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Quebec’s Michael Sabia joins the global revival of economic ‘dirigisme’ as it spreads from China to France, from corporations to state pension plans
National corporatism, from the outright control exercised by China’s Communist regime to the escalating corporate interventions of lesser states from Quebec to France and India, appears to be gaining more and more support. The interventions take many forms, but all are designed to thwart free markets.
Some are explicit. Last week France’s minister of industry, Arnaud Montebourg, announced plans for a $1-billion state investment in France’s money-losing carmaker, Peugeot Citroen. Then Mr. Montebourg said the government would invest $500-million in a new state-owned global mining company — as if the world had a shortage of global mining companies with long-term views.
Dirigisme is back in fashion, said Mr. Montebourg , citing a concept coined by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, France’s 17th century finance minister under Louis XIV and a major advocate of mercantilism. “Colbertism is coming back,” said Mr. Montebourt, “and this is good.”
Good for whom, he didn’t say. But the idea of getting the state, directly and indirectly, deeper into the corporate economy seems to be growing around the world. Italy’s Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat, is working hard to get Ottawa and Ontario to put $700-million into Chrysler, implying that if Canada doesn’t provide the money other dirigiste regimes will get the new plant.
In Quebec, meanwhile, the government–recently eyeing speculative investment in oil exploration at home– is looking at a series of interventions to protect Quebec-based companies against hostile takeovers launched by corporations from outside the province. The suggested measures — including variable voting rights to prevent short-term investors from tendering to takeovers — would add to a long list of protectionist Quebec initiatives and state-backed investment enterprises designed to keep Colbertism alive and beat back market forces.
Quebec’s long-standing economic nationalism got another boost Wednesday from Michael Sabia, head of the state-run pension giant, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec. In comments that reflect ideas that are sweeping global anti-capitalist institutions, especially sovereign wealth funds such as the Caisse, Mr. Sabia called vaguely for some kind of global revolution in corporate governance.
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