Thursday, July 29, 2010

Europe the profitable?

One could do worse than to take a lesson from The Economist magazine on straddling European and American market perspectives. A recent editorial describes "Europe's dark secret" on the prevalence of free-market capitalism in Europe, with a special focus on France, bête noire of those in the US who would paint the land of May '68 as antithetical to free and unregulated market economics.

The Hexagon is indeed far more capitalist than even its center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy can admit publicly without political points lost. France's commonly-thought anemic business sensibilities have still produced goliaths like Airbus, Axa, Areva -- and those are just some A's from the French corporate alphabet... To say nothing of the tax-revenue factories (and how they are taxed) in Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, et cetera. This op-ed excerpt demonstrates the might of French and European market performance globally:

"Perhaps, however, it is time to let the French, as well as other corners of market-averse Europe, in on a dark secret. The truth is that theirs is a capitalist society. For while Europe’s leaders rail against profits and wealth, its firms stride into new markets and rack up giant profits. Spain’s Inditex dresses men and women in Zara outfits in 76 countries. Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser, is the world’s leading brewer. France boasts more Fortune 500 companies than Germany. A French company, Sodexo, is chief caterer to the American marine corps."

Such rarefied market status seems easily enviable by aspiring corporate empire-makers, whether they hail from the business-ho culture of the United States, or the more socialized (yet apparently, equally profit-minded) République.

This comes alongside new calls from Berlin and Paris in the ongoing project to build an "economic governance" model for Europe. And it seems to sketch a schizophrenic portrait of European realities just at a time when the bloc seeks unity of thinking -- and action -- on economic cooperation following the current recession's arrival in 2008. Watch this space for more on the EU's paradoxical, if not downright contradictory, economic maneuverings.

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