Graduating from LSE and Visiting Bath

The past weeks I have not been able to publish any posts here, but for good reason. I have been travelling to London, Bath, Munich, Salzburg, back to Munich, and to Aalten (a small town on the border between the Netherlands and Germany), to celebrate graduating from LSE (London and Bath), and Christmas with my girlfriend’s family (Munich and Salzburg) and with my family (Aalten). This post will be about the trip to England. Continue reading

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Krugman’s Own Hubris

As a follower of Paul Krugman’s blog, I noticed that the lion’s share of his posts contains either of the following two messages:

1) Republicans are idiots

2) Austerity economists are idiots

Yesterday, Krugman wrote once again that economically Europe is not recovering as it potentially could, because it insists on policies of austerity – that is to say, to cut on government spending. He even argues that austerity measures caused that Mario Monti had to step down, whereas I think we should not underestimate the influence of Mr Berlusconi in this matter. Continue reading

Polling Hypocrisy

Today, Maurice de Hond (the most famous Dutch ‘pollster’) said that as of now the Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders is the biggest party in the Netherlands. Question: How can a party have become smaller or larger, without any kind of formal elections? Answer: Because a tiny fraction of the population has said so.

I am surprised how much attention polls get in media, in many countries. Every week, a new poll is published and treated as some kind of reliable, trustworthy, perhaps even (quasi-)scientic source of information. A certain politician may have made a public appearance, or made a mistake, or whatever, after which the next polls are used to see what the consequences have been by comparing them to earlier polling results. Continue reading

The True Winner of the London 2012 Summer Olympics

Last summer in London I experienced the 2012 Summer Olympics. Many were preoccupied with the ‘total medal count’, which counts the number of golden, silver, bronze, and total medals per country (pick that category in which your country is performing best). Of course, the total medal count is not a ‘fair competition’. Some countries have a larger population, which gives them a bigger pool of athletes to fish from. Other countries are richer, which gives them more resources to facilitate the searching and training of potential medal-winners. I wanted to put the achievements of countries into perspective, and more specifically, to be able to say things like “given its population size and wealth, [insert country of interest] performed well during London 2012” with a bit more confidence. As for my motivation: indeed, I come from a small country,  whereas my girlfriend comes from the U.S. – last summer I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” way more often than “Het Wilhelmus“. Continue reading

Our Hero, Zwarte Piet (“Black Pete”)

At December 5th, Siji Jabbar published an article in the online Guardian on the Dutch (and Belgian) phenomenon of Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to “Black Pete”. Zwarte Piet is an important, indispensable part of the feast of Sinterklaas, which is celebrated in the Netherlands every year around 5 December, and from which many Christmas traditions, most notably Santa Claus (observe the etymology), have evolved. Mr Jabbar’s article is despicable, generalising, offending, uninformed – utterly ridiculous. Continue reading

Two Scary Hours on a Football Pitch

Last Sunday something terrible happened on a Dutch football pitch.  After a match between two amateur, youth teams, three boys (two 15 year-olds and one 16 year-old) beat up the linesman of the other team. The linesman, 41 year-old Richard Nieuwenhuizen, suffered blows on his head and neck, causing severe brain damage. He passed away a day later.

Discussions now focus on ‘violence on the football field’. Let me be clear. I totally agree with almost all measures that have been and will be taken to address what happened this time and to (try to) prevent such things from happening again. This weekend, all amateur football matches in the Netherlands have been cancelled. Meetings are organised at many clubs to talk about what happened. This weekend, professional teams will be wearing black mourning bands and will observe a moment of silence before their games. It cannot get enough attention. Continue reading

Austerity: It’s About Time

A discussion rages with regard to the austerity measures implemented by European countries. Paul Krugman, a notable opponent of austerity measures, even refers to it as “Europe’s Austerity Madness“. If one believes Krugman’s and some other populistic outbursts, one might actually believe that governments did not take on addional debt in past years. But the graph below tells you an entirely different story, I hope!

Government consolidated gross debt as a % of GDP. Data is retrieved from Eurostat.

Government consolidated gross debt as a % of GDP. Data is retrieved from Eurostat.

Continue reading