The radical centre and the Purple cabinets

First insertion on Heterodox Gazette Sam de Wolff: 17 september 2017

E.A. Bakkum is a blogger for the Sociaal Consultatiekantoor. He loves to reflect on the labour movement.

During the ninetees of the last century the ideology of the radical centre emerges, which henceforth is supported by centre-left parties. The present column again summarizes its principles. The American variant is described, which has laid the foundations. Next the policy of the two Purple cabinets in the Netherlands is studied, because these can also be ranked among the movement of the radical centre. Much attention is paid to the criticism within the PvdA with regard to its own Purple coalition.

More than a year and a half ago a column has sketched the political principles of the so-called radical centre, also called the Third way. This relatively new movement is supported by many centre parties, and in Europe is associated with the social-democracy. The present column wants to further elaborate on the theory of the radical centre. For this it is useful to again summarize the previous findings. Your columnist obviously again stressed the economic aspects, which are his personal fascination. Incidentally, the ideology of the radical centre precisely formed thanks to the new economic insights, which especially during the seventies and eighties emerged, as a reaction to the failing budget policies of the state. Consider the models, which nowadays are collected in the new institutional economics and the new political economy1.

The radical centre starts from the statement, that the ideology of the traditional social-democracy is unsound in all of its forms (socialization, planning, rigorous Keynesianism). The voters no longer believe the social-democratic argument, that the factors labour and capital oppose each other as enemies2. People no longer feel part of a class, but want to shape their lives as individuals. Individualism makes society pluralistic. Thus the economic left-right opposition is replaced by the desire to be personally autonomous. There is more appreciation for freedom, whereas at the same time the importance of equality is reduced. Now the voters also reject the social-democratic preference for the state. For, it turns out that society can not be "constructed" by the state. Moreover, a large state is detrimental to the private initiative, purely due to its excessive weight.

The essential values of the radical centre are the productivity and the reciprocity. People must be able to unfold, so that they can contribute maximally to the collective welfare. In this picture a paternalistic state, which keeps people dependent, does not fit. The state must limit itself to the creation of favourable boundary conditions, namely the guarantee of equal opportunities for all. This policy has the ambition of universality. Regulations such as an accessible child care, training and parent leave, benefit all social circles. The consequence and downside is, that everybody is obliged to use these opportunities in a responsible manner. This expresses the norm of reciprocity. Each individual can choose his own fate (freedom of choice), and is made accountable for it. Everybody is rewarded according to effort. The culture of dependency is pushed back3.

Since the radical centre advocates reciprocity, more than liberalism, it often prefers the traditional term solidarity. However, solidarity no longer concerns an insured income in a purely passive manner. It aims to activate, so that people are capable of selfhelp. This policy intensively uses incentives, because selfhelp can evidently not be enforced. The best activation is engagement in the productive process, because thus everybody can pay for the necessaries of life. In practice this is sometimes realized by temporarily reducing the financial burdens of labour, so that the state yet intervenes by means of regulation. But the intention is, that the support is temporary, so that the concerned workers can in the long run leave their precarious jobs. The special attention to vulnerable groups is called prioritary equality.

Therefore the radical centre revises the social role of the state, and gives more room to market processes. This also insures, that the state itself becomes more effective. This revolution is sometimes called new public management4. The state is merely an actor among other social organizations, but it does maintain the right to stimulate or even restrict the private actions in order to further the general interest. It is a primus inter pares. Since each state has developed its own institutions in a historical process, it gives its own form to the policy of the radical centre. The national form of the radical centre is path dependent. For instance, a coalition system limits the possibilities for centre-left parties to realize their policies. Conversely, it turns out that a tradition of corporatism is favourable for the radical centre5.

Because of the path dependency, it is difficult to simply position the radical centre in the interaction of the markets, state and social circles (the civil society). See the policy triangle of Polanyi and Ganßmann6. It is controversial within the radical centre, what is the essence of society: the individual or the circles. Some, like the sociologist Giddens, attach value to individualism, and identify the radical centre with social liberalism. Others, like the sociologist Etzioni, believe that all human aspects originate from circles. Such a radical view is ideologically related to communitarianism. The views of Giddens and Etzioni can both be reconciled with the mentioned principles of the radical centre. This doctrinary ambiguity forces the radical centre to use a technocratic and rational approach. Dogmatists dislike this7.

The radical centre borrows ideas from both liberalism and the social-democracy. Nevertheless, there are also clear similarities with the christian-democracy. This similarity motivated the Gazette to devote several columns to the christian principles. It turns out that there are yet differences, and three deserve mentioning here: (a) the christian-democracy wants to subject the productivity to higher (moral) values; (b) it believes that the individual autonomy must be embedded within social circles, perhaps even more so than Etzioni; (c) it demands respect for the sovereignty of the circles. Due to this last demand the state must remain passive, and it must not self activate the citizens. Corporatism is encouraged, for instance in enterprises, but with a minimal intervention of the state. Apparently the christian antithesis, which rejects modernity, yet clashes with the ideology of the radical centre8.

Corporatism is an obstacle for effective actions, and therefore fits poorly in the ideology of the radical centre. Here the social-democracy finds it also difficult to make the change towards the radical centre. For, traditionally the social-democracy mainly propagated the interests of the workers. Only later, it developed into a popular movement. Even now the social-democratic parties still have a wing consisting of trade union members, who oppose the fair judgement of the social interests. It is quite difficult (albeit not impossible) to abolish such a historically grown tie. But the radical centre, which places the state in the role of arbiter, does require it.

Thus the support of the social-democratic rank-and-file for the radical centre is certainly not en bloc. However, the criticism on the radical centre by the members is generally not very coherent. Therefore, in the remainder of the column it will be relegated to the footnotes. Nevertheless, it yields fascinating food for thought, perhaps even more so than the main text, and therefore deserves the attention of the reader. The footnotes are truly quantitatively the main part of the text and the column.

Due to the path-dependent development a detailed analysis of the radical centre must take place at the level of the separate state. The present column focuses on the United States of America (in short USA) and the Netherlands. Germany will be discussed in a subsequent column. In each of these regions a government of the radical centre is in power for some time. In America it is the administration of Clinton, during the period 1992-2000. However, it does not always dispose of the majority, and then must make compromises with the Republican opposition. In Germany there is the government of Schröder between 1998 and 2005. This is a coalition of the SPD and the party Bündis'90/die Grünen. In the Netherlands the purple coalition governs between 1994 and 2002, under prime minister Kok. In this cabinet the PvdA and VVD are of the same size, whereas D66 is significantly smaller.

Again: New Labour

Since in these three cases the administration actually consists of a coalition of parties, the question is which political groups must be identified with the radical centre. It is difficult to answer this in a definite manner. It is clear, that the radical centre is mainly propagated and executed by the government leaders Blair, Clinton, Kok, and Schröder. But within their own parties the latter three got merely a limited support for the course of the radical centre. Only in the United Kingdom the radical centre is coupled to a single party, Labour, led by Blair9. Moreover, Labour governs for a long time, from 1997 until 2010. The British policy has been described in the previous column about the radical centre, and this is a useful reference for the present text. The Labour group in parliament has always supported its cabinet. The reader may realize, that by no means all within the group did this with a strong conviction.

Photo of Clinton and Blair
Figure 1: Clinton and Blair
   (Source: archive Blair)

The sociologists S. Driver and L. Martell analyze in their book New Labour (in short NL) the ideology of New Labour10. They describe its policy as a mixture of liberalism and democratic socialism (p.46, 210 in NL). It is pluralistic (p.5, 25), and perhaps a hybrid ideology (p.54). A striking example is the policy of criminal law: it combines extra prevention with more severe sanctions (p.111)11. And in health care the command structure is mixed with quasi-markets (p.129). The regional administration is decentralized, but the state remains responsible for the municipal finances (p.164). Thus there is a separation of powers. One may recognize in these points the core values of reciprocity and productivity. Therefore your columnist believes that the Third Way (the radical centre) yet has its own recognizable ideology, albeit somewhat dialectical. In the remaining text the power basis of the radical centre will be studied more in detail.

The New Choice of the New Democrats

The Democratic Party (in short DP) of the United States of America has initiated the radical centre12. The Democrats are not social-democrats, but since the New Deal after 1930 they do have a tradition of state intervention. They had many electoral successes with this course. During the late sixties and the early seventies the DP, under the influence of the New Left, has become amenable to utopian outbursts. Since 1980 the DP got stuck in a minority position at the federal level, for a long time. The party loses in elections for the president and the senate13. Within the DP the dominant view becomes, that a political reorientation is necessary. This task is performed by the New Democrats, who in 1985 unite in the Democratic Leadership Council (in short DLC). The DLC propagates the standpoint, that the equality of opportunities must be reconcilable with economic growth (in short, with a rising productivity).

The DLC develops the principles of the radical centre, which have just been summarized. The council indeed moves towards the middle class. In 1989 it founds the think tank Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). A hallmark of the DLC and the PPI is the reservation with regard to interest groups, which are powerful within the DP. The DLC believes, that politics must serve the general interest. This philosophy is called the New choice14. Participation is highly valued. At the time this idea of the activating social security is still radical, also for America. Furthermore, the PPI and the DLC want to have a negative income tax in place of the minimum wage15. The federal budget must be equilibrated. A hallmark of the appreciation for reciprocity is, that in the beginning the DLC favours a reintroduction of the general conscription. Clinton later changes this into a social compulsory service for the youth, who want a scholarship (AmeriCorps).

The reciprocity has a moral character. Here an enlightened communitarianism is present, as well as an appreciation for the personal circle (community). This is clear in the security policy of the DLC. More police officers have a beat. The criminal law must be more stringent. And the traditional anti-war course of the DP is replaced by investments in defense. Stable families are valued, in addition to work and individual autonomy. In education the parents must be able to choose a school for their children. Typically liberal is the preference for free trade16. Finally, it must be noted that after his election in 1993 Clinton as a president has difficulty in realizing the New Convenant. The congress often thwarts his attempts. Clinton needs the Republican Party (in short RP) for introducing workfare17. And in the beginning his administration still has budget deficits18.

Director A. From of the DLC is convinced, that the New Democrats have modernized the DP, and even have "saved" it. Nevertheless, president Clinton sometimes has to demand the support of the RP for realizing his policy. This was partly due to the losses of the DP in the intermediate elections for the House and the Senate. But certain groups of representatives withing the DP also opposed the New Convenant of Clinton. Apparently the DP as a whole has not yet accepted the ideology of the radical centre. Thus the radical centre could be an isolated initiative of Clinton and his adherents. It remains unclear, what the DP really wants.

The Purple cabineta

It is generally believed, that the Purple cabinets continue the economic course of the preceding cabinets Lubbers I, II and III19. The centre-liberal cabinets Lubbers I (1982-1986) and II (1986-1989) initiate a real administrative reform, because they focus on the supply-side in the economic policy, at the cost of the demand side. The state budget is reduced, by means of deregulation, market processes and privatization. Thus these cabinets introduce the new public management. According to the political scientist J. de Vries, thus the welfare state changes into the management state20. The reforms are established in an interaction between politics and the civil society. Often new economic ideas stimulate the reforms21. The cabinets Lubbers I and II do reduce the state, but they do not succeed in ending the corporatism of the social partners (associations of entrepreneurs and workers).

Lubbers caricature by Opland
Figure 2: Ruud Lubbers (by: Opland)

However, in the centre-left cabinet Lubbers III (1989-1994) the PvdA is also convinced of the need to reform the social security. This reorienation finally breaks the power of corporatism. This short review shows, that the actual policy reform has occurred before Purple. It does not surprise, that a coalition of PvdA, VVD and D66 prefers a policy, which is similar to the radical centre. The present paragraph wants to highlight this similarity, especially in the economic domain, and to identify the real ideologists of the two Purple cabinets. It is well known, that the formation of Purple I has been enforced by D66, which during the formation of 1994 constantly rejected alternative coalitions22. In 1998 the three parties continue with Purple II, because the atmosphere in the coalition is good.

In 1994 the collaboration of the PvdA and VVD becomes possible, because the party leader Wim Kok has abandoned the strategy of polarization, and ideologically moves towards the political centre. A party, which wants to govern, needs support, and must maximize its electoral followers23. D66 has dispensed with an ideological profile during its early years. Then it wants to form a progressive popular party, together with the PvdA and PPR24. After 1998 D66 calls itself social-liberal25 The supply side policy of Purple is mainly due to the ideas of the VVD. During the formation of 1994 VVD-leader Frits Bolkestein extorts in tough negotiations, that the state under Purple I will practise austerity26. This policy irritates many PvdA members, who thus alienate from the cabinet27.

The liberal minister of finance Gerrit Zalm makes an efficient cost estimate for the period 1994-1998, and in this way limits the available funds of the cabinet. He introduces the rule, that during the period the budget deficit must be on average 1%. Thus the state expenditures get fixed ceilings. Unexpected windfalls in the state incomes will be used for reducing taxes or paying off the state debt28.

During Purple II the tax system is reformed. This reduces the level of taxation, and therefore also the state incomes. Many PvdA members are irritated, because the reform does not lead to a more progressive tax levying29. In accordance with the supply side policy, the tax on labour is reduced. The part of the indirect taxes increases, also because of the attempt to make the system "greener". In the social security, the policy of cost control is continued, because only in this manner the system will be durable

Photo Hans van Mierlo
Figure 3: Hans van Mierlo
   (source photo: ANP)

Thanks to Purple, the Dutch economy continues to grow strongly. However, this growth is caused by the rising participation on the labour market, and not by a strongly increasing labour productivity30. This is called, respectively extensive and intensive growth. In this manner, notably Purple I reduces the unemployment. On the one hand, jobs are created, among others by wage subsidies, and on the other hand the unemployed are motivated to accept jobs. The latter is done among others by increasing the gap between the dole and the wages. Also, sanctions are imposed on recipients of relief, who insufficiently fulfill their duties31. Unconditional rights are replaced by reciprocity.

Incidentally, this policy was already initiated during the cabinets Lubbers. In 1992 a parliamentary inquiry was held by a commission, led by the social-democrat Buurmeijer32. In corporatism, the social partners supervise the execution of the social security. The commission concludes, that the supervisor behaves in an opportunistic manner, and hardly inspects. Supervision and the propagation of interests are not reconcilable, because this combination provokes rent seeking behaviour. Note that this empirical conclusion is supported by theory33. The commission recommends, that the state itself takes on the execution. During Lubbers III this does not succeed, but Purple does realize this reform.

Here the changed view of the PvdA is decisive. Liberals (here the VVD and D66) never liked corporatism, which since the Interbellum determines the economic structure. This concerns notably the various public branch corporations (in short PBO). In the PBO the civil society would have too much influence of the markets and on the state. The civil society has perverse incentives to shift its costs to the state. Therefore Purple propagates the primacy of politics, in the social security, but also elsewhere. Indeed, Purple relieves the cabinet of the obligation to always consult the SER. Furthermore, Purple also weakens the control of the Agricultural Corporation on the agricultural policy34. Perhaps this is the hallmark of the radical centre: a private civil society is preferred, and corporatism is rejected, unless it clearly gives better results.

For, in some policy domains Purple yet allows corporatism - although it clashes with liberalism. Purple furthers the central wage bargaining of the social partners, because the cabinet believes that it is an instrument of wage moderation. And precisely the moderate wages are the foundation of the success of the Polder model. Here one recognizes the view of the PvdA, and notably of its leader Wim Kok. The social-democracy introduces with its plea for participation a corporatist element. But in fact then the labour market is naturally not completely free35. Activation must restrict the use of the social security, so that its level can be maintained. The policy of wage subsidies is an input by the PvdA36. The view of the PvdA is also visible in the decision not to reduce the height of the social benefits any further37.

Wim Kok caricature by Opland
Figure 4: Wim Kok (by: Opland)

Furthermore, Purple invests in large projects of infrastructure. Consider the Betuwe railway, the High-speed railway, the second Maas plane, and the expansion of Schiphol. Purple gives a high priority to transport and transit, and expects that this will remain an important economic sector. The investments stimulate employment, both by the construction of the infrastructure and the subsequent exploitation. This fits well with the supply side policy of the radical centre. A problem of such projects are the effects on nature and the environment. Purple solves this by offering compensation in the environment elsewhere38.

The PvdA top around prime minister Kok can maintain itself without much effort, on the waves of the Purple successes. These social-democrats support the course of the radical centre, although they would like to spend more. However, in various footnotes it has already been shown, that other groups in the PvdA object to the Purple policy. This is very clear from the publications of the WBS, the scientific bureau of the PvdA. The traditional social-democrats reject in particular the liberalization, which yet is a priority of the radical centre. They also distrust the obligations, which accompany the morals of reciprocity. The poor electoral result during the elections of 2002 affect the authority of the PvdA top around Kok and Melkert. After this, the support for the radical centre in the PvdA diminishes, partly due to the successful rebellion by the left wing39.

As an illustration of the ideological regression, the Van waarde project can be mentioned, a series of WBS publications since 2011. Its core is described in the book Van waarde (in short Vw)40. Here the project is called post-liberal and post-technocratic (p.113 in VW), a position, which is evidently not reconcilable with the radical centre. It has been previously concluded, that the radical centre propagates freedom, for reasons of ethics and effectiveness41. Individuals must be independent, whenever this is possible. But VW prefers as leading values the security of existence, decent work, emancipation and bonding. And the project indeed does not approach these values in a liberal manner. The incentives for profit in the industries would be too strong (p.66), and the power of the shareholders must be reduced (p.68). They must no longer decide autonomously about merges and take-overs, so that the property right is eroded.

The project rejects the efficiency as the primary criterion for testing the public sector (p.78). This contradicts the new public management, which indeed values the criterion. Since VW wants to push back the use of markets, the state must again take on more tasks. The expenditures for public services must rise, even as the share of the GDP, as well as the level of taxes42. Privatizations are rejected43. The dogma is even promoted, that public services are preferable over private goods and services!44. Here emancipation degenerates into paternalism. The free citizens are placed in the role of victims. This selection from the views behind "Van waarde" may be rather arbitrary, but it does show the aversion against Purple. All in all, the PvdA is not a party of the radical centre.


The preceding text shows, that in all cases (USA, England, Germany, the Netherlands) the radical centre is an initiative of the then party top. Notably the reforms are promoted by a few outstanding politicians, who have personally experienced the misery in the party. The members and the ideologists do not recognize themselves in the course, and are reluctant to follow. Therefore the party top places itself at some distance from its traditional rank-and-file, as soon as they enter into government45. Your columnist hopes to show in subsequent columns, that the policy of the radical centre may be called a success.

But the traditional left wing of the party again rises to power with the replacement of the party top by new generations. This causes an impasse, because its ideology has become obsolete due to scientific and social developments. Thus these parties become a part of the problem. Fortunately, the leaders of the radical centre have created a precedent, which can be an example for future generations of social-democrats.

  1. The statement that the radical centre is a purely political movement, is wrong. Its foundation does consist of scientific progress, in economics, but also in sociology and psychology. For instance, much attention is paid to the individual incentives and motives. Now, even science is not devoid of values, but the superiority of the new models in comparison with the past can not be denied. Note that the new knowledge was already available in the early eighties, when socialists such as Den Uyl and Mitterrand still propagated the old dogma's. At the time there are also good Dutch books about the new knowledge, such as Politieke economie (1987, Intermediair) by J. de Beus and F. Vuijsje. De Beus was a member of the board of governors of the WBS, the scientific bureau of the PvdA.
    For the sake of convenience it is mentioned, that the analysis is mainly based on the social-democratic literature. This is also a fascination of your columnist. (back)
  2. At first sight this remark may seem trivial. Those in doubt may perhaps appreciate the popular sociologist J.J.A. van Doorn on p.41 in Paars in perspectief (1997, Kok Agora): "The socialist society never emerged, capitalism has prevailed and returned in a reinforced form. (...) The liberals are (...) the political exponents of the transformation, which moves the social system". Nonetheless, still in 2015 the left-wing PvdA chairman Spekman was cited in the press: "Let us [EB: PvdA, Groen Links, Socialistische Partij] abandon all quarrels and join forces against high finance". Your columnist, who at the time was still a PvdA member, did not feel represented by this call. Similar calls have probably been made by the English leader Corbyn and the French leader Hamon. It is a problem, when leaders of popular parties spread such dogma's. For, the party members rely on the insights of the party top, because it has a central position in the network of information. Although fortunately the present-day people are fairly autonomous in their judgement, yet they remain rather dependent on the pastoral leaders. This must oblige the top to take a responsible and reticent stance. (back)
  3. See p.170 in European social democracy (1998, Bevrijding), edited by R. Cuperus and J. Kandel. (back)
  4. It has been stated that the new public management is justified by the public choice theory, which warns against the personal interest of state bodies. See p.19 in Paars en de managementstaat (2002, Garant). (back)
  5. See p.36 and p.43 in Third way reforms: social democracy after the Golden Age (2009, Cambridge University Press) by J. Huo. (back)
  6. On p.43 in Paars in perspectief the liberal P.G.C. van Schie replaced the triangle by a cross of axes, where the morals are displayed against the economy. The two extremes on each of the axes are, horizontally, the state (planning) and the free markets, and, vertically, the universal and individual morals. The cross of axes expresses, that the political profile depends on the economic and moral position. In this field, liberalism is in the upper-right quadrant. Moreover, within its quadrant liberalism would converge historically in a spiral movement to the socially optimal point. The social-democracy is traditionally in the left-under quadrant (culture socialism), and in a chaotic manner also moves to the same optimal point, albeit slowly and hesitatingly. Your columnist sees several problems in this model. The economy and morals are not mutually independent. For instance, a planned economy requires collective morals. There are undoubtedly several optimal points, where the optimum also depends on the circumstances. Furthermore, the private markets can not exist without universal morals. It is admitted, that psychology tells that morals are usually limited to a small circle. Society is anonymous. But when liberalism does not have universal morals, then where are the fundamental human rights and constitutional patriottism? On p.118 the liberal G.A. van List undermines the model: "The responsible society is a common ideal of liberals and christian-democrats". On p.94 F. Becker (assistant director WBS) mentions as moral extremes liberalism and tradition. These are indeed more convincing than the poles of universality and individuality. (back)
  7. The well-known Dutch sociologist Aafke Komter admits, in her contribution to the volume Leven na paars? (2001, Prometheus), edited by J. Bussemaker and R. van der Ploeg, that reciprocity does not emerge spontaneously on a social scale. The anonymity is too large for this. The aim must be a sense of well-reflected personal interest (p.53). Therefore the state must focus on morals of reciprocity, via the establishment of corresponding institutions (p.58-60). This book is not an evaluation of Purple, but yet interesting, because many of its analyses are scientific. (back)
  8. Worth mentioning is the view of Van Kersbergen and Nottelman on p.41 and 49 in Leven na paars?, that the CDA must be avoided as a partner in coalitions. They reproach the christian-democracy, that it prefers a passive policy of social security. This agrees with the remarks in the main text, which have been copied from Huo in Third way reforms. According to De Beus on p.219 in European social democracy the christian-democracy prefers early retirement as an instrument for raising the labour productivity. This also undermines the participation. Incidentally, the christian-democracy is pluralistic. On the one hand, the cabinets Lubbers develop a business-like policy. On the other hand, in 1998 the churches protest against shopping-hours on sunday and against the 24-hours economy. See p.123-124 in De balans van paars (2001, Uitgeverij Maarten Muntinga bv), edited by R. Hopkins. The secretary-general B. Plaisier of the Dutch Protestant Church even states: "The economy is run up, with means that aim at personal profit, such as lower taxes. The consumption becomes outrageous"! (back)
  9. Perhaps it is not a coincidence, that during the seventies of the last century Schröder, Kok and Blair had to fight hard to maintain themselves against the radicalized adherents of the New Left. Schröder was the chairman of the youth movement Jusos, which then flirted with marxism. Kok, as the chairman of the FNV, was confronted with radical union leaders such as Groenevelt and Schelling. Blair becomes a member of parliament just at the moment, when Labour is led by the radical Foot, and the party sinks away in an electoral swamp. Then the party propagates nationalizations, protectionism, and leaving the EC. Then it even has a Trotskist wing! Clinton, Kok and Blair had good mutual relationships. The tie between Clinton and Blair was even the subject of a movie, The special relationship, which is also available on DVD. (back)
  10. See New Labour (2006, Polity Press) by S. Driver and L. Martell. Note that the expression radical centre originates from Blair himself. On p.41 the authors claim that the Third Way ideology is revisionism. Om p.214 they state, that this ideology is still controversial within the Labour Party. On p.173 in European social democracy G. Holtham and R. Hughes even state: "Even in New Labour, however, perhaps 80 per cent of the parliamentary party would prefer the centre-left option to the conservative or radical-centre one". Earlier, after the First Worldwar, revisionism was succesful. But successes in the past are not a guarantee for the future, as for instance the recent appointment of the grizzled dogmatist Corbyn as the party leader shows. (back)
  11. It is not surprising that this theme is elaborated further by H. Boutellier in Leven na paars?. He refers to the expansion of the prison system (p.79), but also to new instruments, such as task punishments, and prevention by means of social work and health care (p.82). (back)
  12. Your columnist consults for this paragraph the book The New Democrats and the return to power (2014, Palgrave Macmillan) by A. From. Naturally there are lots of books about the career of president Bill Clinton. But books about the contents of his policies are hardly available. (back)
  13. The decay is dramatic. On p.11 in The New Democrats and the return to power it is mentioned, that already in 1972 the Democratic candidate McGovern loses against Nixon in almost all states. McGovern is still a seasoned Keynesian. Carter is in 1976 the last democratic president, for the time being, thanks to the misbehaviour of Nixon. After him the republican Reagan has much success. During the presidential elections of 1988, Dukakis loses in no less than 40 states. Interesting but not well known is, that until after the Second Worldwar the PD was strong in the south, and maintained segregation there. (back)
  14. See p.145 in The New Democrats and the return to power. Later Clinton calls it the New convenant (p.165). (back)
  15. The minimum wage is a fad of the dogmatic left. The traditional Democrats also strongly prefer the equality of incomes. See p.132 in The New Democrats and the return to power. But there are attractive alternatives, such as benefits by means of the income tax. For, many workers with a minimum wage are actually quite rich, for instance families with two wages. The alternatives make labour cheaper, and thus create jobs, The left wing is called old style politics by From. Note that New Labour has done both: minimum wage and tax deduction. See p.99 in New Labour. (back)
  16. But in 1993 Clinton needs the support of the Republican Party in order to get NAFTA approved. Former DLC chairman Gephardt votes against it, as well as the now illustrious Bernie Sanders. See p.208 in The New Democrats and the return to power. (back)
  17. On p.229 in The New Democrats and the return to power it is mentioned, that almost half of the DP in Congress voted against it, including Gephardt. The new law allows for a period of social assistance of two years, which can be used for retraining. After that the beneficiaries must have a job, or do unpaid social work. (back)
  18. During the second presidential period the budget does balance. In the House 52 traditional democrats vote against this budget, including Gephardt, who now has affiliated himself with the trade union movement. See p.234 in The New Democrats and the return to power. According to From the representatives of the House get 30% of their funds from the trade unions (p.237). (back)
  19. See p.92 in Paars in perspectief, p.44, 142, 216 and 262 in Zeven jaar paars, p.174 in Paars! (1994, Sdu Uitgeverij) by E. Bode, p.32 in De balans van paars (2001, Uitgeverij Maarten Muntinga bv), and p.11 in Paars en de managementstaat (2002, Garant) by J. de Vries. Many books about Purple originate from social-democratic circles, because they are ideologically confused. They try to find something to go by.
    The political scientists K. van Kersbergen and B. Verbeek show in their contribution to Paars in perspectief, that in Europe since the Second Worldwar "purple" coalitions between liberals and social-democrats are often formed. For them, Purple is a synonym for this combination, irrespective of the accompanying historical circumstances. Your columnist uses the term Purple specificly for the cabinets Kok I and II. (back)
  20. See p.12 in Paars en de managementstaat. De Vries distinguishes between three types of administrative changes: (a) changes within the existing laws (for instance a tax raise); (b) changes in the law; and (c) a change of structure (reform). De Vries attributes this classification to P. Hall, but a previous column has shown that Tinbergen has introduced it earlier. The cabinets Lubbers reform society. De Vries calls the new administrative style managerial politics. The style is rather technocratic, and prefers instrumental rationality over value rationality (p.23). (back)
  21. On p.18 in Paars en de managementstaat De Vries reminds of the Great Depression during the Interbellum, which has started the Kaleckian-Keynesian policy. In the same manner, the oil crises and the accompanying stagflation during the seventies of the last century lead to te modern supply-side policy. (back)
  22. It is actually the D66 leader Hans van Mierlo, who prefers this stance. It irritates him, that for decades the CDA (and its predecessors) have always been a part of the government. He believes that this gives an excessive power to the CDA. See p.314 and further in Zeven jaar paars (2001, Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers), edited by F. Becker, W. van Hennekeler, M. Sie Dhian Ho, and B. Tromp. Van Mierlo propagates democratic renewal. He is not primarily concerned with the ideology of the radical centre. See furthermore p.39 in Paars en de managementstaat. (back)
  23. Kok probably simply followed his common sense. Other social-democratic parties also arrive at this idea, for instance New Labour. See p.169 in European social democracy. Nevertheless science offers here an extra justification. It is known from the economic theory of oligopolies, that enterprises maximize their sales by both supplying (almost) the same product. The differentiation is minimal. Such a situation is called a Hotelling problem. This mechanism is also mentioned by T. Meyer on p.51 in European social democracy. Incidentally, Kok is not one of the founders of Purple. But when it turned out that this combination was inevitable, he embraced it. On p.152 in Paars! Bode cites a remark of Kok during the agreement about Purple I in 1994: "Something beautiful may grow". The book of Bode sketches a good picture of the political division and power struggle within the various parties.
    By the way, it must be mentioned, that the journalist Emile Bode is a personal acquaintance. Once he gave room to your columnist for uttering some grievances in the newspaper De Telegraaf. Unfortunately that lobby in the press was not successful. But it was necessary, and the help of Bode is gratefully acknowledged. (back)
  24. See p.318 in Zeven jaar paars. These parties hope that a left majority is possible on the revolutionary waves of the New Left. They indeed develop a majority strategy. They keep centre-right parties out of their coalitions, whenever this is possible. In 1972 they formulate the common program Keerpunt 1972. This program must be called utopian, measured against present standards. It are the heydays of politization and polarization. Sometimes it is said, that at the time the liberals also polarize. See p.29 in Paars in perspectief, edited by P.G.C. van Schie. Your columnist believes that the VVD simply opposed the left polarization. In 2001 Van Mierlo (D66) again propagates the formation of a progressive popular party, albeit now with a moderate program, on p.319 in Zeven jaar paars. On p.320 Van Mierlo says: "Leave out that grand idea that is supposed to bind", and on p.321: "In many fields an incredible amount of ideologically inflated nonsense has been eliminated [EB during Purple]". And on p.70 in De balans van paars he says: "The cabinet must listen well to society, and next create room for what it hears". (back)
  25. See p.149 in Sociaal-liberalisme (2014, Boom) by F. de Beaufort and P. van Schie. These authors (of VVD origin) trace the social-liberalism ideologically to several thinkers of more than a century ago (Bosanquet, Green, Hobhouse, Ritchie). In this definition, social-liberalism is comparable to communitarianism. On p.174 these authors even state: "Social-liberalism could also be seen as a form of liberal conservatism". And on p.176: "Some left-wing politicians and parties are too eager in claiming to be social-liberal. When they would consider the true contents of social-liberalism, then that may well be experienced as a disappointment". Your columnist thinks that it makes no sense to equate social-liberalism to communitarianism on historical grounds. Here one has in fact the same ambiguity, which is also the hallmark of the radical centre. The ideas of Giddens and Etzioni oppose each other, as two extremes on a continuous scale. (back)
  26. See p.108, 111-112, and 140 of Paars!. The austerity is also needed due to a come-down of 5 milliard guilders, which was inherited from Lubbers III. See p.107 in Paars! and p.37 and 50 in Paars en de managementstaat. (back)
  27. This column focuses on the relation between the PvdA and Purple. On p.73 in Paars! Vermeend estimates, that more than half of the new PvdA parliamentary group is in favour of Purple. The authoritative social-democrat K. de Vries dislikes Purple (p.76). Purple is not the first choice of the group chairman T. Wöltgens or party chairman Vreeman. See p.173 in Zonder rood geen paars (1995, Uitgeverij Jan Mets). But the PvdA does not reject the inquiry into the formation of the Purple coalition. The criticism from the PvdA intensifies only during the Purple era. See p.135 (criticism of financial ideologist De Kam) in Zeven jaar paars. Since the seventies De Kam regularly writes about social-democratic tax policies. On p.156 R. van der Veen complains about insufficient funds for health care and education. On p.301 WBS director Kalma states the same. He even dramatically observes a "public poverty" (in the midst of private wealth). De Beer agrees with this criticism on p.124 and further in De toekomst van de publieke sector (2011, WBS), and demands structurally higher taxes. It is surprising that on p.82 in De balans van paars the D66-politician T. de Graaf also believes: "The distance between the public and private sector has become enormous during the past decade". On p.121-122 in Leven na paars? (2001, Prometheus) F. van Waarden propagates an unlimited access to health care, irrespective of the costs. In a rather moral tone he prefers this over "a growth of the beer consumption" (p.115). The sociologist K. Schuyt, incidentally an opponent of "economization", states on p.68, that the costs of health care must not rise faster than the BBP. In this book the authoritative PvdA members Bussemaker and Van der Ploeg do appreciate Purple. It is curious that they yet reject the Third Way (p.18). They believe that Giddens expects too much win-win results from the liberalization. On p.40 in this book K. van Kersbergen and G. Nottelman support the Third Way without reservations. (back)
  28. See p.88 and further in Zeven jaar paars. The state expenditures are decoupled from the incomes. So during a baisse there is hardly any room for stimulating the economy in a Keynesian manner. The austerity is also necessary in order to satisfy the norms of the European Monetary Union. See also p.46 in Paars en de managementstaat. On p.87 in De balans van paars the VVD-politician H. Dijkstal states, that paying off the state debt reduces the interest burden. Next the extra money can be spent on public goods. Without a discipline with regard to the expenditures the state will rapidly fall back in a situation with increasing unemployment [EB apparently because the spending power and position in the international competition are affected by the rising burden of interest]. (back)
  29. See p.132 (criticism of De Kam) and p.297 (criticism of Kalma) in Zeven jaar paars. The view of Kalma illustrates the latent discontent among PvdA members about the Purple policies. Kalma rejects the Third Way (p.289 and 310). He wants to maintain the traditional Rhineland model. Therefore he is irritated about the plans of Purple to increase the power of the shareholders (p.301). He demands that the power within the enterprises remains in the hands of the direction (say, the technostructure). Here he ignores the recent insights about the constructive role of the owners in the economy. Later Kalma will radicalize further, and in his book Makke schapen (2012) he will even propagate the return of political polarization! Bussemaker and Van der Ploeg reject on p.25 in Leven na paars? the "conservative criticism" of Kalma. R. Vreeman, at the time the co-chairman of the PvdA and a spokesman of the union wing, also propagates on p.58 in Zonder rood geen paars the Rhineland model. And on p.62: "[In the boards of supervisory directors] more social and union influence is needed". Here and there (p.62, 117, 174) he propagates the profit sharing of workers (read: ownership of shares). De Beus states on p.222 in European social democracy: "We need modernizers like Blair, Kok and Schröder, but we also need to check their propensity to overshoot neo-liberalism. Perhaps Jospin can lead the pack here". On p.219 he propagates limits on the global flows of capital, such as once the Bretton Woods system did. This is a rather utopian desire, because the system has been abandoned already in 1971, at the initiative of the USA. (back)
  30. See p.80-81 in Zeven jaar paars, as well as p.151 in Leven na paars?. On p.156 in this latter book P. de Beer (WBS and professor on behalf of the unions) states, that the labour productivity can rise thanks to investments in ICT and reduction of working-hours. He believes that the workers waste their time in status enhancing communication! Your columnist does not recognize himself in this view. It is amusing that S. Cels and D. Rijcken in the samen book propagate investments for distributing information. They expect, that this furthers the social activation of individuals and groups. Thus the social capital will increase. A previous column describes the development of the growth rate and of the labour productivity in several states. (back)
  31. See p.83 (distance) and p.86 (sanctions) in Zeven jaar paars. The poverty trap is combatted in this manner, that is to say, a decrease of the income, as soon as one accepts a job. For comparison: on p.19 of the PvdA-D66-PPR program Keerpunt 1972 it says: "The norm-benefits according to the law on social benefits is equated to the nett minimum wage"! At the time these parties had an unsound image of man, where everything seems possible. (back)
  32. See p.67 in Paars en de managementstaat. (back)
  33. Such a coincidence of practice and theory gives the best chance to reform. Olson and Becker have studied the opportunism of lobby's. In the past the assumption was, that the bureaucracy will loyally execute its actual task. Notably the sociologist Max Weber believed, that the bureaucracy would carefully take the general interest into account. It was this traditional view, which led to the belief that the public branch organization would give good results. The egoism of the social partners was underestimated. This reform of Purple is described on p.47 of Paars en de managementmaatschappij, as well as p.86 of Zeven jaar paars. On p.144 in Zeven jaar paars the shifting of costs is mentioned. Notorious is getting rid of superfluous personnel in the health insurance act and in the disability insurance act (WAO) by the unions of workers and entrepreneurs. On p.219 the WBS-ideologist René Cuperus states, that the civil society disregards the general interest.
    Chapter 9 of Paars en de managementstaat describes how the bureaucracy of the corporatist supervisor strongly opposes the reform attempts by Purple. Finally the minister of state Linschoten is even forced to resign. This illustrates, that the bureaucracy indeed does not loyally execute its task, but has its own agenda.
    Some in the PvdA still propagate the political promotion of partial interests. This is for instance true for Vreeman, who on p.71 in Zonder rood geen paars complains: "The social-democrats have gradually created a taboo with regard to supporting workers, who engage in a labour conflict for a good cause". (back)
  34. See p.69 in Paars en de managementmaatschappij about the abolishment of the obliged demand for advice, and chapter 6 about the abolishment of the Agricultural corporation. For many decades, the agriculture has been supported by the state everywhere in Europe, because the governments want to maintain their own food supply. For instance, fixed prices were guaranteed. On p.86-87 De Vries also reminds of the privatization of social housing, after a discovery in 1988 of large-scale fraud with subsidies in the housing sector. The subsidies are abolished. Next, the rebellious PvdA member of parliament Duivesteijn resists the plan to decentralize. It is remarkable, that quite a few directors of building societies are social-democrats. See p.89-91. (back)
  35. See p.84-85 and p.95 in Zeven jaar paars. It is striking that the German chancellor Schröder has for a long time propagated the formation of a Bündnis für Arbeit, in imitation of the Dutch Foundation of Labour. See p.22 and further in Und weil wir unser Land verbessern ... (1998, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag). Apparently this form of (neo-)corporatism is compatible with the radical centre. Huo argues in Third way reforms: social democracy after the Golden Age, that some corporatism helps to realize the policy of the radical centre. Thus the relation between the radical centre and corporatism is controversial. On p.22 in Paars in perspectief the historian P. de Rooy states, that liberalism and the social-democracy both reject "the system of patronage and corporatism". Incidentally, he shades this claim on p.19, where he interprets political ideologies as dynamical currents. On p.25 his colleague J.Th.J van den Berg states that the establishment of the corporatist Foundation of Labour has been an initiative of liberals and social-democrats. On p.253 in European social democracy Becker and Cuperus state: "The corporatist system of consultation can count on applause, as long as the results are satisfactory". (back)
  36. See p.265 in Zeven jaar paars. Therefore the inflow-outflow (ID) jobs are sometimes called Melkert jobs, as a reference to the minister of Social Affairs. After Purple the wage subsidy has been reduced. Within the PvdA the activation is met with some reservations. On p.81 and 181 in Zonder rood geen paars Vreeman accepts the activation of unemployed, as long as the existing terms of employment are not affected. On p.44 in Leven na paars? Van Kersbergen and Nottelman are somewhat more open and propagate some willingness of people to take risks. For instance, a low wage (say, poverty) is acceptable, as long as it is temporary (p.48). It is curious that P. de Beer on p.151-152 sees disadvantages of participation on the labour market. This will decrease the number of volunteers, and will increase the load on the environment and the work stress. He repeats this argument on p.75 in Toekomst voor de publieke sector. (back)
  37. See p.40 in Paars en de managementstaat. (back)
  38. This idea has also been supported by means of theory. In 1960 the economist Coase states, that offering compensation to harmed persons in response to negative external effects can lead to an outcome, which is satisfactory for all. (back)
  39. Even the editors of Leven na paars? flirt with left sentiments, because they include a text of the Groen Links politicians C. van Dullemen and J. van der Lans. On p.232 these propagate in a parody with a serious undertone to "combat the rule of money". They long for the then radicalism of Den Uyl. After 2002 the new PvdA leader Wouter Bos sympathizes with the radical centre, but he can merely slow down the return of the left within the PvdA. Characteristic for the left upheaval are the statements of the popular PvdA chairman Spekman. In 2012 he says: "I do not like strategic juggling. I will not act differently than I am, just in order to make a new Purple cabinet possible". In the same year he sharply criticizes the attitude of Kok, who meanwhile has functions in the industry: "Many PvdA members feel ashamed. So do I". What is this about? The board of supervisory directors of PostNL grants bonuses to its executive direction, whereas the fixed jobs of postmen are replaced by part-time workers. Kok and incidentally also the authoritative PvdA member Wallage agree as supervisory directors with these measures. Your columnist does not feel represented by the attack by Spekman, which echoes the historical aversion of the PvdA with regard to industry. For, the survival of PostNL must have the highest priority. This requires a market-conform policy - unless one wants to again nationalize PostNL. Therefore Kok retained the trust of the works council of PostNL. Thus the attack by Spekman on the integrity of party comrade Kok makes a very personal impression. Others within the PvdA prefer reconciliation. Thus Vreeman states on p.69 in Zonder rood geen paars: "Left must innerly accept the decisive role of the energetic entrepreneur in each economy. Besides the question of distribution, the question of production must receive more attention from us".
    For the sake of completeness it must be mentioned, that the liberals are not very harmonious either. On p.17 in Paars in perspectief P. de Rooy states about the liberal past: "They [EB: the liberals] were extremely divided. (...) There were continously seceded groups, temporarily or not, isolated politicians, grumblers and lonely prophets". (back)
  40. See Van waarde - sociaal-democratie voor de 21e eeuw (2013, Van Gennep) by M. Sie Dhian Ho. Your columnist has struggled long with this project, among others in the column about the pleasure of work. Already back then, four years ago, it created some irritation. The Gazette has even been established and grown as a result of this struggle. (back)
  41. The reader may remember the expression of the economic philosopher Adam Smith: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest". (back)
  42. This plea is especially promoted in Toekomst voor de publieke sector (2011, WBS) by P. de Beer. This book is the financial underpinning of Van waarde, and contains a kind preface by Sie Dhian Ho. De Beer mentions in this book mainly arguments, which support his view - which makes it more subjective than your columnist likes. On p.78 it says: "Social-democrats believe that a dominant role of the state is indispensable". Interesting is for instance the argument of De Beer for increasing the state expenditures. He states that in the private sector the labour productivity rises fairly rapidly. Therefore, assuming constant material volumes of private and public goods, the private expenditures can decrease more and more. Then the public expenditures require an ever increasing part of GDP. Your columnist is by no means convinced. For instance, a rising labour productivity does not necessarily imply a lower product price, among others because then the trade unions increase their wage demands. This type of mechanisms can not be analyzed in a few sentences, and actually requires a separate column. Your columnist read this book six years ago for the first time, still audacious and ignorant (that is to say, read much texts of Den Uyl), and believed that the book was too right-wing! Things can change, and Paul is always to blame. (back)
  43. De Beer mentions in Toekomst voor de publieke sector several objections. He states that the public services lead to positive external effects. The free market does not take them into account (p.35). According to your columnist, this does not hold, when merely the execution is privatized. Besides, it is almost impossible to estimate the value of these positive effects, Furthermore, De Beer is irritated by the costs of advertising, a controversial standpoint (p.36). De Beer also rejects the private execution with the argument, that on such quasi-markets the true competition would fail (p.89). Therefore he only wants to allow private execution for the so-called voluntary semi-public services. These are services, which can be consumed exclusively, and serve both an individual and public interest. For instance: vaccinations. (back)
  44. See p.78 in Toekomst voor de publieke sector. The reader may remember the gibe of Van Waarden about the consumption of beer. The present-day individualization is ignored here, or perhaps rejected. On p.81 De Beer looks back in history, to 1963, and approvingly cites a then PvdA document of Den Uyl, which states that collective services by the state are indispensable for the cognitive and cultural emancipation! However, even Drees sr. called this report "frivolous". (back)
  45. In his book Klare Worte (2014, Verlag Herder GmbH) Schröder says: "Erst das Land, dann die Partei" (p.85, 162, 233), and: "Ich folge meiner Überzeugung und riskiere damit, nicht wieder gewählt zu werden. Das ist doch der Kern von politischer Führung". On p.65 in De balans van paars Kok says: "The benefit of the party democracy is, that those who bear responsibility are also accountable. (...) Swimming against the tide gives me a good feeling". De Vries states on p.54 in Paars en de managementstaat: "He must be above the parties and is the prime minister of all Dutchmen". De Beus states on p.211 in European social democracy: "One obtained governmental power by these [retrenchment] policies at the price of losing the confidence of the rank and file". (back)