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Externalization: A Strategy for Refocusing the State on Its Core Competencies

Externalization: A Strategy for Refocusing the State on Its Core Competencies

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Externalization, as used here, is the notion of the State “relieving” itself of its duties to avoid the cost and red tape of an overly cumbersome administrative apparatus, referred to in some quarters as decentralisation, or outsourcing of functions. The scope of this externalization has yet to be determined, inasmuch as having extended beyond its traditional boundaries, it is now affecting the very core of sovereign power. If externalization is unavoidable, we must debate the nature of the State and its powers, without which it would be impossible to rationally control this process.In this study, Frédéric Rouvillois presents a fundamental reform of the State. Unlike in other countries, externalization is neither the symptom nor cause of a decline of the State, but rather the sign that the government is refocusing on its “core business.” This recalls French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin’s statements when presenting the constitutional bill on decentralization: “a strong State focused on its sovereign missions, and not a State which, in trying to deal with everything, does everything poorly.”
Externalization nonetheless has a very direct affect upon determining which of the State’s sovereign duties can or cannot be delegated. Customs, security, or the tax system could not be delegated without the drawback of disqualifying the State, which would thereby lose its supreme control over what is consubstantial with it.
If externalization is necessary, as argued by Frédéric Rouvillois, it is not out of any suspicion of the national State but, to the contrary, out of a desire to strengthen it. The first step is to determine the missions over which the State exercises exceptional power in order to discharge it of all subsidiary missions, thus allowing it to reassume a modest “profile” — one less interventionist and less costly. By externalizing such tasks, the State could “again become what citizens expect it to be: a modest, but, above all, reliable and effective intervener.”

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