France spread 'worst' system in world

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The Independent Online
AN AMERICAN economist has come up with a theory that will delight Francophobes and stoke up the idea of an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy on the other side of the Channel: France is responsible for bad government all over the world.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of Chicago have drawn up a list of the world's best and the world's worst governments. The criteria they have employed for this controversial task were efficiency, levels of freedom and the degree to which the government interferes in the private sector.

Eight of the world's bottom 10 have legal systems based on the Napoleonic commercial code, France's legacy to its former possessions. However, those countries with legal systems based on English common law tend to be well governed.

Algeria, Niger, Indonesia, Syria and Mali make up the bottom five, according to the academics. All except Dutch-ruled Indonesia were once ruled by France. Four of those placed in the top 10 - New Zealand, which comes top, Canada, Australia and the United States - have systems founded on the British system. A further four of the best-governed top 10 are Scandinavian. The other two are Britain and Switzerland.

Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, one of the Harvard economists, describes the findings as "important and powerful".

France's Napoleonic Code enshrines the rights of the state over those of the individual, while English common law is rooted in a defence of property rights. A sceptic might say that the study merely proves that the English are, as Napoleon said, a nation of shopkeepers, who created governments for themselves.

But there is solace for Francophiles: the study makes no measure of whether a country is pleasant to live in.