This weblog has a serious topic – the boycott of Holland till the censorship of economic science is lifted – but it must also contain an element of humour, or, at times, even some joyful variety with song and dance and good drinking, to prevent an atmosphere of gloom and doom. Little is sadder than censorship, but, oh yeah, sadder is the voice of protest that is hardly heard and not reported on in the Financial Times. Nobody wants to read page after page of protest, this continuous wail, even if it shows good reasoning and sound advice.
Entertain or perish. Thus this weblog must show a lightness of heart, an openness of mind to the wealth outside of censorship and protest. John Maynard Keynes had his Essays in Persuasion that still make great reading. John Kenneth Galbraith accepted that others bested him in mathematics and developed his literary style to penetrate into deeper questions. The economy depends upon money but also upon talk. Klamer & McCloskey calculated that 40% of GDP was taken by rhetorics. An increase in productivity in this part of the economy requires the development of better narratives. Professor Yiannis Gabriel at the university of Bath studies the narratives in organisations, and uses his skills to comment on developments in Greece. With such examples, we should not only look at the Greek Tragedy in its Land of Origin but employ our openness of mind to also include the other side of the world.
When we speak about humour, joyful variety, that dance of the mind, that enchantment of suddenly new insights, then we naturally think about Ai Weiwei. Earlier this weblog focussed on his nudes but apparently he will take a seat in the jury for the Tiger Awards at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, January 23 – February 3, though without his nudes, and without actually coming to Rotterdam since the Chinese authorities think that it is better that he stays home and uses the internet. We are thus faced with a double absence of artistic inspiration. It is not impossible that Ai thinks that there aren’t enough Dutch ladies to give him a proper nude welcome in Rotterdam and that he merely inserts the government for a lame excuse. Alternatively, Dutch nudes will flock to Rotterdam and dance about to emphasise his absence, or rather jump around to keep warm in the present cold winter.
There is a peculiar difference in censorship between the (relatively) free democracy of Holland and the military dictatorship in China.
In Holland the narrative of democratic freedom turns against the victim of censorship. In a democracy there cannot exist censorship, is the axiom. The world has seen the paedophilia in the church, Jimmy Savile at the BBC, Lance Armstrong in bicycling, … and numerous other cases where freedom was quite infringed upon, and, also, for an amazingly long time. The curious (?) thing about the problem at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau is that it hasn’t anything to do with financial corruption, graft, sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll, but quite interestingly merely with economic theory and integrity of economic science. Still, the axiom is – John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term conventional wisdom – that there cannot be censorship of science at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau. Another axiom is that, even if there would be such censorship, then it would not be relevant for the Dutch export surplusses and current economic crisis and what other economists babble about. Subsequently it would not be useful to study the issues of the tax void, the dynamic marginal tax rate or the Economic Supreme Court. Hurray, no need to boycott Holland. Go, you blind people, I would say, go, and wash your eyes.
In China the narrative of dictatorship supports the economic development of the nation, up till a point where less than 40% of GDP is taken by rhetorics and where other narratives have to take over. For the Chinese dictatorship, I would not try to phantom their dilemma’s and the position of Ai Weiwei. The only suggestion that I can think of is a plan with a longer horizon. The current economic development in China came about by fixing the state enterprises at their levels of operation and allowing the new growth to come from new freeer upstarts. This strategy by Deng Xiaoping has taken some decades but produced wonders. In this line, the current leadership might draft a plan for a transition period of two decades with step by step changes in the narrative to eventually national democratic elections (see my book Voting Theory for Democracy). World developments are so fast that three decades would be too long. Sticking to the plan would enhance credibility. A prime focus would be on rule of law and basic economic security for everyone. In seven years there might be a free press on local issues, in twelve years on national issues. Well, who am I to suggest this ? The Chinese are quite capable of running their country, and we will see whether Ai Weiwei inspires them and can be more free to travel when he turns 75. An older artist, with older nudes, such is the tragedy of life, but perhaps still agile enough to drink and dance, in a possibly somewhat warmer Dutch winter.