postwar Europe. So tainted was the Mitterrand legacy that when Socialist Lionel Jospin took over as Prime Minister in 1998, he purposefully appointed many fresh faces, such as his brilliant Finance Minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

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