Pillars of Dutch politics

Political economy is a science but a link to a political party gives access to a discussion forum with inside information and the possibility for others to get to know your ideas about theory and practice. We are familiar with the division in the USA between Democrats and Republicans and in the UK between Labour and Conservatives (and now LibDem too). The choices by political leaders are frequently effected by their appointments of like-minded economic advisors. The current managing director of the IMF, Lagarde, is an awkward example since she is a lawyer and not an economist. Yet the IMF policy to sanction Greece rather than promote employment, and neglect Germany and Holland with their excessive trade surplusses, fits like a glove with the current French president’s policy not to antagonize the German Kanzler.

Foreigners who meet with Dutch government and its economic advisors might take notice of the Dutch political landscape. Historically, Holland is divided in three main political parties, pillars of both politics and even society. They are the Christian Democrats (CDA), the Liberty & Democracy Party (VVD) and the Social Democrats (PvdA). [footnote] We see this reflected in some international appointments. For example, the managing director of the IMF 1973-1978, Witteveen, had been minister of Finance for the VVD. Duisenberg, the first president of the ECB 1998-2003, had been minister of Finance for the PvdA. Of course they did their job, but their link to a political party got them there.

My position as an economic scientist in Dutch society and on the international scene can be understood with reference to these pillars of Dutch politics. I was a member of the PvdA since 1974, when the directorate of the Dutch CPB censored my work in 1989/91. I received permission to present this paper at an economics conference in 1990, which presentation got a strong positive reaction of professsor Rudolf Meidner from Sweden. However, the directorate blocked the publication of the paper in the series “Research memoranda under the name of the author” which is censorship. I sent copies of the conference paper to parliament so that all parties were informed. Subsequently my hands were free to send a copy to the Scientific Bureau of the PvdA (WBS) with the suggestion to discuss it. This is how it is supposed to work in Dutch society. All parties assume that a topic is tabled only when it first has received some backing by one of the parties. Analyses without a sponsor don’t exist. However, WBS blocked discussion of the paper and blocked my participation in any of its discussions whatsoever. Apparently the PvdA in Dutch parliament accepted the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB. Thus, most curiously, the Dutch labour party was not interested in discussing a possible cure for unemployment. Naturally, I left that PvdA. There is no reason to join one of the other pillar parties or fragments since the political views don’t match, since they don’t ask questions in parliament either, and since it is rather uncomfortable to give others the feeling that you only join up to discuss a hobby horse.

Hence, the innovations in economic theory contained in that conference paper and later the book DRGTPE (2000, 3rdedition 2011) have been blocked from discussion in Dutch society. I have tried other venues, like publishing a book for the general public, but in hindsight my advice since 2004 to boycott Holland reflects too much patience. Even now, while the economic crisis shows how right and valuable this analysis is, and while the PvdA has dropped in the polls from 30% to 10%, there is no sign of awareness there. A boycott of Holland would work wonders.

PM. Curiously, the WBS website reports on Maurice Glasman and David Marquand, but it seems to me that those would be served better by studying DRGTPE. The PvdA and WBS have been great sources for confusion for the rest of Europe, these last 20 years.

[footnote] Since these parties can be a bit out of touch with the times there is a rainbow of fragments like the greens (GL), socialists (SP), animal party, staunch Christians (CU and SGP), Geert Wilders (PVV) and so on. It might be that one or two of the upstarts (SP and PVV) outdo the old pillars at the polls, yet in a political sense they only confirm the traditional division since they run in the same main streams.

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