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Listening to Poulopoulos, O Dromos

 

While Europe is busy with refugee immigrants, I take a leave, since I already discussed this two years ago: Europe’s bloody border. Some people accuse this weblog of not looking at the real issues but these people don’t boycott Holland and thus are in serious need of a reality check.

Instead, my thoughts and warm feelings go out to Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), because his work has always been relevant to me, and comes out top again. He is five years younger than Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010) and like him also studied mathematics with Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956). De Groot got a bachelor in mathematics, switched to psychology with an MA in 1941, and got his 1946  PhD in mathematics & physics, with supervisor psychologist Geza Revesz who remarkably worked at that department. This study is: Thought and choice in chess (online). Original Dutch: Het denken van den schaker (online).

NB. Mannoury was early into semiotics, and found that “the meaning of a word is its use” quite early before Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) did. For example, immigrant has a different use than future compatriot. Hopefully one day I can say more on Mannoury.

The spelling checker alerts us to problems in this Abstract by Amsterdam University Press. There is also a distinction between a chess master and the computer game chessmaster. But it is great that the English translation is online.

“What does a chessmaster think when he prepartes [sic] his next move? How are his thoughts organized? Which methods and strategies does he use by solving his problem of choice? To answer these questions, the author did an experimental study in 1938, to which famous chessmasters participated (Alekhine, Max Euwe and Flohr). This book is still usefull [sic] for everybody who studies cognition and artificial intelligence.” (Abstract)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia Commons)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia)

Chess and its levels of competence

I will copy much from the obituary, by Fernand Gobet, ICGA journal 240 (?), 2006, p236-243 (?).

“De Groot’s thesis did not, however, attract the interest of chess players only; it was a harbinger of the cognitive revolution in psychology that would occur in the early sixties.Because of its strong impact on cognitive psychology, and because of the breadth of the study, de Groot’s thesis can safely be considered a classic in the field.” (Gobet p36)

Indeed, Gerald Goldin reminded us of the strong influence of behaviorism in the USA, for us: on testing students – see here. The book by De Groot helped the turn to cognitive psychology.

Fernand Gobet p239-240 summarizes the findings by De Groot (1946) and it has been input for Van Hiele (1957).

“De Groot proposed also that a player’s thinking process may be divided into four main phases: orientation, exploration, investigation, and proof. In the orientation phase, players collect relevant information and try to form a first (tentative) judgment of the position. During the exploration phase, sample variations are analysed, and, typically, the number of critical moves or plans is reduced to two. The two candidate moves are analysed in great detail during the investigation phase, which is characterised by a more in-depth search than during the exploration phase. Players strive to validate their favourite move (or plan). Note that most of the argumentation used by chess players consists of convincing themselves that one of the two variations is better than the other. Finally, the proof phase is used to recapitulate the information obtained in the analysis and to check the correctness of the argumentation. De Groot described also several chess methods used by players to reach their solution. These methods include strategic and tactical plans, ideas, and goals. Note that while they differentiate well between strong and weak players, all these methods are tied to the domain of chess. The higher-level thought and choice methods, which organise the structure of the protocol, did not differ between players of various skills.”

I don’t want to go into chess now. Some meta-comments are relevant:

  • Personally, I found it quite surprising that the Georg Rasch model (on competence in reading by Danish children) was mathematically the same as the Arpad Elo rating for chess players: Item Response Theory. It is included in my book Voting Theory for Democracy.
  • Main idea: When you are not challenged enough then you get bored, when the challenge is larger than your competence then you get stressed, and when challenge and competence match then you get flow.
  • This is also a model for competition between theories or academic papers. Currently editors select the articles of a journal – or manage the selection of those. Alternatively, researchers just put their article online. Subsequently the process of Elo rating starts. The main question is how to define the rules of the game. Facebook does it with “likes”. But this is too coarse.

One of the sickest comments in science is to say about an article: “Get it published in a peer-reviewed journal, and then I will look at it.” It is illogical and perverse, and a frequently abused lame excuse for not looking into criticism. When a scientists looks at the article directly, then this is peer-review on the spot. Not looking at it, is shifting the effort to others. For example, when you contact a scientist to report an inconsistency in his or her thesis: then this scientist should look into it, and the reply should not be: “Get …. it.”

There are also other players who discovered that it pays not to stick to the rules. See my game of chess with Vladimir Putin, and the performance of Garry Kasparov on Dutch TV. Surprisingly, in Gobet’s Obituary on page 241  we find the game of chess of 3000 BC that we discussed yesterday, and in this publication Kasparov apparently succeeded in replacing the Egyptian pieces by Staunton pieces. It still isn’t clear yet who must move. The ancient Egyptian or Putin rule is that there are no moves: just proceed at will.

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet, p241

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet 2006, p241

In retirement: Forum theory

From onset to retirement is a great leap, but it shows De Groot’s most important contribution. This is the Forum theory. Gobet summarizes:

“During his retirement, de Groot spent much of his energy on philosophical questions, most of them related to psychology. A first theme is related to the notion of truth in science. The Forum Theory , which he had been developing over thirty years, insists on the idea that science is a communal activity directed towards rational consensus. As there is no absolute truth in science, all that scientists can do is to strive for truth, that is, to strive for theories having the highest possible level of certainty. This criterion is met in the case of statements that are unanimously endorsed by all pertinent scientific experts. Such statements then are scientifically true to the best of our present knowledge. Neither are the rules for the correct way of conducting science unchangeable or indisputable. These, too, are to be discussed, and agreed upon in what de Groot calls the forum of expert opinion. A second important theme in de Groot’s reflections was a conception of unifying psychology, a field that is now split into innumerable schools. His approach to this gigantic task was to strive for agreements on the definitions of basic concepts in scientific psychology. De Groot conceded that the task of bridging methodological and terminological differences between schools will not promise any early success. However, connectibility of terminology and method is a necessary requirement for any mature scientific discipline, he argued. Working on it is a must.” (Fernand Gobet, p238)

The key book is De Groot (1982), Academie en Forum, as far as I know not translated into English. The book is great and has for example these elements:

  • Forum continues where his other book Methodologie (1961) ends (see below). Methodologie already contains the Forum (capitalized) but still ends somewhat depressing: exact results like in mathematics cannot really be gotten. The further development of Forum Theory is a positive idea, and uplifting.
  • It indeed also contains the suggestion to look into Elo-rating of research (-ers).
  • Academia discusses education research, design of structure and curriculum, selection processes for higher education (equal input of time versus equal output of quality), innovation (at that time). Design of new topics for education should be accompanied by description how those are going to be tested.
  • It rejects the triad knowledge, skill and attitude, with the argument that it is rather difficult to operationalise and test attitude; and replaces this with another scheme.
  • It highlights the sectarian character of Holland. Two persons are a church; a third causes a schism.

My book Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994) page 81 quoted from Academie en Forum p 9. Appendix A below contains that quote and a remarkably fair Google Translation of it. Please observe that one objective of this weblog is to contribute to the unification, by showing how findings are related. The suggestion of an Economic Supreme Court is also based upon a Definition & Reality Methodology that supplements De Groot’s Methodologie, and that is also required to qualify the Van Hiele theory of levels.

A bit on significance 1956

Psychologists Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and others found it useful to translate an article by De Groot (1956) on (statistical) significance. I agree that the translation is helpful. Let me immediately refer also to Ziliak & McCloskey (2006) Cult of Statistical Significance. In addition: large sample sizes may easily create statistically significant differences: but with little relevance for meaningful significance (how you want to use the results).

“Adrianus Dingeman de Groot (1914–2006) was one of the most influential Dutch psychologists. He became famous for his work “Thought and Choice in Chess”, but his main contribution was methodological — De Groot cofounded the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam (together with R. F. van Naerssen), founded one of the leading testing and assessment companies (CITO), and wrote the monograph “Methodology” that centers on the empirical-scientific cycle: observation–induction– deduction–testing–evaluation. Here we translate one of De Groot’s early articles, published in 1956 in the Dutch journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Psychologie en Haar Grensgebieden. This article is more topical now than it was almost 60 years ago. De Groot stresses the difference between exploratory and confirmatory (“hypothesis testing”) research and argues that statistical inference is only sensible for the latter: “One ‘is allowed’ to apply statistical tests in exploratory research, just as long as one realizes that they do not have evidential impact”. De Groot may have also been one of the first psychologists to argue explicitly for preregistration of experiments and the associated plan of statistical analysis. The appendix provides annotations that connect De Groot’s arguments to the current-day debate on transparency and reproducibility in psychological science.” (Abstract by E-J. Wagenmans et al.)

Methodology 1961

De Groot wrote a classic Methodologie, (1961, 1994 online).  The recommendation in Dutch by G.J. Mellenbergh on pages v-vi is well-deserved. Apparently De Groot’s empirical cycle is appreciated by the English speaking wikipedians, but the Dutch version looks deserted. Amazon states that the English translation Methodology (1969) is out of print.

Logic, philosophy of science and methodology were an early interest of mine, see A Logic of Exceptions (1981, 2007, 2011). It also caused the Definition & Reality Methodology used in DRGTPE.

Methodology (the study, not necessarily this book) appears to very relevant – see here – when you want to understand the Van Hiele theory of levels of insight.

Psychologist Ben Wilbrink rejects Van Hiele’s theory, referring to Popper: the theory wouldn’t be falsifiable.

  • Interestingly, Popper’s approach in the philosophy of science is based upon the approach in psychology by Otto Selz (1881-1943).
  • The Dutch wikipedia text states that De Groot was inspired to his thesis on chess by work by Selz.
  • However, see this discussion that explains where Popper’s criterion of falsifiability doesn’t work.
  • A major problem with the rejection by Wilbrink is that he apparently is not interested in mathematics education research: but it is strange to do “psychology” and not look at the relevant field of application.

One reader at Amazon gave it 100% appreciation, with wonderful words like paedagogocal (kids enjoy a go-go approach) and crimonology (monologues like this weblog are a crime), while the expansion to Ayurveda comes as a surprise out of the blue.

“This book is complete, superb and perfect, therefore handy for research and practical work. It has a high abstract level. Exact for all social sciences; psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, sociology, paedagogocal [sic] and political sciences, journalism, etc. Regarding the human aspects also for biology, medical science; neurology, psychiatry, law, crimonology [sic], general economics, languages and history. A.D. de Groot became a doctor cum laude in Math and Physics in 1946. He had a Fellowship on the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, 1959-1960. With this book one can expand too, f.i. like Ayurveda methodology, where cures by placebo effects or self-curings are studied too.” (By JPR Petersen on December 2, 2011 on Amazon)

Gobet summarizes the conundrum of psychology that cannot observe “thinking”. I take two quotes:

“De Groot’s approach to psychology is complex. It is a subtle mixture of “hard” techniques, mathematical and statistical – do not forget that he was a professor of methodology for over 20 years – and of “softer” approaches, such as interpretative analysis of verbal protocols. In this case, the psychologist tries to understand the subjects’ behaviour at several levels, some of which are not accessible through sheer quantitative techniques. His work on chess, starting with his thesis, offers a good example of the concomitant application of these two approaches.” (p 241)

“History may prove de Groot correct after all. In the last two decades, there has been a renewal of interest in more qualitative ways of analysing chess data. There has been a revival of interest, too, in “higher descriptions” and of “global descriptions” of positions, besides the more detailed descriptions at the chunk level. Obviously, this is the level you get when you ask experts to speak about their field of expertise. And this is the level of analysis de Groot emphasised in Thought and Choice in Chess.” (p242)

De Groot 1961 overlooked the 1957 Van Hiele levels of insight

Van Hiele’s thesis’s list of literature mentions De Groot (1946) on chess and De Groot (1955) Cognitive psychology and education in geometry in the introduction to geometry. (This is my translation of the title.) Apparently the Dutch term “aanvankelijk meetkunde-onderwijs” means geometry in junior highschool. (Van Hiele also refers to Emma Castelnuovo Intuitive Geometry. Lehrer Rundbrief VII, 11. See my earlier question on history of math (ed).) (This link generates a different person, teacher A.J. de Groot.)

Given that Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis concerns levels of insight, De Groot could have taken an interest, also with the common background in math and Mannoury. Indeed, Van Hiele’s thesis is in the literature of Methodologie (my copy 1961), and it is mentioned on page 184.

The great disappointment is that:

  • De Groot doesn’t include the subtitle in the reference. The full title of Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis is, my translation: “The Issue of Insight, Demonstrated with the Insight of School Children in the Subject Matter of Geometry.”  Thus he indicates that geometry is only used for an existence proof for the levels of insight. Observe the pun: geometry itself uses demonstration as a method.
  • De Groot puts Van Hiele into the box of “geometry only”, instead of seeing that Van Hiele presented a general theory of insight, cognition, epistemology.
  • We can only suppose that De Groot was so busy with Methodologie that he wasn’t really interested in new insights coming from mathematics education.

Never teach generalities by giving only one example. Give strings of examples, so that people see the general portent. Don’t give people any opportunity to put you into the box of a single example.

This is the relevant section of De Groot (1964), Ch 6, p 184. Let me cheat in translation for a first time now, and edit the output of Google Translate. The originals are in Appendix B.

“But what are ‘educational objectives that are considered important ‘ in the case of plane geometry in the first grade of junior highschool ?

One can have rather different views on the aim of teaching geometry. One can even argue whether it is a necessary part, for example of the advanced (HBS) program. As is known it has indeed been proposed to replace plane geometry entirely by something else, for example symbolic logic or set theory. One can see the aim as limited, strictly tied to the program itself: learn to solve certain types of problems. Or one can see the aim as wide in scope, for example: learn to think, analyse a problem, learn to apply systematic methods of analysis and general methods of solution, also for other objectives (cf. e.g. BOS 1955). Or one can put emphasis on the spatial aspect: geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial insight’ (e.g. VAN HIELE 1957). Or, something else again, as a way for a first encounter with a scientific, partly formalised deductive system. There are many sagacious and profound reflections on this – and few conclusions in agreement.”

St Nicholas 1965

Our hero De Groot was no saint but a mere human, and one day became ill. However, he turned his illness into a wonderful opportunity to research the issue of St Nicholas. De Groot (1965), Saint Nicholas: A Psychoanalytic Study of History and Myth, discusses:

“In this book, the fascinating St. Nicholas story is examined from a specific angle. Intrigued by the abundance of fertility and birth symbolism in folklore and legends, the author has tried his hand at a “psychoanalysis of St. Nicholas.” To this end, present-day (Dutch) folklore is traced back to medieval customs and legends and, through a partly historical, partly psychoanalytic interpretation, to pre-Christian beliefs, to Germanic and Greek gods– and in particular to the birthplace of the legend, the city of Myra. The result is an absorbing and often surprising perspective of sixteen centuries of Christian culture.” (cover text)

This is essentially the same analysis as the later one by Tony van Renterghem (1995), When Santa was a Shaman: Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree. De Groot has a tougher task as a psychologist, also thinking about semiotics, while Van Renterghem has more liberty to wonder at questions and cultural relevance.

My own proposal since 1992 is to get rid of the religious burden and male chauvism here, and speak about Kidda Claus or Claudia, with helper Jester Peter or Petra. In Dutch: Kinderklaas & Narren-Piet.

Perhaps I am overdoing this. “Santa Claus” is already different from “St. Nicholas”. The fellow in his reindeer sled is not the common religious saint. The situation in the USA may already be neutralised, except for the male chauvism.

Santa in Holland has a helper: not an elf, but a character with the traditional name of Black Peter and the appearance of the black-up Morris Dancers.

  • Protests about racism on one side and pleas to keep the tradition on the other side are at boiling point.
  • Last year the mayor of Gouda arrested 90 people in the mayhem, see my report. Of these 90, 89 have been acquitted so this indeed smells of an abuse of power, and the remaining 1 likely is a case to cover up police brutality.
  • My proposal is to use the name Jester Peter or Petra, and allow all kinds of colours (of which black might be one, but only as one of many). Keep most of the tradition but don’t use a name that plays into racist misunderstandings.

Holland has close connections with Russia, – by chess, – by the Romanovs, – by MH17, – by the current Russian boycott of Dutch agricultural products, – by the Crimea Scythes gold that was on exhibition in Amsterdam when Russia took the Crimea: with now the tantalising question whether it should be “returned” to the Ukraine or Russia. And thus also with St Nicholas, the patron saint of Great Russia. We can only hope that the boycott of Holland is successful for the right reason.

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)

CITO

In Holland, mathematician Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) rejected empirical methods, like statistics, because he was trained to be an abstract thinking mathematician and he knew little about empirical science anyway. He created “realistic mathematics education” (RME) based upon his own insights on what would work. He also succeeded in establishing this as the norm in Dutch math education. Well, there are plenty of reasons to be wary of abuse of statistics, but the only answer is to become a better statistician. This however was lost to the mathematics education research (MER) community.

Given the void thus created by the absence of MER, psychologists stepped in. At the academia they for example study number sense: in kindergarten and the first years of elementary school, the importance of fingers. As applied science, producing tests as paid-for products, there is CITO. At CITO, (psychological) testers design, process and analyse annual tests of pupils leaving elementary school, for language, math and other subjects, and those support advice on the subsequent school system. It is a huge achievement of De Groot to help set up such a system, that creates some standards, and that doesn’t leave kids in the jungle of well-meaning but perhaps incompetent teachers.

CITO must be praised for this too, since it is by this kind of testing that the failure of RME came to full attention. Teachers at higher and middle education were complaining that students could no longer count, but CITO turned the anecdotal complaints into facts – also eliminating the sneer to similar complaints already in antiquity.

It is however curious that:

  • These psychologists rely on their own understanding of arithmetic, and they don’t feel as if they should study MER.
  • The psychologists apparently took RME as the authorative standard of MER, and devised tests to measure RME, contrary to Freudenthal’s view.
  • Thus CITO created tests with “context sums”, in which text is used to describe situations, such that pupils must detect the underlying mathematical model, and then solve the issue and calculate some answer. See our discussion on Gerald Goldin for similar test issues in the USA.
  • CITO allows an uncontrolled experiment on children, while there would be scientific and medical rules for chimps and rabbits. There are now two competing methods in Dutch primary education: RME and Van de Craats’s “traditional method”. A scientific experiment would be stopped once it is clear what method is best, after which the best method is given to all guinea pigs. CITO just allows the mess. See my letter to CITO, in Dutch, October 18, that didn’t get a decent reply yet. CITO refers to the Inspection of Education, as the formal authority for testing elementary school kids. This is a false referral. The Inspection isn’t a scientific institute. CITO does the actual testing and claims to maintain standards of science. My question to CITO is one of scientific ethics, and they simply dodge it. In psychology it might be called cognitive dissonance.
Problematic psychological research on mathematics education

I am no psychologist, and only give my response from teaching practice and MER and econometric technique (including Jöreskog’s LISREL and latent variables).

Overall: Van Hiele opposed concrete versus abstract while Freudenthal misrepresented this as model versus reality (applied mathematics).

To test mathematical competence according to Van Hiele, you would have to test at the various levels of insight. Students would have to know mathematics before they can apply it – by level – and it is not proper to equalise understanding to applied mathematics. Mathematical competence is not a collection of fields of application. Testing Freudenthal is easier, because you can resort to situations of applied mathematics. It reduces to behaviorism again. When the chimps push the right buttons on the calculators then by definition they have mastered some skill.

These so-called cognitive psychologists have reduced to behaviorism again.

Let me mention seven problematic experiences, and correct me if I am wrong, because I am no psychologist, and they do a lot of testing about issues that I am not aware of:

  1. Research on number sense can be invalid because of inadequate handling of pronunciation of numbers, see here. It is very curious that there is no movement amongst psychologists to reform collective pronunciation of numbers. (Norway had a reform in 1950, the exception.) See my booklet A child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015) (online).
  2. Stellan Ohlsson inverts the process of learning, saying that it would go “from abstract to concrete”, but he means to say “from vague to precise”, see here. How is it possible to confuse these terms ? It is not just Ohlsson as a single person, because he is member of a community that would have discussed these issues.
  3. Psychologist Ben Wilbrink shows inadequate grasp of methodology, and doesn’t want to look into this, see here.
  4. CITO tests mixed fractions in the traditional manner, but those are didactically cumbersome. If psychologists – and especially mathematically capable psychometricians, with the journal Psychometrika founded in 1935 –  had been aware of MER then they could have protested early on that this isn’t mathematics but “mathematics” – see the discussion on the torture by Jan van de Craats, see here. (Let me refer to Van Hiele (1973) with a proposal to abolish fractions – here.)
  5. CITO tends use outcomes of sums as the indicator of achievement, and neglects the methods how the outcomes have been achieved, apart from legal rules that allow or don’t allow a calculator. (Generally, when there is a descriptive text, then it is called a “context sum” and then calculators are allowed.). Thus, kids who use traditional algorithms (e.g. long division) and kids who use RME algorithms (e.g. partial quotients), would be judged equally competent when they have the same outcomes. This is not only the equalisation of “good method but small error” and “hopelessly lost”. Such is a common feature of computerised testing and probably cannot be avoided (except by creative chunking): except by concluding that some tests shouldn’t be computerised. The true problem is that you require the traditional algorithms in arithmetic to do algebra at a later stage. Thus RME might seem to generate “competence in simplifying 165 / 7” but in fact it maims your brain for higher schooling. Hickendorff (2011), a cum laude thesis using CITO data, falls into that trap. This thesis played and plays an important role in the discussion in Holland, with its conclusion as if the traditional and RME methods would be equally effective at the end of elementary school. Such a conclusion only derives from a disregard of MER. Hickendorff explicitly states not to be competent in that field. In itself it is a sign of integrity to emphasize what you are not competent in. This clarity is much appreciated and helps us to identify the problem. For, there still is a problem. Apparently she worked in an environment that was cocooned from the notion that a researcher must develop expertise in the area of application.
  6. I presume that there are psychologists who supported RME by Freudenthal, that wasn’t empirically tested – but I am new to this world and cannot give references.
  7. I presume that there are psychologists who supported traditional mathematics education, like from Hung-Hsi Wu in the USA, that doesn’t seem to be tested empirically either. But I am new to this world and cannot quite give references. For example, John Hattie has been educated on education, and I don’t know how psychology features in that, in his part of the world.
I wouldn't want to be caught before a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)

I wouldn’t want to be caught in front of a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)

Concluding

Loose ends we haven’t looked into:

  • Wouldn’t Van Hiele have been interested in De Groot’s Methodologie, and have contacted him on that ?
  • What about the role of Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) in all of this ?
  • Who are the psychologists supporting Jan van de Craats anno 2015 ?
  • When will this misery ever end ?

 

Appendix A: De Groot Academie en Forum (1982:9) quoted by Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994:81)

Observe:

Google Translate actually does a reasonably fair job, for a computer programme.

“(…) is a democratic polity necessary, but not sufficient. For a fruitful development of the politically sensitive social sciences in particular is also needed: a government that understands well its main task of science policy; namely the duty, even in those subject areas, the tradition of critical inquiry, rational discussion and strive for objective judgment – in short – to encourage support, protect the culture Forum. Perhaps a modern democracy was not a triad but with tetras [tessera? / TC] politician must be equipped with the fourth independent power of science. One might think of a corresponding Supreme Court, which is common in severe cases, the government can condemn political prostitution of research, for abuse of expressions such as ‘scientifically proven that …’ and scientifically irresponsible applications. It seems in principle a good idea, at least – in the current situation – a beautiful pipe dream. Realized or not, the idea is dictated by a certainly legitimate concerns about the socio-political climate is such that the last decades has developed in the Netherlands. It seems that the public respect for rationality and integrity, for (better) understanding, and (better) intellectual performance in general, there is no greater on has become. The common aim leveling work a short-sighted anti-intellectualism in the hand; the continued politicization of scientific research standard and rationally decidable problems, not only undermines the (gamma) science but also adversely affects the quality of our entire culture.” (Google Translate)

Dutch original:

“(…) is een democratisch staatsbestel nodig, maar niet voldoende. Voor een vruchtbare ontwikkeling van de politiek zo gevoelige gamma-wetenschappen in het bijzonder is tevens nodig: een overheid die haar voornaamste taak van wetenschapsbeleid goed verstaat; namelijk de taak om, ook op die wetenschapsgebieden, de traditie van kritisch onderzoek, rationele discussie en streven naar objectieve oordeelsvorming – kortom: de Forum-cultuur – te steunen, te bevorderen, te beschermen. Misschien zou een moderne democratie niet met een trias maar met een tetras [tessera ? / TC] politica toegerust moeten worden, met als vierde onafhankelijke macht die van de wetenschap. Men zou kunnen denken aan een bijbehorende Hoge Raad, die in voorkomende ernstige gevallen de overheid kan veroordelen voor politieke prostitutie van onderzoek, voor misbruik van uitdrukkingen als ‘wetenschappelijk is aangetoond dat …’ en voor wetenschappelijk onverantwoorde toepassingen. Het lijkt in principe een goed idee, althans – in de huidige situatie – een mooi luchtkasteel. Realiseerbaar of niet, de gedachte wordt ingegeven door een wel degelijk gegronde bezorgdheid over het sociaal-politieke klimaat zoals zich dat de laatste decaden in Nederland heeft ontwikkeld. Het ziet ernaar uit dat het publieke respect voor rationaliteit en integriteit, voor (beter) inzicht, en voor (betere) intellectuele prestaties in het algemeen, er niet groter op is geworden. Het gangbare nivelleringsstreven werkt een kortzichtig anti-intellectualisme in de hand; de voortdurende politisering ook van wetenschappelijk onderzoekbare en rationeel beslisbare problemen, ondermijnt niet alleen de (gamma-) wetenschap maar schaadt ook de kwaliteit van onze hele cultuur.”  (A.D. de Groot, “Academie en Forum”, Boom, 1982, p9)

Appendix B: De Groot (1961) on Van Hiele (1957)

De Groot (1961, 1964, Ch 6 paragraph 2.2, page 184) (Source DBNL):

Google Translate:

“But what are” considered important educational objectives’ in the case of plane geometry in first class?

One can aim of geometry teaching in general look very different. One can even argue about whether it is a necessary part, for example of the HBS program; as is known has been proposed to replace the plane geometry entirely by something else, such as symbolic logic and set theory. One can see the target limited, strictly tied to the program itself: certain types learn to solve problems; or one can see the large, for example, learn to think, analyze a problem, systematic thinking methods and general solution methods learn to apply also for other purposes (cf. eg forest in 1955.). Or one can focus on the spatial aspect geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial awareness’ (eg from hiele 1957); or different, as a means of an introduction to a science, partly formalized deductive system. There are about many sagacious and profound reflections – and few corresponding conclusions.”

Dutch original:

“Maar wat zijn de ‘belangrijk geachte onderwijs-doelstellingen’ in het geval van de vlakke meetkunde in de eerste klasse?

Men kan het doel van meetkunde-onderwijs in het algemeen zeer verschillend zien. Men kan zelfs twisten over de vraag of het een noodzakelijk onderdeel is, bijvoorbeeld van het H.B.S.-programma; zoals bekend is wel voorgesteld de vlakke meetkunde geheel te vervangen door iets anders, bijvoorbeeld symbolische logica of verzamelingsleer. Men kan het doel beperkt zien, strikt gebonden aan het programma zelf: bepaalde typen vraagstukken leren oplossen; of men kan het ruim zien, bijvoorbeeld: leren denken, een probleem analyseren, systematisch denkmethoden en algemene oplossingsmethoden leren toepassen, òòk voor andere doeleinden (vgl. b.v. bos 1955). Of men kan het accent leggen op het ruimtelijke aspect: meetkunde als middel tot ontwikkeling van een gestructureerd ‘ruimtelijk inzicht’ (b.v. van hiele 1957); of, weer anders, als middel tot een eerste kennismaking met een wetenschappelijk, gedeeltelijk geformaliseerd deductief systeem. Er bestaan hierover veel schrandere en diepe beschouwingen – en maar weinig overeenstemmende conclusies.”

Jo Guldi (Brown) and David Armitage (Harvard) wrote The History Manifesto (html or PDF). On May 12 professor Armitage came to Amsterdam to defend it at the Academy of Sciences KNAW.

The authors argue that historical research gets lost into short-term-ism and overspecialisation, and that there is a growing need for the longue durée (Fernand Braudel 1902-1985) and “big stories”. The Manifesto closes with a call-to-arms:

“Once called upon to offer their advice on political development and land-reform, the creation of the welfare state and post-conflict settlement, historians, along with other humanists, effectively ceded the public arena, nationally as well as globally, to the economists and occasionally lawyers and political scientists. (When was the last time a historian was seconded to Downing Street or the White House from their academic post, let alone consulted for the World Bank or advised the UN Secretary-General?) It may be little wonder, then, that we have a crisis of global governance, that we are all at the mercy of unregulated financial markets, and that anthropogenic climate change threatens our political stability and the survival of species. To put these challenges in perspective, and to combat the short-termism of our time, we urgently need the wide-angle, long-range views only historians can provide. Historians of the world, unite! There is a world to win–before it’s too late.” (The History Manifesto p125 – my emphasis)

Amsterdam, May 12 2015

Amsterdam, May 12 2015. Wonderful weather outside of KNAW.

Remarkably, on the three indicated areas economics has much more to offer than history:

  • For climate change and survival of the species there is my book on the Tinbergen & Hueting Approach (2009, 2015).
  • On unregulated financial markets and income inequality, there are my books DRGTPE (2000, 2005, 2011) from before the crisis and CSBH (2012) from after the crisis – see above About page.
  • On global governance there is the analysis in DRGTPE that each nation better adopts a constitutional Economic Supreme Court (ESC) – so that the national ESCs can exchange information and thus contribute to global co-ordination and stability. For example, see this memo in the RES Newsletter of Fall 2014.

These issues can only be resolved by economics. One needs to study political economy (see DRGTPE for its definition) and have a solid background in econometrics and macro-economic modeling to understand and judge the issues. It is necessary indeed to take the long view, since it are this kind of topics. By implication the economist looking into these issues might be regarded as being a “historian” – and perhaps historians are willing to respect this even though such an economist might have no formal training in such an MA course.

It puts the horse behind the cart when one presumes that a student of the past would, by this kind of academic study, hit upon the proper advice to deal with these issues for the future. I am afraid that Guldi & Armitage are seriously mistaken here. It is important for a political economist to delve into history, and historians can provide valuable service here, but a historian would have to become a political economist if he or she is to say something about these subjects.

Consistent links

Of course, when the survival of the species is at stake, and thus also the survival of historians, then one can imagine that some historians feel the need to say something about this. But rather than starting to re-invent the wheel themselves, they are advised to check out the designated smiths. Dutch readers may check my question on ecological survival for the Dutch research agenda to 2025.

Admittedly, I may not be the typical economist, and Guldi & Armitage merely “misunderestimated” the situation. Originally I wanted to study archeology but it was because of Biafra and the world problems that I decided to turn to econometrics. At the KNAW session I indeed met an archeologist who confirmed that he was quite comfortable with long time scales. My recent revisit of the old interest is in “The simple mathematics of Jesus” (2012). An apt reference is also to this weblog text.

I am also struck by this statement in the manifesto:

“There is no public office of the long term that you can call for answers about who, if anyone, is preparing to respond to these epochal changes.” (The History Manifesto, p 1)

Traditionally people have the right to petition the monarch, and democracy seems to reduce the need for that, but our model of democracy still fails. The creation of an Economic Supreme Court would amend that. Some analysts who see short-term-ism everywhere might fear that the ESC would also fall victim to it. However, it is the task of the ESC to check the quality of the information for policy making. Hence, it looks at both the short and the long terms.

A question during the session

The discussion monitor at KNAW invited an economist in the audience to ask a question. My question was:

“The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte studied history. However, he shows quite a disrespect for science. How is it possible that an academic study causes this kind of disrespect, and what can be done to ensure that the study of the past maintains scientific standards ?” (Rephrased.)

Dutch readers can check that I essentially asked the same question for the Dutch National Research Agenda for 2025. A key problem is: when a historian in a public debate makes an error against science then he or she is seldomly corrected by another historian.

Mark Rutte is a counterexample to the Guldi & Armitage bracketed question above: here we have a historian with access to the corridors of power. Check on Rutte e.g. here.  Another example appears to be William Hague. One can also understand that my question is essentially critical of the History Manifesto too: Are Guldi & Armitage not similarly disrespectful of science, by claiming more for history than history can do ?

The Dutch word for science is “wetenschap” and it does not distinguish between the humanities and the “hard” sciences. My question fell a bit in the trap of the distinction made in the Anglo-Saxon world. Professor Armitage referred to C.P. Snow and the “two cultures” lecture of 1959, and indicated that the gap ought to be bridged. He explained how students of history at Harvard are encouraged to look into the sciences, including mathematics and computer science. He did not go into the issue that the scientific method should be used in history as a science too. Fortunately the History Manifesto on occasion refers to the humanities as a science too (say p 10), but then it should also apply the methodology of science – with the comparative advantage of Verstehen.

Thus his answer left me unsatisfied. For these same considerations as Snow had, the Econometric Society was founded in 1930, with an offshoot in cliometrics. The gap between the “two cultures” can only be bridged when it becomes mandatory that a sizeable section of the humanities have also a background in the sciences – i.e. when the humanities stop claiming that they would be so very special and when they concentrate their contribution on what they indeed are special in and what indeed is their comparative advantage. Indeed, this will also require a re-engineering of the education of mathematics, see “Elegance with Substance” (2009).

The panelists

Invited panelists were Mathijs Bouman (economic journalist), Rens Bod (director of Digital Humanities), Hanco Jürgens (Germany Institute Amsterdam) and Siep Stuurman (emeritus UU).

Rens Bod was most ambitious: historians should also predict the future. This indeed fits the scientific method, and prevents that historians just tell fancy stories and enhance those with the authority of age. The ambition to look at the future fits the ancient tradition in history, check e.g. Thucydides and the wish to study history to learn from it. The ambition however runs the risk of failure when historians are not up to the task. Thucydides of course wrote at a time when he could not rely on a well-developed discipline of political economy.

Hanco Jürgens wondered whether there really was a crisis in the humanities and a lack of public attention for history. He referred to the commemorations of WW II this month. That Russia had taken the Crimea put an end to Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and meant a Return of History. There is rather a change in the public role of the intellectual. In Holland in 2030 likely half of the student population will have higher education (?) and that will mean a change in the kind of public debate.

Siep Stuurman emphasized professionalism. Historians should remain critical. The “protestant wind” that destroyed the Armada is an obvious bias – see “Whig history“. The method of the longue durée rather looks for turns that enlighten issues (and that were surprising to participants too). Thomas Malthus had fine data from the past but lacked insight in what technology had in store. History can puncture myths, like that protectionism hindered development and that free trade supported it: in the past protectionism was the norm, and England only imposed free trade when it had the advantage anyway. His main point was that history provides serial contexts.

The other economist: Mathijs Bouman

Bouman supported the criticism of short-term-ism by giving the example of the 2008 financial crisis. He labeled financial analysts as “historians” since they used time series data. They used only a few decades, and thus they missed systematic national risk on house prices. He agreed that a good economist is also a historian. On the other side he found the History Manifesto biased against neo-liberalism. Marx and Piketty got too much attention, even though the latter indeed presented data over a much longer period. The long term would require an unbiased view too.

Bouman supported my critical question above by stating that developing a view about the future does not only require data from the past but also model assumptions: and what theory was Armitage using ?

Of course, Bouman did not explain to professor Armitage that the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau has been censoring my work since 1990. In general, visitors who come to Holland are treated as guests and they meet with kind people and have pleasant discussions. These visitors will tend to think that Holland is an open and tolerant country.  KNAW functions as a Potemkin village for foreign scientists.

Conclusion

Given that economics already solved the three major problems mentioned by Guldi & Armitage – so that it is only a matter that the Parliaments of the world start studying on those solutions – I can only advise that the historians enter these notions in their history books. By consequence there is little use for the History Manifesto.

What we should appreciate is its opening statement of “speaking truth to power“. This can best be done by embracing the scientific method, to first find that truth, and then say it.

Addendum May 14

A statement in the manifesto about what Paul Warde would have shown made me very curious and caused me to check this on the internet: I found a discussion by Pseudo Erasmus on errors in the manifesto also on other statements. Perhaps this is a case in which historians correct other historians.

I also found the criticism by Cohen & Mandler in the AHR rather convincing. The best thing would be to retract the manifesto as an apparently insufficiently researched opinion piece that needs better contemplation.

Amsterdam, May 12 2015. Still wonderful weather after the KNAW session.

Amsterdam, May 12 2015. Still wonderful weather after the KNAW session.

Listening to Markopoulos, Chroniko

Rotterdam professor of economics Bas Jacobs (1973) is the (new) president of the Royal Dutch Association for Political Economy (KVS), founded in 1849, and supposedly the oldest of still existing associations of scientific economists in the world.

Literary writer Arnon Grunberg (1971) (website) didn’t finish highschool and is a selfmade man. He won prizes in Dutch literature but that doesn’t necessarily mean much. He was mentioned in the NY Times as:

“(…) often cited as one of the greatest living Dutch writers. A literary wunderkind, he founded a publishing imprint when he was 19, wrote a European best seller when he was 23 and has now published at least a dozen novels, two of which won the Dutch equivalent of the Booker Prize. In his downtime, he writes stories, plays, poetry, columns and journalism, including a series of dispatches from Afghanistan, where he reported on Dutch and American troops. He lives in old New York (once New Amsterdam).”  (Scott Hutchins, 2013-05-10, NY Times) (Another mention in the NY Times.)

They are both descendants of survivors of the holocaust in Holland 1940-1945.

The newspaper NRC-Handelsblad published a weekly exchange of letters by Jacobs and Grunberg with the title Capitalism and Freedom. The letters in Dutch from January 31 – April 11 are listed here, and my comment in Dutch is here.

In the last weblog I discussed professor Wolfgang Streeck who speaks about the End of Capitalism – which Grunberg compares to Armageddon.

Observations are:

  • The exchange appears to be rather decadent, and will not help the distressed in Europe.
  • Jacobs is a professor in economics who had nothing to lose, and who deals with a lay person who has no training in economics.
  • Grunberg has everything to lose, namely his reputation. He must entertain his readership, and walks down side-allies that a serious reader will not quite expect, which might suggest to a common readership that he has a quicksilver mind, but which on close inspection appears to consist of cheap tricks by someone who hasn’t studied economics or hasn’t even had a serious training in journalism. One trick is to mirror a question in different words, which merely suggests that you are dealing with the answer.
  • Jacobs is blind to the censorship of economic science in Holland by the directorate of the Central Planning Bureau (CPB). Jacobs does not inform Grunberg about my protest against that censorship.
  • Jacobs shares Streeck’s concerns but doesn’t see that Streeck overlooks the role of economic planning. He does not inform Grunberg about this either.
  • Jacobs sees a solution only in a revival of “liberal capitalism” – but also gives a diagnosis that this will not happen. He calls it a “political choice” if it would not happen, but also describes that the electorate suffers from lack of knowledge and information – which doesn’t sound much like a “choice”. He doesn’t mention my suggestion of an Economic Supreme Court that would make that information available. While Streeck concludes that he has no solution, Jacobs has no solution either – but shies away from that clarity of mind.
  • Grunberg appears to be a nihilist, with no academic training or interest, and with a rather simplistic sense of humor.

Jacobs actually asks Grunberg for help. He estimates the loss of welfare in Holland by the crisis as close to 10% of GDP, annually. His diagnosis is that austerity has made the loss larger instead of less. Europe is locked in masochism – punishment and stagnation – and policy makers no longer listen to advice by economic scientists. He almost begs Grunberg whether he as a literary writer might be able to break the deadlock, and find the proper words to get people and policy makers come to their senses. Grunberg’s reply is the joke: if people are masochistic then politicians like prime minister Mark Rutte might be sadistic.

A low point is – with also the weasel word “some people”, without indicating who would do this:

“For some people the difference between a euro and a muslim is minimal. They regard a muslim as a euro in the form of a human.” (Arnon Grunberg, 2015-01-31, NRC Handelsblad)

Bas-Jacobs-Arnon-Grunberg

Bas Jacobs (website, picture by Hartman) and Arnon Grunberg (wikimedia commons)

Listening to Markopoulos, Ta tragoudia tou neou patera

My correspondent from Amsterdam called in distress: Wolfgang Streeck of the Max Planck Institute had spoken about the end of capitalism, and claimed that no-one has an idea how to solve this.

Streeck had an interview (in Dutch) by the formidable Caroline de Gruyter, and a video interview (in English) with weblog Follow The Money. A good read is “How will Capitalism End?” in the New Left Review 87, May-June 2014. It seems that Streeck and I agree on much, except on the presence or lack of solution approaches. (Dutch readers will also benefit much from Michel Verbeek on the German Ordoliberalismus and the balanced budget rule for the euro.)

There is the book “Buying Time. The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism” 2014.

Wolfgang Streeck 2014

Wolfgang Streeck 2014

I don’t have to read the latter book since I have been studying this problem since I started studying econometrics in 1973 and solved it at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) in 1990. The crisis since 2007 merely confirms my analysis. What is required, is to boycott Holland till the censorship of economic science at CPB is lifted and I can present my full analysis. See:

It seems to me that professor Streeck neglects – and correct me if I am wrong – that economic advice and in particular also economic planning are integral functions within the government of the modern state. To understand economic developments you also have to study the workings of that function. Economists who work in such functions are not per definition sadistically inclined, and rather follow the major economic science of their day. This is where my innovative contribution lies, that is censored by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning bureau, and which this weblog on the advice to boycott Holland is all about. Two points are relevant here:

  • some novel contributions to economic analysis, to improve economic science
  • the advice to amend the Trias Politica structure with an Economic Supreme Court, such that economic advice and planning can be truly scientific – rather than being embedded within political processes as is the case nowadays.

What the reader should appreciate is that professor Streeck – like I do – considers the developments since 1970. Indeed, you can only appreciate what is happening when you take the longer view. For example: the years of Reagan and Thatcher were actually Keynesian years 1981-2007. Link up to World War I for the failure of the Trias Politica.

In “How will Capitalism End?” Streeck states:

“The image I have of the end of capitalism—an end that I believe is already under way—is one of a social system in chronic disrepair, for reasons of its own and regardless of the absence of a viable alternative. While we cannot know when and how exactly capitalism will disappear and what will succeed it, what matters is that no force is on hand that could be expected to reverse the three downward trends in economic growth, social equality and financial stability and end their mutual reinforcement. In contrast to the 1930s, there is today no political-economic formula on the horizon, left or right, that might provide capitalist societies with a coherent new regime of regulation, or régulation. Social integration as well as system integration seem irreversibly damaged and set to deteriorate further. [ftnt] What is most likely to happen as time passes is a continuous accumulation of small and not-so-small dysfunctions; none necessarily deadly as such, but most beyond repair, all the more so as they become too many for individual address. In the process, the parts of the whole will fit together less and less; frictions of all kinds will multiply; unanticipated consequences will spread, along ever more obscure lines of causation. Uncertainty will proliferate; crises of every sort—of legitimacy, productivity or both—will follow each other in quick succession while predictability and governability will decline further (as they have for decades now). Eventually, the myriad provisional fixes devised for short-term crisis management will collapse under the weight of the daily disasters produced by a social order in profound, anomic disarray.” (Wolfgang Streeck, “How will Capitalism End?” 2014)

We may imagine that major parts of Europe (Amsterdam) and the USA will start to look like parts of Syria and/or the Philippines.

From Azaz in Syria to Manila in the Philippines

From Azaz in Syria to Payatas – Manila in the Philippines (Source: wikimedia commons)

There are two important observations:

  • Professor Streeck will think that Holland is an open minded country, especially when they are so nice to give him all this attention. In this way he will not observe the closed Dutch mind. Nobody will tell him about the censorship of economic since since 1990 and the need to boycott Holland till that is resolved. Professor Streeck visited Holland and left it again, still thinking that no-one has any idea for a solution, while that solution has already been developed and the Dutch CPB (and put into a drawer).
  • A google also showed a book by Streeck and Thelen, Beyond continuity : institutional change in advanced political economies” (2005). It so happens that I sent this email to professor Thelen in 2013. Did she read it, comprehend it, and communicate it to Streeck ? The email mentions Gerrit Zalm who as CEO of ABN AMRO came up in our last weblog discussion on bank bonuses. It is a small world – and a small country.
Addition April 11

Some other websites on professor Streeck’s analysis – who all lack the notion of an Economic Supreme Court:

It turns out that Cressida Cowell has been writing her dragon books for years and that the box offices of the films are approaching $1 billion, while this weblog was rather oblivious of that. I only noticed these elementary facts from watching with my youngest son and hugely enjoying How to train your dragon 1 on television and How to train your dragon 2 in the theatre. See the official website for the trailers. The films establish that mankind is destined to fly.

While the Harry Potter films were never convincing with their crude suggestion of broomsticks and overall tendency to neglect humour, the relationship of Hiccup and Toothless not only engages us, reminding of other stories of boy & horse or boy & dolphin, but also makes us want to fly along, dive, loop, plunge, and what you have, and share this close bonding of body and mind. Now that Google is developing robots, the obvious suggestion is to concentrate on flying robots and then notably in the form of dragons, so that the phantasy is just a premonition.

How to Train Your Dragon - And flying it (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

How to Train Your Draghi – And flying it (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

That future is already with us, in that Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is yet untrained, and takes us and the world economy diving, looping, plunging, and what you have.

Europe needs someone like Hiccup who neglects danger and is convinced that feeding Draghi some fish will gain the monster’s trust, so that it will let itself be put into a harness and be controlled.

How to Train Your Dragon (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

How to Train Your Draghi – Using a big fish (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

Angela Merkel (in the film called “Astrid”) finds the house on fire and gets a bucket to extinguish it. Obviously, she will not succeed.

Angela Merkel discovers that the house is on fire and picks up a bucket to extinguish it (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

Angela Merkel fnds the house on fire and gets a bucket to extinguish it (Source: Trailer Screenshot)

Read more about this story in these links:

(A) Thomas Colignatus,An Economic Supreme Court“, a piece in the Royal Economic Society Newsletter, issue 167, October 2014, see above “About“.

(B) Still in the dark, not seeing the evidence:

February 2013 already gave a weblog entry Cause and Cure of the Crisis and November 2013 a YouTube video – though with a rather slow speed of presentation.

Now in September 2014 there is a short paper (MPRA  58592) with the same title. The paper gives a review of the books DRGTPE and CSBH that are at the core of this weblog – apart for our admiration for Art Buchwald and attention to the education of mathematics.

This may be occasion to pay a small tribute to John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) and Jan Tinbergen (1903-1994). The analysis on the cause and cure of the crisis is based upon their work, and thus the world can only cure the crisis by properly reading up on Keynes and Tinbergen as well. It requires an understanding not only on economic theory but also econometric methods, with a role for mathematics.

There is another storyline that links up to mathematics education.

Tinbergen studied physics and wrote his thesis with Paul Ehrenfest (1880–1933). As a student he walked in Leiden, saw the poverty, decided to study economics, and doing so he created econometrics.

Ehrenfest’s wife Tatyana Afanasyeva (Kiev, 1876 – Leiden, 1964) wrote on math education too. Her work was hotly debated in small circles. One of the discussants was Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990), another German immigrant to Holland. Freudenthal became the promotor of Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010), which makes the circle round, see this entry on this weblog.

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Tinbergen#mediaviewer/File:Ehrenfeststudents.jpg

Paul Ehrenfest’s students, Leiden 1924. Left to right: Gerhard Heinrich Dieke, Samuel Abraham Goudsmit, Jan Tinbergen, Paul Ehrenfest, Ralph Kronig, and Enrico Fermi. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

The author presents some scientific innovations that meet with unwarranted opposition or neglect by fellow scientists. Local conditions in Holland are relevant since those affect direct communication. Discussion of this case might inspire an overall improvement in politeness and competence. A key insight for readers: it is advisable to ask questions first.

See this 16 page PDF with the full discussion:

After 45 years of unemployment: If Holland had been just a bit nicer and more competent

Consider the problem first in abstract manner and then concretely.

(1) Abstractly: In the advancement of science it happens that researcher A has a new idea and tells researcher B about it. Since B did not launch the idea, and need not quite know what it entails, it is B’s role to ask questions first. Asking questions is not only polite and nice but basically part of scientific competence. The answers to those questions might cause A to retract the idea or B to accept it. It might be that B has been working on the same issue and feels that it isn’t necessary to ask questions. Still, it is useful to verify common grounds. The proper attitude in science thus is to first ask questions, in particular when you do not understand something. When B quickly rejects a new idea as silly, then science gets stuck in the situation that A has developed a new idea and B has developed a vested interest in calling it silly. The situation would be worse when there wouldn’t be a level playing field when A is a junior researcher and B a senior researcher. The idea gets blocked if the fast rejection by B is the standard attitude, or when other person C refers to B as the main source, with possible misrepresentation as to what the idea actually is.

(2) Concretely: The author reports about his experience in doing science in Holland. Holland has the reputation of being tolerant and open-minded but it is better to look at some facts about the country. In the author’s experience researchers in Holland may forget to ask questions and instead jump to rejection when findings contradict some strong convention or deeply held conviction. The maltreatment and scientific incompetence within the Dutch research community means that scientific results get blocked. If Holland had been just a bit nicer and more competent, then those results could have spread easier and the world could have been different.

A key issue is the censorship of economic science since 1990 at the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB). The author advises the world to boycott Holland till the censorship of his scientific work at the CPB is lifted.