Public Budgeting in the French Fifth Republic: The End of La République des partis ?
West European Politics
GB : Routledge
404 - 422 p.
This article reviews trends in state spending across the Fifth Republic. Considering the partisan divisions in French political life and the importance accorded to elections and partisan control of government, one might expect substantial differences in spending patterns by governments of the Left and the Right. Instead, we find only a small number of statistically significant differences and when we do find them, governments of the Right are the higher spenders. The reasons for this are the different historical periods during which the Left and Right have been in power. As the Right dominated French politics for the first half of the Fifth Republic, it oversaw a period of the most dramatic growth in the state, across virtually all sectors. Growth in state spending declined steadily over the decades but particularly after the oil crisis and other events in the 1970s. Since 1981, when governments (if not presidential control) have alternated on a relatively regular basis, austerity and limited growth in spending have been the rule, no matter which governments have been in power. The article demonstrates these facts with a comprehensive overview of public spending across 11 categories. The results are presented graphically, with statistical t-tests, and finally with regressions controlling for growth in the economy. In all cases, no linkage between left-wing control of government and higher spending is found.