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The national lockdown causes the “collateral deaths” of persons who would normally receive care but who remain untreated. The Dutch Volkskrant newspaper reports that 40% of normal hospital care has been cancelled.

  • People with a disease are vulnerable to Covid-19 and may fear a greater risk of infection within the health system itself.
  • Health care resources are reallocated from normal care to Covid-19 related cases. The latter can be rational, given that untreated infections are a risk for the whole population.

This shift in the burden of disease and death might be acceptable to a large extent. We must compare these “collateral deaths” to the “avoided deaths by treating those with infections“. However, at issue is whether some elements in this shift of the burden are dubious. We can understand these aspects a bit better when we have a better grasp of what is called “the value of life”.

Below, I will discuss a particular theoretical case of “collateral death”:

Consider a person of 20 years of age, with a potential gain of 60 additional years of living, who might not get proper treatment because the Intensive Care Units (ICU) are occupied with Covid-19 patients, who are elderly and might perhaps gain 10 more years of living. PM. Women in Holland at age 80 still have a life expectancy of a bit more than 9 years on average (statline). (It is not known whether this changes or whether they will have a full recovery from Covid-19.)

There is my 2003 working paper: On the value of life. This compares the lives-saved and life-years-gained measures, and develops a compromise: a “unit-square-root” measure. This regards each life as 100% and takes the square root of the relative gain – see below. The paper was intended for macro-economic issues and not for triage at the micro-level, but let us now investigate how it would work at the micro-level. PM. Said paper still suffers a lot from being a working paper, and requires much editing for readability.

Let us first look briefly at the flu and then proceed with above theoretical case at the ICU.

Relation to the flu

RIVM provides the following data for two flu-periods in Holland. Rather than the infection fatality factor (IFF) (deaths per infected) we have the symptomatic case fatality factor (sCFF) (deaths per symptomatic). A well-known statement is that the flu is “an old man’s friend” – but this is disputed by some. I did not find the percentage at ICU. The Dutch health system is accustomed to the flu and some categories of (elderly) patients with the flu and comorbidity are no longer sent to the ICU.

Table 1. Flu incidence in Holland 2017-2019

RIVM data

Winter 2017 – 2018

Winter 2018 – 2019

Length of period (weeks)

18

14

Reported symptomatic people

900,000

400,000

Hospitalisation

16,000

10,000

Surplus deaths

9,500

2,900

Symptomatic Case Fatality Factor (sCFF)

1.05%

0.73%

Covid-19 is “at least ten times deadlier than the regular flu” (quote) – a recent estimate is 7 times – and likely more contagious and more prone to mutation. At issue is whether the properties of Covid-19 warrant a different treatment at the ICU as is happening in these weeks. The Dutch health system is not accustomed to Covid-19 yet, and very likely they now admit Covid-19 patients who would not be admitted in the future. Let us consider the admission criterion.

The ICU admission criterion

Dutch ICU currently have the “incremental probability of survival” admission rule (document). This is the Δp = p b between the probability of survival of the treatment at the ICU (p) and the probability of surviving not at the ICU (b = background risk). Observe:

  • Patients with Covid-19 tend to have a worse Δp at the ICU than similarly diseased patients without Covid-19. Normally, we would not see many people with Covid-19 at the ICU (with comorbidity). Apparently, the health care system is not used to Covid-19 yet. They try to save patients who in retrospect wouldn’t have a chance at admission. (An aspect is that it is reported that 80% of the patients requiring breathing machines are overweight – an aspect of the obesitas health crisis.)
  • A comparable situation exists with influenza. I did not find a report about the use of ICU for flu patients. Quite likely, the availability of beds made it possible in the past that also categories of patients with influenza were admitted, also with comorbidity. The difference with Covid-19 is the increase in the case fatality factor – but this points to fewer admissions.
  • However, people have little reason to go to the hospital when they will not be treated. Untreated infections are a risk for others and thus it is better to present some scope for treatment. Keeping patients at the ICU is a form of quarantine, though an expensive one.

My 2003 paper On the value of life assumed a p = 100% chance of success of treatment (with a known subsequent life expectancy). Let us now discuss the case with a different value of p.

PM. The term “lives saved” might be emotionally biased. It seems better to say “lives extended”. Eventually everyone dies, and the term “lives extended” indicates that the important information of “how much” is not mentioned.

A treatment criterion in general

The general setup is: (i) maximise performance given costs, or (ii) minimise costs given a level of performance. Public Health budgets tend to be given, so we choose the first approach.

Let there be two types of treated patients in numbers n1 and n2. We select these treated numbers from the pools waiting for treatment n*1 and n*2. Costs of treatment per patient are c1 and c2, for example because of different lengths of stay at the ICU. Available resources are C, and these can be time of medical personel or plain costs. The probabilities of success are p1 and p2, with performance outcomes s1 and s2. All variables are nonnegative.

We can impose an additional (moral) condition that one type of patient gets a weight λ. The weight λ means that a person in that group in the new objective function becomes λ times as important as a person in that same group in the old situation. The effect depends upon the success criterion, see below. Sometimes this condition is imposed by making different beds for different types of patients. We might also manipulate the pool sizes. When a pool of cheap patients with a high treatment score is large, so that they get all the treatments, we may restrict the pool size in order to allow treatments for the other type.

The above gives the linear programming model for the variables n1 and n2:

Maximise    p1.s1.n1 + λ p2.s2.n2

Subject to  n1 ≤ n*1    and    n2 ≤ n*2    and    c1.n1 + c2.n2 ≤ C

The following diagram presents the C-simplex and the feasible region restricted to the n* pool-variables. Due to linearity, the objective function will tend to select one of the end-points. The shown optimal point is {n°1, n*2}. When the objective function and the feasible region have the same slope, then –c1/c2 = – p1.s1 / (λ* p2.s2), and λ* = s1/s2 (p1/p2) / (c1/c2). In this case we would select patients at random, but still keep representative numbers for the types of patients.

Figure. Linear programming for triage

Let us use this model for the theoretical example case from above, namely of the patient of 20 years without Covid-19 and the patient of 80 years with Covid-19. Let type 1 be the youngsters and type 2 be the elderly.

Simplification by using costed-patients

Each type of patient comes with a standard cost, and the linear programming problem becomes a bit more tractable by using this constancy.  Above problem can be simplified by looking at “costed-patients” qi = ci.ni. The conditions on the pool size become qi = ci.nici.n*i = q*i. Then we get:

Maximise (p1.s1/c1) q1 + λ (p2.s2/c2) q2

Subject to q1 ≤ q*1 and q2 ≤ q*2 and q1 + q2 ≤ C

For this formulation it may be easier to calculate the randomisation value of λ* = (p1.s1/c1) / (p2.s2/c2).

Since the maximand can be scaled arbitrarily, we may divide by the coefficient of the second group, and get this expression, so that it is fully clear that taking λ = λ* gives a maximand that is parallel to the cost condition. The shadow price of the cost condition will be max[λ , λ *].

Maximise    λ* q1 + λ q2

Subject to q1 ≤ q*1 and q2 ≤ q*2 and q1 + q2 ≤ C

Cohort size

The “direct gain ratio” is s1 / s2. For lives-extended, the direct gain ratio is 1 / 1 = 1, while for life-years gained above example gives 60 / 10 = 6, meaning that treating one younger person successfully gives the same effect as treating 6 elderly persons successfully.

By comparison λ* is the “effective gain ratio”, in which the direct gain ratio is corrected for the relative risk p1/p2 and the relative cost of treatment. The effective gain ratio means that treating 1 younger person (with the given chance of success) has the same effect as treating λ* elderly patients (with their chance of success) (and excluding the manipulation with λ).

Assuming that all costs are depleted, we can write c1.n1 + c2.n2 = as n2 (c1.n1/n2 + c2) = C. Taking μ = n1 / n2 as the “selected ratio”, then we can take a single cohort as consisting of μ youngsters + 1 elderly, or μ  + 1 persons. The cost per cohort is k = c1 μ + c2 = C / n2, using that there are n2 cohorts.

While above manipulation of choosing λ at λ* obviously can be done, it still leaves the problem of randomisation. The manipulation of the maximand is not so effective in this kind of problem. It is more effective to manipulate the pool of youngsters n*1. Above we tended to assume that this pool was exogenously given, but when this pool is so large that they claim all treatments, and we want to put a limit to this, then we effectively reduce the pool size. A relevant variable to consider is the selected ratio μ or the composition of the cohorts. If μ is chosen, then n2 = C / k, and then n*1 = n1 = μ n2 = μ C / k = μ C / (c1 μ + c2).

The choices of λ and μ are different since they apply at different aspects of the problem, i.e. the maximand or the boundary condition. Yet we can conceive of some combination. The value of λ does not always mean a representative cohort size. Only when the slopes happen to be equal and there is randomisation, then, in some cases, we might first treat μ = λ* youngsters before treating an elderly patient again (which single person also weighs as λ*).

Case 1. Using mortality only

The success criterion of lives-extended gives s1 = s2 = 1. The objective function is parallel to the feasible region when λ = λ*[lives] = (p1/p2) / (c1/c2), or p1 / p2 = λ c1 / c2.

The “incremental probability of survival” is a subcase that only compares p1 and p2.  This neglects costs, or sets c1 = c2, e.g. neglecting duration of treatment, or in fact sets λ = c2 / c1, i.e. compensating for duration of treatment (so that there is randomisation when the two probabilities are equal). The rule is also silent about the pool sizes. (In practice ICU have more criteria, with some implied λ.)

We would not discriminate patients when λ = 1, i.e. without additional moral judgement and when only the lives-extended criterion and the parameter values determine who is to live and who not. (We do not decide who dies: nature does.) The choice of  λ = 1 still allows for the happenstance that the slopes would be equal by chance. For example, when the younger person costs 2 financial units (or weeks) and the older person costs 3, then the slopes are the same when the survival probabilities have the same ratio: p1 = 2/3 p2. For other values of the survival probabilities, however, one type of patient is preferred to the other type.

E.g. when p1 = 0.80% and p2 = 0.51%, the maximand is 0.80 n1 + 0.51 n2 or 0.40 q1 + 0.17 q2, and then clearly the first type will be preferred. Only an additional quantitative restriction n*1 might prevent the neglect of all patients of type 2.

For another value than λ = 1, the objective function is 0.40 q1 + λ 0.17 q2. We randomise if λ = λ* = 40 / 17 = 2.35. This means that one old patient in the new maximand is valued as 2.35 old patients in the original maximand. If we take λ* as the cohort parameter μ, then after randomly choosing 2.35 youngsters, we would randomly choose 1 person from the elderly (who has weight 2.35 too).

The lives-extended measure neglects the “how much” of the life-expectancies.

Case 2. Using life-years-gained

The success criterion using life-years-gained gives s1 = 60 and s2 = 10. We find λ = λ[lys] = 60 / 10 (p1/p2) / (c1/c2) = 6 λ[lives].

We may also find the maximand of 24 q1 + λ 1.7 q2, and the objective function is parallel to the feasible region for λ*[lys] = 24 / 1.7 = 14.1. The latter means that 1 old person in the new maximand counts as 14.1 old persons in the original maximand. Perhaps with a bit more freedom, we might say that 1 year of life for an elderly person counts as 14.1 years for a younger person. For the cohort size, we might treat μ = λ* = 14 youngsters and then treat an elderly person (who counts as 14 too).

PM. The 10 life-years actually gained for an elderly person are regarded in the new maximand as 14.1 * 10 = 141 life-years gained. This reflects 141 / 60 = 2.35 youngsters. But the elderly are not really such youngsters, and we must also account for the the effect of the other parameters.

The life-years-saved criterion is biased in age and sex: it gives advantage to the young and women. Both criteria of lives-extended and life-years-gained have their drawbacks. There is scope for a compromise.

Case 3. Unit-square-root measure

The unit-square-root (UnitSqrt) measure uses:

a = age

d = life expectancy with disease, without treatment (for the ICU: d = 0)

x = expected life-years-gained when treatment is successful

patient score = Sqrt[x] / Sqrt[a + d + x] = Sqrt[x / (a + d + x)]

Substituting all parameter values gives the maximand 34.6 q1 + λ 5.7 q2.

For above young person the score is Sqrt[60 / (20 + 60)] = 0.866. Above Covid-19 patient has Sqrt[10 / (80 + 10)] = 0.333. We get λ = λ[sqrt] = 0.866 / 0.333  (p1/p2) / (c1/c2) = 2.6 λ[lives]. We thus have a compromise value between the ratio of only survival 1 / 1 = 1 and the ratio of life-years of 60 / 10 = 6, namely 0.866 / 0.333 = 2.6. For the example case, the “middle of the road” character of the UnitSqrt measure also shows from the randomisation value of λ* = 6.1: this lies between the earlier other two values of 2.4 and 14.1.

Collecting results

We can tabulate our findings for the discussed example. Obviously, this table applies to this particular example only. There can be quite some discussion about what kind of success measure, and possible “correction” or “discrimination” by means of the n* and λ and μ. In practice, an ICU may have quite different reasoning as well, like on the availability of medical personel for particular treatments.

While it remains possible to select one of these objective functions and be neutral with λ = 1, and allow an extreme outcome (except for the happenstance of parallel lines), it seems more likely, as said, that the more relevant choice concerns the cohort size μ + 1. Above discussion gives considerations for a reasoned choice of μ as one of the “gain ratio’s” mentioned in the table. Above discussion suggests the compromise value, for this particular example case, of μ = 6, i.e. treat first 6 youngsters of said type and then treat an elderly person of said other type.

Table 2. Comparing success measures for triage, a = {20, 80} and x = {60, 10}

p = {0.80, 0.51}
c = {2, 3}
Lives extended
Life-years gained
Unit square root
Success measure s = {1, 1} s = {60, 10} = x s = Sqrt[x / (a + d + x)]
Direct gain ratio (only s1/s2) 1 / 1 = 1 60 / 10 = 6 0.866 / 0.333 = 2.6
Maximand 80 n1 + λ 51 n2

40 q1 + λ 17 q2

48 n1 + λ 5.1 n2

24 q1 + λ 1.7 q2

69.3 n1 + λ 16.9 n2

34.6 q1 + λ 5.7 q2

Weight formula
λ[lives] λ[lys] = 6 λ [lives] λ[sqrt] = 2.6 λ[lives].
Randomisation,

Effective gain ratio (λ*)

λ* = 40 / 17 = 2.35 λ* = 24 / 1.7 = 14.1 λ* = 34.6 / 5.7 = 6.1

Queuing

The 2003 paper originated from a macro-economic context of the allocation of the budget over different types of treatment. At the micro-level, a hospital is faced with a queue of patients with all their own characteristics of age a, life expectation d, effect of treatment x, now extended with probabilities and costs c. We could order patients on their costed scores p / c Sqrt[/ (a + d + x)], and apply a λ per category. Obviously this is only a suggestion from theory.

Conclusions

Some conclusions are:

  1. The 2003 paper did not look at a probability of survival p other than 100%, and now we have found an useful adaptation, namely above maximand with the LP properties.
  2. The current admission criterion for the ICU of “incremental probability of survival” would tend to favour youngsters because of their better conditions and survival probabilities. The current admission of many elderly Covid-19 patients must derive from other considerations, like inexperience with Covid-19 and the effect on quarantine and containment. The creation of additional ICU beds might be seen as additional only.
  3. The admission criterion of the “incremental probability of survival” looks at “lives saved”, or rather “lives extended”. This causes questions about cost comparisons (e.g. length of stay at the ICU), pool sizes (n*) and moral values (λ). Switching to “life-years gained” comes with a larger information load and partly provides answers to those questions, but also causes more questions, since this criterion is biased on age and sex. The UnitSqrt measure takes each life as 100% and would remove the latter bias. It would eliminate this aspect in the choice of λ (except for the choice of other functions than the square root), so that its choice would be more dependent upon the parameters on costs and survival probabilities.
  4. While the original paper derived from the macro context, and this present weblog entry explored the micro context, the latter also highlights that the present public discussion about Covid-19 deaths does not yet consider the aspects on the life-years. The latter will be required for an evaluation of the wider consequences, like on the “collateral deaths” and on how to “prepare for the second wave”. However, the life-years are a biased criterion and it would seem to be advisable to see more statistics that use the unit square root too.

Disclaimer

(1) In 2002-2004 I collaborated at Erasmus Medical Center on the modeling of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) as the cause of cervical cancer. My background in modeling and also logistics was relevant because diseases may look like a Markov logistics process with stages and transition probabilities. There can be the same issues about test reliability, criteria of lives-extended and life-years-gained, and cost-effectiveness of screening and treatment. I also followed the discussion about the SARS epidemic of 2003. My period at Erasmus MC was too short to send in papers for peer review. (2) Now I am an elderly male and advantaged by the lives-extended and disadvantaged by the life-years criterion.

PM.

PM 1. We did not use “quality adjusted life-years” (qaly). The application with the UnitSqrt would be the same but the information load would be larger, and likely not available at an ICU.

PM 2. A bit more about the additive character in this weighted averaging: The current setup is that the patient with age a has a life expectancy of d without treatment, and supposedly also when the treatment would fail. If d = 0 then p is the acute probability of survival due to the treatment (relevant for an ICU). Some possible variants provide an indication that above linear weighted averaging is the relevant approach.

  • xeabt = p (xd) + (1 – pd = p x + d is the life expectation when admitted but before the treatment. This variable is less useful, see PM 3. Also Sqrt[p x / (a + d + p x)] for this state is not so useful.
  • scorexp = p Sqrt[x / (a + d + x)] + (1 – p) Sqrt[0 / (a + d + 0) is the expected score (relevant)

PM 3. Suppose that the outcome measures at failure are f1 and f2, and that s1 and s2 are measured incremental to such failure. Then we might consider maximising the total effect:

Maximise    {p1.(s1 + f1) + (1 – p1).f1}  n1 + {p2.(s2 + f2) + (1 – p2).f2}  n2

Which becomes:

Maximise    p1.s1.n1 + p2.s2.n2  + f1.n1 + f2.n2

With this maximand, there is a bias towards patients who would already have a good score when the treatment fails. This maximand is not the relevant one, because the failure outcome does not depend upon the treatment. Another maximand would include the background risk b, but this is also not affected by the treatment.

To the International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS),
Royal Statistical Society (RSS),
American Statistical Association (ASA),
Société Française de Statistique (SFdS) and
International Association for Research in Income and Wealth (IARIW)

Dear presidents Pullinger (IAOS), Ashby (RSS), Martinez (ASA), Marin (SFdS) and Reinsdorf (IARIW),

Your societies and associations have made public statements in support of Andreas Georgiou, former president of El.Stat Statistics Greece.

I have looked at the case and arrived at the conclusion that Georgiou was guilty as charged for the violation of duty, as was indeed confirmed by the Greek Supreme Court in 2018. It appears that Andreas Georgiou, Hallgrimur Snorrason (representative of Eurostat at El.Stat in 2010) and Walter Radermacher (Eurostat 2008-2016) have provided you with false testimonies about the Greek law of March 9 2010 that created El.Stat and the European Code of Practice of 2005 that was in force in 2010. They knew about the true legal situation and in fact worked to make changes in both the law (December 2010) and the Code (2011).

The documentation is in my new book “Forum Theory & A National Assembly of Science and Learning“. My discussion of the actual figures in national accounting of Greece 2009 is on pages 200-206, and there seem to have been made some arbitrary choices that are not fully clear to me. My discussion identifies many more points where important information is lacking. Overall, I advise that there will be a thorough investigation. I hope that you will indeed apply due diligence.

I already informed ISI and FENStatS via this letter, now online in slightly edited form to make it quotable for others. I regard the now online letter to ISI and FENStatS as an integral part of my letter to you now. I have the same requests for you as stated in that letter. Please inform your membership but please refer to my book instead of trying to rephrase the points in your own words because points might get lost in translation again. This letter to you is online now too.

Reading parts of my book, Richard Gill, emeritus professor in mathematical statistics in Leiden, and former chair of VVSOR (a founding member of FENStatS), informed me that he has revised his view, from an earlier signing of support to a (now disputed) statement by ISI. Klaus Kastner, retired banker who blogs on Greece, also has revised part of his view.

My disclaimer: I would like to see a thorough investigation in Dutch economics.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)
Scheveningen, Holland
http://thomascool.eu/
http://econpapers.repec.org/RAS/pco170.htm
https://zenodo.org/communities/re-engineering-math-ed

PS. At IARIW, Peter van de Ven (formerly CBS now OECD) was IARIW president in 2010-2012, when the issue of El.Stat case arose. Van de Ven proposed to IARIW in 2016 to support Georgiou, apparently with deficient study of the underlying events. At CBS in 2009, Van de Ven removed the Tinbergen & Hueting figure of environmentally Sustainable National Income (eSNI) from the Dutch monitor on sustainability, using fallacies, see THAENAES Chapter 25 p289. I copy to Van de Ven at OECD and Kees Zeelenberg at CBS who is involved in IAOS – OECD.

To the President of [the International Statistical Institute (ISI)] and the secretary general of [the Federation of European National Statistical Societies (FENStatS)]

Dear professor Bailer (ISI) and dr Silva (FENStatS),

There is this new (open access) book by me:

Forum Theory & A National Assembly of Science and Learning

The idea is that scientists and scholars create an assembly of their own, to improve the quality and impact of science and learning. The book discusses various problems. Some main problems are about national accounting and official statistics. There is the Tinbergen & Hueting approach on environmentally Sustainable National Income (eSNI). There is the El.Stat / Georgiou case.

The book webpage is [here].

The PDF of the book is open access [here].

A short text (discussing 2 of 7 storylines) is [here (pdf)].

Though the Tinbergen & Hueting case is much more important, it so happens that ISI and 80 former chief statisticians around [IAOS and FENStatS] put out statements of support for Georgiou, and it may be that you are alerted on this problem in more accessible manner just now.

Allow me to invite you to look at my deconstruction of “Greek statistics” in Part 6, starting p153.

My diagnosis is that the statistical associations, including you, have been misinformed by Walter Radermacher (Eurostat and current president of FENStatS), Hallgrimur Snorrason (representative of Eurostat and associated with ISI) and Andreas Georgiou (El.Stat). They knew in 2010 that the Greek law was that Georgiou had to seek approval by his board. He is guilty as charged for the conviction of violation of duty. I copy to them but do not have the email address of Georgiou.

One might regard this as an old case, but Eurostat also arranged that the National Statistical Offices of the EU are now under a single head, while CBS Statistics Netherlands since 1892 was under supervision by a multiperson board. This change in governance has risks for the future. My book indicates that CBS likely did not protest strongly enough because the Dutch government managed to appoint a leadership that had no background in official statistics itself.

Since the Part on “Greek statistics” is lengthy, let me also point to p200-206 for some formulas en tables on the calculation of the 2009 debt and deficit.

[…] Richard Gill, former chair of [VVSOR] (a founding association of FENStatS), already informed me that he revised his opinion now (from signing an earlier ISI statement), see below under (1). (PM. I copy to Fred van Eeuwijk, current [chair] of [VVSOR].) Klaus Kastner, a retired banker who blogs on Greece, also has revised part of his view, see under (2). They may not have digested my book fully since it is just in print.

I already informed Walter Radermacher about my finding, since his background is in environmental statistics, and around 1990 he had friendly contacts with Roefie Hueting. Unfortunately, Radermacher did not comprehend the Tinbergen & Hueting approach, and has misrepresented it too. My criticism on the work by Radermacher is restricted to these two issues that I have looked at. I [expect him] to correct when errors are clarified to him. While I informed Radermacher earlier this week, he indicated that he had no time for this, and this is a complication.

Another complication is that Radermacher currently is the President of FENStatS. The Vice-President of FENStats is professor Maurizio Vichi, who also happens to be the thesis supervisor for the Radermacher thesis of 2019. I checked the thesis on the two issues of eSNI and the Georgiou affair. In my judgement, the thesis is biased and misrepresenting on these two issues. It should be retracted. Radermacher knew in 2010 that Georgiou was in violation of the Greek law, and as director of Eurostat assisted him in breaking the law of an EU Member State. He should have insisted that Georgiou would come clean with his board instead of helping him to bypass them. Subsequently, see my discussion of the actual debt and deficit calculations.

Thus, my request to Radermacher and Vichi and FENStatS is that Radermacher and Vichi step down from their positions at FENStatS, to that there is no conflict of interests between FENStatS and their positions on the thesis and Radermacher’s position in this case ueberhaupt. Hopefully Radermacher might reorganise his priorities and consider the criticism in my book.

After sending this email to you, I will relay it to some journalists, so please do not be surprised if they would contact you and know about this email. It also seems best that I include this email on my website, and check there for the upcoming link.

Earlier, see under (3), I already informed the DG CBS dr. Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi about my book, and the finding that the erroneous ISI declaration had also been signed by some CBS researchers who had failed to check upon the Greek law, European Code of Practice 2005 [in force in 2010], and the particular data, and the false testimonies by Georgiou, Snorrason and Radermacher. I have been supplying the DG CBS with drafts of my book in the last month[s], and I offered CBS a final week to consider the argument, and provide for a more structured approach in informing the world of statistics about my book and finding. Alas, CBS did not indicate to me that they would take this opportunity. Thus, I am left with no other option than inform the world of statistics myself. The most efficient way to do so, at least for me, likely is to inform the media, though generally the media can be quite chaotic overall.

Let me also express that I am very annoyed concerning ISI. In 2012 I wrote to ISI with a request of an investigation, in which there was also attention for the views of the (other) board members. Instead, ISI apparently listened only to Snorrason at ISI. It strikes me as very unprofessional to allow someone to be judge in his or her own case. In BCC I will copy to some former El.Stat board members. My 2012 letter to ISI is [here].

Let me also express my [appreciation] to CBS for inviting Hueting and De Boer in 2019 to present their new book on national accounting and eSNI, which lecture was attended by some sixty statisticians at CBS. CBS also made a video (in Dutch) available, and since De Boer was late I myself had to step in for a moment. We must clearly distinguish the open and unencumbered discussion of issues on content at the “statistics work floor” and the issues of governance and management which gain more attention in my book. The link to the Hueting & De Boer lecture in 2019 is [here].

If you were to write on this, then my advice to you is to inform me with a draft text, to allow me to comment on possible errors. Please revise your (online) texts that contain erroneous statements, by heading them with clearly visible “Retracted, see link…” while keeping the remainder “as is” so that others can check the history of your errors. Please send your apologies to the Greek government, with copies to the press, for trying to infringe upon the separation of powers. Please inform your membership about this email and my book. Please do not try to restate my book in your own words, thereby taking attention away from my book, but simply correct and refer to the book for the details. Please respect my analysis that the Greek case is only an example, while the real issue is the creation of said assemblies, that also are intended for a better anchor for future governance of official statistics.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)
Scheveningen, Holland
http://thomascool.eu/
http://econpapers.repec.org/RAS/pco170.htm
https://zenodo.org/communities/re-engineering-math-ed

(1) ================================

From: Richard Gill
To: Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Cc: […]
Subject: Re: N.a.v. uw ondertekening van de ISI verklaring uit 2013 over Andreas Georgiou
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020

Ik wil best zeggen dat mijn mening veranderd is. Ik heb het gezegd. Je mag me citeren.

(2) ================================

https://klauskastner.blogspot.com/2020/02/andreas-georgiou-was-it-breach-of-trust.html

(3) ================================

Date: Sun, 09 Feb 2020
To: DG CBS dr. T. Tjin-A-Tsoi, Kees Zeelenberg, […]
From: Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Subject: Published “Forum Theory & A National Assembly of Science and Learning”

Dear dr Tjin-A-Tsoi and dr. Zeelenberg and […],

My book is now online for all:

Forum Theory & A National Assembly of Science and Learning

[pdf relocated]

The printshop will take some more days.

You might enjoy the national accounting on page 200-206. I just included this this weekend, while finishing the book, and it appears that finishing touches can be quite important.

If you would have comments, feel welcome to send them. I can include additions and corrections in a file with “Reading Notes”, and eventually there might be a 2nd edition.

Let me call your attention to some CBS employees mentioned on p292 who did not properly check the Georgiou case and who signed the erroneous ISI declaration. Allow me to request the DG to forward this email to them. […] is an appreciated contact of mine from the student days in Groningen, and I send him my regards.

I also wonder whether you would have some advice as to how to approach the world of official statistics on this book and its findings. It is easy for me to dispatch some emails to some of the associations and persons involved. It might be less effective and needlessly chaotic. If there would be scope that the CBS would take a week to digest the book and formulate a statement, and be willing to discuss the draft of the statemnet with me (with me only giving advice), then this would seem to be advisable. Please let me know in the coming days whether you would be willing to do so.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Cool / Thomas Colignatus
Econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008)
Scheveningen, Holland
http://thomascool.eu/
http://econpapers.repec.org/RAS/pco170.htm
https://zenodo.org/communities/re-engineering-math-ed

Science and scholarship are much appreciated in our societies when we consider the lavish funding by tax payers and private donors. In contrast there is also a structurally weak position in the very functioning of our democracy. Our best research minds are allowed to discover the wonders at the frontier of knowledge but their findings might not be actually used. In examples like climate change, overpopulation, miseducation, inequality, political science of electoral systems, and the revolutions in computing, biology and medicine, and so on, and even in the issue of Greek statistics of the national debt and deficit of Greece around 2009, we see that science and learning are hardly listened to, and that policy makers and opinion leaders follow their own illusions, leading the world towards foreseeable disasters. Humanity as a whole acts mindless, drunk or crazy.

Trias Politica versus Tessares Politica

There is a system to the madness. Our democracy has the Trias Politica separation of powers between de Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government. What is lacking is the Epistemic branch. This means that the Trias Politica model allows too much room for manipulation of information. The alternative is a High Definition Democracy that has this Epistemic branch to protect information. This would give a Tessares Politica – from the ancient Greek “foursome”.

Epistemic branch

The Epistemic branch has two elements.

  • The first aspect concerns economic planning and the management of the State. The national budget is crucial for policy making. The Legislative branch or Parliament votes on the national budget to authorise the Executive to tax and spend funds. The economic planning agency resides currently under the Executive. However, planning is systematically abused. We better create an Economic Supreme Court at the same constitutional level, with the task to control the quality of information, and the power to veto the budget if it contains misleading information according to the court. This leaves all freedom for politicians to determine policy but they will lose the room they have now for manipulating information.
  • The second aspect concerns all fields of research. Parliament currently has the Senate and the House of Commons. In the French Revolution of 1789 the Chamber of the Clergy was abolished. In an alternative path of history, the clergy could have developed into scientists and scholars, and the revolution avoided, and then nowadays we would have a Chamber for Science and Learning.

If we want to improve the world and democracy then these are the two structural positions to consider.

Forum Theory

Forum theory is the approach by the Dutch cognitive psychologist, student-achievement tester, methodologist and philosopher of science Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), also famous for his study of chess grandmasters. Forum theory provides us with the diagnosis that science and learning operate as a forum, i.e. a market subject to particular conditions. The approach investigates processes that enhance quality of science and learning, and formulates ways to protect and encourage those. Forum theory suggests that science and learning will be improved by a National Assembly. This contrasts with the current dominance by the National Academies of Science and Scholarship.

Such Academies tend to consists of mainly elderly researchers who have made their mark years ago and who are selected by co-optation. This leaves the mass of researchers out of the picture, currently at the front of research and making their mark. The common researchers on the work floor, e.g. in the laboratory or at the computer terminal, are locked up between a stone wall and a firy pit, and tend to be quite frustrated that the existing knowledge is neglected or misrepresented by politics, while the elevated colleagues at the Academy tend to focus on their next conference. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) in his Gulliver’s Travels already made fun of the Royal Society.

This situation can be changed by the creation of a National Assembly of Science and Learning, with a Floor for the mass of researchers, while the National Academy forms the Senate of the Assembly. The Assembly improves governance of the forum, the forum itself, and research integrity. Researchers in science and learning can create their National Assembly actually quite simply. They can set up a foundation, give rules of operation, recruit members, organise elections and have a constitutional meeting. With sufficiently large membership the operating costs can be covered. The next step is to show results.

The difference between the current Academy and the sketched Assembly is that the latter has the full weight of the collected research body in a country, with the legitimacy of having been elected by them. The Assembly can do investigations and support conclusions, and speak for science and learning with an authority that now is lacking for the Academy. Over time Parliament could accept the National Assembly of Science and Learning as its third chamber, e.g. called The Study.

Greek national accounting and statistics in 2010

My book with above analysis and proposal also looks at the example of 2010, when Statistics Greece (El.Stat) director Andreas Georgiou sent figures on the 2009 Greek national debt and budget deficit to Eurostat without first seeking approval by his board. The Greek court system judged that he was in violation of duty, irrevocably by the Greek Supreme Court in 2018. Today there is an international uproar in national accounting and statistics that Georgiou’s conviction is a miscarriage of justice and an attack on the independence of Official Statistics.

However, these protesting statistical societies and associations have failed to check the Greek law of March 2010 that created El.Stat, and they also refer to the European Statistics Code of Practice of 2011 or 2017 while the code in force in 2010 was from 2005. Georgiou is guilty as charged.

By all looks of it, he also – advised by Eurostat – added the Simitis swaps of 2001 to the deficits, thus increasing the deficit of 2009 by about 2% points, instead of using the proper stock-flow adjustment. The deficit figure has the purpose to show the operating difference between income and expenditure, and is not the place to record hidden debts that fall from the closet. It is remarkable that these sobering points have not been recognised in all comments and protests. Also the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal supported Georgiou while overlooking these facts.

People can bet their reputation on false information though. Georgiou and the leadership of Eurostat knew about the Greek law of March 2010 and the Code of Practice of 2005, because it was their job to know this at the time. In 2010 they even undertook a change of those very regulations. They however did not say so to the courts and their international colleagues.

Instead, board member and professor of econometrics Zoe Georganta, while lacking full information because of Georgiou’s obstruction, still pointed to crucial questions on content, and those were considered by the Greek courts but inadequately treated by those protesting statisticians and media.

Impact on the EU statistical system

Cause for worry is that the European Union has now restructured its statistical system so that each national statistical office has a single head with full authority, while we know that a single person is much more sensitive to political or commercial pressure or own illusions than a multiperson board.

Warranting the quality of scientific and learned information

This is one of more information scandals that my book deconstructs. The Greek case is peanuts compared to the discussion about climate change. Overall, the world is served not only by a better position of science and learning in our system of democracy, but also by a better internal functioning of the forum of science and learning itself. There is a clear need for a National Assembly of Science and Learning that can investigate such issues without interference by political interests and mistaken hierarchies that exist now.

Thomas Colignatus is the scientific name of Thomas Cool (1954), econometrician (Groningen 1982) and teacher of mathematics (Leiden 2008). See the book “Forum Theory & A National Assembly of Science and Learning” (2020) at https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/98568 and on his website http://thomascool.eu

Today, January 31 2020, at midnight Central European Time, Brexit will happen, even though it is unclear what the British voters think about it. Brexit is neither “by the will of the people” nor “against the will of the people” but merely “without the will of the people“.

A proto-democracy generates uncertainty

The UK is only a proto-democracy and no proper democracy, see this evaluation in the APS Newsletter Physics and Society, January 2020, p18-24, which looks at the USA but the argument for the UK is quite similar.

On Brexit, uncertainty abounds:

  • The Brexit Referendum Question of 2016 was a political manipulation and unacceptable for a decent statistical questionnaire, see here p14. The situation was “garbage in, garbage out”, with ample opportunity for populism.
  • The UK preferences were rather dispersed about the options for Leave or Remain, see here p6.
  • See my summary about Brexit’s deep roots in confusion on democracy and statistics p18.
  • The UK election of December 12 was for the House of Parliament and not about Brexit. Boris Johnson had all candidates for the Conservative Party pledge to support Brexit, which runs against the principle that members of the House must represent their district. These elections thus violate the very principle of the UK proto-democracy.

The UK proto-democracy has “district representation” with “first past the post“, which means that a party may get a majority in the House of Parliament without a majority in the electorate. In the UK 44% voted for the conservatives but they still got 56% of the seats. Thus 56% of the UK voters do not want a government by the Conservatives.

Thus we still do not know what voters think about Brexit too. While Brexit was much discussed, and caused voters to switch to the Conservative Party, it still was not the only issue on the table, and it still is unclear what voters think about Brexit on balance.

The UK has the curious phenomenon of the “Re-Leavers”. These voters chose Remain in 2016 but now switch to Leave merely because this was the majority outcome in the referendum, and they “want to respect the outcome”. However, this is not how democracy works. A vote is about what you think yourself and not about what the former outcome was. Obviously these Re-Leavers are free to exercise their democratic right to think whatever they want, but this kind of thinking destroys the possibility to determine what people actually want.

YouGov tracker

The YouGov tracker is the best summary information about the general sentiment on the issue, but it is a poll and no electoral statement. Let me quote the tracking at this moment, because it always changes:

Between party dynamics

Adam McDonnell and Chris Curtis of YouGov discuss a post-election survey of December 17 2019, and here are their underlying data (for us page 3). The dynamics between the UK parties are remarkably large. Their key graph for our purposes is the following. For example 27% (figure not printed) of the Conservatives voted Remain in 2016: 22% (shown) of those switch to the LibDem, likely because LibDem are Remain. However, 65% of the Remain Conservatives stick to their party, perhaps because they regard the issue less relevant than other issue of the Conservatives, or perhaps they are ReLeavers. Of the LibDem who voted Leave in 2016 still 46% voted LibDem though it had become a Remain party, perhaps because they thought that LibDem would not gain power anyway.

Labour and LibDem could have made a deal to oppose the Conservative candidates with only one candidate from Labour / LibDem, in proportion to the forecasted vote shares. In that case, the LibDem could have assured a referendum on Brexit. During the elections, Jeremy Corbyn was criticised that he did not take a stand on Brexit, but his party was clearly divided, and his offer of a referendum was a fair option. At most five years from now there will be new elections. These are the Conservative “battlegrounds“, where this party could lose a seat by small number of voters.

Beware of John Curtice

John Curtice’s diagnosis on Channel 4, November 27, was:

“This is pretty much a binary election. Hung parliament, then we’re almost undoubtedly heading towards an extension and a second referendum, and lord knows what the outcome of that will be. Or we get a majority and we go out on January 31 and Boris is charged with the task of negotiating an alternative outcome. Ironically at the end of the day we’ve kind of stumbled into this election, but as the way it’s turning out, it’s actually providing us with a fairly clear binary choice.”

The latter is clearly nonsense, already before the election outcome. Above dynamics of UK voters shows that voters did not see a binary vote on Brexit and clearly had various considerations other than Brexit.

John Curtice is a renowned professor who on Election nights predicts the district outcomes with amazing accuracy. The problem however is that Curtice doesn’t see or explain that the true problem for the UK lies in the lack of equal proportionality in the general election. Curtice is locked in his electoral worldview like a hamster in a running wheel. Whatever he thinks and says here is in service of the current disproportionate electoral system in the UK, and then still produces nonsense.

In sum, it is the current electoral system that created the mess on Brexit and its misleading referendum question in 2016. If the UK had had equal proportional representation (EPR) like in Holland to start with, then Nigel Farage could have gotten his 12,5% of the seats in the House, and then the political discussion would have had greater restraint on the truth of the matter.

Brexit is still a mess, and now the eggs are scrambled

The solution for the present mess lies not in a new referendum on Brexit, as Curtice accepts, but in equal proportional representation (EPR). Referendum questions are manipulative, and voters cannot negotiate in polling stations. With EPR, representatives in the House can deconstruct manipulation and can negotiate. The current UK system gives only district winners, and they may be locked to a party line and cannot represent the diversity of views within their districts. The latter was already a fairy tale in 1900 and even more in 2020. Again, see my evaluation in the APS Newsletter Physics and Society.

Let the UK reboot itself. A big problem for UK voters now is: if the UK would rejoin the EU then it would have to accept the euro.

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

The difference between a flat Earth and a sphere

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Civil War in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two past years of misinformation, two new years for information

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

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

How this moratorium can be achieved

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

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

Not “populism” but kindergarten politics

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

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

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

Weimar and equal proportional representation

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Parliament on the Boston Tea Party

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

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

The term “user cost” merely indicates the investments that are required to maintain the resource level and quality.

Two flows

In the RES Newsletter El Serafy (2014) recalled:

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

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

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

It was actually John Hicks who distinguished fundist and materialist capital in accounting. In both cases there is Hicks’s accounting principle of keeping capital intact for income estimation purposes. El Serafy puts emphasis on fundist capital, thus with monetary value. A depletion of a natural asset can be compensated by a gain in other capital. The alternative is to look at the physical stock of goods. El Serafy: “damaged or depleted natural capital cannot easily be replaced with manufactured capital.”

A small model

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

Since Keynes, macro-economics has tended to link consumption to income but let us now relate it to the capital stock that might be depleted.

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

  • For investment: Let physical investment J = b K. Let g be the physical return factor on physical investment. Then economic (gross) investment I = r K = (dK with d depreciation and i a rate of interest. We also have I = g J = g b K so that r = g b.
  • For consumption: Let w L be services without use of capital. For consumption of the depletable resource we distinguish a fraction s that is sustainable and a fraction u that is unsustainable. Total consumption is C = (s + u) K + w L, and we have sustainability when u = 0. Below relations allow us to deduce that s = (g – 1) b, so that sustainable consumption is determined by the physical return factor of physical investments.
  • From these two: u K are the user costs or investment that are required to keep the resource intact. When consumption is sustainable = 0 then such costs are not incurred.

In accounting of expenditure flows, it may happen that u currently is not even included in D, so that also NDP is off-track.

If u is in D then we find: NDP gives substainable consumption s K + w L, while the figure of GDP will be polluted by unsustainable depletion u.

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

El Serafy rather wants to see that also GDP is income, which can be achieved by a separate deduction from the stock:

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

An example is selling the natural resource, putting the proceeds into a bank, and live from the perpetuity. With i the money rate of interest, then sustainable income is s K = i K, so that s = i. Then b = 1 because all money is in the bank, and g = 1 + i = r. It follows that GDP = (1 + 2 iK + w L and NDP = i K + w L. Normally we do not regard the whole capital as the investment but for money it makes sense. In practice money in the bank is only a financial arrangement and the true return must still come from productive investments.

Environmental sustainability

Above model can be extended with environmental sustainability by replacing s + u with es + eu, with es ≤ s and eu ≥ u. For example, the home owner must put aside additional investments for an extension to the house to make room for solar panels or heat pumps, or to relocate it because of flooding. Sustainability and environmental sustainability have the same model here, and only different data. However, practical modeling can be different. Mere sustainability might rely on actually observed values of the going rate of depleting, while environmental sustainability with es and eu would require more involved modeling to come to grips with the current (conservative) expectations on future development.

Intermediate conclusion based upon this small model

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

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

Salah el Serafy again

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK democracy: Garbage In, Garbage Out

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

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

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

A time-out to investigate the role by the Academia

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

The evidence is available at MPRA 84482

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

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

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

Precision of the kilogram versus vagueness of “representative”

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

A game-changing insight

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

Elephant in the room

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

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

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

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

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

Solution approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An experimental democracy with huge problems

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

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

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

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

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

American Homecoming

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

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

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

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

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

The major error in “A Different Democracy”

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

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

US Primaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the empirical observation that US voters like their system

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

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

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

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

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

Structural failures in the US Experiment of Democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On two shores of the Atlantic

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

Conclusions

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

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

Appendix. On STV and AV

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

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

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

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

The UK has proto-democracy and no proper democracy

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

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

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

Michael Portillo warns for resentment with wrong reason: resentment itself

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid a Stab-in-the-Back Myth

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

Hopefully the UK chooses for a role in the EU

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

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

PS. A bias has been created against EPR

The discussion in the UK about EPR can be biased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resonance of the American Revolution (wikimedia commons)