Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

IREF Europe - Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

Fiscal competition
and economic freedom


by ,

In France the legislative process is hijacked by those who depend on public money

Between 3 and 5 per cent of the members of Parliament, and 6 per cent of the senators: the parliamentarians with a background in business represent a tiny minority. An IREF study shows the contrast with four other countries where economic legislation is handled by people who know what it means. In France, the elected representatives are chiefly interested in tax money.

The government doesn’t know business

In a recent study, IREF showed that only 8 per cent of the presidential or the prime minister’s staff had any experience in business. More than half are graduates of the ENA, and a large majority knows only the civil service or the public sector. On the ministerial level the situation is worse still, as only one minister of 34 has worked in business. Unfortunately things are no better in Parliament. IREF studied in detail the socio-professional background of parliamentarians and compared it to those of several foreign parliaments. There are huge differences. Whereas in France both MPs and Senators have a public sector background, in several other countries (United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Sweden), parliamentarians come from the private sector. Here are the data.

In the French National Assembly some 250 MPs (44 per cent) come from government. Among these are civil servants (national and local government), teachers, public sector employees, retirees from the public sector … The Assembly has only 17 business people, or 2.9 per cent of the total (the National Assembly data are not clear, as another count claims 31 business people. To this may be added 60 executives and employees from the private sector (10.5 per cent of the total). In the Senate there are some more (21 out of 348 senators, or 6 per cent), and at least 150 civil servant senators (43 per cent), i.e. teachers, local government officials, retirees etc.

Abroad parliamentarians come mostly from the private sector

The situation is considerably different elsewhere. In the United Kingdom, out of 621 MPs 25.1 per cent are business people and 13.5 per cent are private sector employees. Only 9 per cent come from the public sector (civil servants, teachers …). It should also be noted that any person running for Parliament coming from the public sector must resign before declaring her candidacy (even before the elections). In total no fewer than 218 profession are represented in the House of Commons, against 39 in the National Assembly.

In Sweden 33 per cent of the Riksdag (349 members) may considered to be civil servants, and 12 per cent business executives. However some 80 per cent of Swedish civil servants are employed on fixed terms (contracts are done by private law). They may thus not be compared with French civil servants.

In the United States, the most frequent profession in the House of Representatives is that of entrepreneur. Out of 435 members there are 184 business people (43 per cent). In the Senate 28 senators of 100 come from the business world. Among the senators, the lawyers are the most represented profession. Some 172 Representatives (39 per cent) may be considered originating from the public sector and politics (the data are mixed up in Congress which somewhat skews the figures as US politicians campaign mostly with private funding).

The best represented profession in the Canadian Parliament (308 MPs and 105 senators) is that of businessman/woman. They are 59 (20 per cent) in the House of Commons, followed by lawyers (47), consultants (37), teachers (31) etc. In the Senate there are 22 businessmen and women (21 per cent, followed by lawyers (19), teachers (13) etc.

Considering these results it should not be a surprise that the French legislative apparatus leans to statist policies. It would be advisable to have the French MPs take a compulsory course in the business world. That would much improve the French economy.

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