World Press Photo Candidate

The newspaper

After a day of work, I just rode the train home. I read the newspaper Metro, which apparently recently became the biggest newspaper of the Netherlands. The largest article, in the centre of the page, with the title “Handpop Happy Monkey helpt peuters Engels leren” (“Hand puppet Happy Monkey helps toddlers learn English”), tells about how a teacher uses a hand puppet to teach 3-year-olds English. The picture, however, is what caught my attention. Below you can find a zoomed in version. Continue reading

Going out and Sauntering in Brussels

I have just returned from a trip to Brussels, a city I had not visited before. My colleagues from the Ministry of Finance invited me to come along and go out there, and it also enabled me to meet former classmates from the LSE again, most of whom now work for the European Commission, which explains why they are in Brussels. It was nice as well, because normally I like to explore cities with my girlfriend, but she happened to have gone to Brussels already a few weeks ago, so I had some catching up to do. Continue reading

To the Defence of the Practical Use of Neoclassical Economics

In political-economy fields, the issue of states and (or versus) markets is widely debated. Some argue that markets should be left alone without governments distorting their functioning, thinking which is often connected to authors such as Adam SmithMilton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek; others emphasise the role of the state and the failures of the market, linked to authors as different as Karl Marx and Joseph Stiglitz. In this debate it has now been acknowledged that the original, strict divide between markets and states is useless: markets and states are strongly interrelated and both necessary. In a world without some sort of state, property rights cannot be assured and enforced, which is why markets will not flourish. In a world without markets (unless we speak of an extremely simple, static, and thus predictable world), standards of living cannot rise in a durable manner. This is showcased by the inevitable demise of communism, where innovation was largely ruled out, and all necessary information could not be collected and centralised. But even if it could have been, it could then not have been processed, thus posing insurmountable allocation problems. It has been recognised that markets can lead to higher standards of living for society as a whole on the longer term, when the state is there to ensure property rights, to smoothen its hardships and to step in when it fails too badly. This implies a combination of roles for markets and states. Continue reading