Today’s #TBT will look back at when Paris guaranteed its baguette supply.
Our story starts in post-revolutionary France when worries over bread shortages resulted in bakery regulation. From that time onward, government proclaimed its right to decide when bakeries should remain open. By guaranteeing enough bakers, they could be sure there was enough bread.
The same regulatory approach continued during the twentieth century with government requiring that half the bakers in Paris remain open during July and the other half in August. So yes, there were more than enough baguettes. But former Finance Minister Macron proclaimed that there was also more than enough regulation. So he deregulated the industry. And, from the summer of 2015 onward, bakers could open and close whenever they pleased.
The British and U.S. media responded with headlines about baguette shortages:
French President Macron wants to shorten France’s regulatory reach. His goal is to diminish (close to) 10% unemployment by making it easier for businesses to hire and fire employees. That would mean caps on severance pay and less powerful worker councils. Further minimizing top down rules, he wants the firm rather than industries to set working hours. And, as finance minister, he loosened retailers’ Sunday closing requirements, opened France’s public monopoly on bus travel to private operators…and changed Paris’s bread market.
Even those of us who like his deregulatory enthusiasm might look back longingly to the days when a summertime baguette supply depended on government rather than the market’s incentives.
My sources and more: Articles in FT Quartz, and the Atlantic have described baguette deregulation. More crucially, you can see that bread is representative of Macron’s fundamental economic philosophy.
To improve clarity, this post was slightly edited after publication.