A Better Way to Choose Presidents

Eric Maskin, Professor in the School of Social Science from 2000–2011 and Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences in 2007, and Amartya Sen, Institute Trustee (1987–1994) and Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences in 1998, return to their recent essay “The Rules of the Game: A New Electoral System” to reflect on ideas that emerged and to comment on the French presidential election, writing:

On April 23, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen finished first and second in the first round of the French election, and as a result faced each other in the May 7 runoff. However, most available evidence shows that if the third-place finisher, François Fillon, had faced Le Pen head-to-head, he would easily have won (even the fourth-place finisher, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, would quite possibly have beaten her one-on-one). Thus the fact that Macron faced a runoff against Le Pen, as opposed to against Fillon or Mélenchon, seems anti-democratic. (And Le Pen’s post-election claim that she is the main opposition to Macron is clearly inaccurate.) As an extremist, she had been able to “divide and conquer” her way into the final round.

Macron, who was elected president decisively in the second round with 66 percent of the vote, seems likely to be the true majority winner; one-on-one, he defeated Le Pen and probably would have done the same against the other candidates. But French elections don’t always produce a winner who has the most overall support among voters.

Read more at the New York Review of Books.