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A Brexit moratorium of two years is the best advice today that econometrics can offer the UK and EU. Two years are only a short period with respect to the long future ahead. After two years of misinformation the UK and EU better make room for two years of proper information.

The difference between a flat Earth and a sphere

My background is in econometrics, Political Economy and Public Choice, and the latter is “the use of economic tools to deal with traditional problems of political science” (Gordon Tullock 1987). The Brexit referendum outcome in 2016 caused me to look deeper into its causes. In August 2017 I discovered that “political science on electoral systems” (including referenda) still is locked in the humanities and thus pseudo-science. For its claims on reality this branch is comparable to astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. This branch has been misinforming the world for a good part of last century.

The Great Depression in the 1930s came about because economists had confusions about the gold standard and such. Now we have a similar situation with respect to this branch of political science. This discovery on “political science on electoral systems” compares to the distinction between a flat Earth and a sphere. It means that all evidence must be re-evaluated.

If you wonder where failing government in the USA, UK or France comes from, then include this misinformation and miseducation as a fundamental factor. Brexit is an example of a democracy running astray because of this misinformation. The deeper cause of Brexit is that the House of Commons and the electorate are misinformed by the academia. There is a grand scale of misinformation by famous UK scholars like Iain McLean, John Curtice, Simon Hix, younger Alan Renwick, and (other) members of the UK Political Studies Association and lack of critique by the UK Royal Statistical Society.

For the National Academia of Sciences and Humanities of the world I propose that they set up their own national buddy systems, consisting of both scientists and scholars on democracy and electoral systems. Scientists tend to be less interested in democracy and scholars are at a distance from empirics, so that buddies can support each other in commitment to study and in bridging gaps of understanding.

The evidence is in my paper “One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France” (MPRA 84482, 2018). The buddies perhaps better start with the novel statistics on the USA midterm 2018 and the SDID measure on disproportionality.

Cold Civil War in the UK

Many Britons are dead-tired of the Brexit discussion and want a clean break of it. The term Cold Civil War has been used. Rather than force a decision down each other’s throat on the three available options, it is better to kick the can down the road, and have a time-out to reconsider how the UK got where it is now. The UK better changes the discussion to another topic, away from Brexit, on which the three options are rather clear, and instead onto the foundations, structure and workings of UK democracy itself. The UK appears to be horribly confused on both democracy and statistics, and the people in the UK will gain new energy when they finally would get proper information.

All three options have the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth

Both the EU and prime minister Theresa May have emphasized that there will be no more negotiation. There are three options on the table. Firstly the EU-May deal, secondly the Crash out of the EU, and thirdly a Bregret and return to the Status Quo Ex Ante. All three options come with the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth.

Many UK voters have been dreaming and have been misinformed by all sides. It will be easy for many Britons to blame the EU as the villain who abused virgin Britannia. It will be hard for them to admit that they themselves have been dreaming.

  • A stagnation or even a drop in income can be portrayed as punishment by the EU.
  • The May-EU deal would fail on the sovereignty a promised by many Brexiteers.
  • Bregret would be seen as a betrayal of the referendum outcome.

Cognitive dissonance can be resolved by finding scapegoats, and butchering them in cleansing rituals. The Stab-in-the-Back Myth would not only affect the UK and future EU-UK relations, but Pied Pipers of Hamelin within the EU would also use UK resentment as ‘proof’ that the EU is devious indeed.

This lose-lose outcome exposes the weak spots of international governance. Basically, though, the irresponsibility in the UK has infected the EU. EU policy makers should have known better. They treated Brexit as an issue between Member States but they rather should have cared for EU citizens too, also in the UK, even when this notion of EU citizenship has little legal status. This present discussion provides a solution approach.

Two past years of misinformation, two new years for information

The last two years were burdened by misinformation around the 2016 Brexit Referendum and then there were both secrecy and some open chaos in the subsequent UK-EU negotiations. Voters in the UK are only dimly aware about the logic of the Irish border and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 in this balancing act on national sovereignty and international treaties. Yet the greatest problem lies at a more fundamental level on democracy itself.

Another two years of uncertainty might play into economic stagnation, yet there are many no-regret investments waiting to be done. It really is wisest to take a time-out. This armistice of two more years gives breathing space and appears crucial to clear the fog of war and prevent a Stab-in-the-Back Myth that would play into rancuous backlash in both UK and EU and that could wreak havoc in the future.

How this moratorium can be achieved

The current House of Commons was elected in 2017 and thus after the referendum of 2016, and it would have a mandate to reconsider the situation, even if it would mean breaking promises to voters, which promises clearly cannot be kept with only the present three options on the table. Potentially the EU27 would allow the UK time for such a reconsideration of it is democratic foundations. The recent advice by the ECJ Advocate General provides scope to unilaterally revoke the withdrawal notification (ECJ press release 187/18). However, the EU27 would tend to regard this correct unilateral act with suspicion, and fear for instability in the UK. If the UK would revoke and clarify that it would use a moratorium of two years for a reconsiderations of its democratic foundations, then fears in the EU27 about UK instability and risk about a Stab-in-the-Back Myth against the EU would be assuaged.

After this moratorium of two years, the UK may still leave the EU perhaps in 2021 but at least then this decision would be based upon a clearer understanding in the UK about democracy and statistics.

Not “populism” but kindergarten politics

The 2016 Brexit Referendum Question itself was simplistic and doesn’t fit the requirements for a decent statistical questionnaire. It was political manipulation pure and simple. The Leave vs Remain outcome was 52-48%, but some 17% of voters had Remain between different options of Leave, and thus had to gamble what would be the likely outcome. (RES Newsletter 2018-10) Referenda are mostly dumb and risky, and an instrument of populism instead of deliberative democracy. With this lesson learned, the UK better avoids a second referendum.

Let me quote Cas Mudde who “defined populism as an ideology that considers society to be separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people” versus “the corrupt elite”, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people.” (Guardian 2018-11-22) The term “populism” is distractive though, as if there would be a core of truth in going back to the people, as “ideal democracy”. Cas Mudde struggles with the dictionary and is less observant of what is really happening here, namely kindergarten politics. A division between Us and Them is what kids in kindergarten understand, with a saviour prince on a shiny horse, and it is a core element in blockbuster Hollywood movies. This is what Donald Trump is comfortable with and what his analysts are feeding him with.

The proper answer to this kind of politics is to explain that issues are more complex, and Cas Mudde suggests this too. Complexity however requires time. Both UK and EU can use a moratorium of two years to come to terms with the complexity that we now see on Brexit. The key point is to use this time in an educational manner beyond kindergarten, and thus in a fundamentally different manner than we have seen in the last two years. The misinformation about Brexit not only concerns mere mundane points like on the NHS but also concerns some fundamental aspects by professors from the academia as well.

Weimar and equal proportional representation

This discussion now meets with Godwin’s law. In 1941, Ferdinand Hermens (1906-1998) fled from nazi Germany, found refuge at Notre Dame, Indiana, and published his “Democracy or Anarchy” that argued that the Weimar Republic collapsed because of (equal) proportional representation (EPR). After winning WW2, the USA and UK assumed that their electoral system of district representation (DR) would be superior too. Later research by political scientists has essentially repeated the bias, introducing ever more fallacies.

Historians have debunked Hermens’s analysis. Hitler seized power by using the fire in the Reichstag to arrest communists, eleminating such parliamentarians from voting committees. (Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian 2017) EPR was hindering the nazis, not helping them. Anyway, the choice of electoral system must be made for its own optimality, and other rules would be relevant for such stress tests. Above, I have mentioned the evidence.

A solution for the UK is to switch from DR to EPR

The two year moratorium then could have two phases. When the proposed buddy-system of the Royal Society and the British Science Association (science) and the British Academy (humanities) has generated results and has started informing the general public about their findings, in a first phase, then in a second phase the UK can consider switching from DR to EPR, and have proper elections so that all voices in the UK are duly represented, finally for the first time in history. Parties can split along their Brexit views in order to offer voters the full spectrum. The Stab-in-the-Back Myth has less risk of developing when all people can see the true proportions of the different views on Brexit. With new elections, the House of Commons can finally start from proper proportions to negotiate between parties for a compromise. Compromises would focus on internal UK affairs, since there are no more negotiations with the EU on Brexit.

With this advised solution approach provided by econometrics, it may still be, as said, that the UK leaves the EU perhaps in 2021 but at least then all UK voters have been treated properly, with prudence, justice, dignity and compassion, in equal proportion.

Disclaimer: I did not read “Democracy or Anarchy” and the EU-May Deal, but looked at abstracts. Parts of this text have been used earlier.

UK Parliament on the Boston Tea Party

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Salah el Serafy (1927-2016) stated the following about GDP and NDP (Gross and Net Domestic Product):

  • “Selling natural assets and including the proceeds in the gross domestic product, GDP, is wrong on both economic and accounting grounds.”
  • Even though NDP is rarely estimated, depreciation of produced assets is fairly small and predictable. Declines in natural assets, on the other hand, may be large and volatile, and are not reflected at all in the estimates of GDP commonly used for macroeconomic analysis.”
  • “For economic purposes, a better approach would be to calculate the user cost component of resource declines, and either subtract this from GDP as capital consumption or (much better) exclude it from the gross product altogether.”

Two flows

In the RES Newsletter El Serafy (2014) recalled:

“Exploiting finite natural resources without replenishment is akin to mining and Marshall had taken pains to explain that the surplus realized in mining, often miscalled rent, should be split into proper ‘rent’ which is income and ‘royalty’ which is capital.”

George Santopietro (1998) summarized El Serafy’s position as:

“El-Serafy (1989) argued that the surplus for a depletable resource represents two values: (1) a true income component which can be consumed; and (2) a separate depletion cost. The depletion cost is the amount that needs to be reinvested in order to sustain the economy’s ability to provide future generations with the ability to enjoy a non-declining level of consumption. In this line of thinking, the net price method overstates the true depletion cost. Von Amsberg took El-Serafy’s method and applied the strong sustainability criterion to it by calling for a depletion cost sufficiently large that when invested in the production of a substitute, future generations will be able to enjoy a non-declining flow of similar services.”

For weak sustainability, El Serafy puts an emphasis on economic capital, thus with monetary value, and a depletion of a natural asset can be compensated by a gain in other capital, so that we can satisfy Hicks’s accounting principle of keeping capital intact for income estimation purposes. For strong sustainability we look at the physical stock of goods. El Serafy: “damaged or depleted natural capital cannot easily be replaced with manufactured capital.”

A small model

Wondering what to make of this, I came upon the following small model. When you sell your house then the proceeds are not your income, so much is obvious. You might rent out a room to pay for the maintenance costs. Farmers sell the proceeds from their crop but keep some seeds for next year.

Assume that the price of a depletable resource is p = 1, and that the resource stock K is capital too: K ~ p K. The first is in physical units and the second would be in money, but let us take the resource as the numeraire, so that K = p K.

  • For investment: Let physical investment J = b K. Let g be the physical return factor on physical investment. Then economic (gross) investment I = r K = g J = g b K so that r = g b.
  • For consumption: Let w L be services without use of capital. For consumption of the depletable resource we distinguish a fraction a that is sustainable and a fraction f that is unsustainable. Total consumption is C = (a + f) K + w L, and we have sustainability when f = 0. Below relations allow us to deduce that a = (g – 1) b, so that sustainable consumption is determined by the physical return factor of physical investments.

We find: NDP gives the substainable consumption value, and the figure of GDP will be polluted by unsustainable depletion f.

As happens now, in accounting of expenditure flows:

Physical, sustainable if f = 0 Nominal, with p = 1
C = (a + f) K + w L C = (a + f) K + w L
J = b K I = r K = (i + d) K       (gross investment)
K[t+1] = (1 – afb) K + g J K[t+1] = (1 + r) KD
K[t+1] = (1 – f) K D = d K = (a + f + b) K = (r + f) K
a = (g – 1) b r = a + b = g b,     1 – f = 1 + i
d = a + f + b GDP = Y = C + S = C + I = (a + f + r) K + w L
0 ≤ a + f + b ≤ 1 NDP = YD = a K + w L = (g – 1) b K + w L

As El Serafy would want to see it, as accounting for income, with a separate deduction from the stock:

Physical, sustainable if f = 0 Nominal, with p = 1
C = (a + f) K + w L C = (a + f) K + w L
J = b K I = r K                                  (gross investment)
K[t+1] = (1 – afb) K + g J K[t+1] = (1 + r) KD* – Δ   with Δ = f K  as user cost
K[t+1] = (1 – f) K D* = d* K = (ab) K = r K     (without user cost)
a = (g – 1) b r = a + b = g b,   and r = i + d* means i = 0
d = a + f + b GDP* = Y* = C + S = C + I – Δ = (a + r) K + w L
0 ≤ a + f + b ≤ 1 NDP = Y*D* = a K + w L = (g – 1) b K + w L

Intermediate conclusion based upon this small model

I tended to favour GDP as based upon expenditure flows, since depreciation of produced capital tends to use accounting schemes that seem rather arbitrary. Now, however, it is clearer to me that depletion of natural resources may pollute these GDP data. Now I am starting to think that NDP would tend to be a better yardstick, provided that statisticians find adequate estimates of depletion of course. If those estimates are deficient then the use of NDP provides only the illusion of improvement.

PM. This simple model seems quite tricky. A one time deviation from sustainability causes a one time GDP growth, but also forces to continue to deviate from sustainability for ever more, with K[t] = (1 – f)^t K[0] merely to maintain the income level without any growth. It is only a simple model to clarify a basic idea. Salah el Serafy has more sophistication with the user cost.

Salah el Serafy again

El Serafy (2014) however advises that resource depletion is removed from income altogether (with my comments):

“Any presumption that removing ‘royalty’ (the capital element) from GDP entries relating to natural resources might be taken care of at the level of estimating NDP cannot be accepted for more than one reason.
First, NDP is not often reckoned at all, and if reckoned there is no unanimity over the amount to be used for the capital consumption involved. (TC: But would there be unanimity for correction at the level of GDP ?)
Second, natural resource deterioration due to commercial exploitation is not ‘depreciation’ in the accepted sense; it does not conform to standard wear-and-tear allowances applied at year-end to asset categories, and may in fact amount to as much as 100 per cent of the asset. In the latter case proceeds of the asset sale will all be a User Cost and must be exiled altogether from GDP. (TC: This is a matter of definitions. If Gross is taken as expenditure flows, then Net can be taken as depletion and standard depreciation. However, expenditure flows are not income indeed.)
Third, if stock erosion is viewed correctly as Marshall advised as emanating from ‘Nature’s store’, accounting conventions dictate that using-up stocks must be dealt with at the gross income estimation stage. Clearly natural resources are not ‘fixed capital’ but inventories, and the User Cost implicit in using them up should be recognized for correct accounting. (TC: But the situation becomes blurred, when the stocks can be used for investments to maintain the stocks, see above small model. In that case it makes some sense to define Gross as the expenditure flows, and deduct depletion with depreciation. However, expenditure flows are not income indeed.)
Such economic reasoning appears to escape the concerns of the estimators who have taken charge of the accounts resisting the economic logic behind the ‘greening’ quest.”

Conclusion

El Serafy did his doctorate in economics at Oxford in 1957, supervised by John Hicks, one of the giants in economics, and also famous for his insistence on proper accounting. El Serafy laments that this heritage has gotten lost:

“However, as the economists’ interest in studying social accounting faded the accountants and statisticians have taken over, often disregarding the concerns of economics, and disclaiming any hint that the national accounts should be estimating income.”

“Their message in brief is that no adjustment for environmental losses can be expected within the mainframe of the national accounts. This in effect is a death sentence on ‘green accounting’.”

Salah el Serafy has a point. The point has also been made by Tinbergen & Hueting.

The EU-May Brexit agreement – between the EU27 and UK prime minister Theresa May of November 25 2018 – makes me think about the French quote: “C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute.”

The EU treats Brexit as an issue between Member States, and thus neglects that Britons are citizens of the EU, perhaps not in a legal sense – see this campaign – but in terms of the ideals why the EU was created in the first place. The EU doesn’t protect these citizens from dysfunction in London. The UK irresponsibility has infected the EU too.

Many will regard the EU-May deal as practical. John Maynard Keynes stated:

“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

The Great Depression in the 1930s came about because economists had confusions about the gold standard and such. For this 2018 irresponsibility by UK and EU, who are the present academic scribblers ? Today the universities of the world show incompetence or gross negligence in particular on Brexit and in general on “political science on electoral systems” (including referenda). This latter branch at the Academia has been misguiding mankind for the greater part of last century.

The road to reason on Brexit is to observe and tackle this misguidance and mis-education on democracy. The partial rationality of working within EU conventions better is ended. The EU and UK better adopt an inclusive rationality and stop this nonsense and disaster.

UK democracy: Garbage In, Garbage Out

The 2016 Brexit Referendum Question itself did not fit the basic requirements of a statistical questionnaire. Thus we got “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO). The 2017 UK General Election contest was with the UK system of district representation (DR) instead of equal proportional representation (EPR). The system of DR distorts voter views so that we again have GIGO.

Thus we do not know what UK voters want. It is rather damning for a claimed democracy like the UK that its main two instruments of democracy do not generate clarity on what the people want.

The UK political machinery runs its course but this machinery is proto-democracy based upon GIGO rather than proper democracy. The policy makers themselves have a role too but basically they only add colour to the canvas of history. The true culprits are the Academia that haven’t advised the UK at an early moment last century to switch from DR to EPR. Sweden switched in 1907 and Holland in 1917. Observe that a country with EPR doesn’t need a referendum. Now, what is wrong at the Academia ?

A time-out to investigate the role by the Academia

Let Brussels and London take a time-out on Brexit, and let the Parliaments within the European Union ask questions to their Academia, before decisions are implemented that will wreak havoc on generations to come, and that will undermine the ideals of the European Union. Let Parliaments investigate and expose the role of the Academia on Brexit, and let the Parliaments ask the questions that our collected scientists and scholars better answer, and on which they are dodging their responsibility of disinforming and mis-educating the world.

The evidence is available at MPRA 84482

As an econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008) I may be a lone voice, but I adhere to the principles of science, and fellow scientists can check the evidence that I have collected and made accessible. The evidence is at the Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA) paper 84482.

I have observed that the branch of “political science on electoral systems” (including referenda) is still locked in the humanities, and thus no science, and thus for its empirical claims comparable to astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. I invite the Academia to set up national buddy-systems of scientists and scholars to check the evidence. Scientists tend to know little about democracy. Scholars tend to know little about empirics. Thus buddies can complement each other. Parliaments may encourage the Academia to create such systems.

Readers are advised to start with this summary on the USA midterm 2018 that uses three novel statistical analyses that are missing in the “political science” literature, and that show that more than a third of US voters have taxation without representation, while the Boston Tea Party had the slogan “No taxation without representation”.

Precision of the kilogram versus vagueness of “representative”

Scientists redefined the kilogram recently to greater and perhaps universal precision but the scholars on democracy and politics still use everyday terms like “election” and “representative” of which the meanings depend upon national jurisdictions. A “Head of State” can be a President or a Queen but their roles are different empirically. A key example are (district) representation (DR) in the USA, UK and France and (equal proportional) representation (EPR) in Holland and Scandinavia. An introductory chapter or section of a politicological book tends to explain that these are “different forms of democracy” but when statistical analysis becomes a bit more complicated then the distinction between apples and oranges appears to be forgotten. Scientists know about “garbage in, garbage out”, but the politicological scholars take the everyday language garbage as the undisputed foundation for their treatises and their textbooks to indoctrinate their students. The American Political Science Association (APSA) was founded in 1903 with an aspiration and not with a verified tradition that it was a science. The British Political Studies Association (PSA) has an accurate name but its members may still claim positions as “professor in political science”. Renowned academics pontificate on electoral outcomes and referenda, while not knowing what they are speaking about, with a sprinkling of math, statistics and computers that only suggest science, but they are still scholars locked in the humanities that basically concentrate upon maintaining tradition.

A game-changing insight

This diagnosis may remind of familiar discussions about DR versus EPR. However, it is a game-changing discovery that this branch “political science on electoral systems” is pseudo-science. It is like the difference between a flat Earth and a globe. All claims need to be re-evaluated. This causes the proposal of the buddy-system.

Elephant in the room

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker for the EU and Theresa May for the UK have clarified that the EU has made its final offer, and that the current UK executive branch agrees with it. A vote by the UK House of Commons is intended for December 10 to 12, with a European Council already scheduled for December 13 and 14. If the UK House of Commons doesn’t take the deal then the UK will crash out of the EU on March 29 2018. If the UK takes it then there still is a transition period with further negotiations. If the transition doesn’t result into a final agreement then the UK will remain in a customs union without a seat at the table. Potentially the UK takes the deal now and crashes out much later anyway, or perhaps re-applies again but then without its current perks.

The present situation creates economic uncertainty. This likely reduces investments and creates stagnation, and this may play into resentment in the UK that the EU sabotages it, even though the UK is itself responsible for the conundrum at the Irish border. There is a serious risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth, holding that the original “outcome” of the 2016 Referendum is not respected. This Myth doesn’t recognise that this “outcome” was GIGO, but can still be a myth. Illusions in the UK of “having your cake and eat it” now meet with reality, and rather than accept reality a frustrated people might find it easier to blame the EU.

The EU and UK are surprisingly vague on the option of Bregret, i.e. that the UK retracts the invoking of Article 50. Theresa May mentioned it briefly in the UK House of Commons, and Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have not rejected it. The main reason for this vagueness must be political caution, namely not to spend attention to the elephant in the room. The EU and May (originally for Remain) might be depicted as targeting Bregret by designing a deal that the UK House of Commons would reject. This image would play into the Stab-in-the-Back Myth.

However, it is a Mission Impossible not to speak about Bregret. The topic would surface one way or another. To evade the topic is irresponsible, unless you really accept the prospect of a stagnating and ever more resentful UK, and unless you really believe in a EU of Member States only, without responsibility for Britons who are citizens of the EU too.

Addendum. Owen Jones in The Guardian 2018-11-28 warns about a Stab-in-the-Back Myth whether the UK takes the May-EU deal or rejects it. On December 9 there will be a Great Britain Betrayal protest in London and Jones calls for a counter-march. This again frames the issue as one of political preferences while the true problem is information.

Solution approach

When the proposed buddy-system has generated their findings, it is not unlikely that the UK switches to EPR and can have proper elections so that all voices in the UK are duly represented, finally for the first time. Parties can split along their Brexit views in order to offer voters the full spectrum. The Stab-in-the-Back Myth has less risk of developing when all people can see the true proportions of the different views on Brexit. With new elections, the House of Commons can finally start from proper proportions to negotiate between parties for a compromise. Compromises would focus on internal UK affairs, since there are no more negotiations with the EU. Options are the May-EU deal, Crash, and if possible return to the Status Quo Ex Ante if the EU allows. Potentially the EU would allow the UK time for such a fundamental reconsideration of its system of democracy and relation to the EU.

With this advised solution approach, it may still be that the UK leaves the EU perhaps in 2021 but at least then all votes have been treated properly, with prudence, justice, dignity and compassion, in equal proportion.

Disclaimer: I did not read the EU-May Deal but looked at abstracts.
Some parts of this text have been used earlier.

Angela Merkel throws a tear to Theresa May (Channel 4 screen shot)

The book “A Different Democracy“, Yale 2014, 378 pages, $25, has distinguished political scientists as authors: Steven Taylor, Matthew Shugart, Arend Lijphart & Bernard Grofman. The authors clearly benefit from earlier collaborations. In the background there is the collaboration by Grofman with Rein Taagepera on disproportionality indices, and there is the fore-shadow of the important book “Votes from Seats” (not the other way around !) by Shugart & Taagepera in 2017.

A Different Democracy” (ADD) is both a study of the US constitution and US democracy and a comparative study with inclusion of 30 other democracies. ADD bridges the gap between US Government courses that somewhat provincially focus on the USA only and Comparative Political Systems courses that discuss the whole world but that apparently tend to overlook the unique character of the USA. In this respect, ADD is also a novel contribution in the search for a presentation that highlights the properties of US democracy in a much better way than in these two conventional courses. It is not quite “America First” but rather “America the Exception”.

ADD is suitable as a refresher study, while it verges on being a textbook because of its low level access, and thus it can be used at the college level in the broad spectrum of courses in art or journalism, but it is no pure textbook because of the lack of pointers and test questions, though each chapter has summary conclusions. Readers with a good memory will notice quite some repetition in the book but this might be useful for novices to the subject.

The interview by Matthijs Bogaards (2015) with Arend Lijphart would be the best introduction into the purposes and the context of ADD. Lijphart:

“Our aim was to make clear to American students that the US is a democracy, but a very different one from other democracies.”

Here I will compare parts of “A Different Democracy” with my analysis of the US Midterm of 2018. In my analysis more than a third of US voters have taxation without representation. The USA is rather an Experimental Democracy or a Proto-Democracy instead of “different”. The purpose of this comparison is to encourage the authors to think about a 2nd edition that improves on the problematic parts identified here.

This is not a discussion on typology. Much of the original work by Arend Lijphart seems to have provoked a discussion in the political science literature that focuses on typology that distracts from evidence based advice on improving democracy. Pellikaan & Doorenspleet (2013) likely provide the best summary of this state of affairs. Typology however is a distraction. There is also a serious research question on ranking democracies by their qualities, see for example the V-Dem project, with a polyarchy index that ranks the USA, UK and France higher than Holland. This however plays into the confusion by Robert A. Dahl on wanting to avoid the vague term “democracy” and rather use a new term “polyarchy” (as opposed to “monarchy” and “oligarchy”), see this critique.

An experimental democracy with huge problems

The crucial observation is that the US Founding Fathers who gathered in Independence Hall from May 25 to September 17, 1787, had only limited information, and thus embarked upon an experiment. With Monty Python they might have said “And now for something completely different …“, but the US Constitution wasn’t just something different, but an experiment with a purpose, namely general welfare. Over time, amendments have been added, often with similar purposes on general welfare. With our experience of 230 years we may take stock, and compare purpose and performance.

In US Government classes, young Americans are indoctrinated to revere the US Constitution as something sacred. Given US history, there is much to say for this reverence but we should not forget that the Founding Fathers were quite critical themselves too. With an experience of 230 years of world history and an explosion in scientific knowledge, we can tally (not mentioning all problems that caused amendments):

  • There already had been the first experiment of the Articles of Confederation of 1777. There was a willingness to learn from experience.
  • The US Constitution originally allowed for slavery.
  • The US Constitution did not prevent the Civil War.
  • There were numerous financial crashes before a federal reserve system was devised, that still is quite dubious.
  • The women’s right to vote was only introduced nationally in 1920.
  • There was the Great Depression, and David Kennedy Freedom from fear” shows that Huey Long might have set the road to fascism, had FDR not taken some wise steps.
  • While the US was victorious in WW 1 & 2, we later saw government dishonesty with wars in Vietnam and Iraq and the Iran-Contra affair. Since the 1960s there is serious concern about the imperial presidency.
  • In 2018 we see that more than a third of US voters have taxation without representation.

Obviously we can create such lists for other countries too. However, the question is how this US performance compared to the purposes of the Founding Fathers. There is a similar red line in “A Different Democracy” too, and the readers are encouraged to think about this themselves. However, ADD too much emphasises the successes (legally: “there still is a USA”) and doesn’t highlight above failures. ADD acknowledges that the Founding Fathers had limited information, but ADD does not extend on the purpose on general welfare, that would allow a comparison with above performance. ADD leaves the reader behind with the feeling “this is how it works, roughly” but not with the scientific information and advice “this is horribly bad engineering and needs repair as soon as possible”.

Science is supposed to inform, not to indoctrinate. US Government classes might have a degree of unavoidable indoctrination, to induce students to accept the rules of the game, so that they can function in society, and so that they can exercise their democratic rights because others accept those rights too. Yet in the USA there is an imbalance, and this has much to do with bias within political science apparently dominated by provincial USA. ADD has foreign influence via Lijphart but hasn’t escaped this bias.

American Homecoming

The US has lost track on the purposes on general welfare that the Founding Fathers had with the US Constitution. There can be an American Homecoming when the US rekindles those purposes, takes stock and makes repairs. (A google just now generates Sanford Levinson’s book that I did not read.) Let me proceed with my own finding.

There is a problem with the US electoral system with the presidential system with district representation (DR) for the House of Representatives. The remedy is to switch to a parliamentarian system, with equal proportional representation (EPR) for the House of Representatives. The best system of EPR seems to be the Dutch open list system, with the amendment of electoral alliances (apparentement) and the low threshold as explained in the LRL system (appendix L here).

The re-focus would remain within representative democracy and stay far removed from populism. Yet the re-focus would still be on “We, the people” and away from “We, the rulers” and “Me, the president“.

This doesn’t require a constitutional amendment, because the US president may adopt a ceremonial role, and appoint the prime minister and the cabinet that the House will elect. Presidential candidates can announce to take this ceremonial role and voters may prefer this.

There is also the analysis on an Economic Supreme Court, but I do not want to extend on that here. However, the common discussion on the US Constitution shows a similar discussion about the distinction between the popular vote (preferences) and informed judgment (science).

The major error in “A Different Democracy”

ADD uses the “principal – agent theory” (PAT) from economics. There is no reason for ADD to use it, since one might easily speak about representation and delegation without such reference. The Founding Fathers didn’t need what my fellow economists have been working on lately. However, we can thank the authors of ADD for using it, for it helps to highlight a glaring inconsistency between the use of PAT in chapters 1 and 2 and the use of PAT in the discussion of electoral systems in chapter 5.

  • The first chapters suggest that voters are principals and can choose their agents / representatives
  • but in chapter 5 it is clarified that the use of districts blocks many voters from doing so.
  • ADD only succeeds in making itself believe that this is not inconsistent by changing the definition of agent / representative, but not telling so.
  • Further see my summary discussion about this issue of definition of “agent / representative”.

US Primaries

ADD:147 must be thanked for their discussion about the role of primaries in the USA. This was important new information for me. However, in my analysis it increases the inequality / disproportionality in the USA. ADD table 5.6 presents a statistical inequality / disproportionality index number for the USA but this doesn’t properly account for the local variety in D or R candidates. Also, people cannot vote for their first preference and thus the data are highly contaminated. This discussion of the primaries caused me to include a novel statistical presentation with the difference between aggregate and disaggregate inequality / disproportionality, see here.

Like when the definition of “kilogram” still depended upon the national jurisdictions

Recently scientists convened to redefine the kilogram to a higher degree of precision. Suppose that the definition differed for each country depending upon their national juridiction ? The US “kilogram” might be 2 pounds and the French “kilogram” the one stored there, and adding such masses would generate chaos. Thus having international standards of measurement makes a lot of sense, whatever the laywers say (and then take other lawyers).

Instead, in political science it is still quite customary to say that the term “head of state” applies to the US president and the UK queen, even though their roles are entirely different. Apparently in international diplomacy, each country can designate a person who will “represent” the country “at the highest level”, and this might provide for some legal definition that works for international diplomacy. For our present purposes, this is not at issue, and we only record this flexibility in terms.

However, the situation is quite different for electoral systems, voting and “representatives”. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights has article 21:

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

This creates the conundrum that countries might legally agree with this “human right” by using their national jurisdiction, while science finds that the empirical meanings are quite different.

  • The US ratified it (Eleanor Roosevelt proposed it), apparently understanding that a (second preference) “district representative” would fit article 21.
  • Holland ratified it, apparently understanding that an equal proportional proper (first preference) representative would fit article 21.
  • Both countries allowed this for each other.
  • Science finds that these interpretations are in conflict, and that voters in the USA, UK and France are disinformed about their human rights.

For example, a country with a dictatorship (Super Russia) might set up an electoral system such that (i) 99% of the voters can select 1% of the “representatives” and (ii) 1% of the voters (“government party members”) can select 99% of the “representatives”, so that this national jurisdiction would fit the UN UDHR article 21, and the role of the “representative” would mostly be to applaud the dictator. If this is legally correct, then law is not worth the paper that it has been written on, and society spends fortunes on lawyers who are deceiving no-goods. Lawyers might haggle on what “the will of the people” and “the basis” and a “genuine election” are, though, inviting us to pay up even more salaries in the hope that there might be light at some point. Likely one might also refer to “the spirit of the law”, such that judges might reject extreme abuses.

My suggestion is that people in the USA, UK and France start court trials that use UDHR 21 to enforce that their governments implement a change from DR to EPR.

Science provides support that UN UDHR article 21 is taken as expression of the material human right to have EPR (and not just a legal phrase), because EPR supports the expression of first preferences (“freely chosen”) (while people remain free to vote for a regional candidate if they wish so).

It might be better though to call out a national strike till this is arranged.

The point remains that “political science on electoral systems” still is locked in the humanities and thus is no science because:

  • this branch can be observed not to have the scientific drive to develop precise definitions where they crucially matter
  • this branch can be observed to stick with words that have dramatically different meanings depending upon national jurisdictions
  • this branch can be observed to get confused and produce “statistics” based upon such words and not their empirical meanings
  • “A Different Democracy” is an example in case, by distinguished professors, published by Yale, with praise by fellow “political scientists”
  • but see the basic evidence in this paper, since ADD is an example only.

On the empirical observation that US voters like their system

ADD:142-143 and p152 state that the US has little criticism of its electoral system. When voters are disinformed and are indoctrinated by the academia that the US system is the best, then this kind of observation is Garbage In, Garbage Out. This indicates a grand failure of the academia, and ADD should say so. The field of Public Choice in economics can diagnose that professors in academia have particular incentives, and those incentives for “political science on electoral systems” apparently are still targeted at the humanities rather than science. Instead, academics should provide accurate information and inform the public that at least a third of voters have taxation without representation.

The term “should” in the above is instrumental and not moral “ought to”. If you want science then you should do so. It may be that political science doesn’t yet understand how econometrics can deal with Hume’s divide between Is and Ought, see page 6 here.

The Taiwan Journal of Democracy invited Lijphart to review his work on power sharing, and his final comment is on ADD:

“In addition to institutional variations, we look at a host of indicators of government performance, on which the United States generally does not score well. We forego explicit policy recommendations, but our implicit conclusion is that Americans should be more self-critical, more willing to consider political and constitutional reforms, and less eager to advocate American-style democracy for other countries.”

It is wise to avoid “recommendations” that fall from the blue sky indeed. The format “If you want this …. then you are advised to ….” is the proper format for science, and ADD suffers from not presenting this.

Structural failures in the US Experiment of Democracy

In 1787 the world thought in terms of Kings and Emperors and thus the US Constitution puts much weight on the role of the Head of State. A main worry was to prevent the development of dictatorship and relapse into monarchy (causing the English to pester “We told you so”). A modern view is that a Head of State has a ceremonial role, guards the rules of government, and may be some ombudsman for citizens.

The Founding Fathers however also attached great value to the separation of powers. In a parliamentarian system, the executive power resides within a cabinet of ministers, with the prime minister as a primus inter pares. The political agents are temporary visitors in their official roles. Remarkably, “A Different Democracy” informs us that the US constitutional assembly indeed tended to adopt a parliamentarian system, and that the role of President as the Chief Executive was chosen at some rather late stage. Some history can be found online here (look for “president”). Richard Beeman summarises:

“The other obvious solution—election by members of a national Congress whose perspective was likely to be continental rather than provincial—was ultimately rejected because of the problems it created with respect to the doctrine of separation of powers: the president, it was feared, would be overly beholden to, and therefore dependent upon, the Congress for his election.”

This is entirely a point of logic from the theory of the separation of powers, and not one of experience. Though Montesquieu coined the idea from reporting about practices in England, this hardly was a sound empirical base like we would require today. Given 230 years of experience on parliamentarian systems compared to the US Presidency and its evolution into an imperial presidency, the US can be advised to switch. However, it would be important to avoid the error of the UK of remaining with DR.

A Different Democracy” also highlights that the Founding Fathers did not spend much time on the electoral system. Apparently they were locked in the convention of the day, which was DR rather than EPR.

On these two issues, the US Experiment on Democracy in 1787 has structural failures. Their resolution would cause an American Homecoming: A general feeling of relief that the American Revolution actually can work as intended.

“Political science on electoral systems” is locked in humanities thus no science

In 1903 the American Political Science Association (APSA) was founded, and this was an aspiration rather than an established science. The field of electoral systems has actually remain locked in the humanities that rely upon tradition.

Only around 1900 countries started switching to EPR, e.g. Sweden 1907, Holland 1917. In the USA, UK and France, scholars on electoral systems have been generating “reasons” why DR would be better than EPR. It is amazing what fallacies have been concocted. The evidence with the deconstruction is at MPRA 84482, and see there also for aspects on indices on inequality / disproportionality. As said, a summary using the USA midterm 2018 is here. Brexit is a result of the confusion in this branch of political science, and I noticed that there is also a misrepresentation that EPR in Weimar caused the rise of the nazis, see here. This discussion is about the stability of democracy indeed, and this Godwin should not surprise, but we can be surprised at this misrepresentation. (EPR likely would have helped FDR w.r.t. Huey Long too.)

Thus, while the US Constitution can be diagnosed as such an experiment from 1787, with repairs along the historical path, the scientific world is divided on the evidence and there is confusion by a branch of scholars who claim to do science but what they do is only comparable to astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. My suggestion for a solution approach is to set up a buddy system, so that pairs of scientists and scholars can exchange and check views and data. For Dutch readers this is my proposal to the Dutch Academy of Sciences KNAW.  This is a discussion for the UK with the Royal Society (science) and the British Academy (humanities).

On two shores of the Atlantic

Coming from a country with equal proportional representation (EPR) it may be very difficult to translate what is very obvious. Living in a country with district representation (DR) it may be very difficult to understand the issue. Perhaps that my interest in didactics of mathematics helps out. I can only hope that the authors will look at the evidence too, and join that buddy system. Arend Lijphart has spoken about electoral justice but perhaps this phrase has no strong definition and thus little impact. Hopefully taxation without representation rings a bell for the descendants of the Boston Tea Party. This diagnosis clarifies the situation and brings the message home that votes are discarded and that voters are robbed from their human right, article 21, to choose their representative (obviously of first preference and not some second preference “district representative” in legal fashion only).

Conclusions

ADD has the storyline that the US is a Different democracy, with the suggestion of Exceptional, with the suggestion of Excellent. For a 2nd edition I would propose to present the US as an Experimental democracy, with an early start in 1776, including the confederate phase, the slavery, the Civil War, the Depression, the imperial presidency with Vietnam and Iraq, and the prospect of an American Homecoming by changing to a parliamentarian system with equal proportional representation and an Economic Supreme Court. This though is actually also a storyline for a planned book of mine.

My suggestion for a 2nd edition of “A Different Democracy” would also be that the authors consider the use of the two graphs in this summary paper with their explanation. These graphs seem innocuous, and once you have seen them perhaps obvious, but they constitute a crucial new way to present the distortion in US proto-democracy. Part of my criticism on failing electoral statistics is that these two graphs are not shown and properly discussed. Similarly for the difference between the aggregate and disaggregate inequality / disproportionality indices.

Appendix. On STV and AV

(1) ADD:142 states that Single Transferable Vote (STV) would be true EPR. However, STV is not EPR. It is one of the tragedies that the UK Electoral Reform Society claims that STV would be such, while it isn’t. They thus hinder the change to EPR by advocating a system that voters find more difficult to use. (See here.)

(2) ADD:142 mentions the UK 2011 referendum on the “Alternative Vote” system, but it helps to explain that this was an awkward system falsely presented as EPR. The selection of this system for a referendum is an example of disinformation in the UK. (here)

In August 2017 I discovered that “political science on electoral systems” still is locked in the humanities and thus no real science.

  • This field of study has been disinforming the world for a greater part of last century, see here.
  • The 2018 USA midterm election contests are an example that the system of district representation (DR) that the USA, UK and France use is only proto-democractic. More than a third of US voters have taxation without representation, see here.
  • Readers might find this interview by Protesilaos Stavrou enlightening on the choice between parliamentarian democracy and populism with referenda.
  • See information on (i) the 2016 UK Referendum Question here, republished at the LSE Brexit blog here, (ii) YouGov data on UK voter preferences on Brexit here, and (iii) the UK confusion on democracy and statistics here.

The UK has proto-democracy and no proper democracy

It is rather damning for a claimed democracy like the UK that its main two instruments of democracy – the general election contests of 2015 and 2017 and the referendum of 2016 – do not generate clarity on what the people really want. Currently there are calls for a new general election contest or a second referendum as if these already failed methods would finally produce the miracle that everyone is hoping for. Instead, the UK could switch to equal proportional representation (EPR). This system provides clarity by its very mechanics and has no need for referenda. EPR creates the mentality of seeking compromises in the House of Commons (or the EU itself), while voters themselves obviously cannot do such bargaining in the voting booth. The UK is no stranger to EPR because this is used for the European Parliament so that Nigel Farage got a seat there. UKIP with its 12.5% of the vote got only 1 seat in the 2015 House of Commons, which is about when and where the situation started to become chaotic.

Three options: May-EU deal, No Deal, or return to Status Quo Ex Ante

Now that there is a Brexit deal at the level of government, the EU has stopped bargaining with the UK. Accepting the May-EU deal is Option A, and rejecting it with a No Deal is Option B. Likely the EU may still allow the UK time for a fundamental reconsideration of its democratic processes, including such EPR reconsideration of the UK relation to the EU. The EU might perhaps allow a return to the Status Quo Ex Ante before the invoking of article 50, because of the fact that this was invoked under a failing system of proto-democracy only. This would be Option C. Formally it might seem that there are three options on the table then. A referendum might present voters with the six preference orders A > B > C, …., C > B > A, and each voter could indicate the preferred order. However, each option comes with complications. Options A or B might cause Scotland to depart from the UK, so actually these would split into four options. Option C might be painted in a stronger or weaker role for the UK, depending upon one wishes for more federalism or a Europe of the Nations. Referenda can never cover this complexity, which is where the strength of parliamentarian democracy comes from.

Michael Portillo warns for resentment with wrong reason: resentment itself

Carrie Fisher (Burbank 1956 – Los Angeles 2016), or Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, once stated:

“Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

On BBC This Week, November 16, Michael Portillo stated:

“I think the European Union has made a substantial (…) strategic error, short of marching Mrs May into a railway carriage in Compiègne Forest, they could not have produced a more humiliating surrender. And all of history (…) tells us that when you humiliate countries with a surrender, it doesn’t go well thereafter.” (here)

Portillo intends to remind us about Versailles after WW1, that created German resentment that led to WW2. Indeed, imagine a UK locked in economic stagnation with such resentment. Awkwardly, Portillo’s statement already is such expression of resentment itself. The UK has fallen into its own sword and fails to face up to its own responsibility for its current chaos. Blaiming the EU for not solving the Northern Ireland border issue is curious when the UK created this border.

Avoid a Stab-in-the-Back Myth

Let the UK make the proper diagnosis before applying treatment. Having a proto-democracy bottles up discontent that can explode in strange manners. The best way to avoid a Stab-in-the-Back Myth is to switch to EPR so that all voices in the UK are duly represented, finally for the first time. Parties can split along their Brexit views in order to offer voters the full spectrum. Then the House of Commons can finally start from proper proportions to bargain for a compromise. Basic options are the May-EU deal, No Deal, and if possible return to the Status Quo Ex Ante (retract the invoking of article 50) if the EU allows. These options however have colours and shades. Compromises would focus on internal UK affairs, like compensation for those suffering from the final decision. (The UK also has a referendum lock but in Holland such major decisions rather require new elections and then agreement by the new parliament, see here.)

Hopefully the UK chooses for a role in the EU

The Dutch government has stated that it would want to see the UK within the EU. Let the UK not feel itself be unwelcome or unappreciated. The UK might regard itself as an island apart from the Continent but then it might forget that shipping is the cheapest way of mass transport, and that the UK has been at the core of European development even in the Bronze Age, with its supply of tin. The UK was victorious w.r.t. Napoleon, WW1 and WW2, and should be able to be victorious against the ghosts of the past.

NB. The EU can use UK comedians too: compliments for James Acaster’s tea bag analogy, here.

PS. A bias has been created against EPR

The discussion in the UK about EPR can be biased.

(1) The BBC has the following GCSE test bit on how the German nazis took power in 1933:

“Proportional representation – instead of voting for an MP, like we do in Britain, Weimar Germans voted for a party. Each party was then allocated seats in the Reichstag exactly reflecting (proportional’ to) the number of people who had voted for it. This sounds fair, but in practice it was a disaster it resulted in dozens of tiny parties, with no party strong enough to get a majority, and, therefore, no government to get its laws passed in the Reichstag. This was a major weakness of the Republic.” (here)

This is a gross misrepresentation. The nazis were handed power by big corporations and finance, see Henry Turner’s “Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power”. David Kennedy’s “Freedom from fear” clarifies that Huey Long might have turned the USA into fascism too except that FDR made some wise moves. FDR might have had it easier with EPR. EPR was also introduced in Sweden in 1907 and Holland 1917 and those are amongst the happiest countries in the world. EPR is only an element in the full story but a key element. In Germany after WW2 they chose for EPR with a higher threshold rather than DR. Times are different now too. Do not forget the failure of economic policy w.r.t. the German Hyperinflation in the 1920s and the Great Depression in the 1930s: we now do a bit better with economic planning. (See here.)

(2) The UK in 1884 saw the foundation of the Proportional Representation Society, now the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). While Dutch democracy uses open party lists, that allow voters to express preference e.g. for a regional candidate (though few voters actually use this option), the UK reformers got off track in a desire for misconceived mathematical perfection. The ERS idea is that voters rank candidates, so that when a candidate is not elected then the ranking can be used. This “single transferable vote” (STV) system is also applied to districts, to win over minds indoctrinated on DR. The ERS claims that their system is EPR but it isn’t. The method is cumbersome while districts are distractive for preferences on national policy. The ERS misconceptions helped cause the disaster of the 2011 referendum on the “Alternative Vote” that is not EPR either. (here) The ERS is a major cause of confusion and the UK better seeks information about EPR from Holland and Sweden. This again comes with the warning that “political science on electoral systems” is no science yet, so that one must head advice from that field of study anyway. Thus my proposal of a buddy-system of scientists and “political scientists”.

(3) The combination of points (1) and (2) can be found in Doug Cowan’s discussion at the ERS in 2015 whether EPR  put the nazis into power. The very point that the nazis needed a coup (arresting communist members of parliament so that they could not attend a vote, creating an artificial majority) shows that EPR was blocking them. However, Cowan then offers STV as if it were EPR, and it isn’t.

(4) Timothy Garton Ash in 2017 called a “soft” Brexit most likely, like the May-EU deal has turned out to be. In July 2018 he warned for “A humiliating Brexit deal risks a descent into Weimar Britain“. This wasn’t a novel insight since negotiators have been aware from the beginning that there might be a backlash when phantasies met reality. In comments and twitter TGA was criticised that the article could be read as playing into the Stab-in-the-Back Myth. TGA replied that he precisely wanted to prevent this narrative. It is rather a “mission impossible” to try to prevent this narrative by presenting the most likely outcome as humiliating, while the true event is a facing up to reality. Nevertheless, TGA rightly criticised Tony Blair for not adopting EPR in 1997. In his discussion of the 2011 AV referendum he unfortunately did not criticise the ERS for their disinformation on STV. One wonders what he might think about the proposal of a buddy-system for science and the humanities, and whether he might set an example.

Resonance of the American Revolution (wikimedia commons)

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)

 

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.