Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tony Blair currently is the representative of the Quartet (the UN, EU, USA and Russia) with a “mandate is to help mediate Middle East peace negotiations and to support Palestinian economic development and institution-building in preparation for eventual statehood.”

Given the importance of Middle East peace and the relationship between Israel and Palestine we may induce that Tony Blair has a position of some importance.

He recently distinguished between Islam and Islamism. In itself the distinction is important, but his choice of words is confusing. It is better to distinguish, see the dictionary:

  1. Islam, with Islamists or muslims who adhere to peace, and who regard the Koran or Qur’an as the holy book, with the Jihad primarily for personal self-perfection,
  2. Political Islam, that employs Islam also for political purposes,
  3. Islamic Terrorism, that also uses violence, terrorism and perhaps even war, with the violent interpretation of Jihad.

Tony Blair intended to distinguish 1 (and a bit of 2) from 3 but  his term “Islamist” quickly generates confusion. It is better to stick to the above three categories. Political Islam might be dangerous itself when there are muslims who think with Von Clausewitz that “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. Thus 2 could be split up in 2a (pacifist) and 2b (potential war), but that isn’t quite relevant here yet.

Geert Wilders in 2001 had the same view as Tony Blair in 2014. See this broadcast in Dutch, when Wilders was still a member of the VVD Party, and argued: Islam as a religion is okay and it is only the violent minority that is the problem. In 2004 Wilders resisted Turkey’s entry in the EU, was evicted from the VVD that tried to find a middle ground, and started his own party PVV. I myself would tend to support the entry of both Russia and Turkey and to dress down the EU to a trade area.

Nowadays, though, Wilders argues that it is the very nature of Islam that causes the excesses. According to Wilders since say 2007 the distinction between 1, 2 and 3 is an illusion. He has seen the light, and all the peaceful muslims still carry the seeds of violence, whence Islam better be expelled from Europe. He may not have thought further whether it is such a good idea to allow Islam even in the bordering countries … It is useful to mention Hans Jansen, retired scholar of Arabic. In the past Jansen corrected Wilders in going too far, but Jansen has radicalised as well and has now been elected to the EU Parliament for Wilders’s party PVV.

What can we expect from Tony Blair ? Will he maintain the distinction 1, 2 and 3, or will his choice of words enable him to radicalise and become the British Geert Wilders ?

Tony Blair already has shown the ample capacity to be inconsistent but hide this in rhetorics. As a politician for Labour he adopted neoliberal economics and continued with Thatcher’s demolition of Britain. Under Blair the financial sector in the London City really expanded. He joined up with George W. Bush in the falsehoods about Iraq. You might want to read my response to 9/11 to check that I am not commenting from hindsight.

Are we supposed to think that a politician like Tony Blair would be unaware of the importance of words ? My impression is that Blair now chooses the words “Islam” and “Islamist” with purpose. He allows for the possibility that the distinction may quickly become blurred. This however is only speculation, and Tony Blair might defend himself by saying that he isn’t such a good politician as we take him to be.

We may wonder what the power base of Blair actually is. He isn’t welcome at his own Labour party anymore. Matthew Norman suggests about David Cameron: “There was a time when he almost openly worshipped Mr Blair as a political demigod”. Similarly the United States might feel obliged to their partner in the Iraq misdeed.

The following are some links for further study. Keep in mind: While our oil money comes in the hands of political regimes that have different purposes than developing the Western model of democracy, also the political leaders in the West may have their own delusions.

(1) This is Tony Blair’s April speech. One paragraph: “For the last 40/50 years, there has been a steady stream of funding, proselytising, organising and promulgating coming out of the Middle East, pushing views of religion that are narrow minded and  dangerous. Unfortunately we seem blind to the enormous global impact such teaching has had and is having.”

(2) This is the video at the Guardian:  “Tony Blair warns in a keynote speech that the West must ‘take sides’ against radical Islam. The ex-British prime minister claims the spread of extremism is hampering efforts at ‘peaceful co-existence’ while warping the true message of Muslims’ faith. Blair was speaking to Bloomberg in London on Wednesday.”

(3) This is the page at the BBC: “Tony Blair: ‘West should focus on radical Islam'”.

(4) These are comments from Tom DaleMatthew Norman and H.A. Hellyer.

(5) I was annoyed that the speech event apparently was sponsered by the Michael Milken Institute. See this video and this one. Young readers may not recall this, but Michael Milken opened up the junk bond market, got fined for $600 million and excluded from the market but apparently had still proceeds left over to create the Milken Institute. Why not use the remaining money to dig a big hole to hide from shame ? Money makes the world go round, with failed Prime Ministers speaking for failed institutes …

(6) There is now the Blair Foundation with the idea of “face to faith”: “We provide the practical support to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism. We work with those of faith and none who are committed to peaceful co-existence.” Does this imply that the world religions don’t do enough on peace ?

(7) Tony Blair speaks about 40 million muslims in Europe. This number is from Pew Research that properly includes Russia in the definition of Europe with a total of 750 million people. For the EU of 500 million the number is closer to 10-15 million.

(8) My own proposal to reduce religious tensions is to study the issue from the angle of the education in mathematics, see my booklet The simple mathematics of Jesus.

(9) Wilders has now perhaps 10-17% of the Dutch vote. However, he holds political discussion at ransom. Other parties treat him and his case with utmost care. Namely, when there would happen a terrorist attack in Holland again, then Wilders can say that he has been warning all the time, and his rating would rise high. The best response to Wilders’ strategy is a full employment policy, that reduces social tensions, and that takes the sting out of possible terrorist attempts.

Just for balance with the former weblog entry: One should also be aware of the fun of academic life.

The last link should be read inversely: while it is directed at graduate students, the real message is on academe itself, as a place where you wouldn’t want to be.

I do recall however some fine conferences with fine dinners. The full story will likely be balanced.

A court needs a jester. Power corrupts, and the king may lose his sense of proportion. A good joke releases tension and reminds of reality. The ultimate meaning of democracy might be that people can elect the best court jester.

For science, the role of court jester is taken by the fringe. Astronomy has astrology, physics has the perpetuum mobile, psychology has parapsychology and ESP, economics has the gold bugs and Karl Marx. Much of the fringe consists of the dustbin of history, of old discarded science, that once had a moment of relevance but didn’t survive the advent of new ideas. Scientists can work in multidisciplinary teams, and thus the fringe have their combinations too: like the illuminati who aspire at economic world domination but who also have some dark astrological annunaki and/or parapsychological aspects.

When a scientist looks at the fringe it is like looking in a laughing mirror. It is great fun, like reading a science fiction novel (or choose your own genre). Many novels are awkward but then it is fun to consider them from the angle of how they might be improved upon, see for example this deconstruction of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Looking in a laughing mirror improves your sense of proportion. It improves modesty to see that so much is still unknown.

Just to be sure: The amusement that I speak about comes about naturally. It is good-natured and irresistable. It would be improper to deliberately make fun of the fringe, i.e. to seek it out and artificially abuse humour. The laughing mirror effect is not a sign of disrespect, it just happens because of the distinction between mainstream and fringe. If fact, the effect can only arise when one regards the fringe with a basic respect, otherwise one wouldn’t notice them at all.

Gold bug Bix Weir composed a hilarious “testimony by Alan Greenspan”, in which he unveiled his secret plan to return to the gold standard by means of destroying the current fiat money standard.

It helps to be aware that Greenspan when young belonged to the Ayn Rand inner circle, see his real testimony in The Age of Turbulence, pp. 51-53. Michael Shermer, formerly also influenced by Ayn Rand and now at Skeptic Magazine, speaks about The unlikeliest cult in history, because the Rand-ist professed rationalism should have prevented such behaviour. Another good review that however looks deeper into Greenspan’s own demise is by in The Awl.

Curiously, Greenspan indicates that Rand warned him when he was young about the irrationality of man, but he still needed the 2007+ crisis to realise this ‘fully’.

In this 2013 Wall St. Journal interview Alan Greenspan: What Went Wrong, he states: “I’ve always considered myself more of a mathematician than a psychologist.” A good economist should be both. Of course, this weblog advises first to install an Economic Supreme Court (ESC) and thereafter, using the advice of that ESC, to reconsider the structure of the monetary system and their appointees.

After this fun “testimony by Greenspan”, Bix Weir totally amazed me by his discussion of the Boston Federal Reserve children’s picture-booklet Wishes and Rainbows with its teacher’s guide The Road to Roota.  Join my amazement by checking Weir’s page120 and page190. The name “Root A” would come from financial programming, initiated by a friend of Alan Greenspan, John Kemeny who also created the computer language Basic. Perhaps “A” even stands for “Alan”, but it might also be “Allocation” or “Account”. See Weir page101.

Is this another story about finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or is it a roadmap for the re-introduction of the gold standard ?

We are reminded of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with the Yellow Brick Road (of gold) to the Emerald City (greenback) and Dorothy’s silver shoes, a story that quite likely reflects the political mayhem about the gold or silver standard and the creation of the greenback. Bill Still made a nice documentary on it.

Is writing children’s books an American tradition to discuss monetary policy ?

This interpretation challenges mainstream economics and history about what is actually true and what isn’t. Fiction of course doubles the complexity. It is already a problem to establish what actually happened, and now we have the added problem of how much the children’s books authors knew and intended to include in their stories.

From the standpoint of teaching economics, a storyline like the Wizard of Oz or perhaps even Wishes and Rainbows might be a good gimmick to make it stick. It adds to the complexity though that teachers of economics would need to look into what exactly is being taught here.

Just to be sure, Bix Weir goes over the top when he concludes on page101: “Personally, I would like to thank Chairman Greenspan. It took a truly brilliant and courageous man to take down the bankers that stole my country, and I believe he has succeeded.” To answer this: (1) Greenspan hasn’t taken down the bankers, (2) the gold standard isn’t so useful, see my paper Money as gold versus money as water, (3) see the About page above for sound economic policy.

PM. I almost forgot about the angle on Holland. There is Willem Middelkoop who has been scaremongering the Dutch audience and getting free TV time since 2008 about buying gold (“and other commodities”) as a way to survive the crisis and coming collapse. Middelkoop’s “claim to fame” is that he “forecasted the crisis”, which is a complex proposition, also given the failure of mainstream economics but also the failure of the media and the disinformation for example here in Holland by Dirk Bezemer. Since the system didn’t quite collapse as Middelkoop suggested and his clients lost money on gold, he has switched position, giving the new book The Big Reset: “There are only two options: a financial reset planned well in advance, or a hastily implemented one on the back of a dollar crisis.” I consider it an academic scandal that the book was published by Amsterdam University Press (AUP), while Chicago distributes it for AUP as part of general co-operation. World monetary reform is a serious issue that requires attention in the capitals of the world. It is only fair that journalists sense that something is happening here. Middelkoop’s angle however is upbeat sensationalism. He is not interested in discovering deeper lying economic processes and truths and properly informing the public, but he wants to do his own thing and cash in on the gullibility of the general audience. Surely, I didn’t read “The Big Reset” but the earlier scaremongering is warning enough, and this review in Dutch is indicative enough, and this one neither. While Bix Weir’s pages are fun to consider, Willem Middelkoop’s work is nasty.

The EU Parliamentary elections of 2014 resulted in 210 seats for the EPP and 188 seats for the S&D, jointly 398 seats. The EU Parliament has 751 seats, of which “1/2” + 1  gives a ruling majority of 376 seats over a minority of 375 seats. All this is mere arithmetic but politicians look at such numbers differently.

The EPP leader is Jean-Claude Juncker (1954), actually born in the same year as Angela Merkel, François Hollande, scottish Alex Salmond, and me. The S&D leader is Martin Schulz (1955), not only the odd-man-out in this important age-group but also with the lower number of seats. He is designated to take the junior position.

Given the disarray of the minority of 375 seats with left and right extremists it will be easy for Juncker and Schulz to come to agreement. There is the confounding middle-of-the-road ALDE with 60 seats, but their inclusion in the coalition would give them decisive power in most issues, and thus it makes eminent political sense to exclude them.

Thus we ought to see the rise of an EPP – S&D coalition in the coming period. The situation reminds of Germany that now has a grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats too. It also reminds Austria that has had such a grand coalition for most of the period since 1945.

Thinking of Austria, we are immediately reminded of the film Sissi with Romy Schneider, and via this of the original Elisabeth (1837-1898) and the Crimean War 1853-1856. History brings the EU back to those old times with unstable politics and trouble at the borders – and note that Ukraine means “border country”. We get all the repeat problems but without the fun, the dresses, the waltzes, the caviar.

Picture of Sissi

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria (Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1865) (source: wikipedia)

Clearly, the EU Council of HOSGs (Heads of State and Government) will prevent that EPP and S&D will allocate Commissioner seats to only members of their parties. David Cameron will demand a Conservative Commissioner, for example. Nevertheless, it will be tempting to maximize the influence of EPP and S&D only.

All this requires a strong warning. A minimal majority coalition creates an incrowd and reduces transparancy. Don’t do it like that. Try for a large inclusive coalition. Try to give minority parties a position in government. This will further  transparancy, realism and commitment to the common good. We shouldn’t expect too much, it remains politics, but the difference in attitude and outcome ought to be clear. Read this warning by Klaus Kastner on Austria.

Overall, European democracy is much of a mess, and the USA is worse. Observe the differences in outcomes for district voting and proportional representation. See my book Voting Theory for Democracy and this additional paper on proportional representation.

In October 2011, Raymond Johnson in Colorado posted: “I found this on my office chalkboard this morning, thanks to +Ryan Grover. Attempt to reason through it if you must.”

As a math teacher I made some changes to the question. Originally, Ryan Grover put 60% in the list, but I erased the 6 so that option C now says 0%. There is a chance that a random choice is wrong, and let us also allow for this statistically (for more draws). I also inserted the condition that you must choose from the given list. This should be obvious to students doing multiple choice questions, but one reader on Johnson’s page (Rob Elliot) suggested that 0% was the right answer but not in the list. Thus, those loopholes are closed by including 0% in the list and restricting the choices to those in the list.

Thus, do the test:

Adapted from Ryan Grover and Raymond Grover (October 2011)

The Grover / Johnson question was picked up by more people on the internet. I myself found it on the Dutch economendagboek just now in 2014,  who referred to the interesting website by Filip Spagnoli, who referred to Cheap Talk (Jeff Ely and Sandeep Baliga), who finally led me to Grover / Johnson as the source. It was also featured by Modeled behavior, who referred to Greg Mankiw, who referred to Nathan Yau who again referred to Grover / Johnson.

Once you have your answer, you might want to check with those links and the answers provided there, keeping in mind that I adapted the question a bit (essentially helping you).

You are asked a question on probability and statistics, but never forget that you are reasoning, so that this is also an issue of logic. You are likely to benefit from my book A Logic of Exceptions(In general also economic decision making would benefit from some logic.)

It would be improper to give the answer just like that. It is vertically flipped over and you have to do some work to find it. If you are 100% sure there actually is no need to check it.


Answer to above question, flipped vertically


NB 1. I have considered to include 100% too since we want that students doing a test can feel that they can be 100% accurate. Adapting the percentages we get the following. I have not presented this in the above as the first and only example, since we want to relate to the other weblogs.

In this case, we feel the temptation that an answer to a multiple choice test should have a 100% chance of being right. So what option do you select ?

Now with 100%

Now with 100% – Adapted from Ryan Grover and Raymond Grover (October 2011)

NB 2. Raymond Johnson wrote a later review when this pop quiz went viral. He also links to an earlier version on from May 2010 that actually had the 0 % in there too.

My earlier discussion of cult behaviour by advocates of the Basic Income (BI) in Holland was re-posted on The tally showed about 70 new readers. The re-posting showed openness of mind but the comments there fit the cult behaviour again. Is cult behaviour contagious ?

Before discussing those comments, let me further clarify the situation in Holland.

  1. Dutch readers may look at my criticism on BI in 1994. On the website of the Dutch BI association we even find a 1995 reference to part of my criticism, see this link and footnote 36. The latter link uses a search on my name, so that you can confirm that only part of my analysis is mentioned, without reference, and that there is no attention since 1995. (Nowadays better search on Colignatus.)
  2. This does not only hold w.r.t. my work but also w.r.t. others. There is a fine discussion by Michel Verbeek 2013 (whom I didn’t know before and whom I haven’t met) on the Sargasso weblog, that shows that the BI is costly & counterproductive and that there exists a better alternative in full employment and (rejuvenating) the Welfare State (which is my position as well). A search on the Dutch BI website on Michel Verbeek’s name remains negative. A search on Sargasso (which isn’t logical)  renders an overview article in which his article is listed. That overview article however misstates his argument. The BI adherent argues that the Welfare State is being redressed because of its inherent problems, so that the Welfare State cannot be the answer. However, the true reason why it is being redressed is politics. Politicians like Reagan and Thatcher were not interested in adapting the Welfare State to the 1970+ challenges, but let it implode and took the opportunity to start abolishing it. As scientists we can only respect political decisions but we must protest when false arguments are given, by Reagan, Thatcher and BI-advocates alike.
  3. I asked the chairman of the Dutch BI association last month whether their website could post links to my 1994 criticism and 2014 weblog. He answered that he had transferred that question to a research committee, and that he himself was too busy advocating BI. It should be obvious that there is little to “research” on this. The BI might have some complexity, but if you don’t understand it, then you should not advocate it. A chairman who advocates BI should be able to understand the criticism put forward by me and indeed also Verbeek. A chairman should be able to understand what criticism on cult behaviour entails, and react with alarm instead of putting the ostrich head ever deeper in the Dutch clay.

Last week professor H.J. Witteveen, former IMF-director, gave a fine lecture on the IS-LM model. His idea is that much more can be done on Dutch unemployment. See my former weblog entry on his lecture and my comments.

In composing those comments, a google also gave an article in The American Prospect, History’s Missed Moment“, September 2011: “The epic financial crash of 2007–2008 should have produced a massive political defeat for the conservative ideology whose resurgence began three decades ago.” Well, this weblog Boycott Holland is essentially scientific, and hence neutral on conservatism or progressivity. What matters here is that issues aren’t stated with false arguments. In that TAP article, I actually also saw quotes from Paul de Beer, professor in Amsterdam, who also featured prominently in the said BI cult behaviour criticism:

“In the neighboring Netherlands, Labor Prime Minister Wim Kok brokered a grand bargain in 1999. Employers got more discretion to hire temporary and part-time workers, but these workers were supposed to be accorded the same protections as those with regular contracts. Unemployment fell. “He was hailed as a miracle worker,” says economist Paul de Beer of the University of Amsterdam, “but it had a lot more to do with North Sea oil and favorable macroeconomic trends—higher worldwide growth, low interest rates—than with Kok’s reforms.”

(…) The overall consequence of these shifts is declining security and declining earnings. Among young Dutch workers, fully 61 percent have low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, the center-right government, which took power in 2002 with Labor as a junior partner since 2006, has acted to splinter other welfare-state programs. “Health insurance used to be mandatory and fixed,” de Beer says. “Now everyone has to insure themselves, there are many different kinds of policies, and companies engage in cherry-picking.” This story is all too American. What’s surprising is to find it in the Netherlands, much less as the partial handiwork of a labor party.”

It is up to the TAP reporter what questions are asked and how De Beer is quoted. Nevertheless, I maintain that De Beer blocks my ideas from further discussion by others like The American Prospect. He could have explained to the TAP reporter that there was a sensational new approach to tackle unemployment. He could have explained that he himself at that Dutch PvdA labour party had blocked that approach from discussion since 1990, after which that party and its leader Wim Kok started to use false arguments to deceive the public and help abolish the Welfare State, in a neoliberal delusion that also Europe’s social-democrats suffer from.

Let us now look at There are four comments on my protest on BI cult behaviour in Holland:

(1) LUI (Lui Smyth): “The title alone suggests he’s a crank, and he rails against censorship but then doesn’t allow comments on the blog. Which is just as well, because his whole argument hinges on the spurious claim that we can return to full employment simply by eliminating the “tax void”…which appears to be a reference to the income tax paid by on minimum wage.”

(a) Commenting is off, since it would take too much time eliminating spam. You cannot construe this as censorship itself.

(b) The claim is that we can return to full employment. Full employment in 1950-1970 wasn’t a fluke but derived from economic conditions that can be identified, and that are subtler than mere “restoration after WW 2”. Read carefully: abolishing the tax void is not sufficient, as DRGTPE clearly points to the Economic Supreme Court and National Investment Banks as well. The abolition of the void is however presented as an eye-opener to that analysis.

(c) The tax void is not “the income tax paid by on minimum wage”. See here.

(d) LUI doesn’t read well and starts slandering. LUI presents himself: “I am a postgraduate researcher in UCL’s anthropology department studying the Bitcoin community.” Don’t they teach anthropologists at UCL manners ?

(2) Timothy Roscoe Carter: “I was hoping there would be real critique of the basic income here to respond to. But this is just an academic who is upset that an academic committee with a BIG advocate on it it ignoring his personal theory that he thinks will help more people than a BI. Whether his theory is right or wrong, this really has nothing to do with a basic income.”

(a) It was not “an academic committee with a BIG advocate on it”. My text clearly described the Wiardi Beckman Stichting as the scientific bureau of the Dutch labour party PvdA. It advised Wim Kok (PvdA) who advised German Kanzler Schröder (SPD) who now embraces and advises Vladimir Putin.

(b) “just” and “personal theory” is derogative: the theory is up for scrutiny by the scientific community (except for the censorship that I seek to be lifted).

(c) Inconsistent: “theory will help more people than BI” and “this really has nothing to do with a basic income”. It is an important element for the BI that it is not only attractive in itself but also it should also be more effective.

(d) TRC appears to be a disability and taxation attorney in San Francisco (CA). He likes Science Fiction, and might appreciate my SF book. He wrote: The One Minute Case for a Basic Income (2013). He lists 11 “one minute” arguments for the Basic Income “to promote the abolition of poverty.” However, my argument was that the Basic Income will rather increase poverty.

(e) Hence Timothy Roscoe Carter would fit that question: Isn’t this pure evil ?

 (3) The moderator US BIG doubts whether I am an academic. Well, I am a researcher and worked mostly at research institutes and indeed a short period of two years also at the regular “academia” of a university department. Why “doubt” when my cv is available (though needs updating) ?

(4) Jonah: “To investigate critical perspectives on BI is important. But the “pure evil” talking blogger is really just a crank. Nothing substantive there.”

(a) My weblog entry focussed on BI cult behaviour in particular in Holland and did not elaborate on an evaluation of BI compared to other arrangements. The Jonah response is non sequitur and slander.

(b) If Jonah thinks that “critical perspectives on BI is important” then he could have looked at DRGTPE that I referred to. Why didn’t he do so ? Perhaps he didn’t like the discussion on censorship and BI cult behaviour in Holland, but that is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

(c) There is no further link to identify who Jonah actually is. A google on “Jonah Basic Income” generates this article by Jonah Goldberg, also at the American Enterprise Institute. I hope that Jonah comes forward and that he doesn’t have to apologize at AEI for above behaviour.

Goldberg proposes: “According to Rector, 100 million Americans receive aid from the government at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. Surely some of them are equipped to spend that money better than the government. Why not give them a shot at proving it? If they fail, they can always switch back to the old system.” The suggestion that this would be better is nothing but a newspaper article and the flash of some new idea, not supported by research. Possibly the below-$9000 will step out and ask for the full $9000 ? Or, let a recipient squander the money in the first day, visiting Las Vegas, and then for the rest of the year he or she would be a bum on the street: is that the goal ? This does not really get better if you do this on a monthly base. Basically, Jonah Goldberg proposes that the current monitoring system is replaced by one that monitors monitoring. This merely means that the system might be improved a bit, by a bit more freedom for dependents. My response is that it would be better to return to full employment and create a Welfare State that works.

Apparenly nobody at was able to check this out themselves. Nobody defended my work against these absurd responses. The Dutch BI cult behaviour is either contagious or perhaps only an example of a wider world phenomenon. Indeed, Goldberg refers to Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, and it is well-known that these economists didn’t really study the Basic Income and only mentioned it as an element in their ideology.

H.J. (Johannes) Witteveen (1921) is best known as managing director of the IMF in 1973-1978.

Please note that the Bretton Woods Institutions IMF and Worldbank have wrong names. J.M. Keynes already complained to the Americans: “The Fund is a bank and the Bank is a fund !” (no exact quote). It would be better that the IMF is renamed to World Central Bank and the Worldbank into World Investment Bank, since this would strengthen their role and position also in public perception and discussion.

Following the First Oil Crisis 1973-74 Witteveen created the Supplementary Financing Facility, unofficially known as the Witteveen facility, to channel revenues from oil producers back to the consuming countries, to prevent a liquidity crisis amongst those consumers. The IMF book by James Boughton The silent revolutionassigns a later major role to Witteveen’s successors Jacques de Larosiere and Michel Camessus, but underestimates how Witteveen paved the way.

In the current crisis of 2007+, Witteveen pointed to requirements for a New Bretton Woods (Nov 20 2008, Financial Times). For Europe he advised a similar “facility” again by the IMF rather than the ECB (Aug 22 2011, Financial times, Business Insider).

Recently, Witteveen looked at the Dutch export surplus and the need for an investment strategy in The Netherlands itself.

We can observe that the Dutch surplus exists since 1981. When Germany started copying that, Southern Europe got into problems. I tend to agree with Witteveen on IS-LM but advise at the level of each nation: (a) an Economic Supreme Court, (b) National Investment Banks (NIBs), (c) the overall approach to reduce unemployment as discussed in my book DRGTPE.

My pre-crisis book is Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy (DRGTPE). My 2007+ papers on the crisis are collected in Common Sense: Boycott Holland (CSBH). A boycott of Holland is warranted because of the censorship of economic science by the Dutch government. That censorship pertains to the issue discussed below, and professor Witteveen’s discussion suffers seriously from not having the material under censorship.

Witteveen had been professor at Erasmus University since 1948. Apparently he never got time for an official farewell, and last week the old fox took the opportunity of a Valedictory Lecture to gather an audience and to present his analysis on that Dutch investment strategy (May 15 2014). The Lecture was published by the Dutch economics journal Economisch Statistische Berichten (ESB May 17 2014 p294-298). I thank the editors for permission to reproduce the lecture with my comments.

Cllick here to read the lecture and my comments on my website.

Witteveen also wrote books on universal sufism (not to be confused with islamic sufism), see his personal website. As a personal remark on my side: my father is also from 1921 but has stopped reading and writing. I am much impressed by Witteveen’s command of economics. Admittedly, Keynes solved these issues by IS-LM itself already in 1936 and by his proposal for an international trade currency (bancor). Our main problem since 1945 has been that politicians arrogantly proclaim to know it better.

Witteveen’s Valedictory Lecture is a major event in economics. It deserves to be treated with much respect and critical comment. It shows that the problem is not lack of knowledge from economic science but that the problem lies in the structure of decision making about economic policy.

Yesterday, Vladimir Putin and I sat in the Kremlin Game Room and played a game of chess. We had some cognac, the fireplace radiated a pleasant heat, and the curtains were shut to keep out the chill of the evening. Vlad smoked his cigarettes. Since I cannot stand this smoke he turned on the ventilator. The strong air vent jostled his hair and shirt, and exposed his bare chest like he was hunting bears again.

“Don’t tell jokes about me,” Vlad said.

“Being joked about is the price of fame,” I replied. “I won’t tell jokes if you take black, though.”

“Of course I have white. I always have white. Don’t expect me to look at issues from another side.”

Chess opening setup, Vladimir Putin on white

A normal game of chess requires silence. Vlad’s new rule is to speak up and distract the other. He instituted this rule after he kept losing from Gary Kasparov and since then indeed won. That man now is a wreck and the world hardly knows who Gary Kasparov is anymore.

“I begin. Now, what do women need to know about eating fish ?” Vlad asked.

“Huh ?” I was amazed and almost lost a pawn.

“Yes, my girlfriends keep on asking me. What do women need to know about eating fish ?” Vlad repeated. “It is terribly annoying. They seem to expect an answer but I cannot give it and they keep on bugging me.”

“Girlfriends ? As in plural ? I mean, all of them ?” I almost lost another pawn.

By then we had completed Vlad’s favourite opening scheme, that he called “the hesitant pawn strategy”. You have to hesitate in the proper order otherwise you lose pawns.

Completed setting of the hesitant pawns strategy

Completed setting of the hesitant pawns strategy

“Well, Alina comes along on State visits, Olga joins me on bear hunting, Natalya joins in scuba diving at archeological sites. In my new skying place in Sochi I have one girlfriend for going up and one for going down. Man, I am divorced and single again ! But they keep on asking what they need to know about eating fish ! My ex-wife never asked.”

I had to stare him down. Reluctantly he took one knight back, since he had moved both of them at the same time.

“Well, what I know about women is that they aren’t interested in money, muscles or good looks, but only in what other women think about the man they are dating. So it seems that your girlfriends are talking with each other.”

“Of course they are. I want a running conversation. Natalya must be able to pick up where I left Olga with, and Anastasiya where I left Natalya with, and so on. In my private life I don’t want the same idiocy as in the European Union, where nobody knows what has been said before.”

By now the game setting had become the following. NB: A hesitating pawn can also be retracted under Vlad’s rules.

Some relation to Tarrasch - Euwe acknowledged (wikipedia)

Some relation to Tarrasch – Euwe acknowledged (wikipedia)

“Still, you haven’t answered my question: What do women need to know about eating fish ?

“Well, I suppose the same as men. Men don’t speak about it, though. This might make it seem mysterious, like if there is some secret about it. It shouldn’t be a secret however that you eat the meat and leave the head, bones and tail for the cat. I never thought about this. Do you think that women don’t know this, and that they always wonder whether they should eat the whole fish ? Or perhaps give the meat to the cat ?”

“That’s what I said, I don’t know !” Vlad said agitatedly. “Let us make things simple ! “Let us do like in the Ukraine. I have my troops behind the lines and we have only the pawns in the field.” He removed all major pieces from the board so that only the pawns were left.

Pawns only (wikipedia “chess”)

“Now,” Vlad asked, “what is the strategy for these pawns to find the answer to the question ? Or how would their strategy be affected if we had that answer ?”

“So you want us to continue only with the pawns, and disregard the influence of the other major pieces, to find the answer to a question that you don’t understand why it is being asked ?”

I felt that my position had received a serious blow, and I was afraid that Vlad was instituting a new rule.

Gary Kasparov came in. With bland eyes he served us new warm glasses of cognac. He twitched a bit when he saw the board, but perhaps that was a general feature of him nowadays.

“It doesn’t have to be the right answer as long as my girlfriends think that the other girlfriends think that it is.” Vlad drew his cigarette and blew out his smoke with energy.

“Okay, but a chess game needs to have kings. Let us simplify further and replace some of those pawns by at least the kings.”

Vlad gruntled but agreed. He replaced some pieces, and eventually produced this setup. This is coincidently what the connoisseur will recognise as the Réti endgame. Apparently it is politically relevant for both the Ukraine and the fish question. One can get here when one understands that President Putin doesn’t quite play according to the normal rules.

Reti endgame (1921) (wikipedia "chess")

Reti endgame (1921) (wikipedia “chess”)

“Okay, that looks like the Ukraine,” I agreed. “There are only some pawns and we can surmise that there have been quite some battles in the past. I don’t see yet how this setting is going to help us with the fish though.”

I was speaking plural. Vlad’s problem had become mine too.

We studied the situation like people have been doing since 1921. We delved deep into the cognac and didn’t notice the replenishment supplied by Gary Kasparov.

“Okay, I have found a suggestion, though you might not like it,” I hesitated, and understood how a Putin pawn might feel.

“I already know that I don’t like it,” Vlad retorted. “Fun are parades, fanfares, shows, gold medals, parties, celebrations. The only reason why I didn’t nuke Kiev is because Barack Obama asked me not to do so, and he said he would make it up to me. He owes me some. But I guess that the next president will not know this since they don’t speak with each other.”

“What would you think about a referendum in the Ukraine about what women need to know about eating fish ? It would be a democratic approach and lead to nowhere, though your girlfriends could be told that it does.”

Vlad was flabbergasted.

He would have lost the game if he hadn’t thrown all pieces from the board in joy.

“Ah, the power of democracy !” he yelled. “It always works but I never understand why, and I always forget !”

The Scheveningen beach is only five minutes walking from my home, provided that I am not overcome by the history of the place. The English King William (of William & Mary) must have ridden his horse here while he was planning his conquest of England of 1688. This is also one of the first places where Vincent van Gogh field-tested his window on the world in 1882, i.e. a perspective frame.

In his letter to Theo in August (no 253) Vincent actually draws himself using that perspective frame, and in the next letter he explains more about it. I thank Katherine Tyrrell for bringing this to our attention. He already mentioned the frame in letter 235 footnote 10 with a reference to a woodcut by Dürer.

Vincent van Gogh using his perspective frame 1882 (wikimedia commons)

In that period Vincent had mainly been drawing and made few or no paintings yet. He regularly visited his uncle Anton Mauve who was an established painter. Mauve also depicted Scheveningen beach scenes so that we can taste the differences. A picture with a ship is often interesting, a picture with horses is often interesting too, and here we see both. A lover of horses will pity these poor creatures though.

Anton Mauve, “Bomschuit op het strand” (1882) (wikimedia commons)

A few days earlier, on July 26 (letter no 251, footnote 3) Vincent wrote about Scheveningen too, but also referred to L.C. Enthoven. We proceed with the latter. The Enthoven family owned factories and L.C. behaved like a rentier. He supported artists and musicians and gave money to the needy, but refused recognition for this, refused to have his picture drawn, and later on his funeral his stone didn’t wear a name.

Enthoven recognised Vincent’s talent very early and acquired many of his early drawings. Vincent was allowed to stay overnight and work in the attic of the Enthoven home in Voorburg. When Vincent found another place, Enthoven likely convinced Vincent’s landlord that he should accept Vincent’s drawings as payment for the rent, so that the artist had a place to stay and could take Sien and her kids to live with him. In March 1883 Vincent writes Theo: “Two good people — man and woman united — wanting and intending the same, steeped in the same earnestness, what couldn’t they achieve! I’ve thought about that often. For by uniting, the force for good is not only doubled but doubled many times — as if raised to a higher power, to put it in mathematical terms.” (letter 331)

An account by dr. W.J.A. Visser in the Yearbook 1973 of the Historical Society of The Hague clarifies that Vincent likely would not have survived those days without the support by L.C. Enthoven. Alternatively, if L.C. hadn’t been there, Vincent might have found alternative venues, but who is to tell, and apparently Vincent felt long indebted to him.

This would be one of the first water-colours possibly made with that perspective frame, made from the window of his home (or that had windowpanels). He actually chose that home so that he would have a view on the meadows and could work like in an atelier (explains Dr. Visser).  The huge building on the right was a newly built railway station on the outskirts of the city, now included in The Hague Central.

Vincent van Gogh, “Meadows near Rijswijk and the Schenkweg” (1882) (wikimedia commons)

We indeed see Vincent trying colour in 1883 but his “Potato Eaters” (1885) will return to grim colours perhaps as if drawn.

Vincent van Gogh, “Bloembedden” (1883) (NGA. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon)

The plot thickens. Vincent and L.C. became good friends, but somehow they clashed. Dr. Visser relates the incident that L.C. caught Vincent drawing his picture. L.C. got so upset that he threw his coffee over it and Vincent left the house slamming the door and yelling loudly. There may have been more incidences of artistic aspiration and temperament. If it hasn’t been done yet, the Visser story should be translated into English and published with the drawings from this period that he has so well described and included in this story.

Eventually, L.C. didn’t want to have anything to do with Vincent anymore. Vincent left for Paris and went on to the South of France. Remarkably, after a while Vincent on occasion still sent a letter and what would be a drawing or painting to L.C. But L.C. didn’t open the letters and didn’t look at the works. He threw them all unopened in a basket in the attic.

Vincent died in 1890 and L.C. passed away in 1920. In all those 30 years, the basket remained in the attic. When L.C. died, his children sat together in Voorburg in discussion what to do with the large estate. They divided the houses, sold of property and art, and parts would go into an auction. Let me translate what Dr. Visser then reconstructs:

“While the auctioneer arranged everything for the auction and made his rounds, Meint and Marijke [the house servants] suddenly asked the members of the family what should happen with ‘that wild basket’, there in the attic. The answer sounded unanimously and without delay: ‘Burn it.’  And thus was done. The fire in the garden went high when the letters and the rolls with paintings and drawings were surrendered to the flames. ‘Who had any business at all with what their father had done for Vincent ?’ What had happened between the two of them and why L.C. Enthoven had stopped to support Vincent was the ‘secret’ of their father, that the inheritors had to respect. They were convinced that they acted fully in accordance with their fathers wishes. The historian will respect the emotional argument by a family in grief, but on closer rational consideration he finds this loss of valuable historical data  irredeemable and a terrible pity.”  (The Hague Historical Yearbook 1973 p 18)

PM. The story should stop here, but stories never end. The art historians at the Van Gogh Museum wonder whether the above story is true: “However, there is no mention at all of this correspondence with Enthoven in Van Gogh’s letters, and there is no tangible evidence to support these assertions.” (here, note 79) I however have the impression that Dr. Visser made quite some study of the case and spoke to various people. Other things that he reported apparently aren’t contested. L.C. did have a big collection, later sold to Kröller-Müller. That Vincent doesn’t write more about L.C. would only corroborate the personal attachment rather than the “big client”. One might check on the paintings that Vincent discussed in France and that can no longer be traced. Thus here is another question for historians: Did that wild basket in the attic exist historically or didn’t it ?

Dewanand (1966) is best seen as a writer who had a complex struggle to find his way in life, and whose writing actually benefits from that struggle and thus earns respect. He was born in Dutch Suriname, of Hindu descent, and went to study in TU Delft. He met with racism and developed a mental disorder, didn’t complete his studies and was down and out. After 9/11 he flipped and sent out envelopes with white powder. He was put in confinement and then forced to treatment. Now, with medication, he writes his books. People who understand Dutch will benefit from this fine ohmnet radio interview in 2008 in which he is allowed to tell his life story and explain how he became a writer.

The book by Dewanand (2010) “Holland: Paradise or Hell? deserves praise, and is an advised read.

The book is fun to read, though not all in one go but rather at moments of leisure, with some parts per day. His style is unadorned. The quality comes from the associations that only he with his background can develop and that thus are refreshing compared to standard views. In the introduction the author explains that he wrote in a “humoristic and sarcastic way”, but my fear is that he might be dead serious on various points while I tend to read it with irony rather than sarcasm. Especially women may be interested in what Dewanand has to say about finding the perfect man.

The book’s structure encourages reading in parts. Chapter 1 deals with the Paradise, chapter 2 with the Hell, chapter 3 provides official statistics, and chapter 4 deals with questions and answers for friends from India who wondered what to think about Holland. Each chapter is divided in short thematic sections with titles like “The subsidize Paradise” and “The mess in psychiatry”. Dewanand in effect shows that good and bad are closely linked according to his “law of conservation of misery”. Lots of subsidies create dependence and incapacity to deal with the world. At first I wondered why the chapter on statistics was included which really isn’t “humoristic and sarcastic”. On balance I agree that it is useful to put the discussion on firmer ground in time and place, for example also on singles and divorces and finding the perfect partner.

Chapter 5 has the title “(Hindu SF) The last Dutchman!”. As a SF writer myself I was quite pleased to recognise Dewanand as a kindred soul. I agree that the destruction of Holland is a more interesting subgenre than disaster-movies for the world as a whole. Al Gore’s An inconvenient truth for example is somewhat boring except for the peak moment of the flooding of Holland.

Dewanand testifies of a life-changing insight, that dramatically turned his world-view upside down:

“In the past, about twenty years ago, when I was just an active and fanatical Hindu teenager of twenty years, I really thought and was convinced that whites are gods. I even thought that all gravity laws of Newton were made by whites, which I learned when I was on high school in Surinam as a teenager. Are you amazed? As a colony of Holland it was very normal for a coloured Surinamese to belief that the white Dutchman are the Gods of our planet, which is proof of the low development of the coloured people in Surinam. Now, after twenty years of living in Holland, I developed a different view upon the white Dutchman (…) Nowadays I even consider the white Dutch to be lower, underdeveloped, primitive and unpigmented humanoids, without any culture, faith and higher way of thinking and living. I find the white Dutchman a very primitive life form on our planet and I think they have no future at all to exist on our planet. The whole Dutch society is based upon money, greed and materialism and that’s not a good foundation for an advanced civilization. So they will become extinct in the nearby future, just as being described in chapter 5, “(Hindu SF) The last Dutchman!”” (p270)

“I must admit that I discovered after twenty years that the racism of many white Dutch people is absolute. Sometimes I realize myself that there is indeed psychopathic racism in the Netherlands, and it is very sophisticated. This makes lives of coloured and black people in the Netherlands cold, miserable and sad. Many of these people are going through a continuous Cold holocaust because they live in a white dominated country. This must be painful and humiliating.” (p202)

“About thirty years ago the individualization and atomization of the Dutch society started and because of this, many Dutch people do not have a social life anymore. In fact they live alone and only for them self. They eat, drink, work a little and have sex, but they do not care about others and even family ties are unknown to the majority of the white Dutch. Dutch people are very materialistic and that’s why they do not care much about a social life. Sometimes I see them just like long, white animals, which only care about their selfish, primitive needs.” (p252)

“A totally modernized society loaded with psychopaths, who only believe in simplistic materialism, sex and their own egoistic needs should not be considered to be modern or Western according to development trajectories to modernity from a Hindu fundamentalist viewpoint. Modernism must lead to higher and superior life values and not to barbarism and psychopathically behaviour. Continuous progress is a good thing, but it must not go in the wrong direction. In India, China, and all the other Asian countries people must learn from the mistakes made in the modernized white Western world and choose for more humane approaches for finding solutions of problems in society. This is the big challenge for about three billion coloured humans in the upcoming Asian millennium.” (p205)

The book contains many more topics but I have selected quotes on racism since because of their apparent core impact. Some critique is required. It is said that Hindu culture is sensitive to caste and racism. Dewanand’s original view on whites being gods might be explained so too. Thus his criticism on racism in Dutch society might rather derive from his own original cultural outlook. Fortunately, if that is the proper term here, there is also independent evidence of racism in Dutch society, see the earlier weblog entry on Kidda Claus and the Dutch debate on Black Pete. But feel reassured that Dewanand discusses much more than only racism.

Dewanand’s website may suggest that he didn’t take his medicine but once you read his book on Holland you better understand his perspective. Apprehension of his own designation as Hindu fundamentalist requires reading of his work. Dewanand’s new Hindu god is Altecrea, acronym of Almighty Technical Creator, or the “technical expansion of Krishna on earth”. His books are offerings to Altecrea, like other people burn incense or drop money in the collection box. Perhaps Altecrea might be the name of the artificial intelligence that is being created by Google ? Perhaps we see the kernel for a new cult here, like with Scientology or as the Hindu world abounds with wise men ? However, his discussion on Altecrea (not in this book but on the website) contains extensive sections also on mind and consciousness, that remind us that he really did some study in technique and in the textbook by Hillier & Lieberman on operations research (also one of my favourite textbooks). Thus there might be more to this than a quick look might suggest.

My hope is that Dewanand would consider a visit of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles and write a report on those too. The Dutch writer Willem Frederik Hermans (1921-1995) wrote a wonderful report of such a trip in 1969, see the WFH book. The library in Willemstad, Curaçao, contains a copy in which people hilariously wrote their comments in the margin. I would be greatly interested in what Dewanand with his background and philosophy would nowadays write about his country of birth.

Overall conclusion: A reader who wants to arrive at a balanced view on Holland should at least consider the aspects of Paradise and Hell as indicated by Dewanand, Hindu fundamentalist living in Holland (who clearly states that he himself is a product of Dutch society too (p xiv)).

PM 1. We observe occasional errors against English. Professional translators tend to focus on the easy translation from English to Dutch. An international bestseller will tend to sell in Holland too. Translating a well-formed English sentence into your native Dutch is straightforward. Translators are hesitant to help out in the other direction. Translating a Dutch text into good English is more difficult. The likelihood that the cost of translation can be covered is much smaller. The Paradise of Holland can read the rest of the world, and the Hell is that it cannot be read by the rest of the world.