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In The Guardian, 2018-12-13, historian Timothy Garton Ash asks the EU27:

“(…) all we need from you, my friends, is a clear, simple, positive message, without ifs or buts: “We want you to stay!””

The EU27 already said this, before this plea actually. Yet, let me offer my fellow citizen apologies to the British people for the misconduct by the EU27 leadership. The EU27 has not been clear enough. It has allowed itself to get infected by the irresponsibility by the UK leadership.

An issue between Member States

The EU is a union of Member States and an arrangement between governments. The EU is no usual democracy with a direct relationship between EU citizens and their collective EU government. The EU27 regard Brexit as an internal affair of the UK. EU President Donald Tusk chairs meetings of government leaders, and would see himself entirely out of place when he would tour the UK and have Town Hall sessions trying to resolve misunderstandings and pleading the common cause. Brexiteers would accuse him of meddling in internal affairs, and Tusk could only confirm this. Many Britons would see him as another Pole who should depart as soon as possible, even when he would be excellent at taking care at hospital beds or fixing the plumbing.

Clear and convincing evidence that the UK is under the spell of populism

The 2016 Referendum is clear and convincing evidence, acceptable in a decent criminal court, that the UK is under the spell of populism. In proper democracy it is Parliament that decides such issues. Who studies the mathematics of democracy can better appreciate the history that it are mostly demagogues and incompetents who resort to referenda to create the illusion as if the “will of the people” has been called upon. The 2016 Referendum was an exercise in populist lunacy and the UK government has been irresponsible concerning it. Prime Minister Theresa May clearly doesn’t have the background to understand this. In this particular respect she is no better than Silvio Berlusconi though with a feeling for understatement and a stiff upper lip, and she rather follows populism in the UK instead of steering her country out of it.

Stab-in-the-Back Myth

In this political setting, anything that the EU27 says can and basically will be used against it. The EU27 has been cautious about the risk of a Stab-in-the-Back Myth that the EU27 would be at fault for the mess that the UK is in and could be in for coming decades. When the EU27 would state with more emphasis that it would rather have the UK remain, like Garton Ash suggests, then this would likely be misrepresented as a ploy to lure the virgin UK into a place of darkness and unspeakable horror.

Take the bull by the horns

In real politik the EU27 accepted that a Member State succombed to populism. They should have been wiser. Alongside the unavoidable negotiations, the EU27 should also have discussed How to Deal with Populism in a Member State. EU scientists with basic impartiality in Town Hall meetings could have invited Britons to see this true diagnosis and monster eye to eye. It is still not too late. I myself have looked into the deeper causes of Brexit. My finding is that Britons think that they have democracy while the UK has only proto-democracy. The UK has district representation instead of equal proportionality. The UK system has been causing problems in the UK for a good part of last century, and Brexit is only a culmination.

A second referendum is populism all-over again

Garton Ash’s second referendum is populist irresponsibility all-over again. He neglects the evidence of the 2016 disaster and believes in a heaven of well designed referenda that disclose the “will of the people” like an Oracle of Delphi. His world view is locked in proto-democracy, and he doesn’t even notice the prison walls.

The advice is a moratorium

My suggestion is a Moratorium on Brexit of two years, so that the UK can discuss and improve its democracy. See the former weblog entry.

 

Wikimedia commons May and Berlusconi

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

The difference between a flat Earth and a sphere

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

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

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

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

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

Cold Civil War in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two past years of misinformation, two new years for information

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

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

How this moratorium can be achieved

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

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

Not “populism” but kindergarten politics

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

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

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

Weimar and equal proportional representation

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Parliament on the Boston Tea Party

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)

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)

The Dutch King Willem-Alexander will visit the UK and Queen Elizabeth II on October 23-24 2018. See the programme.

He will give a speech in the Royal Gallery in the UK Parliament, attended by various MPs, Lords and Ladies, on October 23.

On October 17, the Newsletter of the UK Royal Economic Society contains this comment by me on Brexit. See my earlier weblog entries on Brexit.

Alex read the comment in the Newsletter, and called me that he wanted to speak to me.

I spoke Alex yesterday over dinner of wildbraad in a fine restaurant in Leiden. He confessed to me that he seriously considers calling in sick and cancelling the state visit to the UK. He is experiencing increasingly negative feelings about the trip, and he had read my explanation that negative numbers reflect the process of cancelling.

Stroking his belly on the good meal, he was looking for consistency.

“Like for example,”  he said, “on the 24th we will have a visit to two ships, to mark the importance of seafare for our two nations. But Max and I will travel to the UK by air. So why don’t we travel by ship ? When people would expose me as being a total hypocrite then I can’t blame them.”

Brexit is wrenching him. He hates seeing the UK leaving the EU, or even the messy way how they are doing so. He doesn’t like the sight of a Queen of a proud independent nation making fun of him as a EU-shackled fake-king. Perhaps when he wakes up in Buckingham Palace he might find his shoelaces tied together. He feels much tempted to follow the example of William III (1650-1702) of sailing from Scheveningen to Britain with an armada of 250 ships and 35,000 troops and take the island, pound some sense into the natives, and have another Glorious Revolution.

“They call themselves Anglo-Saxons but to a high degree they are Vikings, just like the Russians. Vikings need an occasional bang to their heads to reset them to common sense again,” he explained. He also reminded me that he himself had a Romanov princess as an ancestor, see his claim on taking Russia too.

Thus I asked whether he was actually inviting me to bang his head now too, given his own Viking genes. He nodded. We were in Leiden because he had wanted to reread his MA thesis in history, that is kept there in the vaults of Leiden University. He handed me his thesis and I duly banged it to his head. To our regret it hardly had an impact. Alex’s head was too hard or the sheet of paper too thin.

“But I can’t conquer Britain because Max doesn’t want to live there. The Brits have something against Argentines. You know: the Falklands.”

He continued: “My comments on Brexit already have caused a stir. Prime Minister Mark Rutte now worries that my speech in the Royal Gallery will be boycotted by British parliamentarians. Oh my, oh my, a boycott is such an effective method to make someone look silly, especially when your shoelaces are tied together.”

“So this is why you wanted to talk to me,” I inferred. “You want me to smooth out some ruffled feathers so that you will still have an audience that will be interested in what you would have to say, and so that they know in advance that they will not be offended or lectured to.”

“Exactly,” he nodded. “Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his loony Foreign Secretary Stef Blok suggested that I talk to you, and ask you to draft a speech for me, and to put it on your website so that people in the UK have some advance information that it will be a highly relevant speech for the UK. So, please, make me look good.”

“If you pay for the meal,” I granted.

This got me a groan and pained look. He was in such a tight spot that he actually footed the bill. Thank you, Brexiteers.

Thus, below is my draft for the speech.

– – – D R A F T – – –

Dear friends, come together here in the Royal Gallery on the beautiful day of October 23 2018.

I am the Head of State of Holland. I am speaking for the Dutch government. The following does not contain my personal view, but it contains the view by the Dutch government, including me. This goes to show that one can still have a useful function even when there are some constraints. Also the UK can have a useful function even when there would be constraints by the EU.

[ rumble ]

You all know that I also went to school in Wales and that I developed a taste for Monty Python. Let me start with some jokes, so that you can all loosen up and relax before we become serious again.

[ sounds of horror ]

The first joke is about a boss who hires a new employee. At lunch on the first day, the employee complains at the boss: “There is something wrong with the wheelbarrow. It goes “screetch … screech … screech”.” [ spoken with long pauses ] The boss replies: “Well, you can go home now and don’t return. It should go “screetch screetch screetch”.” [ spoken fast ]

[ some grins and laughter ]

This joke makes me think about the speed of ships. For very long in human history, seafaring was the most efficient way of transport. Civilisation developed on the shores of rivers and seas. Many traces of this development have been lost because of the rise of the sea level since the last Ice Age. The British Isles were known in the Bronze Age for their tin to make bronze, and transport then was also by sea. The British Isles have a long history of settlers and invaders from the sea, like the Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, and William the Conqueror in 1066, to name a few. In 1688, William III of Orange boated from Holland with 250 carriers and 35,000 troops to cause the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary. It can be said that the British Isles are a center of European civilisation just like the shores of the Baltic, the North Sea, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The Dutch government is amazed that some people on the British Isles do not know about this history, and refer to “The Continent” as if Britain would be somewhat distant from Europe itself. Well, let me invite you to keep ships in mind and to see Britain embedded in Europe. Nowadays, planes can be faster, which is why I traveled here not by boat. Yet ships still cannot be beaten for bulk transport, and we should keep this in mind, also for our mutual borders, and also for the Political Economy for the Caribbean.

[ pause ]

The second joke is from the days of the USSR, actually only 30 years ago, still in our lifetimes. The joke may appeal to Jeremy Corbyn who is scheduled to meet with me today unless he would snake out to avoid me.

The joke concerns some factory for trucks and work appliances in the old USSR. At the end of the working day workers leaving the factory are checked on smuggling or stealing stuff. Each day there is also a worker, Vladimir, who pushes a wheelbarrow with scrap metal through the exit gate. Screetch, screetch, screetch. The guards are suspicious, check him and his load thoroughly, find only worthless stuff, and let him pass. One day the man turns 65, retires, and leaves the factory without his wheelbarrow. “Vladimir,” says the gatekeeper, “we will see each other for the last time today. Would you please tell me whether you have been smuggling something or not?”

[ pause ]

Vladimir confesses with a smile: “Every day for forty years, I have taken a wheelbarrow from the factory.”

[ some grins and laughter ]

The joke illustrates the importance of observation. For mathematics or philosophy you might make an abstract assumption and forget about reality, but science requires careful observation on reality.

This joke brings us to a key difference between Holland and the United Kingdom. We are both democratic nations, but have different concepts of democracy, which shows that the term “democracy” is a tricky term that we must use with care. The Dutch House of Commons is elected with equal proportional representation (EPR) and the UK House of Commons is elected with district representation (DR). Also the words “election” and “representation” are the same but mean entirely different things here.

The Dutch system provides for proper election and representation. The UK system of Single Member Districts with First Past The Post provides for contests rather than proper election. It discards votes and neglects the condition of representation of the interest of the electorate. A majority of voters in the UK have “taxation without representation”. The electoral system in the UK is in direct violation with article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The Dutch government has consulted with scientists in Holland and has come to the conclusion that there is something amiss with the academic field of so-called “political science on electoral systems”. Scholars in this field have neatly checked the content of the wheelbarrow but have failed to see the very wheelbarrow itself. They claim that the field would be a science but these scholars lack a training in empirical science. The field still is in the humanities in which indoctrination into tradition is more important than empirical observation and testing.

Though this field of study also fails in Holland, the effect of failure in Holland is limited, since we have equal proportional representation (EPR) and not district representation (PR).

For the UK, the effect is much larger. We can only understand Brexit by diagnosing that the UK voters have been disinformed for decades. The UK has a proto-democracy and no proper democracy yet. For this reason, I currently come to you carrying gifts, namely the news about this new discovery that “political science on electoral systems” is no real science, but it is pseudo-science, comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy.

How this blind spot developed is an issue for history. At this moment it is important to bring this message to you. The Dutch government regards this news as a game changer for the present discussion in the UK on Brexit. Namely, the UK can now ask its empirical scientists, from physics to psychometrics, to help clarify the situation of systematic disinformation that has been created by this pseudo-science of “political science on electoral systems”.

The Dutch government suggests that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the European Union again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit.

It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information. If the UK would stick with DR and Brexit, then at least we will know that such a choice has been made by an informed electorate, while presently we can only diagnose that the UK electorate lacks this information. Obviously, logic requires that you first switch to EPR for the proper procedure to remain with DR.

[ mix of moans and laughter ]

Another topic.

Let me quote historian Helene Von Bismarck about the Single European Act of 1986:

“Thatcher’s dedication to the idea of a completed Single Market was such that she made considerable concessions during the negotiations to bring it about. (…) The Single European Act had enormous ramifications for the way the European Community was to be run. No only did it provide for the completion of the Single Market, it also simplified the decision-making in the European Council by extending the principle of qualified majority voting to a large number of issues that until then had been decided unanimously.”

When the people in the UK have the feeling that they are losing power to the European Union, then they should rather look at Margaret Thatcher, who accepted the abolition of veto power. She also rushed the agreement through Parliament instead of allowing for deliberation.

It is well-known that the Dutch people are also hesitant about the evolution of the European Union. Rather than seeing the UK leave the EU, Holland would like to have the UK as an ally, for example on raising the requirements on the qualified vote.

Another topic.

English has become the lingua franca of the world. Billions of people in distant lands learn English to partake in the development of our planet.

When people migrate to Europe, then many have learned English, and then many may have a preference to migrate to the UK since this is where English is spoken on a daily base. We have a mixed situation of course. Parts of Africa use French and those migrants may prefer to go to France. In Eastern Europe and Turkey, German tends to be important too. Nevertheless, we can understand that the UK might have additional migration because of the plain fact that English has become the lingua franca.

To my understanding there is no scientific research on this aspect yet, and it has not been a factor in current policy making yet. The Dutch government urges the UK to reconsider Brexit and to remain in the EU and to help develop sensible policies that also include such considerations.

Let us also be sensible about alternative developments. If the UK would leave the EU, as it now plans to do, then it would still be a magnet to those who have learned English as the lingua franca. Since ships can also reach the UK directly – and I have highlighted the ease of shipping to you – then the horrible scenes that we now see in the Mediterrranean are merely shifted to similar scenes around the British Isles, with a great cost for the UK to guard its coasts and to transport illegal immigrants back to their lands of origin. We only need to be aware of the forecasts about the rise in the world population and the issue of climate change.

It is the firm belief of the Dutch government that democracy requires deliberation, and that we all in the same boat here.

Other points.

[ … additional points by Mark Rutte and Stef Blok ….]

Thus, my friends in this Royal Gallery, let me round up this speech on behalf of the Dutch government. Our nations are closely linked by geography and history. Let us continue with increased awareness of this elementary fact. Thank you for your attention.

– – – E N D   D R A F T – – –

Acknowledgement: Jokes taken from here.  And this became the finally spoken speech and pictures.

Imagining the Dutch King’s speech in the Royal Gallery and the boycott by MPs. (Source: screenshot of a video by the UK Parliament)

Many people think that political science on electoral systems and referenda must be a science since otherwise it would not be called a science. Unfortunately, the label “political science” got coined around 1903 with the creation of the American Political Science Association (APSA), and this label rather reflects an aspiration and no achievement yet. In the UK there is the Political Studies Association (PSA), founded in 1950, baptised more modestly since there still is much scholarship in the humanities. It turns out that many statements by “political science / studies on electoral systems and referenda” aren’t scientific, and for their relevance for empirical reality they can only be compared to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy. A scientist looking at a UK General Election can only think “Garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO).

The UK has been fundamentally disinformed about its electoral system with district representation and the use of referenda like the Brexit Referendum of 2016. The UK is locked in tradition and fuzzy thinking in the humanities. The situation may be explained by the historical path that the UK has taken, but this history hasn’t included a proper application of science to the notion of democracy.

Compare the current chaos w.r.t. Brexit to the chaos with the financial crisis of 2008. On the latter, the UK Queen asked famously:

“Why did nobody notice it?”

There is a longer list of economists who issued warnings in time, with Hyman Minsky at the top and me somewhere too. The next question rather is why such warnings weren’t taken seriously in the policy making process. My diagnosis since 1990 is that there is a failure of the separation of powers, the Trias Politica, with still too much room for politicians to manipulate the information. The remedy is to create an Economic Supreme Court (ESC) that will guard the quality of information for policy. The House of Commons would still determine policy but it would get less room to disinform the public. The current UK Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is a far cry from what is actually needed.

With this analogy established, consider Brexit again. Might the Queen not repeat the question ? Now however there doesn’t seem to be a list of early warnings that were overlooked. Now we have a “political science” that has gotten lost in abstraction. Here, the remedy is to ask proper scientists from physics to biology to psychometrics to econometrics to look at democracy and to help “political science / studies on electoral systems” become a proper science too. My suggestion is to team up empirical scientists from the Royal Society with members of the PSA and the British Academy, and to encourage a buddy-system to start delving into this. The place to start is my paper “One woman, one vote. Though not in the USA, UK and France” at MPRA 2018, and a presentation 1270381 at Zenodo.org on the distance between votes and seats.

Many people think that the Brexit Referendum of 2016 allowed voters to express their decision, with 52% Leave and 48% Remain. However, not all voters expressed their decision but many were only guessing. A YouGov poll at the time of the GIGO 2017 showed that 17% of voters still listed Remain between different options of Leave. Voters were forced to make a strategic choice about what they feared most what might happen. See my deconstruction of this mess in the October 2017 Newsletter of the Royal Economic Society (RES).

Now there are calls for a second referendum. This call wants to resolve the current chaos by creating more chaos, and potentially a “stab in the back” myth that the 2016 supposed decision isn’t listened to. The lesson from the current chaos should rather be that referenda are generally dumb and dangerous, even in the form of the neverendum. The real problem lies in the UK system of district representation that structurally fails to reflect the views and interests of voters. The deeper problem is that the House of Commons and the electorate are disinformed by an academic field that still is comparable to astrology, alchemy or homeopathy. There is a grand scale of disinformation by famous UK scholars like Iain McLean, John Curtice, younger Alan Renwick, and (other) members of PSA.

My suggestion is that the UK switches to equal proportional representation (EPR), say adopt the Dutch system of open lists (in which you may always vote for a regional candidate though people don’t tend to do so), has proper elections, and then let the new House of Commons discuss the relation with the EU again. It is not unlikely that the EU would allow the UK the time for such a fundamental reconsideration on both its democracy and Brexit. UK political parties may need to split up to offer voters the relevant spectrum of views, though one must allow for election alliances (especially the former Dutch method of list combinations). To some readers this suggestion may remind of earlier discussions about district or proportional representation (DR vs EPR). However, there now is the key new insight about the disinformation by the “political science / studies on electoral systems”, that causes the need to re-evaluate what has been claimed in the past by the academic ivory towers, and also by the disinforming UK Electoral Reform Society (ERS). It remains to be seen whether the UK would want to switch from DR to EPR, but the first step would be to provide the public with proper information.

PS. An eye-opener can be that “political science on electoral systems” relies upon common language instead of developed definitions. Physics also borrowed common words like “force” and “mass”, yet it provided precise definitions, and gravity in Holland has the same meaning as gravity in the UK. The “political science on electoral systems” uses the same word “election” but an “election” in Holland with EPR is entirely different from an “election” in the UK with DR. In reality there is a difference between a contest (DR) or a bundling of votes to support a representative (EPR). We find that the UK is locked into confusion by its vocabulary. An analogy is the following. Consider the medieval trial by combat or the “judgement of God”, that persisted into the phenomenon of dueling to settle conflicts. A duel was once seriously seen as befitting of the words “judgement” and “trial”. Eventually civilisation gave the application of law with procedures in court. Using the same words “judgement” and “trial” for both a duel and a court decision confuses what is really involved, though the outward appearance may look the same, that only one party passes the gate. The UK suffers the same kind of confusion about the “General Election for the House of Commons” when this actually is no proper election of interest representatives but concerns contests for getting district winners. The system of DR is proto-democratic and no proper democracy that uses EPR.

Picture: Wikimedia Queen in the UK, Duel in France, Judges in The Hague.