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Hans Rosling (1948-2017) was a professor of public health and at the Swedish Academy of Sciences. I hadn’t heard about him but his death caused newsmedia to report about his mission to better inform people by the innovative presentation of statistics. I looked at some of his presentations, and found them both informative and innovative indeed.

I applaud this chart in which he tabulates not only causes and effects but rather means and goals. (Clicking on the picture will bring you to the TED talk 2007, and at the end the audience may applaud for another reason, namely when he swallows a sword to illustrate that the “impossible is possible”.)

Hans Rosling 1948-2017

Hans Rosling 1948-2017

Continue the discussion

My impression is that we best honour Rosling by continuing the discussion about his work. Thus, my comments are as follows.

First of all, my book Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy shows that the Trias Politica model of democracy fails, because it allows politicians still too much room to manipulate information and to meddle in scientific advice on policy making. Thus, governance is much more important than Rosling suggested. Because of his analysis, Rosling in some of his simulations only used economic growth as the decisive causal factor to explain the development of countries. However, the key causal factor is governance. The statistical reporting on this is not well developed yet. Thus, I move one + from economic growth to governance.

Secondly, my draft book The Tinbergen & Hueting Approach in the Economics of Ecological Survival discusses that the environment has become a dominant risk for the world as we know it. It is not a mathematical certainty that there will be ecological collapse, but the very nature of ecological collapse is that it comes suddenly, when you don’t expect it. The ecology is so complex and we simply don’t have enough information to manage it properly. It is like standing at the edge of a ravine. With superb control you might risk to edge one millimeter closer, but if you are not certain that the ground will hold and that there will not be a sudden rush of wind, then you better back up. The table given by Rosling doesn’t reflect this key point. Thus, I move one + from economic growth to the environment.

In sum, we get the following adapted table.

Adapted from Hans Rosling

I have contemplated for the means whether I would want to shift another + from economic growth to either human rights (property rights) or education (I am also a teacher). However, my current objective is to highlight the main analytical difference only.

In the continued discussion we should take care of proper definitions.

What does “economic growth” mean ?

The term “economic growth” is confusing. There is a distinction between level and annual growth of income, and there is a distinction w.r.t. categories within. Economic welfare consists of both material products (production and services) and immaterial elements (conditions and services). If the term “economic growth” includes both then this would be okay. In that case, however, the whole table would already be included in the notion of welfare and economic growth. Apparently, Hans Rosling intended the term “economic growth” for the material products. I would suggest to replace his “economic growth” by “income level”, and thus focus on both income and level rather than annual change of a confusingly named statistic. Obviously, it is a policy target that all people would have a decent standard of living, but it is useful to remain aware that income is only a means to a higher purpose, namely to live a good life.

PM. This causes a discussion about the income distribution, and how the poor and the rich refer to each other, so that the notion of poverty is relative to the general standard of society. In the 1980s the computer was a luxury item and nowadays a cell-phone with larger capacity is a necessity. These are relevant aspects but a discussion would lead too far here now.

What does “environment” mean ?

In the adapted table, the environment gets ++ as both means and goal. There is slight change of meaning for these separate angles.

  • The environment as a goal means that we want to preserve nature for our descendants. Our kids and grandchildren should also have tigers and whales in their natural habitat, and not as photographs only.
  • The environment as means causes some flip-flop thinking.
    (1) In economic thought, everything that exists either already existed or mankind has crafted it from what was given. Thus we only have (i) the environment, (ii) human labour. There are no other means available. From this perspective the environment deserves +++.
    (2) For most of its existence (some 60,000 years), mankind took the environment for granted. Clear air and water where available, and if some got polluted it was easy to move to a next clean spot. The economic price of the environment was zero. (Or close to it: the cost of moving was not quite a burden or seen as an economic cost.) Thus, as a means, the environment didn’t figure, and from this viewpoint it deserves a 0. There are still many people who think in this manner. It might be an engrained cultural habit, but a rather dangerous one.
    (3) Perhaps around the middle of the past century, the 1950s, the environment has become scarce. As Lionel Robbins explained: the environment has become an economic good. The environment provides functions for human existence and survival, and those functions now get a price. Even more, the Tinbergen & Hueting approach acknowledges that the ecology has become risky for human survival. The USA and Europe might think that they can outsource most environmental pollution to the poorer regions of the world, but when the rain forests turn into deserts and when the CO2 turns the oceans into an acid soup that eats away the bones of fish, then the USA and Europe will suffer the consequences too. In that perspective, the environment deserves +++.
    (4) How can we make sure that the environment gets proper place in the framework of all issues ? Eventually, nature is stronger than mankind, and there might arise some natural correction. However, there is also governance. If we get our stuff together, then mankind might manage the world economy, save the environment at some cost, but still achieve the other goals. Thus governance is +++ and the environment is relative at ++. Thus we arrive at above adapted table.
Dynamic simulation

As a teacher of mathematics I emphasize the combined presentation of text, formula, numeric table, and graph. By looking at these different angles, there is greater scope for integrated understanding. Some students are better at single aspects, but by presenting the four angles you cover the various types of students, and all students get an opportunity to develop the aspects that they are weaker in.

Obviously, dynamic simulation is a fifth aspect. See for example the Wolfram Demonstrations project. Many have been making applets in Java and embedding this in html5, yet the use of Mathematica would allow for more exchangeable and editable code and embedding within educational contexts in which the manipulation of text, formula, numeric table, and graph would also be standard.

Obviously, role playing and simulation games are a sixth aspect. This adds human interaction and social psychology to the learning experience. Dennis Meadows has been using this to allow people to grow aware of the risk on the environment, see e.g. “Stratagem” or MIT-Sloan.

The economic crisis of 2007+

What I particularly like about Rosling’s table is his emphasis on culture as a goal. Artists and other people in the world of culture will already be convinced of this – see also Roefie Hueting on the jazz stage – yet others may not be aware that mankind exists by culture.

There is also an important economic angle on culture as a means. In recessions and depressions, the government can stimulate cultural activity, such that money starts flowing again with much less risk for competitive conditions. That is, if the government would support the automobile industry or steel and do specific investments, then this might favour some industries or services at the cost of others, and it might affect competitive conditions overall, and even insert imbalances into the economy in some structural manner. Yet stimulating cultural activity might be much more neutral and still generate an economic stimulus.

For example, Germany around 1920 got into economic problems and the government responded by printing more money, and this caused the hyperinflation. This experience got ingrained in the German attitude towards monetary issues. In the Eurozone Germany follows the hard line that inflation should be prevented at all costs. Thus the eurozone now has fiat money that still functions as a gold standard because of the strict rules. (See my paper on this.) By comparison, when the USA around 1930 got into economic problems and the central bank was hesitant to print money (no doubt looking at the German example), this eventually caused the Great Depression. Thus monetary policy has the Scylla and Charybdis character, with the risks of either too little or too much. Potentially, the option to organise cultural activity would be a welcome addition to the instruments to avoid such risks and smooth the path towards recovery.

I am not quite suggesting that the ECB should print money to pay the unemployed in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal to make music and dance in the streets, yet, when the EU would invest in musea and restorations and other cultural services so that Northern Europe can better enjoy their vacations in Southern Europe, then this likely would be more acceptable than when such funds would be invested directly in factories that start to compete with the North. The current situation that Southern Europe has both unemployment and less funds to maintain the cultural heritage is obviously less optimal.

The point is also made in my book Common Sense: Boycott Holland. Just to be sure: this notion w.r.t. culture is not the main point of CSBH. It is just a notion that is worthy of mentioning.

PM. Imagine a dynamic simulation of restoring the Colosseum. Or is it culturally more valuable as a ruin than fully restored ?

By Jaakko Luttinen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22495158

By Jaakko Luttinen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22495158

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Listening to Roefie Huetng with Jamie’s Blues

 

Roefie Hueting (1929) is an economist and jazz piano player, or a jazz piano player and an economist, who cannot decide which of the two is most important to him. See this earlier report on his double talent.

Hueting’s first public performance was on stage on liberation day May 5 1945 at the end of World War 2, when he was dragged out of his home to play for the people dancing in the streets. He still performs and thus he has been 55+15=70 years on stage.

With the Down Town Jazzband (DTJB) Hueting recorded 250 songs, played on all major Dutch stages, five times at the North Sea Jazzfestival, while the 50th DTJB anniversity of 1999 was together with the Residence Orchestra in a sold-out The Hague Philips Hall.

Hueting was one of the founders of the Dutch Jazzclub from which sprouted The Hague Jazz Club. This HJC has its current performances at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, formerly known as the “Promenade”. This hotel is at the Scheveningseweg, the first modern road in Holland, created by Constantijn Huygens in 1653, connecting the area of the Peace Palace – the area where also Grand Duchess Anna Paulowna of Russia (1795-1865) had her Summer palace – to the sea. See also these pictures of the German Atlantik Wall – to stay with the WW 2 theme.

At the celebration last Sunday September 27 other performers were Joy Misa (youtube), Machteld Cambridge, Erik Doelman (youtube) and Enno Spaanderman.

The Hague Alderman Joris Wijsmuller (urban development, housing, sustainability and culture) came to present Roefie Hueting with a book containing a picture of Mondriaan‘s Victory Boogie-Woogie – also celebrating the end of WW 2. Wijsmuller observed the erosion of “sustainability” that in the opinion of Hueting rather should be “environmental sustainability”.

Roefie Hueting and alderman Joris Wijsmuller at Crowne Plaza Hotel 2015-09-27

Roefie Hueting and alderman Joris Wijsmuller at Crowne Plaza Hotel 2015-09-27

Roefie Hueting solo at the piano, 2015-09-27

Roefie Hueting solo at the piano, 2015-09-27

Hueting introducing a jam session 2015-09-27

Hueting introducing a jam session 2015-09-27

"Victory Boogie-Woogie" by Piet Mondriaan (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Victory Boogie-Woogie” by Piet Mondriaan (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Listening to Marvin Gaye, What is going on?

The minister of Education, Culture and Science presented a Vision (November 2014 in Dutch) w.r.t. the science research agenda till 2025. This April 2015 all Dutch citizens and their organisations can send in research questions.

You only need a one-liner and a short explanation of max 200 words. If you have an idea or want to check ideas from others, check their website here.

Eric van Damme opposes the minister

Eric van Damme (1956), professor of game theory, market design and competition, – not to be confused with Jean-Claude van Damme, the muscles from Brussels – holds that the ministerial approach is counterproductive, see his 10 page verdict – indeed written in English so that the world might avoid the Dutch policy disaster:

“These [policy choices] all follow from one major consideration: the desire to steer science in such a way that it becomes (even) more useful for Dutch society and to the Dutch business sector in particular.

I think, and will motivate in this document, that this idea is narrow-minded and misconceived. I am strongly convinced that following up on this idea can only be counterproductive, i.e., that it will hurt Dutch science and also the competitiveness of the Dutch economy.

Dutch politeness implies that I will say something positive about this latest science policy document. The “Vision” indeed acknowledges that the Dutch science system currently is performing very well: with limited means (i.e. government expenditures at the EU and OECD average, but limited outlays from the private sector), it belongs to the top world-wide (p. 5). It proposes that research in schools of higher vocational training be given more emphasis and that more attention be devoted to science communication and the popularization of research. Personally, I believe that multidisciplinary research indeed should receive more attention, but I acknowledge that I am not completely sure. The last sentence of the “Vision” is the best one, it acknowledges that the essence of science is curiosity about why and how things are as they are.

However, Dutch frankness also insists that, for efficiency’s sake, I am open and honest about what I think about the document. In short, I find it very disappointing. Rather than showing an admiration for science, it shows distrust, and a belief that the government, by steering and controlling, can improve matters. There is no recognition of the fact that such measures may stifle curiosity or may induce young researchers to turn their back on the Netherlands. Even in areas where the Dutch government clearly could (and I think, should) make a difference, such as with respect to the very low numbers of women in science (where the Netherlands is at the bottom in Europe), it is just proposed to follow European initiatives (p. 72).” (Eric van Damme, THE DUTCH “WETENSCHAPSVISIE 2025”: ILL-INFORMED, NARROW MINDED AND MISCONCEIVED, 2014-12-04)

Van Damme’s main criticism is that the “Vision” discusses science but isn’t up to scientific standards and wouldn’t pass peer-review. It are bureaucrats who didn’t make it into professorships who judge about the professors and their future research topics.

My problem now is that I didn’t read that “Vision” while Van Damme’s rejection is not inviting to start reading. It requires some masochism to read an ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived text, only to verify that it is ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived.

Eric van Damme and his books (Me Judice TV 201), Jet Bussemaker (Flickr PvdA) and Jean-Claude van Damme (Wikimedia)

Eric van Damme and his books (Me Judice TV 2010), Jet Bussemaker (Flickr PvdA) and Jean-Claude van Damme (Wikimedia)

Who is minister Jet Bussemaker ?

The minister of Education, Culture and Science is Jet Bussemaker (1961) – pronounce “Yet Buhs-seh-mah-ker”. She has a doctorate in political theory, but apparently didn’t develop adequate respect for science, at least to make Eric van Damme happy.

Van Damme claims that writing a thesis may also be good preparation for non-scientific jobs, but perhaps he ought to make an exception for the minister herself.

As a member of Dutch Parliament in 1998-2007 for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) Bussemaker specialized in “employment policy, health care and taxes”. A doctorate in political theory need not qualify for economics. Still, studying political theory might come with the lesson that one might have to be flexible.

In any case:

  • Bussemaker in dealing with employment and taxes didn’t do anything about the censorship of economic science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) on my analysis on emploment and taxes.
  • Remember that this session of Parliament after 1998 dealt with some decisions on the euro, like the entry of Greece into the Eurozone. Check the amendment in 2000 by former professor of economics and then parliamentarian Henk de Haan that Greece shouldn’t enter, while minister of Finance Gerrit Zalm claimed that Greece was making impressive progress – see this article in De Groene 2011-06-08.
  • In 1997-2000 Finance minister Gerrit Zalm (VVD) and underminister Willem Vermeend (PvdA) presented a tax plan, with a crucial lie w.r.t. tax exemption with quite an impact on employment, see here. Obviously Bussemaker didn’t have sufficient background to keep track of what Zalm & Vermeend were doing. I didn’t check whether she was modest enough to say so.
  • In 2013 there was tax fraud by Bulgarians so that underminister Frans Weekers had to resign – but the real problem had been created by Zalm & Vermeend, see this paper in English and this summary in Dutch.
  • When the economic crisis started in 2007, Bussemaker became underminister for Health, Welfare and Sport, so that it might have been fortunate for her that she didn’t have to think about the economic crisis and the consequences for employment.

I am just being critical about my own domain. Obviously Jet Bussemaker must have done some good things in other areas.

The ideas will be judged by Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf

The ideas submitted for the agenda will be judged by Alexander Rinnooy Kan (1949) and Beatrice de Graaf (1976).

Rinnooy Kan has a background in mathematics and econometrics, was professor in operations research in Rotterdam, and became a pillar in Dutch society as rector magnificus, chairman of the employers union, member of the board of ING, chairman of the Social Economic Council (SER), and has now returned to a professorship in Amsterdam. Obviously he didn’t do anything about the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB, but perhaps I should have tried to speak with him about that longer.

Rinnooy Kan was instrumental in getting his co-author and fellow operations research mathematician Jan Karel Lenstra to do something about the education in mathematics and arithmetic. Professor Lenstra however has no background in didactics of mathematics, so this became a disaster, and of course it is a breach in research integrity since scientists should not claim expertise which they do not have, see my protest.

Beatrice de Graaf grew up in Putten, where her grandfather managed to escape the German razzia in 1944 that deported more than 600 men of which only 48 returned. As a junior highschool student Beatrice watched with her father the TV series Tour of Duty (USA 1987-1990) about the Vietnam war, and that had a great impact on her. Her focus now is on terrorism, with lone wolves and methods for deradicalisation. One of her findings is that the “Dutch success” in preventing radicalisation like in Ireland (IRA), Germany (RAF) and Italy (Red Brigade) was a result of perhaps luck but at least incompentence by the Dutch counterintelligence (BVD, now AIVD).The German police approach was tough and repressive, which forced the RAF sympathizers underground with more group-think and radicalisation. The BVD / AIVD intended to copy the German approach, but were amateurs, which allowed Dutch radicals (Rode Jeugd, Krakers, RaRa) to have rather normal lives and deradicalise themselves. Dutch views on the situation in Germany affected the internal discussions however too, thus, the stick and carrot still apply.

For professor De Graaf I have these questions:

  • What good is it when those people in Putten were killed for defending freedom of thought, when the Dutch government censors economic scientific freedom since 1990 ?
  • How are you going to tackle terrorism when so many of the disadvantaged are locked in unemployment and poverty, caused by economic policies based upon censorship of science ?
  • How are you going to tackle terrorism that either seeks justification in religion or abuses religious ideas, when Dutch society is rife with closed minds on new insights on the relation between religion and mathematics ? (And with people perhaps not taking me seriously since my work on unemployment is censored anyway ?)

Let us compare, for the sake of clarity, the mental frame of terrorists with the (“autistic”) mathematical mind like of professors Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) or Jan Karel Lenstra (1947) who presume that they know plenty about didactics of mathematics simply because they are professors of mathematics, or, indeed with the minds of the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau, who think that they already know enough so that they can censor stuff that they perhaps don’t understand themselves since they don’t feel like they have to ask questions or permit others to ask questions ? Perhaps psychologists can explain to us how these minds work, how they block contrary views, and how these ego’s can terrorize the rest of humanity – either with bombs or just plain old bureaucracy ?

Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf (Source: wikimedia)

Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf (Source: wikimedia)

Some criticism for Eric van Damme

Who is free of sins may cast the first stone. It must be said that there might be some criticism for Eric himself too.

I did inform professor Van Damme about the censorship of economic science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau since 1990 – and he didn’t do anything about it.

I also informed Van Damme that one of the issues that is being censored is my paper on the 1951  Impossibility Theorem by Kenneth Arrow. See this weblog’s About page, on my book “Voting Theory for Democracy” (VTFD).

(1) This mathematical theorem on the aggregation of preferences actually falls in the field that Van Damme teaches about. He could have checked my result and have judged that the directorate of the CPB shouldn’t have censored my paper on this topic – or in Van Damme’s words they were and are perhaps ill-informed, narrow minded and misconceived – whence he could have supported my suggestion for a parliamentarian enquiry and a boycott of Holland till the issue is resolved. However, none of this.

(2) Van Damme’s inactivity on this hits himself with a vengeance. Namely, Arrow’s theorem that democracy would be mathematically impossible and that always some dictatorship would be required, has been feeding into the minds of the Western intelligentia since 1951. Importantly also into the minds of politicians and bureaucrats. Often also into the minds of students of political theory, for who this is a basic theorem, perhaps also those political theorists who become ministers of Science. Think of Jet Bussemaker. Thus, Van Damme had the opportunity to change those minds, didn’t do it, and now suffers the consequences – perhaps unaware how he helped cause his own misery.

Concluding: Could this be an opportunity for my own proposals ?

While I probably may well agree with Eric van Damme on his criticism on the Bussemaker report, I still did not read this. I am also inclined to optimism. People deserve a chance to change their minds.

When Alexander Rinnooy Kan and Beatrice de Graaf suggest that they are open to new ideas, and indicate that they are going to study those, then this might also be an opportunity. Such an opportunity may be lacking in Russia or North Korea.

The Appendix contains the research questions that I have submitted till now to the Dutch science research agenda till 2025. The links are to their website, in Dutch.

Appendix: Suggestions for the Dutch science agenda 2015-2025

(1) Is it true that the Trias Politica are failing and that an extension with an Economic Supreme Court is required ? (link)

(2) Is it true that the directorate of the Central Planning Bureau has been censoring economic science since 1990 ? (link)

(3) How can the Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW) deal with collective breaches of integrity of science ? (link)

(4) Why don’t scientists make more flexible use of peer-review methods ? (link)

(5) What can be done about the gap in the general media between between reporting on science and reporting on economics & business – so that economic science is hardly reported on ? (link)

(6) How can a breach against scientific integrity be corrected on the educational site Kennislink.nl ? (link)

(7) Is it true that mathematicians have a basic training in abstraction that disqualifies them for when they enter the empirical field of didactics and teaching mathematics ? (link)

(8) Might Holland and in particular its educational system be willing to start deconstructing Christianity ? (link)

(9) How can scientists in the fields of ecology, environment and climate begin to see that economic scientists are failing in their judgements about the environmentally sustainable national income according to the definition by Hueting (eSNI) ? (link)

Addendum May 1

(10) Can and should the study of history not train stricter for science and respect for that ? (link)

(11) What regulations should be available for scientists for a flexible appeal to protection by the judiciary system and the police ? (link)

(12) What regulations should be available for scientists for a flexible appeal to legal protection by their employers and insurance ? (link)

(13) Is there any future for Mathix and Math-x: “A user friendly computer system based upon mathematics and cognitive psychology” ? (link)

(14) What can science say about the disarray in the debate about Black Pete ? (link)