Will Marine Le Pen be able to draw voters of other candidates?


A question many people ask themselves is whether Marine Le Pen will be able to draw voters beyond her own electorate if she makes it to the second round of the French Presidential election (which looks quite likely). In all scenarios put forward in polls, she loses against all other possible candidates. It is interesting to see how things played out in 2002, when her father made it to the second round against Jacques Chirac.

The graph above shows the transfer of votes between the first and the second round of the French presidential election in 2002. To draw this graph, I have taken the total number of votes for each candidate in the first round, and multiplied it by the proportions given in this exit poll by Ipsos. I have used the Sankeymatic to make the graph. The calculated total for Le Pen and Chirac is a bit different from the final outcome, but as a whole it is pretty accurate.

The obvious problem for Le Pen father was that he wasn’t able to draw any significant transfer of votes. He only increased his vote share by less than a million, mainly thanks to Bruno Mégret (another far right candidate estranged from the Front National) and abstentionnists. Chirac, in contrast, drew not only on the totality of his own voters and the near totality of voters of other candidates, but also drew many people who had abstained in the first round.

Things will probably be different this time. Les Républicains under Sarkozy moved significantly to the right on immigration, making Le Pen’s ideas more acceptable. If Fillon doesn’t make it to the second round, we can expect a non-negligible share of his voters to move to Le Pen. Generally, Marine is surely not as radioactive as her father in the electorate as a whole. We can probably see this in the polls. They were considerably off in 2002, as many respondents were probably ashamed of saying they’d vote Le Pen. This shame is surely less present now.

Version française sur Mediapart.


Who exports where in the European Union?

Source: Eurostat.

Brexit, Populist Right-Wing Parties and the Working Class

I took part in the Fafo conference in Oslo on March 23 and presented some data on the working class and populist right-wing parties. Here’s a video.

The Far Right’s Leftist Mask

Line Rennwald and I have a new piece up at Jacobin on the move to the left of radical right parties on economic issues. We notably discuss the difference between rhetoric and action.

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European social models from crisis to crisis


Is Sweden really the rape capital of the world?

Plot 1007.pngToday, Nigel Farage said that Malmö in Sweden was the rape capital of Europe, accusing the large influx of refugees for causing an increasing in crime and violence. Donald Trump made a similar confused reference to Sweden in a rally recently. If you look at reported rapes, Sweden has indeed one of the highest rates in the world, after Botswana. But does this mean that women in Sweden are much less safe than elsewhere?

The high rape rates in Sweden can be mostly accounted for by the way the are counted, as this article reported:

In Sweden there has been this ambition explicitly to record every case of sexual violence separately, to make it visible in the statistics. So, for instance, when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

The thing is, the number of reported rapes has been going up in Sweden – it’s almost trebled in just the last seven years. In 2003, about 2,200 offences were reported by the police, compared to nearly 6,000 in 2010. So something’s going on.

But Klara Selin says the statistics don’t represent a major crime epidemic, rather a shift in attitudes. The public debate about this sort of crime in Sweden over the past two decades has had the effect of raising awareness, she says, and encouraging women to go to the police if they have been attacked.

In the graph above, I have plotted reported rapes per 100’000 inhabitants (data from the United Nations) against the World Economic Forum gender gap index. It is importance to note that reported rapes are not the same thing as actual rapes. Sweden ranks unsurprisingly among the highest in the WEF ranking, also if you look at popular support for gender equality. There is an intriguing positive correlation. It is not very strong, but on average, countries with higher gender equality tend to have higher rates of reported rapes. This would suggest that, in line with the argument made by Klara Selin, women are more likely to report rapes to the police when gender equality is more widespread. In contrast, if you look at the lower left corner, countries such as Algeria, the United Emirates, Lebanon and Japan have both low score on gender equality and low reported rapes. This may suggest that reported rapes may not only be a poor indicator of sexual violence against women, but counterintuitively, higher levels of reported rapes may actually be an indicator of higher gender equality: in countries where gender equality is low, and where sexual violence against women is more likely to be widespread, sexual violence is also more likely to go unreported.

The Causes of Donald Trump’s Authoritarianism

Politics is not like business. Large companies are essentially autocracies, and governments cannot externalise costs, as Trump has done throughout his career. 

It is arguably difficult to find the logic behind Donald Trump’s actions as president. The first few weeks of his presidency have bee marked by turmoil and conflicts with both the media and the courts,  notably when it came to the implementation of his executive order on immigration. The language he and his advisors have been using are reminiscent of the authoritarianism and paranoia displayed by Nixon.

Why is his administration in such turmoil,  while  he was supposed to get things done? There is probably a way to understand Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his threat to the courts and the media by looking at where he comes from and  the environment in which he came to prominence: a large corporate organisation in an extractive market which essentially works like a dictatorship.  While Donald Trump  sold  his presidential bid on the idea that, as a successful businessman, he would be able to make better deals than traditional politicians, he also seemed to assume that politics and business operate with similar rules. However, there are major differences, especially with the kind of rent-seeking business in which Trump  gained prominence. First, politics operates with many checks and balances, which makes it difficult for a command-and-control type of governing as you see in large companies. Second,  governments can’t externalise costs on a superior actor.  Third, governments cannot choose a line of business and abandon others.

Companies are dictatorships

There are arguably many differences in the way business is governed around the world, but nowhere does it operate like a democracy.  As this article makes clear, large companies are governed like more or less “enlightened dictatorships”. This is especially the case of the United States where mechanisms of employee participation in the strategic decisions of companies is not developed at all. This is very different in Germany, for instance, where the law mandates companies above a certain size to involve employees in decisions affecting not only their employment, but the fate of the company as a whole.  In the United States, in contrast, business leaders expect a clear vertical line of command and compliance at all levels.  Cisco CEO John Chambers, cited in the New York Times, said that

I’m a command-and-control person. I like being able to say turn right, and we truly have 67,000 people turn right.

Things are very different in government. First, the principle of accountability  and division of power are cornerstones of the functioning of government, precisely to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a single person, as is the rule in companies. Hence, while Donald Trump can fire whoever he wants in his company if they don’t comply with orders, it clearly cannot do so with elected representatives in Congress or judges formally independent from the executive branch. If you want to think of a political form that most resembles the Trump organisation, this would probably be a kingdom where kinship is the primary  mechanism of allocation of power. Trump inherited the company from his father, appointed his children to  head the company, and appointed his son-in-law to a major advisory post in the White House. It is not surprising that he now feels frustrated with an environment that is governed by so different rules and limits on one’s power.

Companies can be bailed out, governments less so

There is an excellent article in the New York Time by Adam Davidson explaining how the economic vision of Donald Trump is entirely shaped by  his experience as a real estate magnate in New York. Manhattan real estate is a good example of what Acemoglu and Robinson  would call an extractive market. Making money in this environment is not really about producing innovative products which  are better or cheaper than the competition, but about securing rents inherited from one’s family or extracted from government via political connections. As Davidson writes

When trying to explain the idea of rent-seeking, I have always used one quintessential example from the United States — a sector in which markets don’t function, in which excess profits are held by a few. That world is Manhattan real estate development. Twenty-three square miles in area, Manhattan contains roughly 854,000 housing units. But there are many more people than that who want to own property there (…) Manhattan real estate development is about as far as it is possible to get, within the United States, from that Econ 101 notion of mutually beneficial transactions. This is not a marketplace characterized by competition and dynamism; instead, Manhattan real estate looks an awful lot more like a Middle Eastern rentier economy. It is a hereditary system. We talk about families, not entrepreneurs. A handful of families have dominated the city’s real estate development for decades: Speyer, Tishman, Durst, Fisher, Malkin, Milstein, Resnick, LeFrak, Rose, Zeckendorf.

 One of the defining features of Donald Trump’s business career, the key of his success, has been his ability to secure rents obtained from politicians for his business ventures,  and his ability to externalise costs on public entities. This started with a 40 year tax break granted by New York City for the renovation of his first hotel,  which has cost $360 million  to taxpayers to date. Trump’s endeavours have so far benefitted from $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York. From the little we know about this tax filings, thanks to the intricacies of US tax rules, he was able to file a $900 million loss  in the 1990s, and avoid paying taxes  for up to 18 years. Hence Trump’s business has been to extract political favours for profit, and externalise risk and costs either to the state, or to creditors.

It is very difficult to do something like that in government because there is no superior entity to which costs can be externalised. Arguably, Trump tried to reproduce this logic by saying that Mexico would pay for the wall that he would build at the border, a demand that Mexico flat-out refused. Basically, Trump has evolved in an environment where somebody else can foot the bill for one’s screw ups. In government, beside cases of developing countries  under structural adjustment programs or Eurozone countries in fiscal distress, governments generally have to foot the bill themselves for their own actions.

Governments deal in areas that nobody wants to deal with

Trump’s business career has been marked by constant expansion into new markets to reap new profits, and abandoning old ones. From Queens to Manhattan, to Atlantic City casinos, to Trump University and other ventures. In business, you can close down factories to move them where production is cheaper, and declare bankruptcy on the activity of your casinos. The major difference in government is that it has to do the things that business doesn’t want to do, or cannot do. Barack Obama explained this very well in a speech in October 2016:

Part of government’s job, by the way, is dealing with problems that nobody else wants to deal with. So sometimes I talk to CEOs, they come in and they start telling me about leadership, and here’s how we do things.  And I say, well, if all I was doing was making a widget or producing an app, and I didn’t have to worry about whether poor people could afford the widget, or I didn’t have to worry about whether the app had some unintended consequences — setting aside my Syria and Yemen portfolio — then I think those suggestions are terrific.  That’s not, by the way, to say that there aren’t huge efficiencies and improvements that have to be made. (Government) is not inherently wrecked; it’s just government has to care for, for example, veterans who come home. That’s not on your balance sheet, that’s on our collective balance sheet, because we have a sacred duty to take care of those veterans

Judging from his first weeks, Trump seems to think that the federal government can be operated with the same authoritarian style as the Trump organisation, without regard for checks and balances –  which don’t really exist in the corporate world –  and that the costs of his decisions can be borne by some other actor, most notably other countries. Trump thinks perhaps that he can do with Mexico or China what he did with public entities throughout his career.  He may be up for some hu(uu)ge disappointments.