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While Angela Merkel (1954) deals with Brexit, Jean-Claude Juncker (1954) has other serious issues on his mind, for example the choice of time zones and Winter and Summer time. I myself (1954) tended to look at Brexit and mathematics education but Dutch comedy talkhost Arjen Lubach (1979) last evening had a hilarious sketch on J.-C.’s proposal: so let me spend some time on it myself.

The clue is to distinguish:

  • administrative time (rules and regulations)
  • personal time (your health).

For administrative time, it is best to use the Swatch “internet time”, proposed in 1998 (wikipedia), and used in various math exercises to help students understand quantities and their conversions. For the 24 hours around the whole globe there are an uniform 1000 beats. Here is a converter. For appointments and opening hours, say of City Hall in Amsterdam or New York, it suffices to specify the beats, and the locals can convert to whatever time they wish.

For personal time, you want the noon sun to be in the zenith. Thus Zwolle might have 12 o’clock at some five minutes before the 12 o’clock in Amsterdam, if these localities might choose to do so.

The time zones in use now, like Central European Time (CET) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) are compromises from a period when we did not have the facilities for instant conversion. They turn the notion of personal time into an administrative time that holds for everyone, since they are stuck into the psychological frame that all clock hands must show the same time.

I hadn’t realised before that this Swatch “internet time” is actually the same as the “decimal time” proposed in the French Revolution, with 10 hours of each 100 minutes. Apart from the other errors of this revolution (I am not trying to judge upon history itself now), their design had two errors: apparantly using the same terms “hour” and “minute”, creating confusion, and not properly distinguishing administrative and personal time. To prevent this confusion, we can say that a day has 1000 beats = 10 steins of 10 albs of 10 beats each, with thanks to Albert Einstein and his thinking on time. One alb would be 10 beats or 14.4 minutes or about a quarter of an hour, as you can check that a day has 24 x 60 = 1440 minutes.

Decimal clock of the French Revolution (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously, there can be confusions. Someone in Amsterdam can be so locked in the Amsterdam bubble and make appointments only in Amsterdam-time, and leave it to others to convert to beats (in order to be on time), but such hassles would likely be better than the current health issues (that I wasn’t really much aware of).

Such health issues are now obscured and it would be better to have them into the open. For example, if a truck driver in Amsterdam has to get up very early to meet an appointment in Berlin, then the current time rules suggest that the truck driver has to rise at a normal time, but in fact there is a mismatch with the personal time. Thus, having a clear distinction between administrative time in beats (to meet the appointment) and the personal time (for health) then it is easier to monitor health issues and develop regulations on irregular working hours.

Some internet time enthousiasts might have suggested that that the clock with the 12 hours would be redundant, but now it appears that it would remain useful for personal time. Some ancient clock enthousiasts might suggest to use the dial with the 12 hours also for internet time, giving Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), already widely in use, so that the difference between administrative and personal time is only a negative or positive offset, and so that physics can keep using the second to measure the speed of light. However, the latter apparently is not understood by J.-C. and his advisors on time. The use of the 12 hours dial apparently invites the confusion of administrative beats and personal hours, so that it seems better to adopt the Swatch beats for administrative purposes.

Thus J.-C. better retracts his proposal. Perhaps some experimentation on the dual use of administrative beats and personal hours might be advisable before making this official. In the mean time (however measured), I would favour that Holland switches to GMT, even though this creates an administrative hour distance to Germany and brings us closer to the UK with its confusion on Brexit.

Arjen Lubach and the time zones, season 9 no 7 (Screenshot)

 

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The Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the UK and Queen Elizabeth II on October 23-24 2018. See the programme.

He will give a speech in the Royal Gallery in the UK Parliament, attended by various MPs, Lords and Ladies, on October 23.

On October 17, the Newsletter of the UK Royal Economic Society contains this comment by me on Brexit. See my earlier weblog entries on Brexit.

Alex read the comment in the Newsletter, and called me that he wanted to speak to me.

I spoke Alex yesterday over dinner of wildbraad in a fine restaurant in Leiden. He confessed to me that he seriously considers calling in sick and cancelling the state visit to the UK. He is experiencing increasingly negative feelings about the trip, and he had read my explanation that negative numbers reflect the process of cancelling.

Stroking his belly on the good meal, he was looking for consistency.

“Like for example,”  he said, “on the 24th we will have a visit to two ships, to mark the importance of seafare for our two nations. But Max and I will travel to the UK by air. So why don’t we travel by ship ? When people would expose me as being a total hypocrite then I can’t blame them.”

Brexit is wrenching him. He hates seeing the UK leaving the EU, or even the messy way how they are doing so. He doesn’t like the sight of a Queen of a proud independent nation making fun of him as a EU-shackled fake-king. Perhaps when he wakes up in Buckingham Palace he might find his shoelaces tied together. He feels much tempted to follow the example of William III (1650-1702) of sailing from Scheveningen to Britain with an armada of 250 ships and 35,000 troops and take the island, pound some sense into the natives, and have another Glorious Revolution.

“They call themselves Anglo-Saxons but to a high degree they are Vikings, just like the Russians. Vikings need an occasional bang to their heads to reset them to common sense again,” he explained. He also reminded me that he himself had a Romanov princess as an ancestor, see his claim on taking Russia too.

Thus I asked whether he was actually inviting me to bang his head now too, given his own Viking genes. He nodded. We were in Leiden because he had wanted to reread his MA thesis in history, that is kept there in the vaults of Leiden University. He handed me his thesis and I duly banged it to his head. To our regret it hardly had an impact. Alex’s head was too hard or the sheet of paper too thin.

“But I can’t conquer Britain because Max doesn’t want to live there. The Brits have something against Argentines. You know: the Falklands.”

He continued: “My comments on Brexit already have caused a stir. Prime Minister Mark Rutte now worries that my speech in the Royal Gallery will be boycotted by British parliamentarians. Oh my, oh my, a boycott is such an effective method to make someone look silly, especially when your shoelaces are tied together.”

“So this is why you wanted to talk to me,” I inferred. “You want me to smooth out some ruffled feathers so that you will still have an audience that will be interested in what you would have to say, and so that they know in advance that they will not be offended or lectured to.”

“Exactly,” he nodded. “Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his loony Foreign Secretary Stef Blok suggested that I talk to you, and ask you to draft a speech for me, and to put it on your website so that people in the UK have some advance information that it will be a highly relevant speech for the UK. So, please, make me look good.”

“If you pay for the meal,” I granted.

This got me a groan and pained look. He was in such a tight spot that he actually footed the bill. Thank you, Brexiteers.

Thus, below is my draft for the speech.

– – – D R A F T – – –

Dear friends, come together here in the Royal Gallery on the beautiful day of October 23 2018.

I am the Head of State of Holland. I am speaking for the Dutch government. The following does not contain my personal view, but it contains the view by the Dutch government, including me. This goes to show that one can still have a useful function even when there are some constraints. Also the UK can have a useful function even when there would be constraints by the EU.

[ rumble ]

You all know that I also went to school in Wales and that I developed a taste for Monty Python. Let me start with some jokes, so that you can all loosen up and relax before we become serious again.

[ sounds of horror ]

The first joke is about a boss who hires a new employee. At lunch on the first day, the employee complains at the boss: “There is something wrong with the wheelbarrow. It goes “screetch … screech … screech”.” [ spoken with long pauses ] The boss replies: “Well, you can go home now and don’t return. It should go “screetch screetch screetch”.” [ spoken fast ]

[ some grins and laughter ]

This joke makes me think about the speed of ships. For very long in human history, seafaring was the most efficient way of transport. Civilisation developed on the shores of rivers and seas. Many traces of this development have been lost because of the rise of the sea level since the last Ice Age. The British Isles were known in the Bronze Age for their tin to make bronze, and transport then was also by sea. The British Isles have a long history of settlers and invaders from the sea, like the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and William the Conqueror in 1066, to name a few. In 1688, William III of Orange boated from Holland with 250 carriers and 35,000 troops to cause the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary. It can be said that the British Isles are a center of European civilisation just like the shores of the Baltic, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The Dutch government is amazed that some people on the British Isles do not know about this history, and refer to “The Continent” as if Britain would be somewhat distant from Europe itself. Well, let me invite you to keep ships in mind and to see Britain embedded in Europe. Nowadays, planes can be faster, which is why I traveled here not by boat. Yet ships still cannot be beaten for bulk transport, and we should keep this in mind, also for our mutual borders, and also for the Political Economy for the Caribbean.

[ pause ]

The second joke is from the days of the USSR, actually only 30 years ago, still in our lifetimes. The joke may appeal to Jeremy Corbyn who is scheduled to meet with me today unless he would snake out to avoid me.

The joke concerns some factory for trucks and work appliances in the old USSR. At the end of the working day workers leaving the factory are checked on smuggling or stealing stuff. Each day there is also a worker, Vladimir, who pushes a wheelbarrow with scrap metal through the exit gate. Screetch, screetch, screetch. The guards are suspicious, check him and his load thoroughly, find only worthless stuff, and let him pass. One day the man turns 65, retires, and leaves the factory without his wheelbarrow. “Vladimir,” says the gatekeeper, “we will see each other for the last time today. Would you please tell me whether you have been smuggling something or not?”

[ pause ]

Vladimir confesses with a smile: “Every day for forty years, I have taken a wheelbarrow from the factory.”

[ some grins and laughter ]

The joke illustrates the importance of observation. For mathematics or philosophy you might make an abstract assumption and forget about reality, but science requires careful observation on reality.

This joke brings us to a key difference between Holland and the United Kingdom. We are both democratic nations, but have different concepts of democracy, which shows that the term “democracy” is a tricky term that we must use with care. The Dutch House of Commons is elected with equal proportional representation (EPR) and the UK House of Commons is elected with district representation (DR). Also the words “election” and “representation” are the same but mean entirely different things here.

The Dutch system provides for proper election and representation. The UK system of Single Member Districts with First Past The Post provides for contests rather than proper election. It discards votes and neglects the condition of representation of the interest of the electorate. A majority of voters in the UK have “taxation without representation”. The electoral system in the UK is in direct violation with article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The Dutch government has consulted with scientists in Holland and has come to the conclusion that there is something amiss with the academic field of so-called “political science on electoral systems”. Scholars in this field have neatly checked the content of the wheelbarrow but have failed to see the very wheelbarrow itself. They claim that the field would be a science but these scholars lack a training in empirical science. The field still is in the humanities in which indoctrination into tradition is more important than empirical observation and testing.

Though this field of study also fails in Holland, the effect of failure in Holland is limited, since we have equal proportional representation (EPR) and not district representation (PR).

For the UK, the effect is much larger. We can only understand Brexit by diagnosing that the UK voters have been disinformed for decades. The UK has a proto-democracy and no proper democracy yet. For this reason, I currently come to you carrying gifts, namely the news about this new discovery that “political science on electoral systems” is no real science, but it is pseudo-science, comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy.

How this blind spot developed is an issue for history. At this moment it is important to bring this message to you. The Dutch government regards this news as a game changer for the present discussion in the UK on Brexit. Namely, the UK can now ask its empirical scientists, from physics to psychometrics, to help clarify the situation of systematic disinformation that has been created by this pseudo-science of “political science on electoral systems”.

The Dutch government suggests that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the European Union again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit.

It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information. If the UK would stick with DR and Brexit, then at least we will know that such a choice has been made by an informed electorate, while presently we can only diagnose that the UK electorate lacks this information. Obviously, logic requires that you first switch to EPR for the proper procedure to remain with DR.

[ mix of moans and laughter ]

Another topic.

Let me quote historian Helene Von Bismarck about the Single European Act of 1986:

“Thatcher’s dedication to the idea of a completed Single Market was such that she made considerable concessions during the negotiations to bring it about. (…) The Single European Act had enormous ramifications for the way the European Community was to be run. No only did it provide for the completion of the Single Market, it also simplified the decision-making in the European Council by extending the principle of qualified majority voting to a large number of issues that until then had been decided unanimously.”

When the people in the UK have the feeling that they are losing power to the European Union, then they should rather look at Margaret Thatcher, who accepted the abolition of veto power. She also rushed the agreement through Parliament instead of allowing for deliberation.

It is well-known that the Dutch people are also hesitant about the evolution of the European Union. Rather than seeing the UK leave the EU, Holland would like to have the UK as an ally, for example on raising the requirements on the qualified vote.

Another topic.

English has become the lingua franca of the world. Billions of people in distant lands learn English to partake in the development of our planet.

When people migrate to Europe, then many have learned English, and then many may have a preference to migrate to the UK since this is where English is spoken on a daily base. We have a mixed situation of course. Parts of Africa use French and those migrants may prefer to go to France. In Eastern Europe and Turkey, German tends to be important too. Nevertheless, we can understand that the UK might have additional migration because of the plain fact that English has become the lingua franca.

To my understanding there is no scientific research on this aspect yet, and it has not been a factor in current policy making yet. The Dutch government urges the UK to reconsider Brexit and to remain in the EU and to help develop sensible policies that also include such considerations.

Let us also be sensible about alternative developments. If the UK would leave the EU, as it now plans to do, then it would still be a magnet to those who have learned English as the lingua franca. Since ships can also reach the UK directly – and I have highlighted the ease of shipping to you – then the horrible scenes that we now see in the Mediterrranean are merely shifted to similar scenes around the British Isles, with a great cost for the UK to guard its coasts and to transport illegal immigrants back to their lands of origin. We only need to be aware of the forecasts about the rise in the world population and the issue of climate change.

It is the firm belief of the Dutch government that democracy requires deliberation, and that we all in the same boat here.

Other points.

[ … additional points by Mark Rutte and Stef Blok ….]

Thus, my friends in this Royal Gallery, let me round up this speech on behalf of the Dutch government. Our nations are closely linked by geography and history. Let us continue with increased awareness of this elementary fact. Thank you for your attention.

– – – E N D   D R A F T – – –

Acknowledgement: Jokes taken from here.  And this became the finally spoken speech and pictures.

Imagining the Dutch King’s speech in the Royal Gallery and the boycott by MPs. (Source: screenshot of a video by the UK Parliament)

Many people think that political science on electoral systems and referenda must be a science since otherwise it would not be called a science. Unfortunately, the label “political science” got coined around 1903 with the creation of the American Political Science Association (APSA), and this label rather reflects an aspiration and no achievement yet. In the UK there is the Political Studies Association (PSA), founded in 1950, baptised more modestly since there still is much scholarship in the humanities. It turns out that many statements by “political science / studies on electoral systems and referenda” aren’t scientific, and for their relevance for empirical reality they can only be compared to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy. A scientist looking at a UK General Election can only think “Garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO).

The UK has been fundamentally disinformed about its electoral system with district representation and the use of referenda like the Brexit Referendum of 2016. The UK is locked in tradition and fuzzy thinking in the humanities. The situation may be explained by the historical path that the UK has taken, but this history hasn’t included a proper application of science to the notion of democracy.

Compare the current chaos w.r.t. Brexit to the chaos with the financial crisis of 2008. On the latter, the UK Queen asked famously:

“Why did nobody notice it?”

There is a longer list of economists who issued warnings in time, with Hyman Minsky at the top and me somewhere too. The next question rather is why such warnings weren’t taken seriously in the policy making process. My diagnosis since 1990 is that there is a failure of the separation of powers, the Trias Politica, with still too much room for politicians to manipulate the information. The remedy is to create an Economic Supreme Court (ESC) that will guard the quality of information for policy. The House of Commons would still determine policy but it would get less room to disinform the public. The current UK Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is a far cry from what is actually needed.

With this analogy established, consider Brexit again. Might the Queen not repeat the question ? Now however there doesn’t seem to be a list of early warnings that were overlooked. Now we have a “political science” that has gotten lost in abstraction. Here, the remedy is to ask proper scientists from physics to biology to psychometrics to econometrics to look at democracy and to help “political science / studies on electoral systems” become a proper science too. My suggestion is to team up empirical scientists from the Royal Society with members of the PSA and the British Academy, and to encourage a buddy-system to start delving into this. The place to start is my paper “One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France” at MPRA 2018, and a presentation 1270381 at Zenodo.org on the distance between votes and seats.

Many people think that the Brexit Referendum of 2016 allowed voters to express their decision, with 52% Leave and 48% Remain. However, not all voters expressed their decision but many were only guessing. A YouGov poll at the time of the GIGO 2017 showed that 17% of voters still listed Remain between different options of Leave. Voters were forced to make a strategic choice about what they feared most what might happen. See my deconstruction of this mess in the October 2017 Newsletter of the Royal Economic Society (RES).

Now there are calls for a second referendum. This call wants to resolve the current chaos by creating more chaos, and potentially a “stab in the back” myth that the 2016 supposed decision isn’t listened to. The lesson from the current chaos should rather be that referenda are generally dumb and dangerous, even in the form of the neverendum. The real problem lies in the UK system of district representation that structurally fails to reflect the views and interests of voters. The deeper problem is that the House of Commons and the electorate are disinformed by an academic field that still is comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy. There is a grand scale of disinformation by famous UK scholars like Iain McLean, John Curtice, younger Alan Renwick, and (other) members of PSA.

My suggestion is that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the EU again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit. UK political parties may need to split up to offer voters the relevant spectrum of views, though one must allow for election alliances (especially the former Dutch method of list combinations). To some readers this suggestion may remind of earlier discussions about district or proportional representation (DR vs EPR). However, there now is the key new insight about the disinformation by the “political science / studies on electoral systems”, that causes the need to re-evaluate what has been claimed in the past by the academic ivory towers, and also by the disinforming UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS). It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information.

PS. An eye-opener can be that “political science on electoral systems” relies upon common language instead of developed definitions. Physics also borrowed common words like “force” and “mass”, yet it provided precise definitions, and gravity in Holland has the same meaning as gravity in the UK. The “political science on electoral systems” uses the same word “election” but an “election” in Holland with EPR is entirely different from an “election” in the UK with DR. In reality there is a difference between a contest (DR) or a bundling of votes to support a representative (EPR). We find that the UK is locked into confusion by its vocabulary. An analogy is the following. Consider the medieval trial by combat or the “judgement of God”, that persisted into the phenomenon of dueling to settle conflicts. A duel was once seriously seen as befitting of the words “judgement” and “trial”. Eventually civilisation gave the application of law with procedures in court. Using the same words “judgement” and “trial” for both a duel and a court decision confuses what is really involved, though the outward appearance may look the same, that only one party passes the gate. The UK suffers the same kind of confusion about the “General Election for the House of Commons” when this actually is no proper election of interest representatives but concerns contests for getting district winners. The system of DR is proto-democratic and no proper democracy that uses EPR.

Picture: Wikimedia Queen in the UK, Duel in France, Judges in The Hague.