the "Visitatiecommissie t.b.v. het Centraal Planbureau"
(An international committee auditing the Central Planning
Bureau, Chairman prof. dr. A. Barten)
c/o de heer Oskam, SER
PO Box 90405
2509 LK Den Haag
April 16 1997
With mixed feelings, I ask to be heard in your audit.
I’ll best give you some facts first:
I consider the Central Planning Bureau to be a valuable institution
with an impressive track record. The colleagues are fine people in general.
That you have been invited to this audit is only one of the many proofs
of the quality of the Bureau. However, there are serious faults in the
structural setup of the Bureau. One best sees the abstract point first.
The kind of work required from the Bureau generates a natural monopoly,
and thus if you want optimality then some regulations are required. The
present regulations do not warrant the claim on the scientific status made
by the directorate (see appendix 2). In theory, and in my experience, this
‘cognitive dissonance’ causes a variety of problems. The case of my paper
is just one example, though it highlights the argument.
Tomorrow - April 17 - there will be a session of the High
Court of Appeal in Utrecht, concerning, amongst others, my appeal against
the decision of the minister of Economic Affairs and the directorate of
the CPB to block the publication process of my analysis as economic researcher
with the Bureau.
Note that the Bureau has a line of Research Memoranda under
the responsibility of the author. The directorate of the Bureau accepts
my integrity and skill. Much of my work has been accepted also at other
fora. However, on the blocked paper, the directorate states that the analysis
has no quality. But it also ‘disagrees on content’ with my conclusion to
an advice to a parliamentary inquiry; and my point is that I first would
like the possibility of an internal discussion and the possibility to redraft
based on that discussion, before an independent editorial board can make
any quality judgement.
Appendix 1 contains the statement - regrettably in Dutch
only - by the NVMC
Code of Conduct commission on the publication issue. The conclusion
is that it seems that there has not been enough room for discussion at
Appendix 2 contains pages 14 up to 17 of Cool (1996), "An
institutional explanation of stuctural unemployment of low income labour,"
Presentation for the 7th Research Day of the Social Sciences, Amsterdam,
ewp-oth/9605001. Page 16 (below) and page 17 (above) contain the issue
before the High Court of Appeal. But see the other issues too.
Appendix 3 contains some additional points of attention.
I cannot judge how much time your committee has planned
to do its job. I would like to be given the opportunity to reflect with
you on these two possibilities:
You really look into the CPB and my case, and state your
conclusions also in a general manner pertaining to the structure of economic
This approach will take much time. But you have been
asked to perform an audit, and there are few occasions in history that
that is being asked.
The major reason for this course of action is that the
scientific community of economists is well advised to emphasize science
and the integrity of science. Current structures for economic policy making
have originated in political compromise, with different structures in different
countries; and all allow too much room for interference that could be avoided
under proper rules of science. See for example Paul
Krugman, "Peddling prosperity", too.
If you take this route, you are well advised to advise
the minister of Economic Affairs to suspend the CPB directorate of its
duties, to name a temporary supervisor and to (temporarily) reinstall me
at the Bureau, so that there is a level playing field again.
You may concede the likelihood of a problem, but be severely
restricted in your time. In that case you are well advised not to let yourselves
be pressured into hasty conclusions.
First, then, you may look into my case in a summary manner.
Then, you might try for a two-day international conference in September
to discuss the problem of economic policy advice. I’ll gladly help you
to select the issues to be discussed, and explain matters to the participants
of the conference.
You then present your own conclusions against the backdrop
of the conclusions and papers of that conference. Likely, then, you will
conclude that the problem may be too large for a simple audit like yours,
and that a parliamentary enquiry may likely be advisable.
Please note that I’ve been trying since December 1989
to get a serious hearing. (See appendix 3.) All Dutch economists will have
heard some rumour, and biases against me abound. I am sorry to report that
I have not met a Dutch economists of some reputation that appears seriously
concerned about scientific freedom of speech and that is aware of the pitfalls
that abound in judging my case. Of importance for your committee is the
position of professor F.A.G.
den Butter. Den Butter was chairman of a specific meeting of research
economists (Ecozoek) where I presented my case concerning the CPB, and
where I appealed for help from the scientific community. However, Den Butter
mistook my appeal, misrepresented my case in a report to the director of
the CPB (his then VU colleague professor Zalm), and actually helped to
get me fired. It might interest you that different researchers present
at that meeting have made different reports, but none supports Den Butter’s
Much of my work can be found on http://www.can.nl/~cool
(including my resume) and on http://econwpa.wustl.edu
I do hope that these issues will get your unbiased attention.
Appendix: Some additional points for the auditing committee
Other avenues of appeal and for change have failed. Notably:
There is no floor with the colleagues, since they are witnesses
to the situation, and not participants. Also, even as witnesses, there
is no procedure to get accurate statements.
An internal appeal at the CPB leads to an Internal Commission
of Appeal, that however resides under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Cases are treated as concerning normal civil servants, and not as concerning
In my case the internal commission was later corrected
in court, on:
the commission thought my request for the publication process
not ‘amenable to appeal’
the commission thought it proper that the directorate placed
me out of my regular duties without giving a reason
the commission accepted the report on my performance, that
had various errors.
Higher courts mainly look at procedural aspects, and less
at content. For example, a court neglected the NVMC commission report.
There is no Dutch version of an Office of Scientific Integrity.
There could be a distinction between the Ministry of Economic
Affairs (specific employment) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (civil
servant in general). The last Ministry might defend the employee against
abuses in the specific branch, but in practice it supports that abuse.
The economic research community (Ecozoek)
declined any interest - even reported my appeal to the directorate, and
thus helped to get me fired.
The Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW) declines to interfere
in matters of employer - employee relations, thereby giving ample room
to employers to abuse of labour laws.
The EEA convention of September 1991 under the chair of professor
Lindbeck refused to discuss the matter.
E.g. last year I wrote to professors Bruno Frey, Edmond Malinvaud, Richard
and Arjo Klamer in regard of the conference "Economic Science: an art
or an asset" and their presentations there. None showed much concern.
Others (e.g. newspapers) mostly treat me as a nut. The CPB
has wide acclaim, but people do not recognise that my work helped to get
It may be that what the Bureau publishes has scientific quality.
But, if a result is scientifically warranted, does the Bureau then publish
it ? In other words, is the publication policy sufficiently shielded from
management policy issues ?
The directorate of CBS Statistics Netherlands considers the
CBS to be more independent than the CPB (H.K. van Tuinen, in personal communication).
But the CPB already claims to be an independent institute. So some opinion
has to give way.
Economic researchers in service of the government may not
have the legal position to be able to say what they really think as scientists.
The distinction "voice, exit, loyalty" comes to mind. The legal position
of official researchers is weak, and "dissent" is quickly regarded as "disloyalty".
There is also a gap between "practical researchers" and "academic
researchers", which makes that academics may be slow to understand and
support views from official researchers (which phenomenon becomes especially
important when an official develops a new and differing view). //