The French Are On A Roll

Despite a legacy of government control and fusty leadership, France is starting to thrive in the era of global competition

Few countries would seem less likely to succeed in the modern world of globalization, free trade and high-tech, speed-of-light capitalism than France. Widely caricatured as the home of the five-week vacation, the 35-hour workweek and the crippling public-sector strike, this overcentralized, overtaxed, state-heavy, tradition-bound, protectionist and perversely self-satisfied nation could not possibly survive in the competitive, market-driven international arena of today. Could it?

Think again. A new France is taking shape at the dawn of the 21st century. Like a newborn chick pecking out of its protective shell, the fledgling is only partly visible--a beak here, a claw there--but already it...

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