Deconstructing the statement by Kim Putters - director of the Dutch Goverment Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) - on the arguments for a new social contract

Professor Kim Putters gave a statement on a new social contract, see NRC-Handelsblad July 9 2016.

I thank Putters and NRC-Handelsblad for permission to reprint the text here, so that I can include my commentary on it. I received the text from SCP and will use this original, and haven't checked for possible edits at NRC.

I will keep the Dutch original on the left, and include my comments in English on the right.

I have no intention to translate Putter's words into English. This is actually part of my agreement with SCP to reproduce this text as it is. Such translation would require authorisation by him, and such procedure would lead too far for the present purposes. The set-up below should present no problem for readers who know both Dutch and English. For readers of English only, I might paraphrase some ideas. This might generate a discussion whether I react to Putter's original or my own paraphrase into English. If such a discussion would arise seriously then this could be resolved by asking for an authorised translation indeed. As a rule, thus, if you don't know both Dutch and English: beware.

Professor Kim Putters (1973) (LinkedIn) is director since 2013 of the official Dutch government's Institute for Social Research - Dutch: Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP). He was also senator in 2003-2013 for PvdA, the Dutch social-democrats. He has a degree in public management from Erasmus University. Below we will refer to Jan Tinbergen, and remember that Tinbergen taught at Erasmus University for years.

It is not quite clear whether Putters gives his personal view or his view as director of SCP. Given that the text was published in the "opinion and debate" section, we may presume that it would be his personal view. Likely though there is some kind of mixture that would be quite acceptable for this kind of medium. (I myself prefer a separate name in science.)

PM 1. In the Dutch Polder Model, the word "planning" tends to mean "indicative planning". In this context it intends to look ahead in scientific manner at some distance from daily policy making. Thus it should not be confused with planning in the style of the Soviet Union (that either was so efficient that it killed the economy or was so unefficient that its plans should be regarded as great works of fiction, comparable to Greek ferry timetables (Douglas Adams)).

PM 2. Rousseau coined the term "social contract". When I read recommendable Will & Ariel Durant "Rousseau and Revolution" (1967) (which volume is part of what I haven't read: "The Story of Civilization") I found Rousseau rather unreliable, but it cannot be denied that he created some notions that are part of the discours since then.

Given Dutch Polder Model, we can safely assume that Putters doesn't intend to be a new Rousseau (especially given Rousseau's unreliability). Still, when the director of the social research institute, whose job it is to look at social and cultural aspects, makes a statement on a new social contract, then it would seem to be advisable to pay attention (and why did NRC not print it on the front page ?).

PM 3. Earlier deconstructions were e.g. on Johannes Witteveen's Valedictorian and Mark Rutte's HJ Schoo lecture (on Thatcher and "there is no such thing as society").


Tijd voor een nieuw sociaal contract

NRC-Handelsblad, Opinie & Debat, pag 6, July 9 2016


door prof. dr. Kim Putters (1973), directeur Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP)


July 22 2016

by Thomas Colignatus (1954), econometrician and teacher of mathematics, scientific co-worker at Central Planning Bureau in 1982-1991



De stof van de Brexit daalt neer. Kim Putters, directeur SCP, duidt de betekenis voor Nederland en roept op tot een nieuw sociaal contract tegen polarisatie.

Observe my comments on Brexit: before the referendum of June 23 2016 and after it. B

Net als de Engelsen zijn we redelijk tevreden over de kwaliteit van ons leven van vandaag, maar de verschillen tussen de bovenlaag en de achterblijvers zijn gegroeid. Velen verwachten niet dat de volgende generatie het beter krijgt en kijkt met toenemend wantrouwen naar politici en bestuurders. Zolang het leiderschap in politiek en bedrijfsleven geen visie toont op het tegengaan van deze polarisatie, zal dit pessimisme waarheid worden.

The reference by Putters to leadership is vague. It is a current buzz word, which should ring alarm bells.

I would tend to agree that political parties should be clearer on their views. They are at risk of losing voters however. For some, polarisation ("us versus them") is a tool to get votes, but this may also cause fractions and islands. Below, Putters doesn't really solve these dilemma's. For him, it apparently is still political magic that brings about social harmony.

I reject the implied accusation as if I would not be clear. I must observe that my analysis gets little attention, and likely this is because society already has been fractured. Below, Putters does not offer a solution for repairing existing fractures.

There are parallels between current Holland and the UK that voted for a Brexit indeed. But there are also differences. However, a key point w.r.t. Brexit is that scientists better protest that the referendum question was scientifically unwarranted. Putters doesn't do so yet. Compare to a referendum on: "Do you still beat your mother ?" Also: was this leadership or not ?
Nederland kende lange tijd een klassiek ‘sociaal contract’ tussen werknemers, werkgevers en overheden om structurele onrechtvaardigheden in de verdeling van inkomen, kennis en macht te voorkomen. De verzorgingsstaat verzekerde ons van zorg, bijstand of pensioen. Het politieke systeem garandeerde de vrije meningsuiting en een tolerante samenleving. De economie zorgde voor welvaart en groei. De politieke, maatschappelijke en economische instituties boden stabiliteit en zekerheid. Das war einmal. Het vertrouwen in dit oude ‘sociaal contract’ is verdwenen. Putters implicitly refers to the Polder Model, and partly to Jan Tinbergen's list of goals for economic policy making (English, Dutch). Putters frames this as a "social contract" and perhaps this is useful. Sometimes people oppose the Rijnland Model to the Anglo-saxon approach by Margaret Thatcher and Dutch follower and current prime minister Mark Rutte.

Putters observes a loss of confidence in the "old social contract". However, this could already be observed in 1990, see my CPB internal memo 90-III-38, and see my comment "In plaats van Feest een vertrouwenscrisis". He is 25 years late. See also the comment below on the 1990 WRR report by Hans Adriaansens "Een werkend perspectief".
De verzorgingsstaat is ingeperkt om voorzieningen betaalbaar te houden en nabuurschap te bevorderen. De economie wordt internationaal gestuurd en robotisering ontneemt de middengroep banen. Migratiestromen en terreur brengen de veiligheid in gevaar. Politieke vrijheden worden getart door radicalisering en korte lontjes. Politici, bestuurders en ondernemers hebben de touwtjes steeds minder in handen. Hun besluiten lijken het belang van de bovenlaag te dienen. Achterblijvers slaan nu terug met een stem tegen de EU en tegen handelsverdragen zoals met Oekra´ne of TTIP.

Putters repeats the political ruses for the destruction of the welfare state: euro budget rules and stimulus of self-reliance and communitarianism. He frames it as "austerity" rather than destruction.


The truth is that the Dutch political parties, supported by government bureaucrats and journalists, refuse to investigate the censorship of economic science since since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB).


That the middle class would be squeezed by robotics is another fashionable scape-goat. The true cause for economic misery is failing economic policy.


Putters argues that both migration and terror reduce public safety. Does he imply a link or does he only mean that migrants have a worse criminal record ? Perhaps he better reconsiders this statement. And is the criminal record of migrants not related to their lower likelihood to gain employment ?


I am no expert on terror and only have some modest proposals, see SMOJ and my comment on Rapoport and Beatrice de Graaf.


It might be a strong statement that leaders seem to look only after their own interests, but it is phrased as "seem to", whence it is an issue of "public relations" only ?


Putters presents the treaty of association with the Ukraine as a trade agreement but then didn't read the military section. See my discussion of the Dutch referendum on the treaty with the Ukraine: before and after.


The (Dutch) popular opposition to the EU and association with the Ukraine is framed as a reaction from the loss of confidence in the old social contract, but, might people not have serious views that one might respect ? 

Onze kwaliteit van leven bevindt zich weliswaar op een veel hoger niveau dan een eeuw geleden, maar sommige groepen delen structureel minder mee in welvaart en welbevinden. Dat leidt tot polarisatie, wantrouwen en onrust. Zonder ankerpunten voor een nieuw sociaal contract lijkt maatschappelijk conflict onvermijdelijk. Perhaps Putters merely wants to summarise the above, but now the list of factors from the above is reduced to rising inequality only. This is regarded as sufficient for polarisation, distrust and social unrest.

Putters should be more specific about social conflict.

I have advised a national strike till the censorship of science is resolved: would that count ?
Verbreed het welvaartsbegrip
Het eerste ankerpunt is een breder welvaartsbegrip. Economische groei is belangrijk om inkomen en koopkracht op peil te houden, maar richt zich nu te weinig op de kwaliteit van leven en geluk. Lager en middelbaar opgeleiden ervaren dat, ondanks economische groei, hun diploma’s worden ondergewaardeerd. Arbeidsmigranten en hoger opgeleiden nemen hun banen in. Lager opgeleiden zijn drie keer zo vaak werkloos en zitten vaker in tijdelijk werk dan hoger opgeleiden, die wel de voordelen van Europeanisering, globalisering en groei ervaren. Welvaart raakt steeds ongelijker verdeeld, het onbehagen groeit.
I have serious objections to this.

(1) The analysis by Jan Tinbergen and Roefie Hueting on environmentally sustainable national income holds that ecological survival cannot be substituted for happiness and such. Scientists should not confuse ecological survival with social issues like inequality.

(2) For the analysis on unemployment also in relation to inequality and migration, see my analysis at CPB, that has been hit by censorship since 1990. For fellow economists, there is DRGTPE. For people in general there the option to boycott Holland till the censorship is resolved.
Overheid en bedrijfsleven zouden dan ook met voorrang een breder welvaartsbegrip moeten ontwikkelen. Sterk economisch beleid moet bijdragen aan de kwaliteit van leven. Dat is rechtvaardig als iedereen daarin meedeelt en niet alleen de bovenlaag. Het kan dus niet meer alleen gaan om aandeelhouderswinst, postbusbedrijven die belastingen ontwijken en niet duurzame productie. Marktposities en consumentenvertrouwen worden steeds meer bepaald door de bijdrage aan brede welvaart. Ondernemers moeten dat willen, de overheid moet het eisen. This is a non-discussion.

Policy makers and economists have been using this wider notion of welfare from the beginning. There are various ministries who deal with the various aspects of social welfare.

There are some technical questions amongst economists about adapting the indicators of national income. For example, see Hueting on current asymmetric bookkeeping. But the idea that everything could be caught in an overall social welfare function is only theoretical and not practical.

Yes, there have been economists like Sen, Stiglitz and Fitoussi who have challenged GDP on more issues than ecological survival. These economists neglect the work by Tinbergen and Hueting.

Economists aren't perfect, like the directorate of the CPB started censorship of economic science ...

However, it is an issue indeed that pension funds should be wary to invest in companies that destroy the environment. Those rates of profit are false, and it would be awkward to retire and have no environment left to retire in.
Herijk de definitie van solidariteit
Het tweede ankerpunt is een herijkte definitie van solidariteit. Het Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP) signaleert al jaren maatschappelijke scheidslijnen. Jongeren die voor het pensioen of de zorg van ouderen meebetalen hebben weinig vertrouwen dat deze zaken er straks voor hen ook zijn. Turkse en Marokkaanse Nederlanders zijn drie keer zo vaak werkloos dan Nederlanders van autochtone komaf met eenzelfde cv. De scheidslijnen langs leeftijd, opleidingsniveau en etniciteit verdiepen zich. Ze ondermijnen de onderlinge solidariteit.
This actually restates the problem of inequality.

When Holland has less inequality than Britain but the social tensions are similar, then one might argue that the true cause lies elsewhere. Perhaps it might still be the rising trend towards more inequality. I wonder.

Instead, though, fellow economists better check out DRGTPE for the common factors in the OECD area. For non-economists, see this short memo. For the general public in Dutch (which would also be Kim Putters), see "Democratie & Staathuishoudkunde" (2012).
Zoals gezegd, er is een herkenbaar nieuw sociaal contract met de samenleving nodig. Het oplopen van de pensioenleeftijd met de levensverwachting is een begin. We kunnen langer doorwerken, omdat we gezonder oud worden en dankzij betere arbeidsomstandigheden. Schaf ook de termen hoog- en laagopgeleid af: zet niet de opleiding centraal, maar het vak. Waardeer dat in inkomen, (om)scholingsmogelijkheden en status. Accepteer evenmin arbeidsmarktdiscriminatie op etniciteit of arbeidsbeperkingen. The option to let the pension age rise with life expectancy was mentioned in this memo of mine of 1989 at CPB 89-III-20 (bottom of p4). The real issue is the mismanagement of this phenomenon.

It is a neglected issue of great moral importance that workers in jobs with risks for life expectancy (e.g. truck drivers) are subsidising those with less risks (e.g. civil servants), see here

It is not clear to me what Putters really proposes on  (statistics of) education and its qualifications.
Waardeer naast betaald ook onbetaald werk: debatteer over een basisinkomen. A major element in this "new social contract" might be the plea for a (discussion on a) basic income.

Putters argues that "unpaid work" should be valued, but he neglects that housewives receive social security while they don't pay premiums. But this is a minor issue. Except that it also shows that current welfare state arrangements are rather silly, by requiring that lowly paid workers must pay premiums that make them costly and thus unemployed (after which they get the same benefits without paying for them).

People who propose a (discussion of a) basic income systematically neglect cricitism. In this case Putters suggests "discuss it", but he neglects that it has been discussed already. He ignores that proponents burke criticism. See my criticism here and here, and verify that e.g. the Dutch association for a basic income blandly ignores this criticism.

It would have fitted professor Putter as a scientist to criticise this sectarian behaviour instead of suggesting that we should join this sect.

Observe that 1990 CPB-director Gerrit Zalm (now retiring CEO of ABN-AMRO) who started the censorship of my analysis on unemployment and who dismissed me with untruths, also proposed a basic income. Check this discussion by Simon Otjes and Paul Lucardie, who neglect Zalm's censorship of science and my protest. Check my protest e.g. here and here and here ("Belastingplan 21e eeuw").
Nieuwe gedeelde cultuur: respect, tolerantie, bestrijding radicalisme
Derde ankerpunt is een gedeelde cultuur. Gescheiden werelden leiden tot gebrekkige identificatie en binding. Dat vertaalt zich naar verschillen in leefstijl, maar ook in uitsluiting. De teleurstelling over Nederland bij Turkse en Marokkaanse Nederlanders is groot. Het gevoel er niet bij te horen domineert, discriminatie-ervaringen nemen toe. De migratiestromen en de radicalisering onder een deel van de moslims maken de rest van Nederland tegelijkertijd angstiger.
I have looked at such social issues only in limited fashion, see e.g. here. However, there is this report of NVMC.

Overall I tend to think that it is better to resolve unemployment first and then see what social issues are left, for otherwise you might be at risk of trying to resolve issues by wrong methods without a chance of success. You cannot educate people into jobs when their labour costs remain higher than productivity.

Putters again mentions both migration and radicalisation in a same sentence, and this better clarified.
Een nieuw contract moet gaan over respect, tolerantie en het bestrijden van radicalisme. Tijdens de verzuiling werd de oplossing voor maatschappelijk conflict gezocht in zelfregulering via katholieke ‘subsidiariteit’ en protestants-christelijke ‘soevereiniteit in eigen kring’. De huidige opkomst van Denk duidt op een groep die zeggenschap eist. Dit zou niet tot polarisatie, maar tot inclusie moeten leiden. I suppose that everyone would embrace notions of repect, tolerance and opposition to radicalisation. Would Putters be able to respect science, and protest against the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of CPB ?

Wikipedia (a portal and not sources): "During the 1960s the pillars largely broke down (...)"

Thus Putters refers to a phenomenon 50 years in the past. There are still relevant traces of the pillars, as institutions adapt to the times. However, the true problem is censorship of science w.r.t. my analysis on unemployment and poverty.
Meer democratie, minder politiek
Vierde ankerpunt is meer democratie en minder politiek. We ervaren steeds meer dat besluiten buiten ons om genomen worden, terwijl velen hoogopgeleid zijn, meer informatie en technologie hebben en het leven zelf kunnen regelen. Er is steeds minder herkenning in wat politici zeggen en doen en besluitvorming vindt deels ook nog eens internationaal plaats. Nˇg meer reden om zoveel mogelijk beslissingsmacht dichtbij te organiseren. Niet meer politiek, maar meer zeggenschap.
(1) W.r.t. democracy the same happens now as with unemployment above. Putters hasn't really studied the subject but feels that he is entitled to say something about it.

Presumably, he supposes that he has a "general competence" from his study of public management and decade of senatorship. Why does he think so ?

In this list of publications there are no clear references to democracy.

In the oration "Besturen met Duivelselastiek" (2009) there is the "paradox" that people are more educated and competent but have lesser scope for participation and democracy, but there is no reference to "De ontketende kiezer" (DOK) (2003) that resolves that issue.

In this oration in 2009 Putters refers to a publication by Wiardi Beckman Stichting (WBS), but he does not look into my protest that WBS blocked my participation in a working group on economic policy, even though I am educated and competent (see DOK too for documentation on this).

(Putters apparently ignores democracy and participation in the very organisations that he has some influence on (Curatorium WBS 2011-2013).)

(2) In the magazine "Vrij Nederland" VN 2014, there is a discussion about Putters's view on "decentralisation and participation". This actually concerns a further destruction of the Dutch welfare state and throwing people back onto their own social networks again.

In 2014 Putters was only recently appointed director of SCP in 2013, and he could only warn, while the current coalition of VVD and PvdA are in the driver seats since 2012. Now, in 2016, Putters might have stated that the project failed since it doesn't make people more robust and self-reliant: but he doesn't.

Please observe that VN in 2014 didn't ask all the relevant questions. The Dutch media neglect the censorship of science since 1990 just the same.

The VN 2014 article has link to a TV interview with Hans Adriaansens, who chaired the 1990 WRR report "Een werkend perspectief". Adriaansens also chaired the session at the Albeda conference in 1990 were Rudolf Meidner gave a strong support to the notion in my CPB 90-III-38 paper to price people into jobs. A later comment by Meidner was that he hadn't solved the problem of required investments yet, and fellow economists then better check DRGTPE. See also this weblog text on the Keynesian years 1981-2007.

(3) For management of education ("Moedig onderwijsbestuur", 2015), there is no mention of the "Simon Stevin Institute" required for the education in mathematics, see here and here and here.

(4) Putters visited the UK and spoke in the Dutch Embassy, or see also here, on the Dutch referendum on the Ukraine, as if he would be an expert on democracy. As far as I know, he might not have warned about the misleading Brexit referendum question.

(5) Putters advises that people have more say, but he ignores the problem that lay people may be incompetent, because issues can be complex, and one must rely on experts. The key issue is to make sure that people get the right information. See DOK for the notion of an Economic Supreme Court. As a student of public management, Putters should be able to understand the argument. He should be agast that apparently nobody told him about this analysis on the failure of the Trias Politica, even though it has been available since 1990.
Participatieve democratie kan worden bevorderd via referenda met heldere regels, buurtco÷peraties of rapporteurschappen rond prangende vraagstukken door burgers in gemeenteraden. Voorwaarde is dat het nooit los van de rechtstaat mag staan. Die waakt ervoor dat ieders belang telt, ook als je de mond niet opendoet. Het algemeen belang gaat ook over minderheden en kwetsbare groepen. Referenda "with clear rules" remain referenda: and thus remain dangerous.

The Brexit referendum question was "clear" according to the UK Electoral College, but they ignored voting theory. Please explain to the British public that the UK Electoral College can indeed ignore voting theory. For example, when there would be a cycle of collective preferences A > B > C > A then it is manipulation to have a vote on only a pair (that will not show the fully cycle). 

The condition that referenda should not go against the rule of law and the protection of minority rights, would imply that referenda cannot be allowed in general. Thus why suggest that they can ?

You can only suggest so when you didn't study the theory of democracy.

See my book "Voting theory for democracy" and pamflet "Laat D66 zich opheffen". NB. My analysis on voting started with the CPB internal memo 90-III-37, also hit by censorship of science.
Een nieuw sociaal contract
Deze ankerpunten moeten snel worden ingevuld. Hoe breed wordt ons welvaartsbegrip? Hoe herijken we solidariteit? Hoe open staan we voor een inclusieve cultuur? Hoeveel zeggenschap geven we mensen? Voor het antwoord is veel meer maatschappijvisie nodig dan het politiek leiderschap ons nu biedt. De rekenmeesters lijken te suggereren dat het volgende kabinet niet meer dan op de winkel hoeft te passen. Nonsens! Regeren vraagt om veel meer visie, waartoe de werkgevers inmiddels een aanzet geven met de campagne ‘NL next level’. De komende verkiezingen bieden de politiek niet alleen een uitgelezen kans, maar wellicht ook de laatste om maatschappelijke conflicten te voorkomen. Hierover moeten de politici zich dit zomerreces maar eens buigen.
Again there is reference to lack of leadership - the current buzz word in some circles - while in fact people are following plenty of false prophets, and while the true problem is lack of respect for science.

Again there is the complaint that there is lack of vision while the truth is lack of interest for other people beyond your small circle of acquaintances who have serious arguments that challenge your prejudices.

There is a curious suggestion for a "last chance to do something before there might be social conflict". There still are no specifics as to what we might expect.

Also, in Holland it is rather the present coalition of VVD and PvdA that has created current tensions. We haven't read criticism on this.

VVD and PvdA argue that they form a majority in Parliament since 2012, and that under the present rules they might govern for 4 years as long as they maintain party discipline. This is a legalistic interpretation of democracy. This neglects my scientific analysis on the failure of the Trias Politica model, which analysis has been hit by censorship of science since 1990 by the very same Dutch government. (It has evolved since then, see "De ontketende kiezer" 2003.)

It might be awkward for Putters to give this kind of criticism when he has such ties as he has, and when he meets with ministers in the present cabinet on a regular basis. As a scientist, however, he can study the issues, and just inform them and the readers of SCP and NRC-Handelsblad. This is supposed to be a free country, and scientists are expected to use that freedom.

We might be happy with a diplomatically phrased manner of criticism when it would at least indicate true criticism and some new ideas. Unfortunately, Putters only restates the current buzz words (leadership, democracy, basic income). This isn't science but ritual.
Kim Putters is directeur Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (SCP) Thomas Colignatus. This is the name in science of Thomas Cool, econometrician and teacher of mathematics Q

PM. The paragraphs are identified with letters, that also can be used as targets for specific #letter links.