A cocoon for Noreena Hertz

The dictionary has: “A protective case of silk or similar fibrous material spun by the larvae of moths and other insects that serves as a covering for their pupal stage.” A combination of chance and causality makes that I now must write about Noreena Hertz and her cocoon in Holland, where she is protected from the harsh winds of criticism and where she can spin her yarn in cosy admiration. Will she once erupt as a butterfly to dazzle all of us with the beauty of science ? Or should we rather accept her as just another gifted woman who got lost in the limelights and who got abused by failing Dutch academics ?

Dr. Hertz wrote some bestsellers and got appointed at various Dutch universities, first Utrecht, then Rotterdam and now at the Duisenberg School of Finance at Amsterdam, where she holds the Chair of Globalisation, Sustainability and Finance. Contrary to common academics her web pages do not show lists of her scientific publications. Perhaps there is only her Cambridge thesis to show. A tentative conclusion is that the appointments at Dutch universities derive from her star status and from the desire of Dutch universities to suggest to their students that they are open to criticism of society.

I haven’t read her bestsellers. Thus I have every desire to remain mute on those works and their author.

However, I came upon the website of DSF because its dean Dirk Schoenmaker took part in a Dutch committee on the future of Dutch Banking. That committee produced a miserable report, that perhaps saves some Dutch banks but keeps the Dutch economy in prolongued recession. Below is my email to professor Schoenmaker. Given that Wim Duisenberg was the first President of the European Central Bank, we may hope that the DSF takes pride in proper scientific analysis. Professor Schoenmaker appears to be on holiday but perhaps there is a reply in the second half of August.

Looking at the DSF website I noticed that dr. Hertz is at the DSF. I might neglect that. On the other hand, people might wonder. Noreena Hertz has been in Holland regularly for the last decade. Would she have noticed the censorship of science there, its protest, and the advice to boycott Holland ? Would she not be perfectly placed to adopt that advice and send it out to the world ? For sure, she would be perfectly placed, but alas, Holland is her cocoon, and she doesn’t notice the problem.

The reviews of her books have never been inviting. Howard Davies, chairman of the FSA, is critical about her Silent takeover, The Guardian 2001:  “Breathless globalony”. Richard Adams, The Guardian 2004, has: “Noreena Hertz’s IOU makes for grim reading but contains little that is new”.  Writer Paul Kingsnorth finds: “Unfortunately, our Noreena is the Joanne Harris of political writing – and IOU, like its author, is all style and no substance.” Or see Diane Coyle in The Independent 2004. There is support however by disinfo.com 2009. By themselves these quotes might not mean much, since I would suppose that one could find similar quotes about my own work if one spends some time on Google. The point is that their descriptions of what would be the substance do indicate that there really wouldn’t be much of it.

Let me use a risky argument. If there had been substance, the exposure that Noreena has had would have been sufficient to change the world. We had the exposure but no change. Hence there isn’t much substance.

Her Cambrigde webpage claims: “For more than two decades Noreena Hertz’s economic predictions have not only been accurate and ahead of the curve, but crucial for the success of the world’s economy. In her number one best-selling book, The Silent Takeover, Hertz predicted that unregulated markets and massive financial institutions would have serious global consequences whilst her 2005 bestseller, IOU: The Debt Threat, predicted the 2008 financial crisis. Her books have been translated into 17 languages.” However, she does not feature in Dirk Bezemer’s “No One Saw This Coming” (2009). In itself this does not say much, see how Dirk disinforms Sweden. But we may agree that Noreena relied much on others without providing the key insights to resolve the crisis.

The Cambridge webpage continues: “Many have described Professor Hertz as a visionary, and she is one of the most influential economists on the international stage. Her unique, integrated approach combines traditional economic analysis with foreign policy trends, psychology, behavioural economics, anthropology, history and sociology. Her work is considered to provide a much needed blueprint for rethinking economics and corporate strategy.” If this crisis is the result of her influence, we should hope that she quickly comes to her senses.

Noreena’s website announces a new book in September 2013: “Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World”. It is a warning about listening to experts. Perhaps this book is a warning by a DSF expert about the experts at DSF ? I found Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes wide shut” already quite confusing, and I wonder about this new book that Noreena has spun from her cocoon. When you are in a cocoon, opening your eyes could be quite a horror. 

Appendix: email to Dirk Schoenmaker, dean of Duisenberg School of Finance (DSF), Amsterdam

Date: Thu, 18 Jul 2013
To: Dirk Schoenmaker
From: Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Subject: W.r.t. my criticism on the report of the commission on the Structure of Dutch Banks
Cc: Noreena Hertz, Judith Kohsiek

To professor Dirk Schoenmaker, dean of the Duisenberg School of Finance (DSF), Amsterdam

Dear professor Schoenmaker,

You were member of the commission on the structure of Dutch banks. The report of the commission is in Dutch, and my critique is in Dutch too. In my analysis, the report is inadequate and actually ill advised for the current economic crisis. It may perhaps have some limited benefits for some Dutch banks but it will not benefit the economy and the unemployed, which also reduces its effect on banks. I sent my critique to the secretariat of the commission, and I presume that my critique has reached you. It is also at this location:


I usefully inform you too about the censorship of economic science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau since 1990. The censored analysis is relevant for money and banking. The economic crisis confirms my analysis:


(1) I noticed that DSF had a discussion event on the report. I wonder whether the same critique was given as I put in my reaction above. Is there a report on that discussion at DSF ?


(2) I presume that the work of the commission of the report now is ended. I presume that you will be hesitant to discuss it, since it will be the role of chairman Herman Wijffels to defend it. Nevertheless you are an independent academic and you are free to respond to my criticism especially where you may be open to new insights that you were not aware of before. Such as my paper “Money as gold versus money as water” referred to in my critique, also available here:

(3) I wonder whether you would have a reaction to my protest against the censorship of economic science in Holland. I wonder whether you have a reaction on the appointment of a non-scientist to the scientifc position of director of the CPB, see (in Dutch):


(4) I kindly ask you to make sure that this email receives the attention of prof. dr. Noreena Hertz, DSF Chair of Globalisation, Sustainability and Finance. I am not sure about the contact form on her website or these alternative email addresses for her. It is possible that she would be interested in my critique on your work on Dutch banking, and that she would be interested in the (non-) reaction by Dutch academics on censorship of economic science and the appointment of non-scientists in scientific positions. My explicit invitation to you and to her is to discuss these points, not necessarily jointly.

(5) I inform you and professor Hertz also about the analysis by Roefie Hueting on “environmentally sustainable national income”, that is maltreated by the directorate of the CPB too. I wonder how DSF discusses rates of return when you do not adopt the Tinbergen-Hueting measure of eSNI to determine the return on investment that is corrected for sustainability. Apparently you promote “impact investing”, where each researcher has to re-invent the wheel ? See:


(6) I am worried about the contamination of scientific integrity of scientists in the world, who are in contact with failing Dutch scientists, and who are under the impression that Dutch scientists are very kind and competent people and are not failing in integrity. The best solution here is transparancy. Thus my proposal is that you forward this email also to the foreign economists at DSF, so that they know about my critique on the banking report and about my protest against the censorship of science and on the non-scientific appointment at CPB. If they are in Holland it would be possible to discuss the issues too, otherwise they might be interested in my weblog with the advice to boycott Holland till the issue is resolved. They might start with this example of contamination:


(7) If you still publish DSF newsletters, then it would be useful to include some of the points of this email. I copy to Judith Kohsiek so that she can ponder that question too. She may note that the Alberto Alesina talk in the March 2012 newsletter is inadequate for the solution of the EU problem, as he tends to neglect that the Eurozone is effectively on a gold standard with failing banks. I am sorry to say, but we really need to resolve this issue of censorship of science in Holland.


Sincerely yours,

Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)
Scheveningen, Holland

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