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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2013
To: professor Kathleen Thelen (MIT)
From: Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Subject: W.r.t. your interview in the Dutch Volkskrant October 26

Dear professor Thelen,

Thank you for your interview in the Dutch Volkskrant October 26.

It will be useful for you to know that there is censorship of economic science in Holland, namely by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) since 1990.

That censorship pertains to the very subject that you study. See my book DRGTPE (with PDF):

http://thomascool.eu/Papers/Drgtpe/Index.html

Economists in Holland don’t do anything about that censorship. Since 2004 I advise to a boycott of Holland till the issue is resolved. See:

https://boycottholland.wordpress.com/about/

The Vrije Universiteit that granted you your honorary doctorate is a hotbed in contributing to that censorship and its cover up. The CPB director who started the censorship is Gerrit Zalm, VU graduate who became later a professor there, who became minister of Finance and who now is CEO of ABN AMRO. His close VU colleague is Frank den Butter, now retired, but see here:

http://thomascool.eu/Thomas/English/TPnCPB/Audit/Index.html

I advise you to return that honorary doctorate and keep some distance from those enemies of scientific freedom.

And I would welcome the idea that you would study DRGTPE and support my advice to boycott Holland till the censorship of science there is lifted.

Kind regards,

Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)
Scheveningen
http://thomascool.eu/

PS. For Dutch readers: this misleading article by Barbara Vis (VU).

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As the world turns and days accumulate to weeks, there are various topics a weblogger might want to comment on. Why bother ? Let me mention some topics.

Frits Bolkestein (1933), former EU commissioner for the internal market 1999-2004, has changed his mind. He now advises that Northern Europe leaves the euro and creates its own new currency. In the past in Dutch parliament he voted for monetary union but now he accepts its failure. He accepts that leaving the euro will come at a large cost for the North, since claims in euro will quickly lose value. Perhaps to Bolkestein’s surprise, his article on leaving the euro did not cause headlines all over Europe and was pretty much neglected. It was also neglected by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, of the same party VVD (i.e. People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy).

Johannes Witteveen (1921), former IMF managing director 1973-1978, severely criticised the same Mark Rutte for lack of understanding of economics. Witteveen also criticised Jeroen Dijsselbloem that his background as an agricultural economist could cause a deficiency in understanding of macro-economics. Witteveen presented a proposal for less cutbacks, more investments and reduction of the Dutch surplus on the external account. Witteveen got a long interview in a rather prominent Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland (VN), with the quote in the title: “Rutte does not understand it.” Witteveen also explains that he is sidetracked in internal discussions in the same VVD party.

The VVD claims to be a conservative-liberal party but apparently has problems tolerating dissenting voices. One supposes that Bolkestein is not really surprised by this, as he neglected the arguments against the euro in the past too. “We had to follow Helmut Kohl and his Germany,” he argues now, but this is obviously false. The real lesson for Bolkestein would be that he should focus on how other voices get excluded and neglected. This might be hard for a man of 80 years – though he showed the flexibility to change his mind.

The Dutch musea published a report on art that may have been robbed during World War II 1940-1945. We may be surprised that they manage to do this already after 65 years and that they don’t wait a full century. The website contains pictures and some of the paintings are quite beautiful. The following has been taken from there, and presents a man in a yellow cloth, painted by Jan Sluijters in 1914. The title of the painting describes the man as a “negro” which is latin for “black” but nowadays we would regard this as an excluding stereotype. If the painting has been robbed from your family by the nazis then you should contact that website.

Jan Sluijters, 1914, "Neger met gele lendedoek" (Source www.musealeverwervingen.nl)

Jan Sluijters, 1914, “Neger met gele lendedoek” (Source http://www.musealeverwervingen.nl)

A major issue of exclusion and neglect in Dutch society occurred this last October on the topic of Santa Claus. The American Santa is helped by elves and reindeer, but in Holland by black human helpers and his white horse. This human helper is called Black Pete, made up with shoe polish, and dressed in medieval Spanish attire. Tonny van Renterghem (1919) explained in his book When Santa was a Shaman that the figure has prehistorical origins. Dutch Santa riding his horse on the roof tops is just Wodan riding his horse in the skies. When the sun appears to die in December, Santa fights the demons of darkness, and restores life. Black Pete is that German demon of darkness, transformed by Christian faith into a moorish helper. Another transformation of Santa is Father Time, and even Jesus Christ himself. Still, many Dutch immigrants from Suriname and the Dutch Antilles have little affinity with German prehistory. Black Pete reminds them of the period of slavery. This October showed a vehement discussion in Dutch media about whether to adjust our most cherished national celebration. Even the United Nations stepped in to develop some kind of opinion.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Santa-Was-Shaman-Christmas/dp/156718765X

Tonny van Renterghem, When Santa was a Shaman (Source: amazon.com)

Earlier I wrote about the singer Anouk. She was okay with saying goodbye to Black Pete and then her facebook page exploded with racist comments denouncing her. It shows that there is an issue.

In 1992 at a Science Fiction & Fantasy convention, I read a story on Kidda Claus and Kidda Claudia and their Silly Petes, Renaming and rebranding the celebration figures resolves above problem. Holland has a solution available since 1992 but has been excluding and neglecting it. The PDF has been on my website for years but since 2012 there is a small booklet. The issue has international relevance, since the Dutch celebration of Kinderklaas (Kidda Claus) is much more fun than the American version. In Holland you give surprise presents and write verses that can mock your dearest ones, which is quite different from the American approach to give ever more expensive presents only.

Speaking about Kinderklaas’s horse, we ought to note that Bonfire (1983-2013) passed away yesterday. Salute ! This weblog is mainly about economics and politics but likes art, singers and horses. Anky van Grunsven’s website is clear about the euthanasia. Bonfire is lucky to be a horse and not an excluded and neglected mere human.

Two days ago Wilfried Martens (1936-2013) died, a remarkable Belgian politician, who started as a rather radical flamingant who longed for Flemish independence, became Belgian Prime Minister (1981-1992) where he created the current federal structure of Belgium, and who worked at the EU parliament towards some form of EU confederation. Very special.

In Belgium too, historian David Engels (1979) points to the parallels between the EU and the final days of the Roman Republic that resulted into the dictatorship under the Roman emperors. Engels warns that a new Augustus may abolish our democracy. Engels’s name translates as “English” but he is from the German speaking part, and his book is available only in French: Le Déclin. La crise de l’Union européenne et la chute de la République romaine. Let us hope that it can be translated into English before the dictatorship actually starts.

The Belgian whom I want to focus on is David van Reybrouck (1971) who indeed has started to suggest to abolish many elements in our democracy as we know it. He wants to replace these with lotteries like in ancient Greece. The ballot box of deliberate volition thus is replaced by some external force, the dictatorship of chance. Perhaps the road towards human dictatorship is paved with such lotteries indeed. Van Reybrouck’s book Against elections is now available in Dutch but he announces that it will be available soon in French, Danish and Finnish, perhaps his priority countries or aptly selected by lot too.

Van Reybrouck’s proposal reminds me of René Magritte’s painting La Trahison des Images (“The Treachery of Images”) (1928-9) or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”). Here is my collage that I baptise The Treachery of Mixing Up Things

Collage with Magritte's Trahison des Images

Collage with Magritte’s Trahison des Images (Source: Wikipedia)

Van Reybrouck confirms that the use of lotteries has deep roots in democratic thought. The ancient Greeks were not the first ones to employ it, though perhaps the first ones to do it so systematically. The term “ballot” and the picking of jury members by lot still refer to it. Van Reybrouck’s point is that the notion has always been known to experts but been lost to the general public. His book intends to raise general awareness and application of it. 

The proposal reminds me of Howard DeLong’s Courts of Common Reason in America  while for Holland I must draw attention to Wim Klever‘s studies of Greek democracy, Van den Enden (another Belgian, Antwerp 1602), Spinoza and potential implications of those for our own democracy. The following Dutch PDF discusses Athens’s lotteries, and this announcement and English PDF is useful but mentions a lottery only on p115.

My problem with Van Reybrouck’s analysis is that he does not take into account my analysis on the Economic Supreme Court and my book Voting Theory for Democracy. Since Van Reybrouck reads and writes Dutch he could also look at De ontketende kiezer. Van Reybrouck was trained as an archeologist and philosopher, switched from the academia to independent writing, and found a combination of philosophy, history and fiction that he is at ease with and that apparently sells well. One might say that he knows too much and has ample academic training to prevent that he becomes a dilettante. Yet the problem is that he has no academic training in democracy and voting theory so that he may well be that dilettante in this area. Where serious scholars of democracy already can run astray, this quickly happens when the lay person tries at it: and David van Reybrouck is a lay person here.

There are two sad Dutch connections.

Firstly, Van Reybrouck had a guest position as Cleveringa professor at Leiden 2011-2012. Since my analysis on democracy and the economy is being censored in Holland, he missed out on hearing much about it here in Holland. Also the French, Danes and Fins who will read his book will suffer from the lack of freedom of thought in Holland.

Secondly, in this newspaper Trouw interview David van Reybrouck tells that two months ago he was at a festival in Switzerland and after breakfast sat in a bubble bath with Connie Palmen (1955), the widow of the Dutch secretary of state & minister of foreign affairs Hans van Mierlo (1931-2010) who was in charge during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Van Mierlo was founder of the political party Democrats 1966 (D66), that targets a particular change in Dutch democracy. Van Reybrouck tells that he had a long discussion with Palmen about Van Mierlo’s ideas and actual lack of success since 1966 to change Holland on this. Van Reybrouck: “I hope that democratic innovation comes before the crisis and not after it. Because it might really go very wrong.” Perhaps he thinks about David Engels’s dictatorship for the EU. However, Van Mierlo’s ideas on democracy have always been unscientific and quite rosy and romantic so that Holland has been fortunate not to accept them. In 1966 Van Mierlo looked at the America of J.F. Kennedy and selected these topics as “democratic improvements”: (1) direct election of prime minister and mayors, (2) districts instead of proportional representation, (3) referenda. Van Mierlo’s choice was not based upon scientific research but upon mere impression and fashion. It is an outrage that D66 has been misleading Dutch voters with those irresponsible ideas. It is an outrage that they have given no reply or rebuttal against my criticism. See this paper for a comparison between districts (United Kingdom) and proportional representation (Holland). See my book Voting Theory for Democracy why direct elections and referenda suffer from Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem and what can be done about that. Dutch readers may look at my pamphlet in protest against D66 (presented as an interview with Van Mierlo from purgatory). My analysis on democracy is part and parcel of the papers that have been hit by censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau since 1990. Had the analysis on democracy been published in 1991, perhaps D66 would have been stopped in 1991, and Van Mierlo would not have been in the position to wreak havoc in Srebrenica in 1995. The director who started the censorship was Gerrit Zalm (1952), who was minister of finance in the same government cabinet with Van Mierlo in 1995, and who now is the CEO of the ABN AMRO bank. As Van Reybrouck claims to be interested in democracy, let us hope that he studies my analysis on democracy, and let us hope also that he protests loudly against the censorship of science in Holland.

This afternoon I had an extended lunch in Brussels with José Manuel Durão Barroso, chairman of the European Commission. We were barely seated and he already started complaining: “Why can’t I have a government shutdown like Obama ?”

I had suggested a simple menu since I didn’t want him distracted by the finer peaks of gastronomy that he is accustomed to. The simplicity appealed to him and he ate and complained with gusto.

His jealousy of Obama was right there at the entrée of a simple Caesar salad, came to full blossom over the tournedos, and didn’t subside at the dame blanche. Like our dishes, Manny (for friends) went from green to red and ended up both steaming black on the outside while icy white at his core.

By “Obama” he meant the USA and by “I” he meant Europe.

Manny didn’t use the “we”, which is significant since Manny is only a chairman who changed his title into “president”, and he has to share his power with the EU Council president Herman van Rompuy who was a “president” right from the start. These two EU presidents treat each other as figureheads while Eurozone president Jeroen Dijsselbloem is the odd man out and only a trainee for figurehead.

“America is a real democracy,” Manny argued. “When there is no money the government simply shuts down. Tit for tat. This is as it should be ! The voters learn that they better pay more taxes. Even a child can understand it. When a child can understand it, you get a grown-up democracy.”

“So why don’t you shut down Europe ?” I asked.

“I have the deficit. It is a horrible thing, you know. You cannot do anything since there is always the deficit. If you lower taxes then the deficit grows big and angry. If you raise taxes then you hurt its self-respect and it becomes even angrier. If one country has something expensive then another country wants something expensive too, and to keep peace everyone agrees that the deficit will take care of it, and then I have to go out and tell the deficit, which makes it angry again. I hate the deficit. I would like to get rid of it but I can’t find a way to do so. It is like Switzerland, stuck right in the middle of the EU but no part of it, like a big hole in the eye.”

“Besides,” Manny continued, “who would notice a shutdown of Europe ?”

“If I would send the EU bureaucrats on unpaid leave, establishments in Brussels like our restaurant would notice but that’s about it.”

“Last September I had my State of the Union, with a campaign for greater unity in Europe, and nobody noticed. Surely people will not notice a Government Shutdown either. If I open or close my mouth it has no effect, except when I am eating.”

“The EU hasn’t had an Emergency Top Crisis Meeting for a whole year now. Europe doesn’t seem to exist,” I agreed.

“We have been dead since August 2012, ever since Mario Monti of the European Central Bank said that he would print as much money as the deficit requires,” Manny growled, cutting and cutting his tournedos in ever smaller pieces.

Manny wasn’t a person for accuracy. “You mean Mario Draghi,” I said, before I could stop myself.

“Whatever Mario,” he reacted. “Though I now understand why that Monti guy was surprised when I gave him the cold shoulder lately. Politicians should have different names. Italians can do it with their pizzas so why not in politics ?”

“I hate to mention it,” I continued, “but Obama has a deficit too.”

“But he doesn’t have a Mario,” Manny retorted, lavishly pouring hot chocolate. “His deficit gets a real punch in the face right now, with his government shutdown. There is no Mario to undercut him. All national museums and wildparks are closed. No more “thank you for your mail” letters from the White House. No more tax officials checking your tax statement. Americans are bleeding.”

“I instead do not only have a deficit but also a Mario who is married to it. Europe suffers from a weak democracy in which there will always be a tax official who checks our statement.”

“I can only hope that Angela Merkel makes a coalition soon so that she can start a whole new series of Emergency Top Crisis Meetings again. The Greeks are sending desperate emails that they are strictly obeying the agreements and aren’t hiding their deficit, which is flagging to me that they want to be caught red-handed guilty again. I am pretty sure that my Mario has no good answer for the Greeks, that will take that smug smile from his face.”

At the end of our lunch, Manny was still frustrated on his campaign on unity in Europe and still glaringly jealous of Obama with his United States but I shared his expectation of good times ahead. “I just discovered a good restaurant in Waterloo. Shall we go there next time ?”