Petit manuel irrévérencieux d’économie, Emmanuel COMBE

Emmanuel Combe

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Under a sharp, sometimes prickly pen, Emmanuel Combe offers in his (irreverent) Little Manual of Economics a playful and often humorous reading of the main economic mechanisms. Using concrete examples, most of which are very recent, the author tackles in particular certain preconceived ideas that are well anchored in our imaginations despite the scientific demonstration of their inaccuracy or ambivalence: the supposed contradiction between public service and competition or the idea that price controls necessarily favour purchasing power, to name but a few. The opening up of the long-distance coach market, the introduction of competition in rail transport, the freer installation of notaries decided by the "Macron" law of 6 August 2015, the arrival of VTCs on the urban road transport market or low-cost air transport are all examples that Emmanuel Combe uses to go back over the complex mechanisms of economic growth, price formation and the role of the State in the functioning of markets. In doing so, the author offers his readers keys to understanding that are accessible to all and engages in a welcome pedagogical exercise by uncovering the workings of our contemporary globalized economies.

In particular, Emmanuel Combe draws on the in-depth research he has conducted on cartels and low-cost to highlight the foundations of the principle of free competition, its advantages as well as its drawbacks. The implementation of the principle of free competition, both on the national market and at the international and global level, leads to a continuous renewal of players and products. This is the "creative destruction" aimed at by Joseph Schumpeter, the capacity of certain players, new or not, to create new conditions on a given market to the point of competing with existing players who will have to accept to adapt or disappear. This struggle leads to the establishment of a new balance, which will also be destabilized in the long run by the rise of new players, new procedures or new products.

These transitions from one equilibrium to another have always existed. But there is, in any novelty, an element of disruption that destabilizes the principles of the established order and can give rise to anxiety about the future, especially for those already settled - the insiders - directly affected by innovation and the arrival of new entrants. This is true in economic matters, as in any area of public life. By allowing the entry of new economic players who challenge the positions acquired by existing players, the principle of free competition suffers from the same suspicion and crisis of legitimacy. It is therefore incumbent on public leaders, as much as on economists, to explain the drivers of these transitions by focusing on the long-term gains for all and not only on the short-term losses suffered by some.

In France more than anywhere else, this pedagogical exercise, carried out with finesse and clarity by Emmanuel Combe, is necessary. For if the French people are in favour of competition as consumers, they fear it as employees and doubt its relevance as citizens. The freedom of the market is still a promise in the making and it is the strength of Emmanuel Combe’s work to highlight the prospects opened up by free competition, while underlining the importance for the State to maintain effective regulation. The author thus underlines the sometimes counter-intuitive effects of certain economic behaviours such as protectionism, connivance between the State and certain actors or the multiplication of often bureaucratic rules to "better share value". Based on a political discourse that claims to be protective, these behaviours actually lead to a reduction in consumer purchasing power by restricting supply and thus increasing prices. Market freedom must, however, be accompanied by a clear and explicit legal framework, set by the State, in order to prevent certain players from benefiting from undue advantages obtained by circumventing tax rules, labour law or consumer law.

In this "little" economics manual, there is an indispensable work of explanation and demonstration aimed at a better understanding of the workings of the economy and the consequences of free competition, particularly for consumer purchasing power and employment, but also for a real redistribution of opportunities for the benefit of young people. It is through such a discourse of truth, which can sometimes seem insolent in its simplicity, that Emmanuel Combe intends to advance knowledge of the economy among the widest possible audience. "Irreverence runs parallel to the spirit of criticism," Gustave Flaubert used to say. It is not Emmanuel Combe who will contradict him.

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  • French State Council (Paris)


Bruno Lasserre, Petit manuel irrévérencieux d’économie, Emmanuel COMBE, November 2018, Concurrences N° 4-2018, Art. N° 88311, p. 245

Publisher Concurrences

Date 1 October 2018

Number of pages 261

ISBN 979-10-94201-13-8

Visites 153

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