French Courts and Public Intervention in the Economy During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS OF 2008: FRENCH AND AMERICAN RESPONSES - PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2010 FRANCO-AMERICAN LEGAL SEMINAR, p. 135, Martin A. Rogoff, Michael Dixon & Eric Bither, eds., 2011
16 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2011
In France the intervention of public power in economic relations has varied considerably at different times: there is little relationship between the mercantilism practiced by Colbert during the reign of Louis XIV and the state capitalism of the Fifth Republic, which itself has changed significantly since 1958. The French economy has never been fully nationalized and since the Revolution French law has protected private property rights and the quasi-constitutional freedom of commerce and industry. Thus, the courts (including administrative tribunals) were able to establish limitations on public intervention deemed excessive. In the nineteenth century, compensation was paid to property owners who suffered damage caused by industries authorized by the government. Under the Third Republic, the Council of State recognized cases of state responsibility for its industrial activities and was very restrictive with regard to municipal socialism by defending private interests in the name of free trade. After the First World War, the courts had to accept the startling increase of state intervention in the economy. It was not until the acceptance of constitutional and treaty-based checks in the 1970s and 1980s that the Constitutional Council and all French courts have found ways to reduce, without eliminating, public intervention in the economic sector.
Keywords: France, French law, comparative law, Constitutional Council, Council of State, Third Republic, Fourth Republic, Fifth Republic, dirigisme, economic regulation, freedom of enterprise, government intervention in the economy, judicial review
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