1848. Europe is ablaze. Everywhere there is insurrection and revolution. The people want to see an end to the absolute rule of the monarchy. There are demands for 'power to the people', for democracy! In our country things stay reasonably peaceful, but King William II does not sleep easily. The insurrection could easily spread to the Low Countries. He had, after all, resisted every attempt at democratic adjustment. He is a truly conservative monarch, and proud of it.
Nevertheless, his fears and his sleepless nights lead to a sudden change of heart, and the king gives the liberal leader Johan Rudolf Thorbecke the task of writing a new constitution giving the people and their representatives more influence. Our current constitution is still based on the one Thorbecke formulated in 1848.
It is interesting to see how all of these economists, who in the last few years have proclaimed themselves the apostles of the free market, have now, just as suddenly as did King William in 1848, turned over a new leaf. They are little King William IIs, little Willies. Almost without exception these highly educated and highly paid gentlefolk have for years supported the prevailing neoliberal course, including the deregulation of capital markets, the pulling back of the state and the removal of surveillance.
Is this then a result of cowardice, a lack of courage to speak out, or do they hold their mouths because "economics" is no kind of science, but only a sort of taking of the temperature and wind direction by holding up a finger?