A number of seemingly separate debates are occupying part of the public stage in France today.

France is the only major European country to have a combined budget, primary budget, trade balance and balance of payments deficit. The budget deficit is likely to exceed 170 billion euros, despite the fact that France’s public spending and public revenues are among the highest in the world. And yet, if you listen to every French person, there’s a lack of money everywhere (in education, health, the police, the army, agriculture, cities, environmental protection), and no one is prepared to pay higher taxes, or propose the slightest savings in personnel, social spending or support for the economy or research. And even fewer truly structuring reforms of public institutions, and in particular a reduction in the number of tiers of local government, of which there are at least six in France (commune, communauté de commune, métropole, canton, département, région). Germany, on the other hand, has just two (commune and länder). It’s hardly surprising, then, that with the same public spending on education, Germany is able to pay twice as much to its teachers.

Secondly, a new reform of the constitution is fast approaching, which will give Corsica greater autonomy. And since, in France, it is out of the question to give an advantage to one without granting it, at least formally, to all, the President of the Brittany Region has just asked that these advantages (including the right to adapt a law to the regional context, to spend more and to raise more taxes) be granted to all regions. Once again, it’s clear what advantages each region will derive from this, in terms of specificity and competition in attracting investment and talent. However, it is to be expected that this will mainly result in new spending, and therefore new taxes. And since not all regions correspond to a historically, geographically, culturally or economically rational division, it’s hard to see why départements, metropolises and communes shouldn’t demand the same privileges. The whole structure of the nation would be shattered. And we can’t expect any positive change in public spending. On the contrary…

At the same time, reports are multiplying explaining what the country stands to gain from a forced march towards the generalized use of artificial intelligence in the economy, without really measuring the importance it could also have (and already has in many countries), in a much more efficient, more useful to citizens and less costly management of public services. Of course, as always, it will be used first and foremost, as it is in China, to make the police more efficient (by predicting crimes and offenses), to better control road traffic, especially autonomous cars, to better collect taxes and fight fraud. And less so for the extraordinary things it can do to improve health insurance (as the alan.com site does, for example), to simplify administrative procedures (as the empathy.com site does, for example) and thousands of other examples in countless American counties for the management of their calls for tender, or in certain Baltic countries for the management of the bulk of their ministries.

We need to bring these three issues together: Reduce public spending by reducing the number of levels of local government and using artificial intelligence. The autonomy of local authorities through the specific use of artificial intelligence and the assumption, by each authority, of part of the State’s expenditure, without new taxes. Finally, we need to think in terms of implementing artificial intelligence as a tailor-made service tool for every citizen.

An immense task. Many countries are trying. Very concretely. Will we, in France, once again be content to commission reports?


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