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The dictum is to have one subject per letter. This paradise is no longer possible when time passes and letters and subjects accumulate. Let me take stock of some findings on democracy.

Economic theory needs a stronger defence against unwise application of mathematics. Mathematicians are trained for abstract thought and not for empirical science. Their contribution can wreak havoc, for example in education with real life pupils and students, in finance by neglecting real world risks that contribute to a world crisis, or in voting theory where they don’t understand democracy.

Nowadays, though, I am also wary of students from the Humanities who rely upon legal views (their version of mathematics) instead of empirical understanding.

For the following, distinguish single seat elections (president, prime minister) and multiple seats elections (parliament). There is also a key distinction between Equal Proportional Representation (EPR) with proper elections and District Representation (DR) that has contests rather than proper elections.

Key findings

(1) Montesquieu’s Trias Politica of the separation of powers is failing, and we need the separation of a fourth power, an Economic Supreme Court, based upon science, with a position in the constitution at the same level as the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. The current setup allows too much room for politicians to manipulate the information for policy making. This need for separation can also be proven logically in a model using stylised facts, see the book DRGTPE. A short discussion on the 2007+ European crisis is here.

(2) Kenneth Arrow in his Impossibility Theorem has a correct deduction (there is an impossibility) but a wrong interpretation. He confuses voting and deciding. For this debunking of Arrow’s Theorem, see Chapter 9.2 of Voting Theory for Democracy (p239-251). Sheets of a presentation in June 2018 are here.

(3) A voting method that many might find interesting is the Borda Fixed Point method. See the counterfactual example of selecting a Prime Minister for Holland.

(4) Political science on electoral systems is no science yet but still locked in the Humanities, and comparable to astrology, alchemy and homeopathy. People in the USA, UK and France still have taxation without representation.

(4a) The key paper is One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France.

(4b) A supportive paper develops the SDID distance measure for votes and seats.

(4c) This paper reviews the role of statistics for the latter measure. Sheets of a presentation in June 2018 are here.

(4d) An earlier comparison of Holland and the UK in 2010 (update 2015) contains a major stepping stone, but is not as critical as (4a). This analysis resulted in a short paper for Mathematics Teaching 222 (May 2011) at the time of the UK referendum on Alternative Vote.

Minor results because these lead to dead ends

(5) There are some supplementary findings, that I do not regard as major, but as roads that you might need to walk in order to discover that they do not lead far.

(5a) There are Two conditions for the application of Lorenz curve and Gini coefficient to voting and allocated seats. The Lorenz curve is a neat way to graphically show the disproportionality and inequality of votes and seats. The Gini is its associated measure. However, above measure SDID is to be preferred, since it is symmetric and doesn’t require sorting, has a relation to the R-squared and the Weber-Fechner law.

(5b) We can compare votes and seats but also use a policy distance. A crucial question is who determines the distance between policies ? When we have a distance, how do we process it ? I am not convinced by the method, but a discussion is here.

(5c) The Aitchison geometry might present a challenge to SDID. This paper provides an evaluation and finds this geometry less relevant for votes and seats. Votes and seats satisfy only two of seven criteria for application of the Aitchison distance.

(5d) This paper tries to understand the approach by Nicolaus Tideman and compares it with the distinction between voting and deciding.

(5e) Mathematician Markus Schulze was asked to review VTFD but did not check his draft review with me, which caused needless confusion, see here and here. PM. Schulze now has this 2017 paper, but doesn’t refer to Borda Fixed Point, perhaps thinking that he understands it, but he apparently is not open to the diagnosis that his “review” is no proper review.

Conclusion

For the above, it is pleasant that a distinction can be made between key results and findings about dead ends. I listed my debunking of Arrow’s Theorem as a key result, but it also identifies this theorem as a dead end. Thus, it is also a matter of perspective. When you are at the dead end, and turn around, the whole road is open again.

PM. Earlier weblog entries on democracy are here.

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There is a bizarre incomprehension of democracy.

I was inclined to say in the English speaking world – UK, USA, India – but there is also France, with the upcoming elections for the French National Assembly 2017. Also France has a system of District Representation (DR) rather than Proportional Representation (PR). Examples of PR are Holland, Germany and to some extent the European Parliament.

Democratic theory favours PR above DR. It is a historical mistake that countries have DR.

The UK Electoral Reform Society (wikipedia) protests about the UK general elections 2017.

Electoral Reform Society, website June 2017

Indeed, there is this difference (wikipedia) between the UK system of DR with the better system of PR. While the popular vote gives a majority to Lab + SNP + LibDem, the majority in seats goes to Con + DUP.

Seats Votes
Con

317

48.8%

13,632,914

42.3%

DUP

10

1.5%

292,316

0.9%

Lab

262

40.3%

12,874,985

40.0%

SNP

35

5.4%

977,569

3.0%

LibDem

12

1.8%

2,371,772

7.4%

Other

14

2.2%

2,047,362

6.4%

Total

650

100.0%

32,196,918

100.0%

There is also the political dynamics of proportionality. Once a proportional system is in place then new parties will have a larger chance to get elected, and then they also have more scope to grow and to challenge the existing parties. We may observe that the UK 2017 outcome may be more proportional than in the past, but this still neglects the dynamics and the build-up of frustration amongst minorities that aren’t represented well.

The UK already has experience with the system of PR, namely for the European elections. While UKIP didn’t do so well within the UK system, Nigel Farage gained the limelight via the elections for the European Parliament.

The UK Electoral Reform Society fails too

Part of the bizarre situation is that the UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS) fails too. They favour the system of “Single Transferable Vote” (STV) and they call this a system of PR while it isn’t PR. It is rather bizarre that they do not comprehend this. The UK had a so-called “referendum on PR” in 2011, but this was actually on the system of “Instant Run-Off” (a.k.a. “Alternative Vote”).

Apparently, the UK has a hangup on DR. They think that districts allow voters to connect directly with the local politicians, and that this reduces the influence of the party bosses. This is a dubious argument. If a representative and party member is out of line with the party then the party might still sack him or her nevertheless. In PR it is easier to start a new political party and be elected (when the issue likely isn’t just local).

Thus the statements by the ERS about district representation derive from historical bias and not from clear theory and practical experience with PR.

Let me give an example how STV favoured by ERS is not PR at all, even though they claim that it would be PR.

Example that STV is not PR

Consider two districts with 30000 voters each. Each district has 2 seats, so that the Droop Quota is 30000 / (2 + 1) + 1 = 10001. Parties contending for these seats are Con, Lab, en LDP. In District 1, the Con are popular, and they present there a list with two candidates. In District 2 the Lab are popular, and they present there a list with two candidates. We consider a rather symmetrical situation as in the following table, also with the STV results.

In STV, voters vote only once, but they can assign a rank order of the candidates.

In District 1, 7503 Con1 voters give Con1 as their first choice and Con2 as their second choice. Also 7501 Con2 voters give Con2 as their first choice and Con1 as their second choice.

  1. In the first round, no candidate meets the quota. LDP1 has the minimal number of votes, 7494, and is eliminated.
  2. In the second round, Con2 has the minimal number of votes, 7501, and is eliminated.
  3. In the third round, the Con2 votes are allocated to Con1, and Con1 meets the quota and is elected.
  4. In the fourth round, Lab3 is the remaining candidate and thus is elected, though the 7502 votes are below the quota.

The situation in District 2 is analogous.

District 1 Votes District 2  Votes
Con1

7503

Elected Con3

7502

Elected

Con2

7501

Lab1

7503

Elected

Lab3

7502

Elected Lab2

7501

LDP1

7494

LDP2

7494

30000

30000

Let us now join the two districts, and look how STV works for the national vote.

There are 60000 voters and 4 seats, so the Droop Quota is 60000 / (4 + 1) + 1 = 12001.

The Con voters put the Con candidates of their district in the first places, and then the Con candidates of the other district. For example, the 7501 Con2 voters have the rank order {Con2, Con1, Con3}.

Because of the symmetrical structure of this example, there are some ties. Rather than using a coin, we use the alphabetical order.

  1. In the first round, no candidate meets the quota, and LDP1 is eliminated.
  2. In the second round, the LDP1 votes go to LDP2, and it is elected.
  3. In the third round, alphabetically Con2 has the minimal number of votes, and is eliminated.
  4. In the fourth round, Con2’s votes go to Con1, and it is elected.
  5. In the fifth round, alphabetically Lab2 has the minimal number of votes, and is eliminated.
  6. In the sixth round, Lab2 votes go to Lab1, and it is elected.
  7. In the seventh round, alphabetically Con3 has the minimal number of votes, 10506, and is eliminated.
  8. In the eighth round, Lab3 remains, and is elected, though with only 10506 votes.

Thus now LDP2, Con1, Lab1 and Lab3 are elected.

Upshot:

  • As the UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS) states that STV would generate proportional results, both {Con1, Con3, Lab1, Lab3} and {Con1, Lab1, Lab3, LDP2} would be proportional results, which however are quite different results, which destroys the meaning of proportionality.
  • With a hangup on DR, there will be little scope for fair representation of the minority LDP.
  • PR would require party representation with {37.5%, 37.5%, 25%} of the seats. Admittedly, this is difficult to achieve with 4 seats, but if the situation persists then one might change the number of seats. This uses the PR criterion rather than the STV criterion.

In these considerations, the notion of PR dominates DR.

Confusing information from Holland

Holland is a small country with some 10 million voters. One might think that its proportional system might not easily scale up to a large unit like the EU. If the EU Parliament would be fully proportional, then Germany might have too large a weight. However, there are also divisions along party lines, and proportionality still would be a fair choice.

Holland had general elections on March 15 2017, and political parties are still negotiating about a coalition government. This is bad advertisement for the system.

There is a confusion in Holland about desiring the minimal majority coalition, that bargains for an agreement that would apply for the next 4 years. It would be more rational to look for a larger majority, and rather set for a flexible agenda, so that issues can be dealt with in varying manner. See this paper of mine. It may also be better to have elections every year, so that Parliament becomes more sensitive to the popular vote. (If you would replace only 25% of the seats, then the electoral quota becomes 4 times larger, and this might be too high again.)

Most bizarre is that the Dutch party D66 wants to change the Dutch PR system into more use of districts … see here. Thus the good news about democracy in Holland is killed again by the campaigners on the D66 hobby horse.

Conclusion

We observe that the UK ERS protests against the failure of the UK electoral system, but we can also conclude that ERS doesn’t comprehend democracy.

We find similar confusions all over the world. The best advice is to change your national electoral system to the PR system like in Holland (or to some extent the EU parliament), yet many campaigners ride their hobby horses of wildly confusing varieties, and calling it “democracy” while it actually isn’t.

PM. A paper of mine on comparing PR and DR is here.

Five years ago I discussed the “Dutch Taliban“. I can now include Dutch “pluralist economics” to this narrative.

There is this particular course “Economics from a pluralist perspective” in English though created by two Dutch professors Irene van Staveren (ISS) and Rob van Tulder (RSM) and a PhD student. I have no access to this course so I cannot check whether they refer to my analysis in DRGTPE and CSBH or not. I presume that I would have been informed if they had. The following is conditional on the probable assumption of neglect.

I will refer to some books that I haven’t read, and explain why I will not read them. One book by Van Staveren that I haven’t read deals with economists who aren’t read. I understand that she doesn’t include me as an economist who isn’t read.

I already wrote about “Economics as a zoo” in 2005, and pointed to the terms of orthodoxy and heterodoxy as inadequate. Much is plain old history of economic thought. Apparently the new term is “pluralism”. Also, I was one of the economists who warned before the 2007+ crisis, yet Dutch economists neglect my work and neglect my protest against censorship, and apparently I am in some other dimension than their “pluralism”.

I regard myself as a neoclassical economist, in the term as coined by Paul Samuelson. I am eclectic and open to ideas but for practical work there must be a model, using theory and tested by statistics. My work is not mainstream yet because my work has been hit by censorship. My work rejects neoliberal economics (Robert Lucas), but anyone can check that neoliberal economics is emperically untenable. Readers should not confuse neoclassical economics with neoliberal economics.

My impression is that “pluralist” economists might so much fear mainstream economics and also so much desire to be accepted, that they opt for versions of “pluralism” that are not really dangerous to mainstream economics. Which means that their “pluralism” is useless. But they can applaud each other greatly in their mutual admiration bubble.

Pluralist economics, before or after the crisis ?

The two professors cause the tantalising question whether pluralism starts before or after the 2007+ crisis.

The online course refers to Irene van Staveren’s matricola textbook Economics After the Crisis. An Introduction to Economics from a Pluralist and Global Perspective.  ($61.53) (Dutch: Managementboek).

The online course manual states clearly that this textbook is not necessary for the course itself. This is fine, since the book is rather expensive, and one would wish for open access books nowadays. (See here for a cheap solution for open access publishing.) They state that the book will be helpful if you want to read from paper. The professors apparently thus think that the economic crisis hasn’t been a natural experiment that explains which approach was empirically most relevant, but only provides a case for more pluralism, perhaps to allow for more natural experiments by economists who don’t know what to think because they have so many theories to choose from.

Pluralism as Orwellian newspeak

Dutch pluralist economics is Orwellian newspeak for anything fashionable, as long as it neglects the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB). Dutch pluralist economics has these fundamental tenets:

  • Economics is an empirical science, and the censorship at CPB doesn’t exist so it cannot be observed. Any fact on this can be neglected. (If I worked there and there aren’t CPB publications to my name, then this must have another explanation than censorship.)
  • Scientists will protest against censorship, and since scientists don’t protest then apparently there is no censorship. Hail to free society and the wisdom of Dutch government and Dutch economists. Except criticism for pluralism, of course.
  • Errors by the directorate of the CPB might be made, but not on censorship and dismissals with untruths. If the Dutch legal system allows such censorship and untruths because judges assume that the Dutch government wouldn’t do such things, then this only proves that there is no censorship.
  • The censorship has no consequences for policy making either, since something that doesn’t exist clearly can have no consequences.
  • It is only possible to know what the censorship is about once it has been lifted, but since it doesn’t exist it must be about nothing.
  • The economic crisis of 2007+ confirms my analysis of 1990, yet for Dutch economists there is the special task to completely neglect his work and his protest against censorship, since Thomas and his work do not exist, as proven in the above.
  • Well, Thomas might exist as a lunatic, see his protest against this censorship by the directorate of CPB. Completely irresponsible about such a respected institute (even though the directorate goofed on the crisis and its treatment and the policy of wage moderation).

What might seem tolerant or pluralist appears to be another form of fundamentalism. Professors Irene van Staveren (ISS) and Rob van Tulder (RSM) show engaging smiles that however hide mental niqabs or beards. (There is no need to overdo the metaphor with Photoshop.)

Van Staveren is anabaptist and her answer to neighbourly love is that she selects which neighbour to love. Van Tulder has a book for students about the essential skills for studying. Indeed, in our knowledge society, studying is actually a job too, and I am in favour of a student wage. Van Tulder’s book has the advice: “Dare to build upon research from others” – and apparently he has found other others than me who he really dares to build upon for his version of pluralism.

 

Smiles that hide fundamentalism. (Source: RSM and wikimedia)

Amartya Sen, voting theory and the Brexit referendum question

Irene van Staveren states that she derives much inspiration from the work of Amartya Sen. Sen however is a very mainstream economist and is seriously misguided on some key issues, so that one wonders what Van Staveren finds so inspiring. Sen is famous and fashionable, true, but fame and fashion are not scientific criteria.

  • One of my papers that got hit by the censorship deconstructs Kenneth Arrow’s impossibility theorem. (CPB internal memo 90-III-37, but better start now with my book Voting Theory for Democracy (VTFD).) Sen in his Collective Choice and Social Welfare gives a useful standard presentation of Arrow’s theorem. One can check that Sen doesn’t understand it. (Dutch readers can look here.) With Arrow, Sen actually helps to destroy democracy.
  • One can check that Sen’s own theorem on the supposed impossibility of a Paretian liberal is misguided as well, see VTFD.
  • Sen’s book Development as freedom is a collection of platitudes and open doors, comparable to “don’t give money but a fishing rod”.
  • Sen contributed to the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report, but this neglects the work by Tinbergen and Hueting on the economics of ecological survival (see my draft book).
  • Sen’s argument that democracies have less famines than non-democracies is questionable, see India itself. It is a better argument that the Trias Politica model of democracy fails, also in the case of hunger, whence each democracy requires an Economic Supreme Court.

While Sen has a training as an economist and mathematician, all this suggests that he is more inclided to abstract thought as a mathematician and less as an empiricist. It is not clear to me what Van Staveren’s background w.r.t. mathematics is.

It are such uncritical professors like Irene van Staveren who cause that Sen has gotten such authority in some circles. This is not without consequences. Sen’s misconception on voting theory shows also in his article with Eric Maskin in the NY Review of Books on electoral reform in the USA. The key advice that voting theorists can give to democracies is to switch to proportional representation (PR) in the House of Commons of parliament, and the selection of the executive power (ministers including PM) by such a PR House of Commons. Instead, Maskin and Sen stick to direct election of the US President, which however is subject to many voting paradoxes as has been illuminated by Arrow’s theorem. They adopt the best way to destroy democracy, namely by using methods that are unconvincing for the general population. There are various techniques of voting, but these better be used by parliament itself, once parliament has been chosen by PR. (Compare Holland with the UK.) Thus, Maskin and Sen, in their lack of understanding of voting theory, keep the US caught in suboptimality and cynicism. If there are no good alternatives, then Trump perhaps really was the democratically best choice. Similarly for the UK and India indeed. And Van Staveren cheers on, finding inspiration in Sen, and neglecting the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB w.r.t. my work that contains the scientifically correct analysis.

Another example is Brexit. Undoubtedly many UK policy advisors have been trained either directly or via their teachers on Sen’s Collective Choice and Social Welfare as well. See my article in the RES Newsletter, April 2017, and reproduced on the LSE Brexit blog.

Environmental sustainability

A bit more can be said about sustainability, apart from Sen. Rob van Tulder has a major teaching engagement on management of sustainability in businesses. If prices aren’t right, then companies might make amends themselves. It seems that he neglects Tinbergen and Hueting’s on environmental sustainability. It would be much more effective to argue that environmental costs are included in the prices, since companies should not do what only the government can do properly.

“Professor van Tulder is co-founder of RSM’s Department of Business-Society Management, a world-leading department on the issues surrounding sustainability. The department offers a highly successful master’s specialising in sustainability.”

Also, Irene van Staveren and Jan Peil have edited this Handbook of Economics and Ethics. (2009), £168.30 in a period where open access already was a known concept.

  • Hans Opschoor there explains the topic of sustainability. I don’t have the text and would be interested to see what he states about Hueting’s work, since there are remarkable confusions about it. Opschoor coined the term “milieugebruiksruimte” (environmental carrying capacity) in 1989, but this is only an application of Hueting’s notion of environmental functions of 1974, after which Opschoor got citations that should have gone to Hueting. In this short text of 2016 Opschoor only refers to Hueting”s 1974 thesis but not to his later notion of environmentally sustainable national income (eSNI).
  • My own analysis on Arrow’s impossibility theorem might be included too, since Arrow claims moral desirability for the demolition of democracy, while I use deontic logic to show that this is unwarranted, see VTFD chapter 9.2 on page 239. (And perhaps read “Deontology” by Mark D. White.)  Yet, why would my analysis be included in this book behind a paywall, as VTFD is already online ? Hopefully some of the authors refer properly.
  • There is a chapter on Sen by Sabina Alkire, and hopefully she was aware of the above.
  • There is a chapter on poverty by Andy Sumner and on minimum wages by Ellen Mutari, and I can only hope that they have been aware of the following below.

Unemployment and poverty

In 1998 I gave Van Tulder a copy of this Dutch book on unemployment and poverty. He would read it and get back to me. This didn’t happen. Perhaps Van Tulder did not like the book ? We can only guess. This is a nice review in Dutch at DISK (lay people) and this is a misguided and misleading review by a Dutch economist, Joan Muysken, which case I already discussed on CofFEE or latte. If Van Tulder had misgivings in 1998 he could have discussed those with me. My impression is that Van Staveren can be annoyed towards Van Tulder that his silence on this may have caused her the lost years of 1998-2017 of looking for a good analysis, and the rest of the world the actual crisis of 2007+.

The book is a text for the general public, and fellow economists can find the same analysis in DRGTPE. However, journalists Hans Hulst and Auke Hulst report also on some events w.r.t. CPB which isn’t in DRGTPE.

Van Staveren’s co-editor Jan Peil, from above book on economics and ethics, also collaborated on a Dutch book on poverty and social exclusion. Translation: “Almost a million people in Holland have to deal with poverty.” This is a review at DISK in Dutch of 2007. DISK has been abolished now. Above book W&A had been reviewed also by DISK, but the review might no longer be at their site. My impression is that various channels of information have not been used.

Economists who (almost) aren’t read anymore

Van Staveren also wrote a book (EUR 22.50) for the general public, in Dutch, about economists “who (almost) aren’t read anymore”. (The brackets are logically strange.) There exists already a Dutch translation of Heilbroner’s masterpiece, but Van Staveren wants to link up to the 2007+ crisis.

The book’s cover has a problematic claim. Let me use Google Translate for the fun of it, and it actually does a remarkable good job. The first sentence is that neoclassical economics seemed to be the only relevant theory.

“After the Cold War, the only relevant theory seemed to understand the economy and influence the neoclassical. Economists who thought otherwise were dismissed as naive, or worse, as stupid. The financial crisis has painfully shown that this limited look is unjustified and can even cause a lot of damage. Irene van Staveren therefore advocates a pluralistic approach to the economy.” (Google Translate of: “Na de Koude Oorlog leek de enige relevante theorie om de economie te begrijpen en te beïnvloeden de neoklassieke. Economen die anders dachten, werden afgedaan als naïef, of nog erger, als dom. De financiële crisis heeft op pijnlijke wijze laten zien dat deze beperkte blik onterecht is en zelfs veel schade kan toebrengen. Irene van Staveren pleit daarom voor een pluralistische benadering van de economie”)

It is incorrect to say that other thoughts were generally dismissed. Perhaps there were instances, but not over the board. Good economists have kept an interest in the history of economic theory. But not everything can be used at the relevant job at hand. When there has been bad policy, a main factor has been the failure of the Trias Politica model of democracy, with too much room for politicians to manipulate information. See my advice for an Economic Supreme Court.

The unread ones are supposedly: Karl Marx, Hyman Minsky, Keynes, Frank Knight, Barbara Bergmann, Thorstein Veblen, Amartya Sen, Gunnar Myrdal, Adam Smith and Joan Robinson.

Why doesn’t Van Staveren mention my work as largely unread ? For an answer, she only allows the categories that I would be naive or stupid. This doesn’t strike me as logically and empirically sound. Her book must be the product of a severely deluded bubble.

I wonder whether I should show Van Tulder’s “Dare to build upon research from others” to give some indications about these authors. I can spend only a line on each, and this might strike the reader as dismissive and disrepectful, while the fellow economist might have worked hard most of his or her life to contribute to economic science. I wouldn’t want that my own work would be dismissed disrespectfully either. Yet, Van Staveren’s selection strikes me as rather curious:

  • Of these fellow economists, I had never heard of Barbara Bergmann before. Apparently she looked at gender in economics, and this hasn’t been my topic of interest. I suppose however that she is well read by economists who deem gender an important aspect. (E.g. on risk taking.)
  • Karl Marx is only interesting for history, in the same way as one would read Julius Caesar.
  • Perhaps Gunnar Myrdal isn’t much read nowadays, but that requires a longer explanation, including the lifting of the censorship at CPB.
  • Hyman Minsky of course is the celebrated case, but the description about his lack of influence is more complicated than mere dismissal. He really was a professor of economics, and I am not. I wonder whether there weren’t more standard neoclassical authors who said much of the same, so that Minsky’s main advantage is that he now is the best known “neglected” one. The main point is not neglect, but the failure of the Trias Politica model of democracy.
  • Keynes would not be read ? Well, one might say that many neoliberals didn’t read much of Keynes before 2007, but Ben Bernanke was chairman of the US Fed in 2006-2014, and we can be assured that Bernanke read Keynes, and that he responded admirably to the crisis, for otherwise the world had imploded. Let me also mention the biography by Skidelsky, that generated a renewed interest in Keynes, starting in 1983.
  • Frank Knight gave wrong definitions of uncertainty and risk, see DRGTPE. What was relevant however got reworked by Keynes. The 2007+ crisis caused a renewed interest in the Chicago Plan, indeed. See the comment on Minsky.
  • Thorstein Veblen wasn’t read ? I cannot believe this.
  • Amartya Sen has been amply read, see above discussion. Van Staveren wants to portray him as unread only to promote her bubble.
  • Adam Smith unread ? I cannot believe this. Contrary to Marx, he is still quite relevant, see Heilbroner.
  • Joan Robinson ? Apparently her contribution on “imperfect competition” has been included in neoclassical economics. In heterodoxy, her writings have some popularity, but it is not clear to me why she should be read more widely. Her work never seemed to matter for my own work and I haven’t really read her. Perhaps she is relevant for other fields of economics, but I would not know.

Above indication isn’t intended to mark these authors in a particular manner. The only intention is to argue that Van Staveren’s selection is rather curious. Most likely the title of her book is plain wrong. The present title might be much of a marketing ploy. A neutral title might have been: Views from the history of economics on the economic crisis.

It matters a great deal how the issue is presented (framed):

  • My analysis is that economics already contained ample information, so that the crisis has been caused by failure of the Trias Politica by abuse by policy makers. For example, policy makers could and can cherry pick an economist to defend a particular policy. My advice is an Economic Supreme Court, so that such cherry picking is no longer possible, for the ESC will weigh arguments on content.
  • Irene van Staveren puts the blame of the crisis on the economics profession itself, also at the academia, instead of the policy makers. She wants the whole of the economics profession to function as an Economic Supreme Court. This is a category mistake, since the academia do not have the task to support policy making but to generate new insights and criticism.

Misleading the public

In her bubble, Van Staveren neglects my work, doesn’t mind about the censorship, and misleads the public.

A lay person’s review shows that Van Staveren partly did a good job in reaching out to the public.

“A few jumping points from the book: Not only did many scientists see the 2007 financial crisis, the same people predict that the weather will go wrong. According to them, nothing has changed, such as the strict separation of savings banks and business banks and insurance. Taxpayers have to pay billions to save banks that were too big to fail, the banks are still too big to fail and still sell incomprehensible and uncontrollable products, so soon we have to dock again. If we all agree to vote On politicians who send themselves through the bank lobby because we just do not understand well, we have to pay for our intellectual laziness.” (Google translate from: “Een paar springende punten uit het boek: niet alleen zagen veel wetenschappers de financiële crisis van 2007 aankomen, dezelfde mensen voorspellen dat het weer mis zal gaan. Er is volgens hen niks wezenlijks veranderd, zoals het strikt scheiden van spaarbanken en zakenbanken en verzekeringen. Belastingbetalers hebben miljarden moeten betalen om banken die too big to fail waren te redden, de banken zijn nog steeds too big to fail en verkopen nog steeds onbegrijpelijke en oncontroleerbare producten, dus binnenkort moeten we weer dokken. Als we met z’n allen blijven stemmen op politici die zich door de bankenlobby laten sturen, omdat we het gewoon niet goed begrijpen, zullen we dus voor onze intellectuele luiheid moeten boeten.”)

However, this message could also have been given without this particular book.

This lay person shows a confusion between neoclassical economics and neoliberal economics. Perhaps Van Staveren has this too ? Also, this lay reviewer states to have gotten an interest in Amartya Sen because of Van Staveren’s praise. Ouch.

More points tomorrow

There are some more points, see the next blog entry.

Given Kenneth Arrow’s impossibility theorem, it is a fair question to ask what voting system he himself would advise. There is a 2012 interview with him, with a phone recording and transcript, by Aaron Hamlin of the Center for Election Science. Arrow’s advice is:

  • Not plurality and no US Electoral College, with its winner-take-all selection of the US President
  • Not approval voting, since this uses too little information
  • A system that uses more information:

“Dr. Arrow: Well, I’m a little inclined to think that score systems [range voting] where you categorize in maybe three or four classes probably (in spite of what I said about manipulation) is probably the best. (…) In France, [Michel] Balinski has done some studies of this kind which seem to give some support to these scoring methods.”

His statement about strategic voting – or manipulation:

“Dr. Arrow: There’s only one problem that bothers me about that. And that’s something my theorem really doesn’t cover. In my theorem I was assuming people vote sincerely. The trouble with methods where you have three or four classes, I think if people vote sincerely they may well be very satisfactory. The problem is the incentive to misrepresent your vote may be high. In other words, a classic view is that there’s a candidate I really like, but I know is hopeless. I may put him down at the bottom and vote for the next candidate simply because I feel there’s a chance. Now, if you have a very large electorate you might say no individual has much of an incentive to misrepresent. But I’m not sure. You probably need experience rather than theory.”

Observe that Arrow cautiously states “a little inclined to think (…) probably the best”. His advice to have more empirical research can be supported. The interview touches on some points that call for a closer discussion, also in the light of this earlier weblog text.

Definitions

In plurality, voters only can vote for their best candidate. In a district, often the one with the highest score wins, which is the “first past the post” (FPTP) system. If there are only two candidates, then the winner will also have more than 50%. If there are more candidates, the winner may have less than 50%. There may be ways to assure that a final vote only concerns two candidates. A Putin hack that eliminates a particular candidate will not quickly be accepted, yet, voting theorists still wonder what method would be reasonable. A current example is that Donald Trump got elected with 46% of the popular vote, while Hillary Clinton got 48%. With a turnout of 60% Trump has only 28% support in the electorate, while the House of Congress depends upon district results too. A prime minister who is elected by a coalition in a parliament that has proportional representation (PR) generally has more than 50% support in parliament, and by representation also in the electorate.

In approval voting, voters mention which candidates they approve. The candidate with the highest total approvement is selected.

  • In economics this links up with satisficing (Herbert Simon).
  • Strategic voters will tend not to approve of candidates that might harm their best candidate (even the second best), so that this system devolves into plurality. Steven Brams claims that such fears are overrated but are they ? Brams declines to look into non-satisficing alternatives like the Borda Fixed Point method.

In Borda ranking, each voter puts the candidates in order of preference, and assigns rank numbers.

  • In economics this reflects the notion of ordinal utility.
  • Strategic voters will give a low score to candidates that harm their best candidate (even the second best), which means that “dark horses” (of mediocre approval) might win. See the discussion below.

In range voting, the voters grade the candidates like on a report card, and the candidate with the highest grade point average (GPA) wins. There is the tantalizing but empirically perhaps small complexity of the distinction between a 0 grade (included in the GPA) and a blank vote (not included in the GPA).

  • In economics this reflects the notion of cardinal utility (with voters restricted to the same range).
  • Strategic voters will give a low score to candidates that harm their best candidate (even the second best), which means that the system devolves into plurality. (The use of ordinal preferences and Borda explicitly intends to resolve this again.)

(See also the distinction in levels of measurement.)

Beware of the distinction between cardinal and ordinal preferences

Arrow’s impossibility theorem is about aggregating individual rank orders into a collective rank order. The theorem uses rank orders, or ordinal preferences. Arrow does more than only use rankings. He also defends the “axiom of pairwise decision making” (APDM) a.k.a. the “axiom of independence of irrelevant alternatives” (AIIA) as reasonable and morally desirable (Palgrave Dictionary of Economics).

Range voting allows more information than just ordinal preferences, and it is similar to cardinal preferences (but limiting people to the same range). Cardinal preferences imply ordinal preferences. Yet rank voting doesn’t satisfy the requirements of Arrow’s impossibility theorem, for cardinality violates APDM or AIIA.

One might say that Arrow’s theorem is not about voting systems in general, since it only looks at ordinal and not at cardinal preferences. Instead, Arrow’s position is that he looks at voting theory in general and only proposes axioms that are “reasonable” and “morally desirable”  When cardinality and range voting are excluded from his axioms, then it is because they would be unreasonable or morally undesirable.

These distinctions are discussed – and Arrow’s notions are debunked – in my “Voting theory for democracy” (VTFD). (See especially chapter 9.2 on page 239.)

Arrow’s theorem is only about those voting systems that satisfy his axioms. Since his axioms cause an inconsistency, there is actually no system that matches his conditions. Something that doesn’t exist cannot be reasonable and morally desirable. Arrow’s theorem confuses voting results with decisions, see this earlier weblog discussion.

However, there still remains an issue for voting theory. Range voting allows more scope for strategic voting or manipulation. The reason to restrict votes to rank orders is to reduce the scope for strategic voting.

Gerry Mackie’s “Democracy Defended

A reader alerted me to Gerry Mackie’s thesis with Jon Elster, now commercially available as “Democracy Defended“. I haven’t read this but the blurb seems to confirm what I have been arguing since 1990 on Arrow (but not on Riker).

“Is there a public good? A prevalent view in political science is that democracy is unavoidably chaotic, arbitrary, meaningless, and impossible. Such scepticism began with Condorcet in the eighteenth century, and continued most notably with Arrow and Riker in the twentieth century. In this powerful book, Gerry Mackie confronts and subdues these long-standing doubts about democratic governance. Problems of cycling, agenda control, strategic voting, and dimensional manipulation are not sufficiently harmful, frequent, or irremediable, he argues, to be of normative concern. Mackie also examines every serious empirical illustration of cycling and instability, including Riker’s famous argument that the US Civil War was due to arbitrary dimensional manipulation. Almost every empirical claim is erroneous, and none is normatively troubling, Mackie says. This spirited defence of democratic institutions should prove both provocative and influential.” (Cover text of “Democracy Defended“)

My point however would be that issues of cycling are of concern, like we see with the Brexit referendum question. The concern causes support for representative democracy with proportional representation, rather than populism with referenda.

The key context is switching to parliaments with PR

Discussions about voting theory best be seen in the context of the switch towards parliaments that are elected with PR and that select the prime minister. The president may have a cerimonial role and be elected by parliament too (like in Germany).

It is most democratic when there is proportional representation (PR) of the electorate in the elected body. The more complex voting methods can then be used by the professionals in the elected body itself only. A prime minister is best elected by a parliament with PR, instead of a president by direct elections.

The interview with Arrow contains a criticism on plurality and FPTP compared to PR.

“Dr. Arrow: Yes. I think definitely. I think there’s no question about that. The Plurality system chokes off free entry. In other words, in the economic world we’re accustomed to the virtues of free entry. We don’t want a small number of corporations to be dominate. We favor the idea of new firms entering in order to compete to bring in new ideas, to bring in new products. Well, the same way in the political field. We should be encouraging free entry, I think, in order to have new political ideas come in. And they may flourish. They may fade. That’s what you want, them to be available. So I’m inclined that the Plurality system will choke off by encouraging, the two-party system will choke off new entry. So I’m really inclined to feel that we don’t want Plurality as a voting system. It’s likely to be very stifling.”

“(…) proportional representation [PR] plays very little role in The United States, but they do play a role in a number of countries. And the question of whether single-member districts are appropriate or not. The Germans, for example, have some kind of compromise between single-member and broader districts. (…)”

See my comparison between the Dutch PR and the UK district system.

Proposals that assume that the voters themselves would use the complexer voting systems – perhaps an enlightened form of populism – are complicating election reform, because these methods put too high demands upon the voters and the electoral process.

In the interview, Arrow referred to the proportional systems, but still expressed the idea that voters themselves would use the three or four categories. In this manner Arrow contributed to this confusion on context.

“CES: If you could, just sort of dictatorially, change something about the way that we do voting in the US, something that would make the biggest impact in your mind, what do you think you would do?

Dr. Arrow: The first thing that I’d certainly do is go to a system where people ranked all the candidates, or as many as they wish, and not just two. And that these data are used in some form or another to choose the candidate, say by eliminating the lowest, or some method of that kind. I’d be interested in experimenting with the idea of categorization and creating interpersonal comparisons by that. And those are the things that I would argue for, and certainly the abolition of the Electoral College. It goes without saying.”

In my experience Arrow is often more confused than one would expect. (1) His original theorem confused voting outcomes and decisions. (2) If he really assumed that people would vote sincerely, then he might as well have assumed cardinality, but he didn’t, for then he wouldn’t have had a theorem. (3) He made a theorem on ordinal preferences but now is inclined to cardinality, even though he defends his theorem that cardinality would be unreasonable and morally undesirable since it doesn’t satisfy APDM a.k.a. AIIA. (4) He now mentions PR but doesn’t draw the conclusion of the selection of the prime minister by parliament, and apparently still thinks in terms of a direct election of the president.

Arrow’s contributions to economics derive from the application of mathematics to economics in the 1950s, and not because he was exceptionally smart in economics itself. Paul Samuelson expressed this idea about himself once too, as a physicist entering into economics. If Arrow had been real smart then he also would have had the common sense to see that his theorem confuses voting results and decisions, and that it amounts to intellectual fraud to pretend that it is more than that.

A major issue is that abstract thinking mathematicians can get lost about reality. In VTFD I show that Amartya Sen is confused about his theorem about a Paretian liberal. Sen’s article with Eric Maskin in the NY Book Review about electoral reform also neglects the switch to a parliamentarian system with PR. A major problem in society is that many intellectuals have insufficient background in mathematics and follow such lost mathematicians without sufficient criticism, even when common sense would warn them.

Warren Smith’s parable of the bees

Warren Smith suggests that bees also use range voting to select the next location for their hive. My problem is that bees aren’t known for strategic voting. My VTFD already suggested – as Jan Tinbergen – that aggregation of cardinal utility would be best indeed. Thus I don’t feel the need to check how bees are doing it.

The problem in voting theory is that humans can vote strategically, also guarded by secrecy in the ballot box. Potentially this strategic vote might be less of a problem when votes for the prime minister in parliament are made public, so that people can wonder why a party has a particular vote. But transparency of the vote might not be the key issue.

Smith on Bayesian regret

Smith has a notion of Bayesian regret, as a more objective criterion to judge voting systems. I am amazed by the existence of such a notion for social optimality and haven’t looked into this yet.

Smith is too enthousiastic about Arrow’s support

Smith interpretes Arrow’s “a little inclined to think” as an endorsement for range voting.  Smith provides full quotes properly – and I must thank him for directing me to this interview with Arrow. But I would advise Smith to be more critical. Arrow mainly indicates an inclination, he is also confused and doesn’t repeal his interpretation of his theorem. Also Smith is advised to grow aware and alert readers of his website that the real improvement in democracy lies not in range voting but in a switch to a prime minister selected by a PR parliament. It is another issue how voting mechanisms operate in other situations, like the Eurovision Song Contest.

Smith’s discussion of the dark horse and the war of the clones

To reduce the options for strategic voting, the voters can be restricted to the use of rankings, and then we get systems like Borda, Condorcet, or my suggestion of the Borda Fixed Point method (BordaFP). The latter wasn’t designed to be a compromise between Borda and Condorcet but still can be seen as one. For example, in the 2010 general elections in the UK, with David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg, it appears that Clegg would be a Borda Choice, but Cameron would still be the BordaFP choice because he would beat Clegg in a pairwise contest.

The reader would enjoy Smith’s discussion of the dark horse and the war of the clones, in his criticism of the Borda method. There is no need for me to repeat his short statement, and I simply refer to here. While you are reading, there is also a picture of Frisian horse Fokke of 2013, and we continue the discussion below it. This discussion is not in VTFD since I mainly pointed to strategic voting but didn’t develop the argument, and thus I thank Smith for his succinct criticism.

 

Frisian Fokke 2013

War of the clones

This assumes the Borda system. Smith (point 8) compares the election between Mush (51%) and Bore (49%) with the election between Mush and some clones Bore1, Bore2, Bore3 (leaving unclear who the real Bore is). Supposedly it is publically known that Mush selects Bore1 in second place, so that the Bores can collect all their votes on Bore1 too. Now Mush loses. This criticism is accurate.  With Condorcet’s rule, Mush would beat all Bores, but the idea of Borda is to mitigate Condorcet. With enough Bores, the BordFP method is not immune to this either.

In above key context, the method would not be applied by the whole electorate but only by parliament. The number of parties would be limited, and each party would only mention one candidate. In the current Dutch parliament there are 13 parties, see Bloomberg with a graphical display of the political spectrum and my analysis on an application of BordaFP. Here the problem doesn’t really arise.

In general people might feel that parties and their candidates differ. If not, then this would require attention. For applications of Borda or BordaFP to smaller committees, it would be sensible to be aware of this. Committees might devise rules about when candidates are too much alike, bunch their votes as if they were one (and rerank), and only call for a decision vote between the clones when they would actually be chosen.

The dark horse

Smith (point 2) considers candidates A, B, C and various nonentities. Kenneth Arrow used the more polite term “irrelevant alternatives”. Let me settle for Dark Horse D. Let me also distinguish truthful voting and strategic voting. In a truthful vote there is no difference between the true preference and the ranking submitted to the ballot box. In a strategic vote there is the strategy provided by the truth and the tactic vote submitted to the box. (Potentially one might design a voting system in which a voter submits those two rank orders simultaneously, but then we must relabel between truth and those two submissions.)

A member of parliament (MP) faces a dilemma. If the MP prefers A > B > C > D then giving the ranks 4, 3, 2, 1 will give 3 points to B, which might cause that B is chosen instead of A. This MP has the incentive to shift points to the Dark Horse, as in 4, 1, 2, 3, hoping that nobody else will vote for this dark horse anyway. If all MPs think in this manner, then the Dark Horse will be elected with an impressive score.

Smith provides an anecdote how such an event happened in the selection of a job application, where there was disagreement about an excellent macro-economist and an excellent micro-economist, whereupon a mediocre candidate got the job.

This is the prisoners’ dilemma. (1) If everyone votes truthfully then they all benefit from the true selection. (2) If everyone votes strategically then they all suffer the worst outcome. (3) Each has an incentive to deflect from the true vote.

The BordaFP method is sturdier than Borda but is not immune to this situation.

A prime answer to Smith is that in parliament the rankings for the selection of the prime minister might be public, so that voters and the press can question party tactics. A party that gives so much points to a Dark Horse might be criticised for not appreciating a better candidate.

Looking for balance

For now, I find Smith’s discussion a bit unbalanced. He emphasizes the disadvantages of Borda, but these have the answers above, for the proper context, while the disadvantages of range voting don’t get as much attention. Range voting stimulates the strategy of giving zero points to alternative candidates, whence it reduces to plurality with all its drawbacks. A candidate with 51% of the vote in plurality might not be better, since more extremist, than a candidate with a higher Borda score who is more moderate. The main point remains that the key issue is that countries with district voting like the USA, UK and France better switch to PR.

By way of conclusion

It remains true that Borda has the risk of a Dark Horse, and that the search for better algorithms is open. How can we elicit information from voters about their true preferences ? In the ballot box we might numb their brains so that they vote like bees (perhaps also with the dance) ?

An idea that I already mentioned at another place: MPs might submit two inputs, one with the strategy (supposed to be true) and one with the intended tactic. (One would design a test whether these better be rankings or ranges.) The intermediate result would be based upon the tactics. A random selection of the true preferences then is used to revise the tactics to improve the results for those MPs who have the luck to be selected. This prospect encourages MPs to be truthful about the strategy.

Another possibility for such double submissions: One might first determine the outcome according to the submitted strategies (supposedly true) and then use a random selection to use the allowed tactics, and only uses these if they indeed cause an improvement in the eyes of the MP. This sanctions a moderate degree of unavoidable strategic voting, but reduces the chaos when all do it without information about others.

Such calculations are simple for a partial outcome for a single MP. The problem lies in the aggregation of all MPs. Perhaps money helps in solving this too. Voters in the electorate aren’t allowed to sell their vote directly, with the obvious horror stories, also involving the distribution of income. But in parliament there is coalition bargaining which involves money, i.e. budget allocations. Potentially this helps in designing better algorithms. Perhaps the Bayesian Regret comes into play here, but I haven’t checked this. In Holland there is professor Frans Stokman who studies coalition bargaining with his “Decide” model.

Thus the search for better voting schemes hasn’t ended. Yet the main step for the USA, UK and France would be to accept the choice of a prime minister by parliament selected by PR.

My earlier weblog text on Brexit and voting theory was republished by the Royal Economic Society (RES) Newsletter. One reason for the editor to take the piece (and give it a fine edit) was that Kenneth Arrow (1921-2017) has recently passed away, and that the piece highlights Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem in its relevance for the Brexit referendum question. The April Newsletter also contains an obituary of Arrow by Larry Summers, originally published in the Wall St. Journal.

It feels rather awkward to refer to an obituary, yet, as these events happen to coincide, it might serve a purpose.

Summers of course mentions Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem too. His statement indicates that he apparently doesn’t understand it. It might be that Summers does understand it actually, and that only his statement for the obituary was less thoughtful. For now, let us take the quote at face value.

“Drawing upon mathematical logic, it shows that there is no possible voting scheme that can consistently and sensibly reflect the preferences of a set of individuals with diverse views. Any scheme that could ever be invented will be at risk of perverse outcomes, where, for example, the choice between options A and B is affected by the presence or absence of option C; or where a vote switch by one person toward option A makes it less likely to prevail. Mathematical and abstruse it was. But it also explained why committees have so much trouble coming to consistent conclusions and why, with an increasingly polarized electorate, democracy can become increasingly dysfunctional.”

It is false that voting schemes (i.e. decision mechanisms) cannot consistently and sensibly reflect the preferences of a set of individuals with diverse views. It is only true when you confuse voting outcomes and decisions on those outcomes.

To understand the situation, let us take a closer look.

The distinction between voting and deciding

(This section has been adapted a bit from this paper, p3.)

Consider three chess players A, B and C. They are pairwise confronted in a tournament with the result A > B > C > A, meaning that A beats B, B beats C and C beats A. These results happen to be intransitive. The objective of the tournament may only have been to allow the players to play against each other. There need not be a notion to find the “best overall player”.

Even if the result had been A > B > C and also A > C so that the outcome happens to be transitive, then it need not be an issue that A would be the “best overall player”. The fact that A beats the two others need not be associated with a notion that this would be “best”. The question does not have to arise simply because it is not considered to be a relevant question, neither to the players nor the organisers of the tournament. (Indeed, A would be the best under the Condorcet rule but not necessarily under a Borda rule.)

In voting we start out with a similar situation like with chess. The voting scores are like the game scores. If A gets more votes than B then this doesn’t necessarily mean much for the relation to C or the overall situation.

This situation will be called a “voting field”.

There can be a drastic change in objectives. Namely, if the tournament wants to identify an “overall winner”. Then this becomes the issue of “direct single seat elections” (to distinguish the situation from the election of for example a multiple seat parliament or the indirect selection of the prime minister via such a parliament).

The notion of an overall winner amounts to using a “social decision function” (SDF). The SDF selects the winner from a list of candidates. It is the definition of the SDF that it does so.

For decisions we require transitivity. Above voting field doesn’t have to be transitive but for decisions we require this. The SDF always implies a ranking. For example, if A = SDF[A, B, C] then the second might be B = SDF[B, C] and then the third would be C. The ranking arises by stepwise dropping the best of the remainder. The ranking means a transitive order of the candidates.

Hence, we distinguish between the voting field and deciding. In everyday parlance we tend to associate voting with deciding. Voting thus tends to mean: using both a voting field and a decision. Hence there is a distinction. Sometimes “voting” can be used in the sense of a “voting field” where the “field” is dropped. “Voting” thus is a somewhat ambiguous term, with some ambiguity about what it is ambiguous about. If one keeps track of the context the meaning however will be clear.

Kenneth Arrow’s confusion

Kenneth Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem comes about by confusing voting fields and deciding.

When we have an intransitive voting result A > B > C > A, then Arrow requires this intransivity to be transitive, because he wants to see a decision. He however assumes something that is inconsistent, whence the impossibility.

Larry Summers isn’t aware that Arrow had this confusion, and copies it.

See my note in the RES Newsletter to see what this confusion means for the Brexit referendum.

The metaphor of a gavel

In some meetings, it is the convention that the chairman bangs the gravel when a decision is made. For example, in a pairwise vote between A and B, A gets more votes but there is no bang of the gavel since it is not a decision but only a mere count. Similarly for the pairwise vote between B and C, when B gets more votes. Similarly for the pairwise vote between C and A, when C gets more votes. Then it is observed that the voting field has A > B > C > A. Now the chairman can decide that the cycle indicates a deadlock, and then bangs the gavel for the decision that there is deadlock. The subsequent step is to search for the rule book and select a tie-breaking rule.

Court gavel (By Jonathunder – Own work, GFDL, wikimedia commons)

The crucial role of rules

The crucial question is how one handles deadlocks (indifferences). Theorists of axiomatics for example don’t like randomisation. Imagine Euclid with an axiom on something that is a point or line at random. Yet, to resolve voting deadlocks, people might flip a coin. Would you call it “inconsistent” when a coin shows different outcomes Head or Tail ?

It is also true that a vote switch by one person towards option A might make it less likely to prevail (in the collective outcome). It all depends upon your axioms.

A supposed axiom that isn’t an axiom

Arrow posed some axioms that caused an inconsistency. Thus these axioms cannot be simultaneously true for description of real world events. Democracy is something that we want to work for the real world. Thus democracy must eliminate at least one of Arrow’s axioms. If something is to be dropped, then one should not call it an axiom. The key axiom to drop is the one on pairwise decision making (a.k.a. independence of irrelevant alternatives). One can have pairwise voting results, but these need to be integrated to arrive at a decision. For a pairwise vote it is incorrect to say that a third option would be irrelevant, for it can be quite relevant for the final decision. Option A might get more votes than option B, but when we include option C, then there might be a cycle, A > B > C > A, which amounts to a deadlock or indifference in terms of decision making. In that case the focus shifts to the mechanisms to resolve deadlocks.

Summers on dysfunctional democracy

If democracy is getting dysfunctional, then this is e.g. because of district voting instead of proportional representation (see this paper), and the use of referenda with misleading questions (and the educational system, and the media, and so on).

Dale Jorgenson, once president of the AEA, once referred to Arrow’s theorem as if it implied the need for a dictatorship. This causes me to wonder whether misunderstandings about the theorem would support autocratic thoughts. Larry Summers had an exchange with Elizabeth Warren on the positions of insiders and outsiders. From her autobiography:

“[Summers] teed it up this way: I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders. I had been warned.”

A situation in which insiders don’t listen to outsiders, and don’t criticise each other, reminds of an oligarchy and not an open society and democracy. Perhaps Summers only describes it factually but he also seems to support it. Perhaps his misunderstanding of Arrow’s theorem had misguided him into thinking that he was only taking the scientific point of view, that democracy was dysfunctional by definition to start with.

The latter is pure speculation. If Summers still thinks in terms of insiders and outsiders we might never discover the truth on this.

Arrow, Summers, Warren (Wikipedia Commons, Stanford News Service)

 

The Theresa May government has adopted Brexit as its policy aim and has received support from the Commons. Yet, economic theory assumes rational agents, and even governments might be open for rational reconsideration, even at the last moment.

Scientifically unwarranted referendum question

Based upon voting theory, the Brexit referendum question can be rejected as scientifically unwarranted. My suggestion is that the UK government annuls the outcome based upon this insight from science, and upon this insight alone. Let me invite (economic) scientists to study the argument and voting theory itself, so that the scientific community can confirm this analysis. This study best be done all over Europe, so that also the EU Commission might adopt it. Britons might be wary when their government or the EU Commission would listen to science, but then they might check the finding themselves too. A major worry is why the UK procedures didn’t produce a sound referendum choice in the first place.

Renwick et al. (2016) in an opinion in The Telegraph June 14 protested:

“A referendum result is democratically legitimate only if voters can make an informed decision. Yet the level of misinformation in the current campaign is so great that democratic legitimacy is called into question.”

Curiously, however, their letter doesn’t make the point that the referendum neglects voting theory, since the very question itself is misleading w.r.t. the complexity of the issue under decision. Quite unsettling is the Grassegger & Krogerus (2017) report about voter manipulation by Big Data, originally on Brexit and later for the election of Donald Trump. But the key point here concerns the referendum question itself.

The problem with the question

The question assumes a binary choice – Remain or Leave the EU – while voting theory warns that allowing only two options can be a misleading representation. When the true situation is more complex, then it may be political manipulation to reduce this to a binary one. As a result of the present process, we actually don’t know how people would have voted when they had been offered the true options.

Compare the question:

“Do you still beat your mother ?”

When you are allowed only a Yes or No answer, then you are blocked from answering:

“I will not answer that question because if I say No then it suggests that I agree that I have beaten her in the past.”

In the case of Brexit, the hidden complexity concerned:

  • Leave as EFTA or WTO ?
  • Leave, while the UK remains intact or while it splits up ?
  • Remain, in what manner ?

Voting theory generally suggests that representative democracy – Parliament – is better than relying on referenda, since the representatives can bargain about the complex choices involved.

Deadlocks can lurk in hiding

When there are only two options then everyone knows about the possibility of a stalemate. This means a collective indifference. There are various ways to break the deadlock: voting again, the chairperson decides, flip a coin, using the alphabet, and so on. There is a crucial distinction between voting (vote results) and deciding. When there are three options or more there can be a deadlock as well. It is lesser known that there can also be cycles. It is even lesser known that such cycles actually are a disguised form of a deadlock.

Take for example three candidates A, B and C and a particular distribution of preferences. When the vote is between A and B then A wins. We denote this as A > B. When the vote is between B and C then B wins, or B > C. When the vote is between C and A then C wins or C > A. Collectively A > B > C > A. Collectively, there is indifference. It is a key notion in voting theory that there can be distributions of preferences, such that a collective binary choice seems to result into a clear decision, while in reality there is a deadlock in hiding.

Kenneth Arrow (1921-2017) who passed away on February 21 used these cycles to create his 1951 “impossibility theorem”. Indeed, if you interprete a cycle as a decision then this causes an inconsistency or an “impossibility” w.r.t. the required transitivity of a (collective) preference ordering. However, reality is consistent and people do really make choices collectively, and thus the proper interpretation is an “indifference” or deadlock. It was and is a major confusion in voting theory that Arrow’s mathematics are correct but that his own verbal interpretation was incorrect, see my VTFD Ch. 9.2.

Representative government is better than referenda

Obviously a deadlock must be broken. Again, it may be manipulation to reduce the choice from three options A, B and C to only two. Who selects those two might take the pair that fits his or her interests. A selection in rounds like in France is no solution. There are ample horror scenarios when bad election designs cause minority winners. Decisions are made preferably via discussion in Parliament. Parliamentarian choice of the Prime Minister is better than direct election like for the US President.

Voting theory is not well understood in general. The UK referendum in 2011 on Proportional Representation (PR) presented a design that was far too complex. Best is that Parliament is chosen in proportional manner as in Holland, rather than in districts as in the UK or the USA. It suffices when people can vote for the party of their choice (with the national threshold of a seat), and that the professionals in Parliament use the more complexer voting mechanisms (like bargaining or the Borda Fixed Point method). It is also crucial to be aware that the Trias Politica model for democracy fails and that more checks and balances are required, notably with an Economic Supreme Court.

The UK Electoral Commission goofed too

The UK Electoral Commission might be abstractly aware of this issue in voting theory, but they didn’t protest, and they only checked that the Brexit referendum question could be “understood”. The latter is an ambiguous notion. People might “understand” quite a lot but they might not truly understand the hidden complexity and the pitfalls of voting theory. Even Nobel Prize winner Kenneth Arrow gave a problematic interpretation of his theorem.The Electoral Commission is to be praised for the effort to remove bias, where the chosen words “Remain” and “Leave” are neutral, and where both statements were included and not only one. (Some people don’t want to say No. Some don’t want to say Yes.) Still, the Commission gives an interpretation of the “intelligibility” of the question that doesn’t square with voting theory and that doesn’t protect the electorate from a voting disaster.

A test on this issue is asking yourself: Given the referendum outcome, do you really think that the UK population is clear in its position, whatever the issues of how to Leave or risk of a UK breakup ? If you have doubts on the latter, then you agree that something is amiss. The outcome of the referendum really doesn’t give me a clue as to what UK voters really want. Scotland wants to remain in the EU and then break up ? This is okay for the others who want to Leave ? (And how ?) The issue can be seen as a statistical enquiry into what views people have, and the referendum question is biased and cannot be used for sound statistics.

In an email to me 2016-07-11:

“The Electoral Commission’s role is to evaluate the intelligibility of referendum questions in line with the intent of Parliament; it is not to re-evaluate the premise of the question. Other than that, I don’t believe there is anything I can usefully add to our previously published statements on this matter.”

Apparently the Commission knows the “intent of Parliament”, while Parliament itself might not do so. Is the Commission only a facilitator of deception, and they don’t have the mission to put voters first ? At best the Commission holds that Whitehall and Parliament fully understood voting theory therefor deliberatedly presented the UK population with a biased choice, so that voters would be seduced to neglect complexities of how to Leave or the risks of a UK breakup. Obviously the assumption that Whitehall and Parliament fully grasp voting theory is dubious. The better response by the Commission would have been to explain the pitfalls of voting theory and the misleading character of the referendum question, rather than facilitate the voting disaster.

Any recognition that something is (very) wrong here, should also imply the annulment of the Brexit referendum outcome. Subsequently, to protect voters from such manipulation by Whitehall, one may think of a law that gives the Commission the right to veto a biased Yes / No selection, which veto might be overruled by a 2/3 majority in Parliament. Best is not to have referenda at all, unless you are really sure that a coin can only fall either way, and not land on its side.

Addendum March 31

  • The UK might repeal the letter on article 50 – see this BBC reality check. Thus science might have this time window to clarify to the general public how the referendum question doesn’t comply with voting theory.
  • The recent general elections in Holland provide another nice example for the importance of voting theory and for the meaning of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, see here.
Literature

BBC (2017), “Article 50: May signs letter that will trigger Brexit“, March 29

Carrell, S. (2017), “Scottish parliament votes for second independence referendum“, The Guardian, March 28

Colignatus (2001, 2004, 2011, 2014), “Voting theory for democracy” (VTFD), pdf online, https://zenodo.org/record/291985

Colignatus (2010, “Single vote multiple seats elections. Didactics of district versus proportional representation, using the examples of the United Kingdom and The Netherlands”, May 19 2010, MPRA 22782, http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/22782

Colignatus (2011a), “The referendum on PR“, Mathematics Teaching 222, January 5 2011, also on my website

Colignatus (2011b), “Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem and the distinction between Voting and Deciding”, https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/34919

Colignatus (2014), “An Economic Supreme Court”, RES Newsletter issue no. 167, October 2014, pp.20-21, http://www.res.org.uk/view/art7Oct14Features.html

Colignatus (2016), “Brexit: advice for young UK (age < 50 years), and scientific outrage for neglect of voting theory“, weblog text June 29

Colignatus (2017), “The performance of four possible rules for selecting the Prime Minister after the Dutch Parliamentary elections of March 2017″, March 17, MPRA 77616

Grassegger, H. and M. Krogerus (2017), “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down”, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win

Renwick, A. e.a. (2016), “Letters: Both Remain and Leave are propagating falsehoods at public expense“, The Telegraph, Opinion, June 14

From the BBC website

The road from science and scientific discovery into political discussion is often via the channel of a particular party. Politicians of any party are less likely to discuss an idea when there is no party advocating it anyway.

In the USA, members of the Senate and House are elected via districts, which is District Representation. This likely caused the division between two main parties, Democrats and Republicans. The situation likely causes that there are a lot of Think Tanks that want to reach out across the division, to inform voters directly on their various own approaches. For Think Tanks it is important to find at least one representative who is willing to support their case. Bipartisan support is nice but not always necessary, as one can always wait for the next turn in the political cycle.

In Holland, there is Proportional Representation (PR). With 150 seats, it takes only 1 / 150 = 0.67% of the nation-wide vote to get a new party into Parliament. When an issue is important enough to start a Think Tank on it, then likely at least 0.67% of the voters would care about it nation-wide, and then it might be better to start its own party rather than a Think Tank. Political parties in Holland have their own “scientific bureau“, that can inform the rest of the world about their analyses.

This paper of mine compares DR and PR, with the example of the UK, and concludes that the Dutch system is most democratic. See also the short discussion of this in Mathematics Teaching 222 in the context of the UK referendum on PR in 2011.

Baudet starts a think tank rather than a party

Thierry Baudet (1983) started in 2015 a Think Tank “Forum voor Democratie” (FvD) (forum for democracy).

Unfortunately the FvD English page currently still gives a Dutch text on their mission. Let me translate. Their stated mission is to fight the deterioration of democracy and improve its quality e.g. by means of referenda and direct elections of mayors. They also want to move power from the EU back to Holland. They want a strict system of “green cards” for immigrants. They explain their perceived link of democracy to the latter by that “uncontrolled immigration threathens social peace” (my translation). (Like in Brexit, immigration pops up at unlogical spots, as if people stop thinking when the subject arises.)

It is remarkable that Baudet thinks that he cannot get 0.67% of the vote for such a noble cause as the defence of democracy. In Holland, the political party D66 also wants to improve democracy, but they are pro-EU and not anti-EU, and thus he cannot join up. However, as a Think Tank, Baudet would be forced to collaborate a lot with D66, because of the shared view on democracy.

Perhaps it might be easier to start a niche Think Tank rather than a political party though: for, a party requires capable representatives. It may also be a matter of temperament, as Baudet states that he has no affinity with politics itself and wants to remain “independent”. It is okay for other people to follow him but he will not follow others.

Baudet and his FvD helped initiating the 2016 Dutch referendum on the EU Treaty with the Ukraine, see my discussion here and here. Baudet is also prominent in the peuro.nl petition, discussed in the former weblog text. There I promised to look a bit closer at Baudet’s views, which I will do here.

A bit on Baudet’s background

Today’s society cannot do without education. It is always useful to look at what people got their diploma in. This is not intended for an ad hominem argument but helps to clarify their field of competence and way of thinking. The theme of the “Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow indicates that we must be alert on bridging gaps. (See e.g. here.) When people age and grow more experienced, they will tend to diversify from their diploma, but it is seldom that a person from the humanities acquires a taste for science and mathematics as well.

Baudet’s cv doesn’t state whether he did gymnasium A or B. Generally students with gymnasium B tend to specify this though. Also given his later studies in history and law there is a great likelihood that Baudet did A. We should not expect insight in science and mathematics.

He got a bachelor in history in 2006. At Vox Europ 2012 “The EU is an empire, and empires mean war“, the website claims that he would be a historian too, but generally this label would be reserved for masters, and Vox Europ better corrects the claim.

Observe that the general label “historian” is vague too. It is generally better when people study a particular field before they look into the history of that field. It is awkward to look at an issue in the past when you don’t know about the very field of study itself. Grand themes might be an exception since it is impossible to study everything, but check out this discussion on David Armitage.

Baudet’s 2012 thesis,The significance of borders. Why representative government and the rule of law requires nation states“, is a thesis in law, supervised by law professor Paul Cliteur and philosopher Roger Scruton. Thus it is not a thesis in history, though the thesis refers to historical events.

PM 1. The other members of the thesis commission are in law too, except for Alfred van Staden who is a political scientist and professor in international relations. Would he vouch for these aspects in this thesis ? PM 2. The meaning of a thesis is that it is one way of showing that you are qualified to do scientific reseach in that particular field. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you fully proved a particular argument. PM 3. An objective of a thesis is that the new doctor learns modesty about what can actually be proven. PM 4. Cliteur states on his website that he looks at issues of free speech, see also his lecture. I informed him about the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of CPB, and he doesn’t show an interest. Apparently Cliteur doesn’t see that it is a no-brainer to say that religious fundamentalism and terrorists who abuse religion present a problem to free speech. Those groups enjoy that he pays attention to them because they thrive on attention and it makes them more important than they are. In the mean time, Cliteur doesn’t defend the freedom of scientific thought right on his doorsteps, while it would be important for a free society that such defence is provided.

I am still looking for a review of Baudet’s thesis by an independent reader.

Potentially the mentioned short Vox Europ article has the same theme as the thesis. The scheme of that short article is that imperialism causes wars, that nationalism is opposite to imperialism, and (thus) that nationalism would support peace. Also Baudet classifies the EU as imperialist. Whether these definitions and statements are supported by scientists working in this field remains to be seen. I am more inclined to interprete developments in terms of political economy, and I haven’t read a key (convincing) statement by Baudet yet why his approach from law should generate key conclusions.

For example, Robert Mundell’s theory of the optimal currency area starts from economics and then provides some historical data that confirm the point. It is open for falsification from history. Baudet seems to turn this around, and starts with historical cases like Napoleon or the USSR and transfers insights to the present EU. This complicates the issue very much, since it suggests that we all must be historians of Napoleon and the USSR before we might discuss the EU. Instead, I prefer a background in political economy, and look at the EU and its future, while I am open for falsifications by historians who suggest parallels in their area of study.

For example, Deirdre McCloskey in her work as economic historian started out from economic theory and the philosophies of ethics and liberty before she discovered the key role of Holland around 1650 in the transformation from the Middle Ages towards the modern world economy. I think that McCloskey is a fine economist and historian, and her discovery of the key role of virtue ethics in this historical process is very convincing – i.e. the change of the social view of the merchant as a robber towards that of admiration and high social status, with the whole social infrastructure of bourgeois society supporting that change of perception. A good historian is always aware that one should not read modern ideas into the past. However, scientific laws are the same over time, and economic processes work the same too.

Incidently, Hubert Smeets, a journalist who has been reporting about Russia and the former USSR over many years, suggested in NRC-Handelsblad last weeks, that Baudet, Kelder & Wellens (from the peuro.nl inititative) would have compared the EU to the former USSR. This is a strong accusation, since the USSR was a totalitarian state. Wellens asked the NRC Ombudsman for a correction. The Ombudsman Sjoerd de Jong gave a fallacious reply. This is my deconstruction (in Dutch) of this affair. Conclusion: Smeets made a false accusation. Baudet’s comparison concerns imperialism which is a different issue, and what Baudet wrote by himself doesn’t have to be supported by Kelder & Wellens. The Dutch Ombudsmen do not work well, see my letter of 2013 to the international organisation of Ombudsmen.

Comparison with Hans van Mierlo and D66 who are pro-EU

In 1966, master of law and journalist Hans van Mierlo (1931-2010) founded the political party D66 (“Democrats ’66”). The “crown jewels” of D66 are: (1) a change from PR to DR, (2) direct elections of mayors and prime minister, and (3) referenda. Thus:

  • Baudet cannot join D66 or their scientific bureau (named after Van Mierlo who didn’t do science) since they are pro-EU and he is anti-EU. But he would be forced to collaborate with D66 a lot because of the shared views on the “crown jewels” (except perhaps DR ?).
  • Scientific analysis of democracy shows that these D66 “crown jewels” actually are less democratic. See my book “Voting theory for democracy“.
  • As far as I know, Hans van Mierlo never studied democracy and its electoral systems. Van Mierlo only was in love with the USA of JFK, and in Holland in the 1960s these ideas sounded new.
  • As far as I know, nobody else in D66 studies democracy. See how they disinform the UK.
  • As far as I know, Baudet never studied democracy and its electoral systems either. I am not aware of a clarification by him why D66 never succeeded w.r.t. its crown jewels. Apparently, Baudet only buys uncritically into the propaganda by D66 as if referenda and direct elections would be more democratic. Curiously, Baudet’s 2012 thesis,The significance of borders. Why representative government and the rule of law requires nation states“, discusses representative democracy and not “democracy” by plebiscite.
  • The Brexit referendum is rather disastrous from the scientific view on democracy, but it requires some study – see here – to cut through the dogma that a referendum is pure democracy by definition.
Legalistic / Popular Scientific
Pro EU and euro Van Mierlo, D66: crown jewels
Anti EU and euro Baudet, FvD: referenda, direct elections, vague on DR vs PR
Pragmatic on EU and euro Me, SvHG: anti-crown jewels

When Van Mierlo deceased in 2010, I honoured him with the pamphlet “Laat D66 zichzelf opheffen” (Let D66 abolish itself). About the dead nothing but good, and the pamphlet was intended as an antidote for his sectarian followers in D66 who might turn him into a saint and martyr of democracy. Observe that I signed this pamphlet under my personal and not scientific name, since it is a personal political opinion that a political party better abolishes itself.

Pamphlet 2010: Let D66 abolish itself

Pamphlet 2010: Let D66 abolish itself

PM. There is also the Dutch LibDem Party (LDP), founded in 2006 by Sammy van Tuyll. They are social liberal like D66, like my suggestion from 1993 of a Social Liberal Forum (SLF). Van Tuyll has a background in medicine, economics and law, and should be able to understand my economic analysis. It is not clear to me why he doesn’t study and discuss it. Van Tuyll and I met in 2007 and I explained about the censorship of science, and it didn’t ring a bell. I can only suppose that when Van Tuyll ever is elected into government then he will continue with the censorship of science by the Dutch government.

Meeting Baudet in 2010

I met Thierry Baudet at a book presentation in 2010, when he was co-editor with Michiel Visser of a collection of essays on conservatism. My comment at the book presentation was that a good starting point would be the natural conservatism in classical liberalism as formulated by J.S. Mill and J.M. Keynes. Of course my background is in economics. The book title suggests the conundrum that conservatism actually is progressive, but the content of the book did not clearly resolve this conundrum. Overall I thought that the book was useful, but did not feel that I should buy the second volume.

I gave Baudet a copy of the book by Hans Hulst & Auke Hulst in collaboration with me (1998) Werkloosheid en armoede, de oplossing die werkt” (W&A) (Unemployment and poverty, the solution that works). In response, Baudet gave me his business card, whence I sent him a note on the next day, April 13 2010, to confirm contact. The card and this link show that Baudet was already active in improving democracy.

Baudet's business card of 2010, referring to Dutch Parliament with 150 representatives

Baudet’s business card of 2010, referring to Dutch Parliament with 150 representatives

My presumption was that Baudet would read W&A, and that there would be a discussion proceeding from there. In some interviews Baudet is portrayed with stacks of books in the background so there is the suggestion that he might read books. However, while I read the book that he and Visser edited, I did not get a reply on W&A and neither on my suggestion to have a further discussion. One possibility is that he was too busy with his 2012 thesis (though W&A is relevant for that topic too). But after completion of the thesis, there still is no sign of interest.

There is my warning from January 2012 to various young Dutch intellectuals who might come across as “Young Turks“, including Baudet, that they should not forget about the need for a solid scientific approach to change of society. I knew that Baudet was a PhD student but not that he would present his thesis in June that year. Perhaps Baudet thought this warning superfluous since he was working on that thesis at that time. Perhaps it is okay to put on blinders for a thesis when finishing it. The very purpose of a thesis however is to teach you the scientific attitude that one should not neglect criticism.

In 2012 I highlighted the issue that now surfaces in the peuro.nl petition again, namely the link between the EU and euro crises to the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB.

If Baudet and his FvD are so much interested in improving democracy, why are they not interested in my analysis of the failure of Trias Politica, and the need for an extension with a constitutional Economic Supreme Court ? Why doesn’t Baudet write a review of “De ontketende Kiezer” (2003) ? Why this island mentality and burking and elbowing out of views of others ?

Baudet doesn’t inform Kelder & Wellens at peuro.nl

Baudet in 2015 collaborated with master of law and journalist Jort Kelder and management accountant Arno Wellens on the peuro.nl petition that wants an enquiry by Parliament about the creation and future of the euro. See my discussion of peuro.nl in the former weblog entry.

Kelder & Wellens confirm to me that Baudet did not inform them about W&A and this warning of mine of 2012 to the “Young Turks”. If they want Parliament to provide “full information”, then I would hope that they themselves acknowledge that they had a glitch in their own information amongst themselves. They disinformed the 40,000+ people who signed their petition.

Because of Baudet’s neglect since 2010 of key information about economics and censorship of science, there now is this peuro.nl initiative that focuses only on the euro, while the relevant enquiry should be about unemployment, role CPB … and euro. The euro is only a symptom, and an addition to what went wrong already before.

KWB

Jort Kelder, Arno Wellens and Thierry Baudet, screenshot peuro.nl 2015-12-14

Council of Recommendation

The format of a Think Tank for Baudet’s FvD allows academics to join up in a council of recommendation, too, which some might find problematic if it were a political party.

Member of the FvD council of recommendation are professors in constitutional law Jos Teunissen and Twan Tak. They should understand my approach that there should be no taxation on minimum earnings. See the short text “Don’t tax sweat“.  Teunissen has this useful text “Vrijheid, gelijkheid en belastingen” (2010) on couples, but it is better to start with individuals, and then see DRGTPE p131-132 on couples. Constitutional lawyers should also understand the failure of the Trias Politica model of democracy and the need for an Economic Supreme Court (per nation).

Seeing the names of Teunissen and Tak causes the hope that they will be able to explain these things to the other members of the council, and that all agree that FvD can be abolished as it has been based upon a wrong analysis, neglect by Baudet and disinformation since 2010.

Here we find Baudet’s thesis advisors Paul Cliteur and Roger Scruton again. Obviously the thesis differs from the mission of FvD and it is a bit remarkable that the supervisors travel along, though the direction of travelling might also have been the other way around (from Euroskeptism towards thesis).

To my surprise I also see: Deirdre McCloskey ! After some search, though, we see that Baudet explains in his cv that he taught “between 2010 and 2011” at Arjo Klamer’s school “Academia Vitae” (though it filed for bankruptcy in February 2010), when Jos de Beus (1952-2013) got ill. McCloskey may have taught at this school too. Arjo Klamer was close to De Beus and gave an impressive presentation at the memorial meeting – see my comments on this. It is important to know that Jos de Beus did not understand Kenneth Arrow’s impossibility theorem for collective decision making. It is important to know that there is a line in economic theory from Jan Tinbergen to his PhD student Hans van den Doel to me, with a floundering branch to political theorist Jos de Beus, who collaborated with Van den Doel. Jos de Beus and I met when I presented Van den Doel with the Samuel van Houten Penning in 1994. We had occasional contact but to no effect.

As an economist, Arjo Klamer could help out by studying my work, but he doesn’t. Klamer however is also in the council of recommendation of FvD. For some reason, economists Klamer and McCloskey prefer Baudet’s non-economic approach in theory of law above my development in economic theory from Jan Tinbergen and Hans van den Doel. If only they studied my analysis and stated why they disagree, but now the world must wonder why they don’t look at it at all. And why would they not understand that they cannot see the full analysis yet, because of the censorship ? Ergo, that this censorship must be lifted ?

A member of the FvD council of recommendation is philosopher Ad Verbrugge. He is founding chairman of “Beter Onderwijs Nederland” (BON) (for “Better Education”). At the website of BON, some mathematicians are slandering about my work on mathematics education. Verbrugge doesn’t do anything about this. There is this letter of 2009 (my website has moved to thomascool.eu). I have rephrased some questions again this Summer for fellow math teacher Karin den Heijer, now board member of BON, see page 11 here.

The link to mathematics education is important. See my letter to the president of KNAW and directorate of CPB 2016, that explains that maltreatment of my work on mathematics education hinders other people to also see the value of my work in economics.

Member of this council of recommendation is Kees de Lange, emeritus professor in physics and former chair of an association on pensions NPB. De Lange might have looked at my suggestions on mathematics education, see my suggestion on what physicists might do. I am not impressed by De Lange’s understanding of economics. I am not aware of someone in the Dutch world of pensions who warned about the 2007+ crisis. In 2009 I contacted De Lange as chairman of NBP and informed him about the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of CPB. His reply was sympathetic to my feelings, as if that were a relevant issue, and that NBP did not look into economic analyses, and that my approach might only be discussed when shared by more economists (but they didn’t look at analyses anyway). I came away from this with the impression that De Lange was lost, both as a scientist and chairman of NBP. Later in 2010 De Lange helped found a political party 50Plus, he was elected in the Dutch Senate as member of a two-man fraction of OSF 2011-2015, but then continued independently.

PM. At this spot it is useful to mention that Baudet, Wellens and De Lange also perform in video channel “Cafe Weltschmerz“, created by (bachelor in business and marketing) journalist Willem Middelkoop (LinkedIn), who after the 2007+ crisis got rich by telling people to get into gold rather than have a parliamentarian enquiry into unemployment and censorship since 1990 by the directorate of CPB. One of Middelkoop’s books was published by Amsterdam University Press and by standard arrangement adopted by the University of Chicago Press, but it should have been accepted at neither place since there is no link to science. See my discussion of the gold bugs. One supposes that Middelkoop likes it when Baudet, Wellens and De Lange continue to create uncertainty amongst viewers, so that the market for gold as a “safe haven” remains strong. It is a pity, though, that this circus also draws in young people looking for answers, like psychiatrist Esther van Fenema (wiki) and mathematician Anna Grebenchtchikova (LinkedIn) and lawyer Hester Bais. They, with their higher education that should guard them, might be falling in the journalistic trap to look at symptoms rather than causes.

Member of the council of recommendation is Tom Zwart, professor of international and European law, since 2007 director of the Dutch School of Human Rights Research. Perhaps freedom of expression is also a human right of a scientist ? Or is the option to do science no human right ?

Member of the council of recommendation are other economists Edin Mujagic, Bruno de Haas and Daniel Lacalle. Let me invite them to study my work, starting with DRGTPE (before the crisis) and CSBH (after the crisis). Mujagic hasn’t responded yet, though my analysis dates from the fall of the Berlin Wall, that also affected his past. Lacalle is a hedgefund manager and could get very rich if he would start supporting my analysis (supporting the boycott of Holland, explaining to all that it is needed, and speculating on it).

Last but not least there is Theodore Dalrymple, who might be very happy to finally understand why the Dutch welfare state isn’t working as it is supposed to.

Thierry Baudet and Paul Scheffer

At “Cafe Weltschmerz” there is also this (tedious) interview of Paul Scheffer (1954, like me, Angela Merkel and Franςois Hollande) by Baudet on the Dutch referendum on the treaty of the EU with the Ukraine. Scheffer states that he would vote Yes for the treaty. Baudet participated in setting up the referendum, with the objective that people would vote No. It is fine that they can have this civilised talk, though it was so tedious that I quit watching after 10 minutes (though the referendum has already taken place).

Baudet was for one year a post-doc in 2013 with Paul Scheffer who has a chair in European studies in Tilburg. Originally, Scheffer first wrote a popular book on migration and the multicultural society, and then turned this into a thesis for Tilburg. The Leiden professor of social history Leo Lucassen stepped down from the promotion committee in protest that not enough had been done to make it a real thesis.

Scheffer did highschool HBS A, and graduated in political science in 1986. In his student years he joined the Dutch communist party, and later switched to the social democratic PvdA. He was at the Wiardi Beckman Stichting (WBS), the “scientific bureau” of PvdA in 1986-1992.

I was a member of PvdA in 1974-1991. When I was at CPB in 1982-1991 I developed my analysis on unemployment, with the conceptual breakthrough when the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 caused me to look at some fundamentals. My analysis was censored by the directorate. I sent a copy of my 1990 paper to Parliament, so that all parties were informed, and I was free to contact PvdA of which I was a member. I contacted WBS, and I assumed that fellow social democratic scientists would be interested in an analysis on unemployment. To my great surprise and dismay, they were not. See the letter reproduced in “De ontketende kiezer” (2003) p128. See my discussion “Soms loopt het zo” in “Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau” (1994). My contact was with fellow econometrician Paul de Beer. I met Scheffer at a PvdA convention at that time so he was in the know. I met Scheffer again at the memorial service of Jos de Beus. I later discovered that Paul de Beer was an adherent of the idea of a basic income. See my discussion about the sectarian behaviour around basic income.

Director of WBS in 1989-2006 was Paul Kalma. I had had some contacts with earlier director Joop van den Berg (1981-1989), now fellow at the Dutch Montesquieu institute. The idea that there are drawbacks to the Trias Politica structure hasn’t arrived there yet.

When Holland succeeds in having this parliamentarian enquiry on unemployment and the role of the CPB … and the euro … then these events at WBS would be important to look into as well. As said at the beginning, the road from science and scientific discovery into political discussion is often via the channel of a particular party. Politicians of any party are less likely to discuss an idea when there is no party advocating it anyway. Thus it is very relevant to know why social democratic researchers at WBS were and still are not interested in a new approach to unemployment. I will be interested in hearing what has been happening as well. Obviously, Parliament will be hesitant to ask questions, since WBS is protected by the aura of science and by that parties will not easily look into dealings of other parties. But the notion of “scientific bureau” better be taken seriously, and scientists should be familiar with the idea of answering questions. Perhaps Thierry Baudet can already ask Paul Scheffer what his recollections are, and why Scheffer didn’t and still doesn’t do anything about the censorship when he heard about it.

The three Pauls (De Beer, Kalma, Scheffer), in 1991 at WBS (wikimedia commons and website De Beer)

The three Pauls: De Beer, Kalma, Scheffer, who were in 1990-1991 at WBS (wikimedia commons and website De Beer)