Two follow-up notes about France

Two more points to make about Sunday’s presidential election. First, about the betting odds.

This afternoon I decided to construct my own estimates using some simple numbers. I took Macron to have a 90% chance of making the runoff and Le Pen 75%. Then I split the other two slightly in Fillon’s favor: 20%, with the remaining 15% for Mélenchon. And for each runoff scenario I assumed that there was an 80% probability it would follow the (very clear) verdict of the opinion polls – Macron to win every case, Le Pen to lose every case, and Mélenchon to beat Fillon.

Further, I assumed that these are all independent events. Of course they’re not, but since we have no real idea which way the dependences run, there’s not much else we can do. From there I just multiplied through, and got the following probabilities:

  • Macron 72.0%
  • Le Pen 14.2%
  • Fillon 7.7%
  • Mélenchon 6.1%

For a rough calculation, they look OK to me. But the betting market is very different; here are the implied probabilities from Sportsbet’s odds (which have shifted slightly since this morning towards Le Pen and against both Macron and Fillon):

  • Macron 52.6%
  • Le Pen 23.9%
  • Fillon 16.3%
  • Mélenchon 5.3%
  • all others 2.0%

That’s a very big difference. It looks to me as if punters have been led astray by the media’s obsessive focus on Le Pen. But hey, wisdom of crowds and all that – maybe they know something I don’t.

Still, I thought it reasonable to wager a decent amount on Macron, with a small hedging bet on Mélenchon. If you choose to follow my lead, please bet responsibly.

The second thing is a follow-up to my post from last Monday, where I drew attention to Adam Creighton’s endorsement of Le Pen at the Australian as an instance of the dilemma faced by the right in countries like Australia, and wondered how many would follow suit.

Well, the Institute of Public Affairs put out its weekly email yesterday, and it includes two links on the French election. One is to this summary from the Telegraph, which is quite sensible and impartial.

But the other one, which they headline with, is to this story from the Canadian Globe and Mail. The IPA says this about it:

Serge Galam – a French theoretical physicist who correctly predicted Brexit and Trump (the French Dilbert?) – has produced a mathematical model showing that Marine Le Pen could easily become the next French President.

That’s a reasonable summary of what the article says; neither it nor the article itself is an endorsement of Le Pen. Still, it’s a remarkably blasé remark about the possible election of a fascist president in a major European power.

No support for, or reference to, the economic reform plans of Macron, or even of Fillon, the “French Thatcher.” That all seems secondary to glee at the possibility of a repeat of Donald Trump.


2 thoughts on “Two follow-up notes about France

  1. First, I’ll begin at the end of your note: Adam Creighton. He is not quite your typical Rightard even as he writes for Rupert and is a former Right think-tanker (CIS, I believe). You are referring to his article of 17 April in which he tried (but failed) to explain why he would vote for Le Pen. His reasoning is to laundry list all the usual whinges (by the Right) of France including citing gross debt (120% versus 90% which he fails to mention is the same–or less-than the UK, the USA not to mention Japan, Singapore etc etc.). He referenced Eric Zemmour’s book which is not yet in English translation so doubtless he is merely reflecting what some other Rightard is interpreting it (probably American). And anyone referencing in this context Michel Houellebecq’s (ie. the former Wellbeck) book(s) is beyond expecting to be considered serious. So far so Rightard.
    But here’s the thing: yesterday (22 April) he had another piece on the election headlined “No simple solution for problems in France” where he did some homework on actual evidence, which he should have done before writing his first piece (which was recycled almost-fake news). One wonders if he didn’t get his knuckles rapped by someone more informed (that would be a big crowd but perhaps not if he mostly mixes with the News journo crowd). He even accurately restates France’s national debt as 90% (very close to the OECD average) though he does then go OTT by saying it could easily push France into default! But he continues to avoid evidence by saying: “French government’s net debt is about 90 per cent of its gross domestic product, twice Germany’s ” which is grotesque since Germany’s is 82%. He says France has $2 trillion of debt without mentioning that so does the UK ($2.065tn, 79% GDP) and Germany has $2.59tn. OK, this data is lagging a few years but this would not help the UK’s figures because their currency has dropped a lot and Brexit will continue to impact it negatively (their ability to repay international debt with a weakening currency and deteriorating trade).

    In fact on a whole host of issues Creighton has had a rethink to announce:

    France’s most famous economist, Thomas Piketty, bristled in January at the “alleged economic asymmetry between Germany with its reputation as prosperous and France which is described as on the decline”. He pointed out that French and German workers are equally productive, at about €55 ($78) an hour, which is about 30 per cent higher than those in Britain or Italy. A reluctance to hire has encouraged French firms to prefer state-of-the-art equipment and economise on workers. “While there is no need to boast … we have to admit that the social, educational and economic model constructed in France and Germany is more satisfactory. These two countries have achieved the highest level of productivity in the world, as high as that in America, but with a much more egalitarian form of distribution,” he wrote, noting the French work 35 hours a week for 44 weeks a year, about a quarter fewer hours than Americans work. “The aims of growth in productivity in the long term is to enable the benefit of more time for private and family life, and cultural and recreational activities,” he argued.
    On some metrics France may be more flexible than the US and Britain.

    Bottom line is close agreement with myself (though he doesn’t go this far): France is in some ways like Japan, an arbiter for the future of the rich world. France is almost too productive, so that it produces the world’s fifth largest economy. This is bigger than the UKs (with near identical populations) which always seems to surprise people but that’s because they constantly get bombarded with fake news from the Anglophone press and Anglophone neo-lib economists who have constantly proclaimed France to be on the verge of extinction. Creighton cites Ronnie Reagan making such a prediction in 1964!
    In my opinion many of France’s problems are no different to those in the UK, USA and indeed Australia where our awful casualisation and part-time jobs (especially since the GFC) is creating the same thing, except in France a higher fraction of jobs are full-time, thus there is a higher fraction who have no work. The neo-libs “solution” has always been “labour law reform” that would simply expand the casualisation, part-time and disenfranchisement of workers as is happening the the Anglophone world, and is far worse in the US than anywhere else. It is this that is responsible for Trump and Brexit. And no one has a solution as the neo-lib’s recipe is merely a retreat to neo-feudal inequality.

    And it seems to me this is what Creighton’s second article is about. Almost a retreat from his first. He finishes the article with an indirect support of Emmanuel Macron–and an acknowledgement that either Le Pen or Mélenchon would bring chaos and disaster to France. But he also has no solutions.


  2. Second, it is not totally clear what those statistics relate to. Is it predicting who will get thru the first-round into the second, or is it the overall Presidential winner? At this point the only one worth examining is the first of these, ie. which two will progress to the second round.
    CR wrote:

    (which have shifted slightly since this morning towards Le Pen and against both Macron and Fillon):

    If that is the “betting odds” then it may be true (I don’t know) but the last poll (reported early this am on ABC News radio) was one apparently held at 6.30pm on Friday, Paris time (8 hours ahead of Australia; they still haven’t started voting on Sunday yet). In fact Macron had eased ahead a little bit and Le Pen had eased behind a little bit. Yes, yes, error margins and all that, but it does not support what the Anglophone media keep harping on: that the terrorism thing will swing it for Le Pen.

    Having said that, the overwhelming factor are the undecideds which are about 30%. Again the Anglophone media is claiming that a lot of these will not actually vote because they are so fed up with all politicians. So the turnout might be lower than usual at about 70%. I simply don’t know because I don’t think I have access to quality information on this: every Anglophone media I see does these street interviews in impoverished areas so gets the soundbite they were fishing for. Contrary to their line, these are not the places the election will be decided. And of course the main factor is that Le Pen would have to capture a totally impossible 90+% of all of those 30% of undecideds to win the first round (she has effectively zero chance in the second round). But only about one third (ten percentage points), and maybe much lower, of those votes are likely up for grabs.

    The odds are too close to call –your 90% for Macron is … “brave”! And it could feasibly (within error rates of polling) be any two of Macron, LePen and Mélenchon (but IMO not Fillon despite all the “close” polling he has been consistently behind) who could get into the second round. If it is the last two then yes France, EU and the world are in big trouble.

    (I think the first results will be coming in at about 4am Monday our time? I presume exit polling?)


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