Sleaze has become so pervasive in French politics that a stint in the slammer has started to seem like a natural part of public service. So the shocker last week was not the news that the country's respected Finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was under investigation for alleged corruption. It was the admirable fact that he quickly resigned to face the law as a private citizen.
Two weeks ago the Paris prosecutor's office gave a green light for an investigation of Strauss-Kahn's legal and consulting fees. He faces allegations that he accepted $100,000 for work he never did, and that he knew of false documents that were drawn up to justify the payments. He denies any wrongdoing.
His departure showed just how much France's economy has evolved. Supported by a cyclical upturn and the advent of Europe's single currency, Strauss-Kahn helped lead the country from centralized stagnation toward a freer market--and a higher growth rate than Britain's or Germany's. He was, famously, the Socialist whom businessmen trusted.