February 22, 2015
Crisis: On two large social experiments I was part of - 1
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. The two social experiments I was part of
2. A brief comparison of what was done in these
3. More later 


This is a crisis log, but it is a bit of an abnormal one.

Originally this article was planned for January 22, 2015, but I did not finish it then and postponed it. Now it is a month later, and I decided to publish it, though it is far from perfect and also is not yet completed.

What there is today is an outline of the two social experiments I was part of, indeed like everybody else who is a baby-boomer and who lived in the West, plus a comparison of the two experiments along the six dimensions of economics, health care, education, politics and civil law, public debate and the climate.

What I leave till later is my appreciation of the experiment, although this will be fairly clear from my comparison of the two experiments. (But more needs to be added, for which I do not have the time now.)

And tomorrow there will very probably be another ordinary crisis log.

1. The two social experiments I was part of

I realized that it is quite fair to say that I was a part of two enormous social experiments, each of which lasted 35 years:
  • The First Western Experiment from 1946-1980, and
  • The Second Western Experiment from 1981-2015
Indeed, I realize that the same holds for everyone who is roughly around my age: I will consider all babyboomers who lived in the West as the other partakers in the two experiments.

As for me: I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and I lived there nearly all my life (and because I fell ill aged 28, on 1.1.1979, I travelled a lot less than many of my age and education: In fact I have only spend some time in England, Germany, France, Spain, Austria and Norway, nearly all holidays, and all before 1982 [1]).

I also realize I first have to answer some questions that relate to the backgrounds of these two social experiments.

To start with: Why do I call them "social experiments"? There are two main reasons.

First, because they really were social experiments, simply because nobody knew or could rationally predict the outcomes of either, and especially not of the first, that started with the defeat of the Nazis, in a Europe that was quite poor, with lots of destructions by war and bombardments, with little money, and that in fact spent approximately the first 20 years, from 1945 till 1965
, undoing the effects of WW II and of the preceding crisis of the 1930ies. (And since my parents were quite poor, this really lasted till 1966, at least for me and my parents. [2])

Second, while I know better than most what is supposed to be "an experiment" in psychology (I am a psychologist, who was mainly interested in methodology and statistics [3]) and while I also know there are some differences between the experiments done in a university and the experiments that form the basis of the society in which one lives, it seems quite safe to assert that the two social experiments I was part of, simply because I was Dutch and lived in Holland, were more real, more realistic, and far more subtle than the experiments I learned to do as a psychologist (that mostly amounted to asking some 15 first year students some usually rather stupid questions and then "do statistics" on the answers, that generally were immediately and quite automatically generalized from "18 year old Dutch students of psychology" to "everyone").

In fact, the real pity about the two social experiments I was part of, like everybody else of roughly my age who was a baby-boomer, is that there were no good large and systematic questionnaires about society that were representative. This would have been quite possible, and indeed this was sometimes done, but not about the general features of social life, one's income, one's education, what one thought about politics, religion, science, the amusements available to one, and the diverse appraisals of those by the various kinds of people who were living in society, but
mostly - in so far as I saw them -  about housing, and for the exclusive benefit of the city (of Amsterdam, in my case).

Then again, although there are not many good statistical surveys of opinions, there are fair statistical summaries of many aspects of society, although most do not seem know this, since this requires buying or loaning statistical books, which does not happen frequently.

Next, why do I refer to them as "two experiments"?

The reasons for that are that the plans, perspectives and ideals on which these experiments were founded changed radically in 1979-1981, mainly due to the arrivals of Thatcher as English prime minister, and of Reagan as American president: Their plans, perspectives and ideals were quite different from those that had guided the West until their arrival, and indeed they also said so.

Who did not say so where Clinton and Blair, who in fact mostly worked for the rich and for deregulations, just like Reagan and Thatcher, but they had another story: They were supposed to be "Third Way" [4], and had given up on socialism and in fact also on social democracy, though both Clinton and Blair wanted the electorate to believe that, even so, they were "leftists" and "progressives", although this consisted mostly of lies and deceptions, while Blair - currently the owner of at least 20 million pounds and a Catholic - succeeded in mostly destroying the Labour Party as a real leftist party.

2. A brief comparison of what was done in these experiments

I have outlined the sectors of society that seem to go wrong currently and since 2008 or before in "It's the deregulation, stupid!" and I copy that schema here, but do so with considerable extensions and with some changes.

  • the economy:

    Was till 1980:
    The economies of Europe and the US (and especially the US) were quite powerful and orderly, especially as compared with the 1920ies and 1930ies; were quite well legally regulated; and contributed - if things went more or less OK, as they mostly did - to increased welfare of all.

    There were some crises, but most of these were minor, and were amenable to government interference along Keynesian lines. The incomes of everyone in the West grew, and grew rather spectacularly (for all!) from 1965 - 1980.

    Is since 1981:
    The economies of Europe and the US are in a major mess and in a considerable crisis since 2008 (and indeed also in the early 80ies), while nothing much effective has been done about this, other than saving the banks while forcing the population at large to pay for the debts, and vastly increasing the salaries of the bank-managers that caused the crisis.

    The economy is almost completely deregulated (since Reagan and Clinton, by ever more steps); the taxes on the rich are lower than they ever were since the 1920ies; the incomes of CEOs are higher than ever; the 10% of the richest grow in riches, while the 90% grow poorer and poorer.

    Since when:
    The present crisis started in 2007-2008, but got started in principle (in the U.S.) under Reagan, Clinton and Greenspan, namely by successive deregulations of the banking world, that were somewhat obfuscated by the arisal of PCs and the internet, that also fundamentally changed the economy: 1980-1990.

    See the crisis series.
  • health care:

    Was till 1980: The health care system of Europe was far better than of the US, and while medics were quite well off, the end of the health care system was to give good health care to all, while there also was little corruption and not much psychiatry, while most of medical science was real science. This worked pretty well in Europe until well into the 1990ies.

    Is since 1981: The health care systems of both the US and Europe have turned into a major mess: The dominant end these days is profit (for medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies) much rather than good health care, and both the management of health care and of medicine itself are corrupt in major ways (but yes: they do "earn" a whole lot more).

    Much of medical science ceased to be real science, since the pharmaceutical corporations decided that they owe all the data of experiments, and have realized they can write all of the reports (and get them signed by one or a few so-called Key Opinion Leaders with medical degrees, which guarantees these studies get published in prominent journals).

    The doctors now are mostly educated in 6 years, and used to be educated in 12 years, while many diseases - such as: most unexplained diseases - are treated as if they are predominantly or only psychiatric ("it is psychosomatic") and as if they
    can be cured with psychiatric medicines or techniques (which is mostly plain bullshit).

    Basically, the decline of the European health care is due to the copying of the American profit motive: Now it is good to make a profit from ill people, and the higher the profit is, the better, while ill people are also widely discriminated as losers or spongers.

    Since when: (1) The management of health care seems to have been always a mess in the US compared with Europe, but in Europe the American model has been introduced since 2000 under the pretext of "the blessings of market forces" and "freedom", and has grown steadily more expensive and worse for patients, if also highly profitable for medical doctors and medical managers; (2) the practice of medical science and health care has grown a lot worse: The "science" grew to be an adjunct of the marketing of medicines; and the "health care" got thoroughly bureaucratized. All of this has been ongoing since the 1980ies.

    See the DSM-5 series.
  • education:

    Was till 1980: From 1945-1965, most of the educational system was as it had been before WW II: Higher education - especially in universities - was good, but it was also, mostly for financial reasons, limited to the few with good incomes (with some exceptions, such as the G.I. bill after 1945, and special funding for a few really talented persons).

    Around 1965 this started to change quite rapidly because of the baby-boom: The schools that provided entrance to the universities grew a lot simpler; the universities gave much easier admissions, and they also were initially easily payable, but also soon started to give fewer and easier courses, and from the 1980ies onwards universities started to become more and more expensive while delivering less and less of a really good education.

    Is since 1981: The educational system, on all levels, in both the US and Europe is in a crisis, and offers far worse education for far more money to far more (but less intelligent) people than before. [5]

    As far as I know, all schools and all education have radically simplified:

    Whereas until the late 1960ies one needed to be examined
    in Holland in at least 14 subjects, including at least three foreign languages (and five foreign languages for those who wanted to study Dutch or medicine), since then one can get full admittance to virtually any study with a mere 6 exams, with one foreign language, and the studies take half the time, with less than half the content, when compared with what was the case until the 1970ies. (But they now cost a whole lot more.)

    Since when: Both schools and universities have been giving less and less real education, normally in the name of equality, since the 1960ies - and note this is one of the changes the victims can neither really see, nor really feel, nor really understand: To be able to know and understand what they miss they need what they miss - a (half way) good education.

    See my published columns.
  • politics & civil law:

    Was till 1980: Until 1980, most politicians, political parties and lawyers and judges were unexciting, by and large honest, while most jobs for these kinds of people were mostly filled - especially in politics and the law - by second or third rate intellects that knew they were neither great physicists nor great mathematicians, and also not great artists nor great writers, but who were mostly honest and competent, and were also mostly conformistic.

    Is since 1981: Politicians, political parties and legislatures have for the most part grown quite corrupt both in the US and Europe, and seem to attract and protect precisely the wrong kinds of careerists: naturally born posturers, great liars and very successful deceivers (already feared by the ancient Greeks). Also, it has turned out there are no really independent courts: the courts follow politics mostly.

    Since when:
    Politics became much more of a top down market-and- public-relations driven careerist thing especially since the 1960ies and 1970ies showed anything can be sold by TV, with sufficient dishonesty and pretty faces telling plausible lies; so now politicians are for sale to lobbyists; now opinions can be created and bought or manipulated by marketing / public relations campaigns; and judges turn out to be not independent from politics nor able to constrain politics, and indeed for much that is new - such as: computing and internet - there is no existing and in any case no effective or correct legislation.

    See the
    crisis series.
  • public debate:

    Was till 1980: Until the nineties, there was a fair amount of public debate, that mostly - whatever the rationality of those partaking in it - was at least honest. (I don't think much of it was rational, but this may well be due to my personal taste or my high education.)

    Also, until the nineties, although the growth of "public relations" was ever continuing, most corporations did not yet deal with everyone not in the corporation as a sort of hardly human opponent worthy to be lied to, deceived or flattered by their "public relations officers".

    Is since 1981: There is hardly any intelligent public debate - language has grown very corrupt through political correctness, postmodernism and "public relations" (i.e. massive lying and deceiving for private profit); "public relations" talk and marketing rule almost every important topic: much of the political public debate - if there is any - is along public relations lines, and gets conducted in Orwellian doublespeak, where nearly any term is somehow ideologically loaded.

    See Bernays' - very corrupt - "Propaganda" to get a grasp of what is going on.

    Since when:
    Ongoing with the decline of education and with the rise of marketing / "public relations" as the tool of choice of governmental bodies, corporate bodies, and political parties, the standards of public debate have grown ever and ever lower, and indeed many questions that should be intelligently discussed in public are either not discussed at all, or only in marketing / public relations terms that make a rational debate, discussion or argument impossible.

    See Bernays' "Propaganda".
  • climate:

    Was till 1980: The climate gets warmer and warmer and is effectively out of control, with unforeseeable and unstoppable social consequences.

    In fact, at least as regards the greatest part of the problem, the number of human beings, this was clear at least since 1950ies, when
    Aldous Huxley repeatedly warned that there were or soon would be too many human beings to take proper care of (given the technological and economical conditions).

    while it may have been the case that around 1970, with between 2 and 3 billion peole, the disaster that has since been developing, while few did much to prevent it, might have been stopped, it wasn't stopped - and now that there are, a mere 35 years later, over 7 billion people (which is about three times as many as there are seconds in a life of 70 years, which is 2 207 520 000 seconds, as compared with over 7 000 000 000 people), which makes the problem quite unmanageable.

    Is since 1981: As I said, in 1970 there were between 2 and 3 billion people alive; in 2015, there are over 7 billion people alive (more than twice as many). It may be fairly assumed all want a good house, a washing machine, a refrigerator, at least one car, at least one computer and at least one TV, plus everything that comes with these, such as good roads, reliable electricity, good daily food, the incomes to pay all of these and leave some money, etc. etc.

    The problems are not twice as big, but many more times, and still there is not much done about it, apart from putting windmills all over the place and developing solar panels, both of which help some, but not by far enough. In fact, I see no solution to the problem until there is
    a cheap and renewable source of energy, that is also not dangerous (as is the current atomic energy).

    Since when: The 1950ies (Aldous Huxley, Rachel Carson, Club of Rome).
3. More later

As is, this article is over 45 Kb.
It also is partial and incomplete, which is in part due to my own failings in health and knowledge, and in part due to the size of the theme: I am discussing much of the history of the West since 1945, and that
is not easy to do well.

In any case, I have outlined that there really were two enormous social experiments in the West, the first from 1946-1980, and based on centrist and vaguely leftist political ideals, and the second from 1981-2015, and based on
mostly rightist political ideals.

I think a lot could be learned from these experiments, though this is in fact rather unlikely, for in politics and economics mostly the present short term rules the attention of most, while also these days there is not much room for intellectual argument in the ordinary media, and especially not for critics.

But I will try to give later my appreciation of these two experiments that occupied most of my life somehow, although it probably is clear that I much prefer the first 35 years, even while these were poor until 1966, over the second 35 years, and it probably is also clear why:

In the first experiment, the interests of all were taken serious and somehow served (I am not saying: equally or fairly); in the second experiment, nearly only the interests of the rich were taken serious and somehow served (and that quite unequally and unfairly), indeed to the extent that the incomes of most ordinary people have fallen considerably since 1980 (when corrected for inflation etc.) - and this change was engineered quite craftily and on purpose by the rich and their politicians, ever since 1980.

More later.

[1] Here it may be added that I belong to the best educated part of Holland, and that many with my degrees - or less - got pensioned around age 53, in the 1990ies or early 2000s, and then spent rather a lot of the next 10 or 15 years travelling, which they could do because they were healthy and rather rich (and I am not healthy since 28 and am one of the poorest Dutchmen).

[2] I want to stress - since that is often forgotten these days - that both for my parents and for most other (non-rich) Dutchmen, the years from 1945-1965 were mostly poor and committed to undoing the damages of WW II and the preceding crisis. Also, while I do not complain, my parents, like many other proletarians, were quite poor in the 1950ies and early 1960ies, though they worked hard: There always was enough money to eat and to pay the rent etc. but not much else (and a TV and a refrigerator only got in my family's house in the 1960ies, as did a shower).

[3] This - that I was mainly interested in methodology and statistics - again was in part also due to the fact that I did not believe since 1980 that most of psychology, as I was taught it in the University of Amsterdam, was really scientific. 

If you want to know more about the science of psychology, try "The Trouble with Psychology" by Paul Lutus. (Most of that was clear to me in 1980, which was so mostly because by then I had then been for over 10 years very much interested in philosophy of science and in methodology.)

Also, while I had a B.A. by 1981, I in fact only took my M.A. in psychology after I was thrown out of the faculty of philosophy as a student, as the only student censored that way for honestly saying what he thought, since WW II.

Finally, statistics and methodology were scientific; most of the rest was either not scientific at all, or was so only very partially. Also, this is complicated by the fact that much of psychology that is "empirically studied and tested" in fact has very poor methodology and usually also often rather lousy statistics.

The last is evidenced by the fact that most research is done on 18-year old students of psychology (because these are easily available, naive and need not be paid), while the results of investigating these - also generally quite small - groups of young Dutch students tend to be generalized automatically and without any questioning or problems to everyone anywhere.

[4] I gave the Wikipedia link to the "Third Way", and you may read this, but no: I never believed in anything like it: It seemed and it seems utter bullshit, total crap, to this philosopher (who is far from ignorant in social philosophies) and indeed seems now to have mostly disappeared after giving Clinton and Blair support for their personal careers, when these stopped their presidencies.

And here is the last line from the
"Third Way" in the Wikipedia:
William K. Black said that "Third Way is this group that pretends sometimes to be center-left but is actually completely a creation of Wall Street--it's run by Wall Street for Wall Street with this false flag operation as if it were a center-left group. It's nothing of the sort."
And that seems quite correct to me, and it also has the merit of saying who were behind Clinton and Blair: Goldman Sachs and Wall Street (and yes: Both of these are also very active in Europe).

[5] I think this is the main explanation (next to the theories of a rather crazy sounding psycologist) for the thesis that "today's youth is far more intelligent than their parents or grandparents": Many more study - because the standards are far lower. (As for me: I disbelieve all statements that suddenly people have become more intelligent. First, it would be a quite extra-ordinary and unaccountable biological change. Second, if there is any direction, the average intelligence seems less to me, simply because many more people are kept alive these days by medicine.)
       home - index - summaries - mail