Dealing With the Market: The Market in the Discourse of Policy Think Tanks in the Netherlands

Dealing With the Market: The Market in the Discourse of Policy Think Tanks in the Netherlands

… a change had occurred. Suddenly, the public debate was dominated by the market and the benefits of the market mechanism. […] The political tide has turned and the search was for “a new mix between the government and market as coordination mechanisms (Bovenberg 1999: 6). Put differently: a reorganization took place of public and private responsibilities. Abroad, this turnaround was sometimes accompanied by a great uproar (Thatcher, Reagan). In the Netherlands however, there hardly appeared to be a debate (Ter Bogt 1995). This did not mean nothing happened. Quietly, dramatic changes have been brought about in a variety of areas. (WRR Het Borgen van Publiek Belang 1999, 17)
The market is arguably one of the most important political ideas of our times. During the boom of the 1990s, before it was violently superseded by a discourse of terrorism and fear of Muslims, the market functioned as an organizing idea of a silent, but major political revolution of our times. It lay at the heart of the debates on globalization, European integration, and perpetuated through the market triumphalism that accompanied the fall of the Wall. During these years, the idea of the market became the leading idea of our contemporary political imaginary. Increasingly, the market got to dominate the political mindset: political issues are framed in terms of the market and the market is turned to for political solutions. This silent revolution, which placed the market in the center of political thought and speech, is often referred to as a neoliberal revolution. Although mostly used in a pejorative sense, neoliberalism is probably the most adequate label to address the current rewriting of our political reason in terms of the market.
Despite its intellectual roots in the discipline of ‘political economy,’ the market is mostly seen as an economic idea and not as a political one. The market belongs to the economy, and therefore falls under the purview of economists. Here, I try to revive the notion that the market is also a political idea. If we are to understand the silent neoliberal revolution however, and if we are to understand the impact of that transformation, one way to begin is by studying how the idea of the market affects political discourse. There are of course studies of how neoliberal policy recipes have been disseminated (Fourcade-Gourinchas and Babb 2002), of what role ideas play in economic policy (Campbell 1998; Campbell 2002) and how economic ideas are spread (Backhouse 2004; Colander and Coats 1989). However valuable and insightful, these attempts focus on the social processes responsible for the dissemination and tend to overlook the “contents” of the ideas. If we are to understand how with the neoliberal turn, the market became such a dominant idea for our political imaginary, we also need to look at the idea of the market itself. We need an account of market discourse and a discursive approach to the idea of the market.
I will here turn to a very specific episode in the seemingly limitless discourse of markets. As a proxy for how this so-called neoliberal revolution took hold and was received in the Netherlands, I analyze how independent policy research institutions have represented the market. This paper charts the ways in which the market is represented in the discourse of a number of so-called adviesraden in the Netherlands and how ‘the market’ performs in political discourse. Besides offering a view of how the market functions as a political idea, an analysis of advisory discourse also provides an indication of how the Dutch perceive the market. While the Dutch have historically never been averse to the rule of the market, they may nonetheless also be said to have reservations about its beneficence (Schama 1987). Could there still be any traces of this historical uneasiness in the present discourse on the market? But even more poignant is the question of the relation between state and market. Do we, with the rise of the market as key political idea, witness the emergence a new neoliberal understanding of the market-state relation in the Netherlands? Is the market slowly replacing the state and what are the implications? And, can we discern a specifically Dutch approach to these issues, a Dutch version of neoliberalism.
In what follows, I will present a discursive analysis of 12 reports produced by a selection of Dutch Advisory Councils. Two are from general advisory councils (SER and WRR), while the others are from sectoral advisory councils who report to ministers of their departments. All reports discuss the market as a political idea. While there exist a great number of advisory reports on particular markets and especially the ordering and regulation of these markets, the reports selected here examine the scope of the idea of the market for application in non-economic realms, and try to assess its political logic.
If one wants to study the market as a political idea, why would one focus on the discourse of think tanks and not for instance on political discourse pur sang, such as the discourse in parliament or the discourse of various political parties? One reason is the recognition that there is much more to politics than the life of political institutions. Political ideas are produced, disseminated, and acted upon in all possible social contexts. My choice for studying policy think tanks is inspired by Foucault, whose discursive approach emphasizes the joint role of power and knowledge. Think tanks are an exemplary site where the realms of power and knowledge meet. At the same time removed from the exigencies of everyday political bickering and the lofty detachment of academic discourse, think tanks occupy a unique site where power and truth meet. Think tanks therefore enable us to look at how the idea of the market fares politically.

The Non-Political Discourse of Dutch Advisory Councils
Conceptualizing the Role of Advisory Councils in the Netherlands
As research in political science tends to focus on high political institutions such as the parliamentary system, the bureaucracy, the electoral process, or the presidency, it has only limited appreciation for the murky politics that takes place at the margins of the political system. One of these activities at the margin comprises the place where knowledge systems interact with the political system in the policy process. Here independent policy think tanks are seen to take on an important function in, using the words of Weiss, ‘helping governments think’ (1992) or to use another popular image derived from Gramsci, ‘speak truth to power.’ There have been a few theories and assessments of the work of these kinds of institutions and the importance of scientific knowledge in the political process. Thus emerged various approaches to understanding the work of policy think tanks ranging from Marxist, and elite theories to more contemporary institutional and pluralist analyses (viz. Abelson 2002; Stone 1996). It has been noted that organization, role, and impact of think tanks is highly dependent, albeit not exclusively, on the character of the political system, thus giving rise to very different kinds of think tanks in the US than in the Netherlands.
In addition, there have been various studies trying to assess the impact of think tanks on political decision-making (e.g. Abelson 2002; e.g. Rich 2004). Despite these efforts, the consensus is that the impact is far from equivocal as it is virtually impossible to trace how exactly think tank activities affect political decision-making. It seems therefore more productive to assess think tank activity from a discursive point of view. Operating at arm’s-length from political decision-making processes, think tanks primarily produce reports and other documents. Their primary effect is to reframe existing issues, present new issues and articulate solutions for these issues. While class, elite, or epistemic communities and other institutional factors certainly are a factor in think tank activity, it is ultimately their words that do their job and keep them in business. As the main objective is to employ research to inform political decision-making, think tanks are exemplary sites that, to speak with Foucault, are engaged in formulating and reformulating existing power-knowledges.
When halfway the 1990s the market gained in importance as a political idea, Dutch Advisory Councils started to grapple with the new realities. Reports were drafted to assess the significance of the market for various areas of social life. This response may be characteristic of the Dutch political system. Given the importance of the consensus model for Dutch politics and the role of consultation in the corporatist economic model, advisory councils are perceived as a quintessentially Dutch type of political organization (e.g. den Hoed 1995; Lijphart 1999). A recent series of newspaper profiles of these Advisory Councils, was entitled the ‘Radenrepubliek’ (which literally stands for ‘Republic of Councils’ but is also Soviet Republic in Dutch) to suggest the importance of these advisory councils as a sixth political power in the Netherlands, besides the trias politica, the civil service and the media. In the Dutch political system, the Sociaal Economische Raad or (‘Social Economic Council,’ SER) is the most well-known. It is an icon of the so-called Dutch ‘poldermodel’ in which representatives of both labor and employers jointly determine socio-economic policies. While the SER has primarily served as a negotiation table, it operates next to the Centraal Plan Bureau (CPB, which literally translates as the ‘Central Planning Bureau’ and goes in English by the name ‘Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis’). Established in 1950 with Jan Tinbergen as its first director, it acts as the central institution for providing economic analysis to support political decision-making in the Netherlands, mostly based on economic modeling. Together with the Stichting van de Arbeid (‘the Labor Foundation’), a private consultation body of labor unions and employers associations, the SER and CPB are seen as the key institutions of the Dutch poldermodel for socio-economic decision-making.
While these advisory bodies primarily serve the consultation of public interests (viz. den Hoed, 1995) and largely deal with renegotiating macro-economic arrangements, they play a lesser part in knowledge consultation and discursive reconstruction. There is however a whole group of advisory or research councils that instead functions as a transmission mechanism between the state, academia and – to a lesser extent – public opinion. These advisory councils are instituted by Dutch Law, their members are appointed for a fixed term and their mandate is to provide both solicited or unsolicited council to the cabinet. The most prestigious scientific research council is the Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (WRR) or ‘Scientific Council for Government Policy. Originally established in 1972 as a council for future research, its council members are well-established Dutch academics and they provide strategic advice on long-term policy issues, ranging from the future of the welfare state, values and norms, European integration, biotechnology, the functioning of government, to immigration issues. Besides this general scientific research council, there exist so-called sectoral advisory councils for virtually any area of government ranging from transport, to education, healthcare, and environmental affairs. As they are requested by the cabinet or its ministers to provide advice on key issues and the ministers are obliged to respond, these advisory councils are through their reports in a continuous conversation with the cabinet of ministers, policy makers in their respective departments, the parliament and the public at large.
The Market Discourse of Dutch Adivsory Councils: four strategies of depoliticization
What happens when the discourses of knowledge and politics meet, when truth speaks to power? So what is it that these policy think tanks actually do? Their function can be gleaned from their discourse. I want to start by drawing attention to two general observations regarding their discourse.
One would expect that the debate over the market is first and foremost a political debate. How do these think tanks position themselves therein? Well aware of the fact that the debate over the market is a political one, they nonetheless plead for a de-politcization of the debate. The WRR for instance ends its report with an epilogue in which it calls for re-framing the issue not as a debate over ‘the market,’ but as one over public interests:
Deze vraag naar het ‘voor’ of ‘tegen’ is overigens wel kenmerkend voor de manier waarop het debat vaak wordt gevoerd, namelijk ideologisch voor of tegen ‘de markt’. De vraag is ook kenmerkend voor de wijze waarop veel voorstellen voor privatisering door de overheid zijn beargumenteerd. De raad is van oordeel dat de regering de afgelopen jaren te vaak te ondoordacht en te onvoorbereid een keuze voor marktwerking heeft gemaakt, zonder dat zij zich van de (noodzaak van borging van) in het geding zijnde publieke belangen voldoende bewust is geweest. (WRR 2000, 162)
And the Council for Transportation and Water Management (RVW) concludes its report with a recommendation to de-politicize and de-ideologize the debate over the market:
Veranderingen in de marktordening rond infrastructuurgebonden diensten zijn naar het oordeel van de Raad […] gebaat bij een verdere ont-politisering en ont-ideologisering van het veranderingsproces. (RVW 2004, 68)
Thus, the first observation is that in these reports the question about the market is being depoliticized. Using a variety of rhetorical means, one of the opening strategies of many of these reports is to depoliticize the idea of the market. Six out of the eleven reports analyzed, explicitly address the political nature of the debate over the market, in order to subsequently distance themselves from it and so depoliticize the debate. The most common strategy is to put down existing positions in the debate over the market as ideological:
Bij de verheldering van het debat over privatisering moet ideologie worden vermeden. Volgens sommigen speelde ideologie in het debat over privatisering in het recente verleden een te grote rol (Ter Bogt 1995) Het komt erop aan de verschillende mogelijkheden op een meer objectieve wijze te toetsen en de kwaliteit van de behartiging van publieke belangen te optimaliseren. (WRR 2000, ???)

The implication is then that the contribution of these reports to the market debate is obviously beyond ideology and therefore non-political:
Ideologische argumenten dreigen de discussie soms te overheersen. Daarmee gaat het niet meer om een heldere afweging van argumenten, maar lijkt het slechts te gaan om een wedstrijd tussen ‘overheid en markt’. (WRR 2000, )
The reference here to ‘market ideology’ often functions as a blanket term and it is typically left unsaid what is actually meant by ‘market ideology.’ Besides references to unsubstantiated political convictions about or commitment to ‘the market,’ ‘market ideology’ and the idea of ‘the market’ represent political dogma:
De vraag privaat-publiek wordt hier nader inhoud gegeven door na te gaan welke organisaties op welke wijze de operationele verantwoordelijkheid moeten dragen. Hierbij dienen, naar de raad benadrukt, dogma’s te worden vermeden. (WRR 2000, ???)
Likewise, these reports seek to distance their account of the market from those led by thoughtless political blue-prints or the flaws of political whim:
Men kiest voor blauwdrukken die binnen een bepaalde termijn bereikt dienen te worden en vervolgens is men verbaasd als dat niet lukt. Waarna de politiek niet zelden besluit tot uitstel of andere rigoureuze ingrepen, veelal aan de hand van media-aandacht over incidenten. (RVW 2004, ???)
Ultimately, the charge against the political is that it cherishes the market as an end in and of itself. In short, the market has become a fetish:
Er bestaan nogal wat misverstanden als het om marktwerking gaat. Ten eerste wordt marktwerking vaak tot doel verheven. Zoals uit het voorgaande blijkt is marktwerking geen doel maar een middel. (RVW 2000, ???)

These reports thus seek to depoltiticize their account of the market by setting it apart from what they frame as political accounts of the market in which the market is portrayed as either ideological, dogmatic, determined by blue-prints, or the object of political whim. In the end, these all make a fetish out of the market. While none of these reports really engage these alleged political (ab-)uses of the idea of the market, they nonetheless invoke them to achieve a major rhetorical effect. This is to impart the impression that they themselves present non-ideological or non-political ways to assess the market:
De wil om meer marktwerking te introduceren en meer marktconform te werken, is - los van ideologische overwegingen - te verklaren uit de wens naar ‘meer, goedkoper en beter’. (Rob 1998, ???)
This way a second and related round of rhetorical interventions is introduced that further depoliticize the idea of the market. It states that a choice for or against the market can also be made on objective, pragmatic, and above all rational grounds. As part of this effort, policy think tanks thus stress their impartiality, distancing themselves from interests:
In het debat wordt tot op heden nog wel eens te fragmentarisch en te selectief gebruik gemaakt van wetenschappelijke kennis. Veel standpunten in het beleidsdebat kenmerken zich zelfs door een zekere keuzeverwantschap tussen het deelbelang dat de betreffende maatschappelijke actor vertegenwoordigt en de mede aan een bepaalde wetenschap ontleende argumentatie. (WRR 2000, ???)
Although the institutional position of most of these think tanks, being non-partisan, publicly funded, arm’s length councils with a statutory base and no interest group affiliations, creates less of a need for them to establish their impartiality, they nonetheless seek to legitimize their claims by presenting their work as consisting of an objective, systematic and clarificationary analysis. In short, by appealing to the ethos of scientificity, they further depoliticize the idea of the market. In an earlier quote the WRR (2000) already presented objectivity as an antidote to the ideological. They see their contribution mostly as one of clarification by offering a general framework for analysis:
Het roept de vraag op of het mogelijk is om het debat over privatisering te verhelderen. De wrr wil in dit rapport daartoe een poging doen. Dit rapport levert overigens niet alleen een denkkader voor privatisering. De raad geeft ook aan welke aspecten bij de discussie over privatisering speciale aandacht vragen. (WRR 2000, ???)
Other councils emphasize that their approach to the market is more systematic and address fundamental as opposed to ephemeral issues:
Een probleem bij vraagstukken van markt en overheid is, dat er geen kader bestaat met behulp waarvan inrichtings- en instrumentatievragen op consistente wijze kunnen worden beantwoord. Dat brengt een gevaar van ad hoc beslissingen mee. Emoties en verkeerde argumenten krijgen daardoor meer kans dan gewenst is. De Raad heeft zich daarom ook gericht op het ontwikkelen van een kader, een set van algemene en meer specifieke overwegingen, van waaruit vragen van markt en overheid op de terreinen van Verkeer en Waterstaat kunnen worden beantwoord. (RVW 2000, ???)
Ultimately, it is because their account of the market is based on scientific argument, that it is no longer political:
Aldus staat in dit rapport de hoe-vraag (de wijze van behartigen van publieke belangen) centraal. In tegenstelling tot de bij uitstek politieke wat-vraag leent de hoe-vraag zich veel beter voor een verhandeling vanuit wetenschappelijke hoek. Verschillende wetenschappen leveren argumenten voor een optimale behartiging van publieke belangen. Overigens wil de raad vooral een analyse bieden van achterliggende vragen die verheldering behoeven alvorens tot een specifieke toedeling van verantwoordelijkheden bij de behartiging van publieke belangen kan worden besloten. (WRR 2000, ???)
Policy think tanks thus counteract the political nature of the debate over the market by appealing to the voice of reason. Thorny political issues in answers to questions such as whether to privatize, or whether to relay on the market or state for provisioning, can be circumvented. These reports appear to claim that issues are to be solved a-politically, by looking for a pragmatic answer which can be found by applying objective, systematic, scientific rationality.
Finally, a third type of intervention aimed at depoliticizing the debate further reinforces this attitude. It is a ploy that is very common to the discourse of economists, and one which seems to be deeply ingrained in our contemporary political thinking. It consists of an explicit demarcation of the political from the economic or social. The WRR for instance employs it to reframe the questions about the market. Right after they have dealt with the issue of ‘market ideology in the opening pages of their analysis, the WRR uses the language of clarity and distinction to delineate the objectives of privatization from their means. In their words, one needs to distinguish the ‘what’ from the ‘how’ of privatization:
Voorop staat dat in de discussie over privatisering twee vragen helder moeten worden onderscheiden (zie ook Donner 1998 en Wolfson 1993):
1. De wat-vraag: voor welke belangen moet de overheid een eindverantwoordelijkheid dragen? […]
2. De hoe-vraag: wie draagt de operationele verantwoordelijkheid voor de belangen waarvoor de overheid een eindverantwoordelijkheid op zich heeft genomen? […]
Wie de wat-vraag en de hoe-vraag onvoldoende helder onderscheidt, loopt het risico op de vraag het verkeerde antwoord te geven. (WRR 2000, 19)
The question, ‘what’ to privatize is thus set apart as a normative or political question:
Daarmee is de wat-vraag bij uitstek een politieke vraag. Dat is de reden waarom in dit rapport niet de wat-vraag, maar de hoe-vraag centraal zal staan. (WRR 2000, 21)
The implication is then that normative question should be left to the political system to decide upon and is hence clearly demarcated from the pragmatic and scientific deliberations of the councils:
In tegenstelling tot de bij uitstek politieke wat-vraag leent de hoe-vraag zich veel beter voor een verhandeling vanuit wetenschappelijke hoek. (WRR 2000, 23)
This operation to demarcate political from pure economic questions is reminiscent of introductory economics textbooks, in which students are admonished to always separate normative from positive claims. Economics and the study of markets is in the end nothing but a logical, objective, scientific, and rational enterprise.

One can in fact distinguish a fourth strategy in which these reports depoliticize the market. Some reports (i.e. those of the SER, OR, and RVZ) do not at all bother to engage with the political nature of the debate. This could be interpreted as a strategy to either ignore or suppress the political contestations surrounding the market. Either they do not, or do not want to, perceive any political issues or they are persuaded by the separation between the political and the economic and they take for granted that the market is in the end a non-political idea. In any case, for them the market issue remains a pragmatic one.
By depoliticizing the idea of the market through a variety of rhetorical strategies, the tone has been set for the discourse of these policy councils on the market. Their discourse on the market is a pragmatic discourse, which is ideally to be governed by scientific reason and scientific reasons alone. This raises from the outset two interesting issues. First, it imparts the view that the market is perceived as a potentially dangerous or troublesome political idea. But secondly, these political dangers are best contained by means of scientific reason. All strategies that aim at depoliticizing the idea of the market thus convey some form of apprehension about the market, reservations they subsequently seek to debunk scientifically. This apprehensive attitude with regard to the market, I am claiming, already foretells what is to come later in these reports. Despite the rigorous, systematic, and objective reasoning that no doubt will follow, the reader has already entered a frame of mind that is skeptical of the market. Moreover, as such one has also entered a frame of mind that in its non-political way is engaged in a political project.

The work of these think tanks is thus, despite its official rhetoric, not strictly non-political. Besides their own preferred portrayal as the rational mind of government, I argue that the true political significance of these organizations lies in their ability to rearticulate existing political representations. It is no doubt the case that policy organizations produce rational arguments and thus for instance contribute to a deliberative form of democracy (Hajer and Wagenaar 2003). In doing so, they however inevitably do something more and this, I seek to show, is contained in the process of discursive rearticulation. The remainder of this paper is concerned with figuring out what discursive articulations are being performed by the idea of the market in these policy reports.
Market Discourse at Dutch Advisory Councils: a discourse about government too
Despite their avowedly non-political stance, the discourse of these advisory councils is yet again on another level a political one. The market is unmistakably the focal object of the discourse, but besides the market, these reports all end up dealing with the question of government. Interestingly, a discourse about the market inevitably happens to invoke the polis, the state and government. An account of the market invariably forces one to deal with the government or the state. To put it colloquially, start speaking about the market, you end up talking politics and arguing about the state and government. It is apparently a structural feature of the idea of the market that it automatically implicates the state or government. The state and government supposedly constitute the “others” of the idea of the market. Together with for instance civil society, the family, but also more transcendent categories, such as God or nation, state or government inevitably come to haunt the discourse of markets.
To claim that discourse about the market also ends up being a discourse about government, may seem like stating the obvious. Especially so, since these reports have been produced by government councils and have been selected for this very reason. Moreover, it seems so obvious, as the market – state dialectics is deeply rooted in our political intuitions. It is however not at all trivial. It remains important to attend to the fact that the idea of the market is not a delimited concept, but has an intimate or internal connection with the idea of the state or government. This is particularly important if one is to assess its performance. When the idea of the market enters a discussion, it also has immediate implications for the idea of the state or government. This conflicts for instance with a very basic conception of the relation between market and state as being mutually exclusive, meaning either state or market, and in which the argument typically is about which is to replace the other. It is also at odds for example with a typical economistic understanding of markets that one gets for instance from textbooks in economics. There, the market is depicted as an independent realm of action or as an economic nature on which government is seen to impinge from the outside. The idea of the market however, is not separate from that of the state or government, but already comprises and presumes it. The idea of the market entails already from the outset a dialectic relation with the state or government.
As a consequence, in using and exploring the idea of the market, these reports thus perform a discursive rearticulation of the state and the relation between market and state. This is, one could say, the basic discursive form of these reports. What these reports do is not so much that they argue for or against the market or the state (i.e. applying an either/or logic) or argue how the state is or should intervene in the market (i.e. the economistic logic), but they articulate a new way of understanding the relation between the two. That this is the basic discursive form of these reports consists of a rearticulation of the state-market relation is evident when considering the topics that they cover. A case in point is offered by one report, entitled Meer Markt, Andere Overheid (RVW 2000). As the title already indicates, the report argues that an increased role for the market in the provisioning of social goods, entails a changed role for government. While the market, so argues the report, offers better means to steer innovation and differentiation and stimulates efficiency, this increased role of the market also requires that government should direct these affairs from a distance and in broad terms only. The intervention of the market is thus enacted on a plane of both market and government, and consists of a rearticulation on that plane. The entire report is constructed against the background of the market-state dialectics and performs a rearticulation of that relation. The market-state dialectics informs the question, it structures its elaboration, and returns in the conclusions and recommendations. So the report opens by asking the question: ‘Wanneer kan de markt beter in het aanbod van diensten voorzien dan de overheid en waarop moet dan worden gelet’ (RVW 2000, 4). It next elaborates, first in general terms the relation between market and government: ‘Welke trends zijn van invloed op ons denken over de gewenste verhouding tussen markt en overheid?’ (ibid., 11). Then it continues by translating these to the area under consideration: ‘Welke specifieke mogelijkheden en beperkingen zijn er bij infrastructuur- en dienstregelinggebonden sectoren? Welke eisen stelt marktewerking aan de overheid en de politiek?’ (ibid., 11). It ends with a sounding recommendation which is entirely framed in terms of the market-state dialectic:
Zeker tegen de achtergrond van de trend van massa-individualisering, die vraagt om innovatie en differentiatie van het productenaanbod, geniet het aanbieden van diensten door de markt verre de voorkeur boven aanbod door de overheid. De Raad pleit dan ook voor vergaande beperking van de ‘presterende taak’ van het ministerie van verkeer en waterstaat […] Het zich terugtrekken uit de uitvoering zal zowel voor de individuele burger als voor de samenleving alleen voordeel opleveren als de overheid haar eigenlijke taak - het ordenen, sturen, controleren en arbitreren - expliciet vorm geeft. […] Met het beter inspelen op de wensen van de klant en het versterken, waar nodig, van de taak van de overheid als uitgangspunten heeft de Raad aanbevelingen gedaan voor verdergaande vormen van marktwerking dan wel verzelfstandiging in het openbaar vervoer en met betrekking tot de weginfrastructuur. De Raad wil in dit advies helder maken dat verdergaande marktwerking in het belang is van de klant, mits de overheid op adequate wijze invulling weet te geven aan haar taak om burger en maatschappij tegen onbedoelde effecten te beschermen. (ibid., 43)
The market-state rearticulation is not particular to just this report. Table 1 (see annex) contains an overview of all reports analyzed. If one quickly surveys the list of titles of reports and their central research questions for instance, it becomes clear that all of them engage the market-state relationship. Titles such as Tussen Markt en Overheid (RVZ 1998), De Overheid de markt in- of uitprijzen (ROB 1998), Markt en Overheid (SER 1999) testify that these reports, while addressing the issue of the market, are all framed in terms of the market-state dialectics. With research questions such as ‘In what circumstances is the market better at supplying services than the state’ (RVW 2000) or ‘to what extent are there market forces at play for education and what are the implications for the relation between education, the state and the market’ (OR 2001), and ‘how to deal with the tension between the market and state regulation of health care supply’ (RVZ 1998), these reports continually seek to find an answer that rearticulates the relation between market and state.
This rearticulation then represents a generic pattern of these reports. Insofar as these reports deal with the market, they invariably do so against the background of a market-state dialectic, and their intervention consists of a rearticulation of the relation between the two. To put it in general terms, when the idea of the market is introduced in the Dutch policy debate, it instantly opens up the market-state dialectics with the effect that it rearticulates their relation. How exactly that rearticulation takes shape in turn depends on how the market is brought to bear on the market – state dialectics. As I will try to show in the following section, dependent on how the market is being portrayed, there is a variety of possibilities for how the market performs in rearticulating the market-state relation.
Performance of ‘the Market’: the Images of Markets
The Market as Metaphor
The performance of these reports thus depends on the way the market is represented and brought to bear on the market-state relation. In this context, I want to indicate that the use of the idea of the market in these reports is of a highly metaphorical kind. On this point I concur with for instance Sayer (1995) who noted that ‘the market’ functions nowadays as an icon and its many uses, meanings and connotations seriously affect the political debate over the market. The discourse of markets is marked by what Sayer calls ‘conceptual slides’ in the usage of ‘the market’ in which one easily and frequently shifts from one meaning of the term to another without even noticing. Not only does one slide between meanings, Sayer also observes that these concepts often differ in kind. He distinguishes differences with regard to the level of abstraction, inclusiveness (e.g. only the moment of exchange or also implied production relations), whether they rely on a ‘production’ or ‘market optic,’ and whether they refer to real or imaginary markets (see p. 97).
This is not the place to engage in a complicated philosophical discussion about metaphors and concepts and Sayer’s distinctions, but it is worth attending to the rhetorical qualities of ‘the market’ that enables the discourse of markets. The point is that in these reports, ‘the market’ is more often than not used metaphorically instead of as a literal reference. This is for instance evidenced by the omnipresence of puns on behalf of ‘the market’ in these reports. What is one to think of titles of reports such as De overheid de markt in- of uitprijzen (ROB 1998) or De Markt Meester (OR 2001), and Vraag aan bod (quoted in RVZ 2003). Just as these puns rely on ‘the market’ as a metaphor to get their points across economically, similarly ‘the market’ can be seen to act as a metaphor in the policy debate. But the use of metaphor need not necessarily be literary or ornate, as in the case of the puns, to still work as a metaphor. There is in fact a great amount of self-reflection in these reports with regard to the non-literal, metaphorical uses that ‘the market’ is being put to. There are a number of instances where these reports refer to ‘the market’ in quotation marks so as to suggest that they are not referring to literal markets. Some of these move along one of the dimensions outlined by Sayer, namely that of abstraction. Invariably these reports open with a few caveats on how ‘the market’ is a theoretical abstraction or model:
Onder het theoretisch begrip 'markt' wordt over het algemeen de marktvorm volkomen concurrentie verstaan. In de economische theorie wordt deze 'markt' omschreven als een situatie waarin vele aanbieders met elkaar concurreren om hun producten te slijten aan een grote populatie consumenten. Daarbij is er sprake van een homogeen product (er is geen productdifferentiatie), perfecte en kosteloze informatie voor alle partijen, er zijn geen toetredingsbelemmeringen voor nieuwe producenten en er is sprake van vrije prijsvorming. (RVZ 1998, 18)
The abstraction of perfectly competitive markets of course animates most of market discourse, and even as such it requires translation and interpretation in order to be applicable:
Wan¬neer aan één of enkele van deze condities niet is voldaan, ontstaat een andere markt-vorm zoals bijvoorbeeld een mono¬polie (één aanbie¬der), een oligopolie (enkele aanbieders) of monopolistische concurrentie (vele aanbieders en een beperkt gedifferentieerd product). Dit betekent dat het theoretisch begrip 'markt' verschillende gezichten kent. (RVZ 1998, 18)
Besides as a (theoretical) abstraction, there is also an awareness that the market functions as a genuine metaphor or even sign, namely as ‘the market.’ We already saw that ‘the market’ acts as a contentious sign in the supposedly ideological debates over the market:
Deze vraag naar het ‘voor’ of ‘tegen’ is overigens wel kenmerkend voor de manier waarop het debat vaak wordt gevoerd, namelijk ideologisch voor of tegen ‘de markt’. (WRR 2000, ???)
But that the market genuinely functions as a metaphor becomes visible when these reports display an awareness of a potential discrepancy between the real, literal market on the one hand and a metaphorical market on the other. They repeatedly point at the fact that even while the idea of the market dominates policy discourse, reality is in fact quite different:
Er is feitelijk een keuze gemaakt voor handhaving van het systeem van aanbodregulering, terwijl in de beleidsretoriek van marktwerking sprake blijft. De spanning blijkt uit gebrekkige communicatie tussen overheid en veldpartijen, onduidelijke verdeling van verantwoordelijkheden en taken, verwarring over de verwachtingen over en weer en uit een tekort aan transparantie, toezicht en controle. (RVZ 1998, 36)
This disjunction between market-talk in policy and the market in reality can take many forms. For instance in policy there is talk of a market, while in reality there is in fact none, or only a watered-down version of a market:
Er is dan ook op dit moment van een ’echte’ onderwijsmarkt geen sprake, ook al wordt het beschrijven van onderwijs in markt- en bedrijfsmatige termen steeds gebruikelijker (termen als ’bedrijfsvoering’, ’productie’, ’output’, ’onderwijsconsument’, enzovoort) en ook al is het onderwijsbeleid sinds enige tijd gericht op het versterken van de invloed van de markt (zie hoofdstuk 3). Hoewel de onderwijsmarkt van oudsher wel degelijk marktkenmerken heeft - scholen concurreren om leerlingen, leerlingen kunnen vrij tussen scholen kiezen - wordt aan de meeste van de genoemde voorwaarden voor optimale marktwerking niet voldaan. De overheid heeft in de praktijk een aanzienlijke invloed op zowel het onderwijsaanbod als de onderwijsvraag, wat de beslissingsmogelijkheden voor aanbieders respectievelijk de keuzemogelijkheden voor de consument sterk beperkt. De onderwijsmarkt wordt daarom wel een quasi-markt genoemd. (OR 2001b, ???)
Or that in reality there is something that acts like a market, but one would hardly recognize it as such:
Een van die deelgebieden is de medisch specialistische zorg. Het is een gebied dat wordt gedomineerd door ziekenhuizen en medische professies. Om in markttermen te spreken is het een aanbiedersmarkt, maar het beeld van een markt dringt zich niet meteen op. (RVZ 2003b, 9)
Or vice-versa, that attempts at creating a market inspired by the market metaphor, is frustrated by the real market:
Met name als het gaat over de uiterst moeizame verandertrajecten rondom beprijzen, het aanbesteden van openbaar busvervoer en het liberaliseren van de taxi- markt, is het tegenvallende resultaat vaak ook te verklaren vanuit de complexiteit van het veranderproces waarbij onvoldoende werd geanticipeerd op de ongewen- ste gedragingen van partijen in de ‘markt’. Bovendien zijn ten aanzien van de te borgen publieke belangen geen heldere prioriteitskeuzen gemaakt. (RVW 2004, ???)
Or that what we address with the market metaphor is in fact, much more than a market alone:
In overeenstemming met het algemeen spraakgebruik zal in het vervolg het begrip ‘markt’ steeds op de private sector worden betrokken, tenzij uitdrukkelijk anders wordt aangegeven. Hierbij zij verder bedacht dat de private sector meer omvat dan de markt in genoemde zin. Er zijn immers vele vormen van privaat verkeer, waarin het ruilmechanisme van de markt geen of een beperkte rol speelt; men denke aan het werk van non-profitorganisaties. De markt is een belangrijke, maar niet de enige modaliteit van de private sector. (WRR 2000, 26)
Or that we do speak about the market, but that upon closer inspection, we only speak about some market-like features:
De noemer waaronder de veranderingsprocessen in infrastructuurgebonden sectoren zich voltrekken heet: het bevorderen van marktwerking. Nadere beschouwing van de veranderingsprocessen, die tot dusver onder deze noemer zijn ingezet, leert echter dat zij in veel gevallen weinig tot niets met ‘echte’ marktwerking te maken hebben, in de zin van vrijgeven voor onderlinge concurrentie (liberalisering) en/of het overbrengen van de publieke naar de private sector (privatisering). (RVW 2004, 12-13)

This dizzying encounter between the literal market and the metaphorical market however in all reports points in a one direction. This is, that when it comes to the relevance of the idea of the market for their respective areas, they all seem to claim that ‘real’ markets or ‘real’ market forces are generally inconceivable. They appear to say that their application of the idea of the market always remains to some extent metaphorical:
De koers van 'gedeeld bestuur' die in de vorige paragraaf is geschetst, spoort op hoofdlijnen en uitgangspunten met het regeerakkoord. De Raad constateert verder dat de paarse partijen daarmee impliciet aangeven dat zij 'echte' marktwerking niet tot het leidende principe voor de inrichting van de gezondheidszorg maken. (RVZ 1998, ???)
Should we then conclude that all this talk about the market is just metaphorical, and therefore irrelevant? Is all this talk about markets in all these areas, not just idle talk because real markets are inconceivable? No, on the contrary, I would argue. It is precisely at the intersection of the metaphorical and the literal that the performativity of the idea of the market is to be found. It is because ‘the market’ is used metaphorically in these reports that they can actually argue their cases.
There are at least two aspects of the metaphorical market that are relevant for understanding how the market discourse of these reports works. The first is that the metaphorical market enables the reconstruction, redescription and thus rearticulation of certain situations. The market metaphor – somewhat similar to Sayer’s concept of ‘imaginary markets’ – makes it possible to reconstruct some social situations in terms of a market. The second aspect is that the market metaphor enables a particular form of conceptual play, namely that of metaphorical or metonymical sliding. Let me discuss them briefly.
Market Constructivism
The basic definition of a metaphor is that it applies a concept from one context in another. The power of a metaphor is that this foreign concept adds meaning to the target domain. It may not always be noticed, but the first step in any market discourse is to apply the concept of the market in a context where it was not yet perceived. One starts seeing markets, where they first were not. Any account of the market for healthcare, education, or transport thus starts with a metaphorical transfer. As soon as the market metaphor is somewhat successful in its application, it starts to reconfigure the meanings in the domain of application. The application of the market metaphor enables the reconstruction of the original domain. Just as the operations of metaphors are manifold, these reconstructions can take many forms. The reconstruction is likely to draw on basic elements of the idea of the market. So, one will reconstruct the healthcare system using the terms of the market. One will start perceiving healthcare as a good and hospitals and doctors as suppliers or producers and patients as consumers. One will recognize forms of exchange in these relations, such as that services are provided and that some form of compensation is received in return. One will go on conceiving of supply, demand, prices, and competition. Once the imposition of the market metaphor onto the healthcare system is successful, and its discursive reconstruction well under way, one will without hesitation refer to it as the market for health care.
There are of course no prescribed patterns for how these market reconstructions ought to take place, and they differ from case to case. But as market constructivism happens, it requires the metaphorical market to facilitate these processes of market constructivism. The metaphorical market is however important in another respect as well. Not only does it enable market constructivism, it also makes it possible that these constructions are always in some form incomplete. To recognize that the healthcare market, although its construction may have been successful and we can refer to it without much hesitation, is still a metaphorical market also has another implication, namely that the healthcare system is only partially a market. It remains a metaphorical market because the process of market constructivism is incomplete. While there are a number of features of the healthcare system that are adequately referred to in terms of the market, there are also some features that do not fit that description. There may be goods exchanged, prices paid, and forms of competition, but prices do not come about through supply and demand, nor perhaps are suppliers led by the profit-principle in all their production decisions. The ‘healthcare market’ thus in the end remains a metaphor, because the market construction is incomplete. There is no real market, but only an incomplete version thereof:
In de dagelijkse praktijk van de Nederlandse gezondheids¬zorg is eigenlijk nooit sprake van volledige marktwerking, maar van meer of minder marktconform handelen. Met deze term geeft men aan dat aan de markt of aan marktwerking ontleen¬de ele¬menten - zoals competitie, onder¬nemend handelen, het lopen van bedrijfsri¬sico, be¬sluit¬vorming door individuele pro¬ducenten en consu¬men¬ten - worden toege¬past binnen het kader van over-heidsregulering. Aangezien deze aan marktwer¬king ont¬leende elemen¬ten omgeven wor¬den door allerlei randvoorwaar¬den en be¬scher¬mende en sturen¬de regelgeving is er geen sprake van echte marktwerking, maar van ondernemerschap binnen een op publieke doelstellingen gericht beleidssysteem. (RVZ 1998, ???)
The metaphorical market not only makes it possible that certain situations are only incompletely reconstructed as a market, it also enables that the imposition of the market in some areas remains just mostly metaphorical. So even the state without the need of completely itself being dissolved, can partially become subjected to the market metaphor:
In hoofdstuk 5 zal naar voren komen dat bepaalde elementen van het marktmechanisme ook binnen het publieke domein, de overheid, een plaats kunnen hebben. (WRR 2000, 26)

Market constructivism thus always also requires an arduous process of discursive rearticulation in which the market is used as a metaphor. A case in point is offered by the report Van patient tot klant (RVZ 2003a). As suggested by the title, the report consists of a active reconstruction of the healthcare system in terms of the market. In particular it focuses on redescribing the patient as its market-equivalent, a customer. The report asks what conditions, means, and incentives are needed to move healthcare suppliers to better account for healthcare demand. It recognizes that the current healthcare system can only incompletely be framed as a market. It is, so the report opens, a suppliers market:
Momenteel vertoont de zorgmarkt de kenmerken van een aanbiedersmarkt. De keuzemogelijkheden en daarmee de beïnvloedingsmogelijkheden van zorggebruikers zijn beperkt. Zorgaanbieders houden daardoor nog te weinig rekening met de wensen van de zorggebruiker. Dit moet veranderen. (RVZ 2003a, 9)
The chief recommendation of the report is that patients should be seen as customers:
Patiënten (cliënten in de zorg) dienen zoveel als mogelijk klanten te worden zoals dat in de meeste andere sectoren van de samenleving het geval is. Marktwerking en concurrentie in de zorg zijn hiervoor noodzakelijk. Dit houdt onder meer in dat er voldoende zorgaanbod moet zijn; een lichte overcapaciteit aan professionals is nodig. (ibid., 5)
To achieve this however requires the rearticulation of the current situation by means of the market metaphor:
Dit hoofdstuk schetst de positie van de cliënt in de zorgsector. Deze is niet dezelfde als die van de klant in andere sectoren. […] De cliënt in de zorgsector heeft niet dezelfde positie als de consument in andere sectoren. In andere sectoren heeft de consument doorgaans de mogelijkheid te kiezen of hij een bepaald product wil kopen of niet. Hij besluit een auto te kopen of een vliegreis te boeken, neemt het product of de dienst af en gaat tot betaling over … (ibid., 15)
The conclusion is then: ‘De zorgmarkt is geen gewone markt’ (ibid., 15). Since the healthcare market may not be and will never become a ‘real’ market, the rearticulation will have to take recourse to the metaphorical market. In order to figure out how the consumer perspective can anyways be applied in this out-of-the-ordinary healthcare market, the report for instance invokes yet another metaphor. It constructs the consumer perspective by comparing healthcare consumption with buying an airline ticket. It thus tries to figure out how the quality controls (e.g. the function of reputation, the use of protocols, and performance indicators) that are involved in the air travel purchases could be translated to healthcare use. It then concludes by offering some suggestions as to how to replicate exchange-relations (notably introducing payment relations, and options for consumer choice) in the healthcare sector, without actually having to introduce these very same mechanisms. The incompleteness of the original market-metaphor, is thus again metaphorically rearticulated by now invoking demand side imagery to guide interventions in the healthcare markets. Since the publication of the report, starting in the beginning of 2006, the Netherlands has a new healthcare financing system that is explicitly geared toward this demand side imagery.
Metonymical Slides
As said, there is a second aspect of how the metaphorical market is essential for understanding how the discourse of markets works. This aspect has already surfaced in the preceding discussion and follows from the claim that the application of the market metaphor is nearly always incomplete. The metaphorical market namely also enables the conceptual play of metaphorical or metonymical slides around the market. It is the phenomenon that the market metaphor stands in for its constituent parts or that it comes to represent a related concept. We already saw that in a metaphorical transfer the various elements of the concept ‘the market’ could be transferred. The opposite also holds, namely that the market is used as a stand-in for its constituent parts. Thus ‘the market’ is used, while one in fact only means to address competition, demand, supply, price, or efficiency and innovation:
Marktconform Deze term wordt gebruikt om aan te geven dat aan de markt of aan marktwerking ontleende elementen - zoals competitie, ondernemend handelen, het lopen van bedrijfsrisico, besluitvorming door individuele producenten en consumenten - worden toegepast in het kader van overheidsregulering. (RVZ 1998, 19)
These metonymical slides can take either direction. Either the market is understood to stand for one of its parts, or one observes certain market-like features and concludes that the market is at stake (which is a true metonymy, namely the pars pro toto):
Kan concurrentie bijdragen aan een betere borging van publieke belangen binnen het publieke domein? Het antwoord op deze vraag hangt af van wat onder concurrentie wordt verstaan. Wordt onder concurrentie die marktvorm verstaan waarbij partijen financieel worden afgerekend op hun prestaties en een faillissement tot de reële mogelijkheden behoort, dan is er voor concurrentie binnen de overheid weinig ruimte. Wordt concurrentie daarentegen vooral gezien als een vorm van competitie zonder het bij het prijsmechanisme behorende ‘afrekenen’ in financiële termen, dan zijn er meer mogelijkheden.
Binnen de overheid kan het prijsmechanisme op zich een zekere functie hebben, bijvoorbeeld bij de interne verrekening van diensten die worden geleverd door faciliterende onderdelen van het departement. Op deze manier kan de transparantie van de organisatie worden vergroot. Hier functioneert het prijsmechanisme echter vooral als hulpconstructie en derhalve op een geheel andere wijze dan op een normale, concurrerende private markt zoals die in het vorige hoofdstuk uitgebreid aan de orde kwam. (WRR 2000, 95)

Metonymical sliding forms the heart of the performativity of the market in the policy discourse. It already starts with the definition of the market in the reports. In the end however, the various ways in which the market is conceptualized and brought to bear on the research question of these reports, ultimately determines the precise form of articulation that these reports enact. I have argued that these reports are primarily concerned with rearticulating the market-state relation. Dependent on the exact form of the metonymical slide of the market metaphor, one can expect these rearticulations to also take a different form. This way, the metonymical slides create distinct images of markets. These distinct images of markets in turn lead to distinct rearticulations of he market-state relation. Distinct images of markets are thus employed to effect distinct market reconstructions. If, as was the case with Van Patient tot Klant, the market slides towards demand side imagery, the report ends up rearticalating the healthcare system towards greater demand structures. Market imagery that is based on freedom of choice, for instance, or consumer sovereignty is thus likely to result in different rearticulations than imagery based on efficiency (productive or allocative), innovation, or competition and price.
Images of Markets
Based on the various conceptual slides that can be witnessed around the use of the market concept in these reports, one could draw up a list. In idealtypical terms this would constitute a list of the images of markets and the particular displacements or rearticulations they give rise to. Market discourse is less neat however, and the market would not be a powerful metaphor if these conceptual slides were all neatly ordered. As these slides are all very disparate, the list of market images will reflect that. I will here therefore present a provisional list of images encountered in these reports, with a brief example of each. Neither is this list systematic, nor exhaustive. Alas, such is the immanent life of a concept.
Table 1: Images of Markets
Imagery Type of Reconstruction
Invisible Hand:
- Social Provisioning
- Decision making
- Transparency
- Mechanism
- Non-paternalistic
- Non-monopolistic Governance
- Consumer Sovereignty
- Freedom of Choice Democratic / Market Populist

- Efficiency
o Cost – efficiency
o Allocative – efficiency
- Entrepreneurship
o Quality
o Differentiation
o Innovation
- Information Rational / Neutral Selection
Goods Commodification
- Contracting Commensuration: quid-pro-quo

- Funding Monetization

‘Marktwerking’: a euphemism
There is one particular metonymic slide of ‘the market’ that deserves special attention. It is the term ‘marktwerking.’ It is ubiquitous and tremendously popular in Dutch market discourse, but at the same time hard to translate. Literally, the postfix ‘werking’ translates as ‘working’ ‘operation’ or ‘functioning.’ It tends to be translated as ‘market forces’ to convey that markets are active and do something. ‘Marktwerking’ is introduced in a sector, a sector can be subjected to ‘marktwerking’ (ROB 1998, 4) and ‘marktwerking’ is being furthered or ought to be promoted. ‘Marktwerking’ improves the efficiency of a sector, stimulates innovation, or guarantees that the tastes of the consumers are better catered to.
Table 2: Frequency Distribution 'Markt' and 'Marktwerking' in all 12 reports
ROB 1998 RVZ 1998 SER 1999 RVW 2000 WRR 2000 OR 2001a OR 2001b RVW 2003 RVZ 2003a RVZ 2003b RVW 2004 RVZ 2004 TOTAAL
MARKT(EN) 77 46 98 150 245 37 295 8 23 60 67 6 1112
MARKTWERKING 85 83 5 38 53 13 247 11 35 192 48 10 820
MARKTACTIVITEIT(EN) 0 0 195 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 195
MARKTORDENING 1 0 0 0 5 0 0 11 1 0 80 0 98
MARKTPARTIJ(EN) 19 3 3 7 6 0 10 1 1 0 18 0 68
MARKET 0 1 0 31 2 0 7 0 1 10 0 1 53
MARKTWERKINGSBELEID 0 0 1 0 0 0 28 0 0 0 0 0 29
MARKTMEESTER 0 0 0 0 19 0 0 0 0 5 4 0 28
MARKTMECHANISME(N) 11 1 0 3 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25
MARKTCONFORM(E) 2 9 4 0 1 0 0 0 6 0 1 1 24
MARKTPOSITIE 0 1 3 0 0 2 2 0 0 1 6 0 15
MARKTFALEN 1 2 0 0 4 0 7 0 0 0 0 0 14
MARKETS 0 1 0 2 3 0 5 0 0 2 0 0 13
MARKTMODEL 0 11 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 13
MARKTOPTREDEN 0 0 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10
MARKTVERHOUDINGEN 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 3 0 10

The term ‘marktwerking’ is very popular. Three out of the sample of 12 reports use the label ‘marktwerking’ in their title instead of ‘market.’ Table 2. presents a frequency count of all words related to ‘the market’ in the reports studied. ‘Marktwerking’ ranks second and follows closely after ‘market.’ ‘Marktwerking’ is thus nearly as important a term in these reports as is ‘the market.’
Its popularity for one, but also that it is an untranslatable term make it worthy of interpretation, because it may offer a particular glance at a very local feature of market discourse. US discourse on the market, for instance is rife with references to the ‘marketplace.’ The prominence of ‘marktwerking’ in the Dutch discourse, may tell us something unique about that discourse. ‘Marktwerking’ is thus a very particular metonymical slide drawn from the market metaphor. Let it be clear from the outset that ‘marktwerking’ is not the same as ‘the market’:
Meer competitie en meer marktwerking betekenen niet dat de medische zorg zonder meer wordt overgelaten aan de markt. (RVZ 2003b, 6)
Not the same as ‘the market,’ the term ‘marktwerking’ serves to address the ‘what’ of what the market does. This can still take many forms and practically all images of markets are appealed to. Thus ‘marktwerking’ may stand for the ‘market mechanism’:
Met het begrip ‘marktwerking’ wordt in de adviesaanvraag, zo interpreteert de Raad, gedoeld op de ontdekking en het gebruik van marktmechanismen als instrument om publieke doelen te realiseren, waardoor de klassieke verhouding tussen markt en overheid verandert. (ROB 1998, 11)
Or it may stand for the process of decision making:
Marktwerking houdt in dat de beslissingen over produceren, consumeren en verdelen van goederen en diensten worden genomen door de individuele producenten, consumenten en bezitters van de productiemiddelen. Daarbij spelen prijs en kwaliteit een belangrijke rol. (RVZ 1998, 18)
Most often ‘marketwerking’ is equated with competition:
Minister Hermans definieert deze [Marktwerking in het Onderwijs] als volgt: ’Marktwerking is in concurrentie met andere aanbieders inspelen op behoeften in de samenleving. (...) Goede marktwerking is wanneer op kwaliteit wordt geconcurreerd.’ (OR 2001b, 29)
The two, ‘marktwerking’ and ‘competition’ are often mentioned in one go:
Moeten we nog wel de kant van competitie en marktwerking uit? (RVZ 2003b, 5)
And of course it may represent the famous trio of consumer sovereignty, efficiency, and innovation:
Wanneer marktwerking? In zijn algemeenheid beschikt de markt over betere middelen om te weten wat mensen willen dan de overheid. De markt stimuleert ook meer tot efficiency. De Raad vindt marktwerking (gebruik maken van vraag en aanbod voor de coördinatie van economische beslissingen) vooral van belang voor innovatie en differentiatie van producten en diensten. (RVW 2000, 4)
In using the term ‘Marktwerking’ one can apparently make the same general metonymical displacements as one does with ‘the market.’ Yet, it is nonetheless different and certainly not identical with ‘the market.’ That poses the puzzle as to what the term ‘marktwerking’ really stands for. To begin with, ‘marktwerking’ appears to function as a metaphor for that other metaphor, ‘the market.’ By using ‘marktwerking’ instead, one highlights the metaphorical character of ‘the market.’ This is illustrated by the following definition of ‘marktwerking’:
‘Marktwerking’ houdt in dat het mechanisme van vraag en aanbod wordt gebruikt voor de coördinatie van economische beslissingen. (RVW 2000, 12)
By using ‘marktwerking’ one advocates not so much the market per se, but the use of market-like instruments while hoping to achieve market-like outcomes:
Marktwerking leidt, zo wordt beweerd, tot ‘meer, goedkoper en beter’: meer vrijheid in keuze voor de burger als consument, goedkoper voor de consument omdat monopolieposities en prijsafspraken door concurrentie worden tegengegaan en beter omdat de druk van de concurrentie de marktdeelnemers tot creativiteit en innovatie aanzet. (ROB 1998, 112)
Thus with ‘marktwerking’ one gets the market, without having a ‘real’ market or even ‘the market.’ It thus appears that ‘marktwerking’ besides being a highlighted form of the market metaphor, also appears to function as a euphemism for the real market, however understood. To refer to ‘marktwerking’ thus has two benefits. ‘Marktwerking’ can be used to refer to the market metaphorically, for example that the healtcare system could work more like a market without becoming a market, but also euphemistically, namely that one can get the benefits of the market, without for instance its shortcomings. Speaking euphemistically in terms of ‘marktwerking’ hence staves of two evils. One is that it allows the application of the idea of the market, without having to bother about realistical inaccuracies. With ‘marktwerking’ we can speak about the market without having to be too concerned about the practical details. Moreover, one can use the market as a productive metaphor to invent new market-like solutions to social problems. Second, ‘marktwerking’ serves as a true euphemism in those cases where it allows one to speak about the market, while avoiding political or, if you want, ideological contestation. While ‘the market’ is politically sensitive and acts as a red flag, its derivative ‘marktwerking’ sounds much more neutral. Look for instance at the following statement:
Van de andere kant schat de Raad in dat zowel de introductie van echte marktwerking als een terugkeer naar de klassieke aanbodregulering op veel weerstand zal stuiten en moeilijk uitvoerbaar zal blijken te zijn. (RVZ 1998, 27)
To shift the discourse from ‘the market’ to ‘marktwerking’ is thus another way of depoliticizing the debate over the market. In this fashion, it primarily serves to defuse existing reservations about the market. The euphemism ‘marktwerking’ could then at the same time be seen as revealing an existing anxiety over the market. By speaking euphemistically about ‘marktwerking’ one circumvents potential resistance against the market.
The euphemism ‘marktwerking’ may however serve a third purpose and this becomes clear when one reads it against the background of the market-state dialectics. ‘Marktwerking’ in these reports, is namely invariably presented as a tool for government. While ‘the market’ cannot be a policy objective, ‘marktwerking’ can:
Het overheidsbeleid zet in op marktwerking … (RVZ 2003a, 36)
‘Marktwerking’ is hence a political project:
De politieke trefwoorden zijn: het bevorderen van marktwerking. (RVW 2004, 7)
In this context of government policy, the euphemism ‘marktwerking’ is more useful than ‘the market,’ for the reason that it represents the market, or market-like features, but still keeps them within the control of the state. As a market without ‘the market,’ it creates the sense of a market that can still be held under control of the state. While other concepts did emerge as well, for example ‘managed competition’ or ‘shared governance,’ ‘marktwerking’ is a useful euphemism to suggest that the market is directed:
... het model van marktwerking onder regie van de overheid… (WRR 2000, 71)
The euphemism ‘marktwerking’ is thus a convenient concept to be used in policy debates. Representing a market without a market, or a market-lookalike it nonetheless leaves the suggestion of government control.
Yet while the aspect of government control, or government by means of the market, is a clear overtone of the euphemism ‘marktwerking,’ this should not be read as if it is a form of pure government. While it may be presented as a form of government, ‘marktwerking’ has nonetheless from the outset also been presented as an alternative to government. The market and certainly ‘marktwerking’ were of course initially presented as a panacee for the ills of government. In the words of the WRR:
Het functioneren van de overheid staat al enige tijd prominent op de agenda. Na de hoogtijdagen van de verzorgingsstaat werd de overheid van een middel tot een probleem. De vraag werd gesteld of de overheid zich niet moest beperken tot haar kerntaken. […] Zou de overheid niet meer moeten overlaten aan de ‘markt’? […] Daarmee had zich een omslag voorgedaan. Het publieke debat stond onverwachts in het teken van de markt en de voordelen van het marktmechanisme. Waar de overheid ten tijde van de verzorgingsstaat veel verantwoordelijkheden aan zich trok en de behartiging daarvan ook aan zich hield, werden nu vooral de voordelen van de private sector belicht. (WRR 2000, 17)
‘Marktwerking’ was thus also framed as a form of government that would be free of the political:
Marktwerking heeft dus in de praktijk ook de betekenis gekregen van het op afstand plaatsen van de politiek en het bevorderen van een meer vraaggestuurd aanbod vanuit het publieke domein. (RVW 2004, 13)
This then presents a paradox. We first saw that the euphemism ‘marktwerking’ represents a market without a market. Next it turned out that this is also a euphemism for government control over the market. It now however appears that it also represents a form of government without government. The upshot appears to be that ‘marktwerking’ presents some form of frictionless politics, as it stands for a market without a market and a government without government. In the next section, this paradox will be explored further.

The Market in the Netherlands: the Emergence of a Neoliberal Governmental Political Rationality
A close-up analysis of the figure of ‘marktwerking’ brought out a paradoxical tension in Dutch market discourse. It suggested that the market is no longer the market and the state no longer the state. It signaled a changed relation between market and state, not an oppositional (‘wedstrijd tussen ‘overheid en markt’,’ WRR 2000) but one that is more diffuse. How are we to make sense of these statements? I want to argue that it should be understood as part of the emergence of a governmental political rationality. These reports are one by one, I argue, struggling to understand and shape this new type of political reason.
Governmentality and governmental political rationality are concepts developed by Foucault to describe our modern political condition (notably Foucault 1991; notably Foucault 1997a; Foucault 1997b). It has become customary to explain Foucault’s neologism as a contraction of ‘government’ and ‘mentality.’ By entwining two of Foucault’s key concepts ‘power’ and ‘knowledge,’ governmentality is hence an awkward word to refer to a mentality of government. Foucault also refers to it as a political rationality and governmental political rationality in particular. Here, rationality stands for a kind of reasoning, the rationale, a way of rationalizing, or reason. In short, it refers to the form of reasoning and legitimating of political issues and power. It is, to remain close to Foucault, the historical a priori of political thought of a certain period.
In a nutshell, Foucault’s claim is that with the rise of Modernity, our political rationality and our conceptions of political power have become governmental, hence governmentality. Drawing on a number of political writings of the time, Foucault shows how in the 17th century, a governmental conception gradually displaced a sovereign logic of political power. Instead of rule by a sovereign, government emerged through a variety of interventions as the new political modus operandi. Government, as opposed to rule, is the ‘conduct of conduct’ (viz. Foucault 1991, p. 220-221) and it exercises power not through coercion or submission but through a whole set of practices and so structure the way individuals conduct themselves. The emergence of the idea of the ‘the economy’ together with the whole political and epistemological revolution entailed by the discipline of political economy, was according to Foucault a major factor in the development of a governmental political rationality. The idea of ‘the economy,’ which suggested that the polity was an autonomous system with laws of its own, frustrated the idea of sovereign rule and instead reinforced the idea that society could only be governed at best. In the modern era, political power no longer acts from an identifiable center, but relies on a variety of practices that discipline one’s conduct. For Foucault, a governmental political rationality may involves at least the following three related phenomena. First, it means the demise of a sovereign logic of rule. Second, this is replaced with the view that political power is exercised through a whole variety of political and social institutions and practices, including knowledge discourses. Finally, it entails the claim that the state has become governmentalized too, meaning that it is an instrument of government and no longer a center of sovereign rule.
As one can see from these formulations, Foucault’s argument about governmentality was primarily directed against statist conceptions of political power. He argued that the state is no longer the center of political power, but that the state is at best a function of a governmental power. While this is a profound and valuable insight, I have argued elsewhere that this argument tends to underestimate the role of the economy and the market. The same reasons that were brought to bear on the state, namely also hold for the market. The market has become governmentalized too. If the state is an instrument of government, there is no reason why the market would not be so too. The market is just as much part of our modern form of rule, as is the state. Thus from a governmental point of view, market and state are both instruments of government. The discussion over the relation between market and state should hence be read in governmental terms too.
My reading is that these reports present clear evidence of such a governmental attitude towards the market and the state. While they all grapple with the exact form and shape of such a governmental solution, they invariably subscribe to a governmental approach. If one for instance glances over the research questions of the reports, without exception the questions asked betray a governmental approach (for a complete overview see Table 4 in the appendix to this paper).
Table 3: Summary of Research Questions of all Reports
Report Research Question
ROB (1998) Under what circumstances can the provisioning of public services be subjected to market forces?
RVZ (1998) How to deal with the tension between the market and the regulation of supply in the provisioning of healthcare?
SER (1999) What legislation is needed to regulate market activities of the state (concerning he so-called Market-Government problem)?
RVW (2000) Under what circumstances is the market better at supplying transport and infrastructural services than the government?
OR (2001a) What are the wishes, possibilities and consequences of employing private resources for public education
OR (2001b) To what extent are there markets and market forces at play for education and what are the implications for the relation between education, the state and the market?
RVW (2003) What lessons can be learned from recent negative experiences around the introduction of markets for the ways in which the market is being introduced in infrastructural services?
RVZ (2003a) What conditions, means and incentives are needed to move healthcare suppliers to account better for healthcare demands?
RVW (2004) How to improve – given negative results in terms of prices, quality and choice - the effectiveness of changes in market order of infrastructural services?
RVZ (2004) To what extent are the levels of healthcare consumption in the Netherlands appropriate and what, if any, additional incentives are needed to prevent needless healthcare consumption and control healthcare costs in a system governed by market demand?

All these research questions could be read as questions about government, or governance. Even though the state still is presented as the center of government, these questions present a departure from a purely state-centered conception of government. They convey a growing awareness of considering the market as an integral part of the matrix of government. The first somewhat awkwardly poses a governmental question: ‘of publieke dienstverlening onderhevig kan zijn aan marktwerking en, zo ja, onder welke voorwaarden’ (ROB 1998, 6). The question contained in another (RVW 2000), ‘[w]anneer kan de overheid beter in het aanbod van diensten voorzien dan de overheid en waarop moet dan worden gelet,’ is a clear example that market and state are interchangeable in a governmental perspective. From a governmental point of view, the market and the state are both worthy instruments of government and their relation is therefore not necessarily one of either-or. These reports all situate themselves upon the governmental continuum of market and state.
In response to these governmental questions, the reports also offer governmental solutions. The RVZ (1998) for instance argues that one should move in the direction of more market forces and introduces the concept of ‘joint administration’ (‘gedeeld bestuur’) in which the state governs together with the market. Also the RVW (2000) argues that there is more space for government by the market, but hastens to add that this also requires a different, more governmental state. Without exception thus, these reports deal with the question of the market in a governmental way and all grapple with the question of government by means of the market. While there are clear hesitations about the limitations of the market as a form of government, the reports also recognize its governmental virtues and seek for ways to accommodate these in the governmental continuum.
Most prominent and systematic in this respect is the WRR (2000).

Neoliberal Governmentality
There is however more to be said about the governmental rationality expressed in these reports. In his lectures at the College de France in 1979 on Biopolitics, Foucault started to outline what became known as neoliberal governmental rationality. As the political theorist Wendy Brown (2003) has shown, neoliberalism as we know it today is not just a set of economic policies or policy recipes, but these are in fact part and parcel of a distinct, governmental political rationality. By the end of the 1970s, Foucault sensed the emergence of this new political rationality, which he in passing referred to with the label ‘neo-liberal.’ This new political rationality consisted of a transformation of the liberal political rationality, which had slowly come to fruition from early modernity onwards. In his discussions he in fact discerned two versions of this new, neo-liberal rationality, which he described in some detail. These were the neoliberalism of the Ordo-liberals and the neo-liberalism of the Chicago School of Gary Becker and the likes. Both consisted, according to Foucault, of a new articulation of the relation between market and state. Both approaches, he argued, share a commitment to a non-naturalistic and constructivist stance towards the market. Unlike the liberal governmentality that viewed the market as some kind of social nature, exemplified for instance by Smith’s ‘system of natural liberty,’ which served as a limit to government, what makes these versions neo-liberal is that the market is no longer just a limit but becomes the norm of government. For the Ordo-liberals the market is the political ideal of social conduct, but since the market is not always ideal, good government consists of creating the conditions for a well functioning market. The market in their view thus needs to be constructed socially and institutionally. For the Chicago School the market is also the norm of political conduct, but their constructivism is less institutional and rather takes the form of using the market as a general frame of intelligibility. Neoliberals of the Chicago School type reconstruct the social and political worlds invariably as a market. While both versions of neoliberalism turn the market into the norm of government, their governmental practices and social policies are nonetheless quite different. For the Ordo-liberals, policies take the form of the social and institutional construction of markets, whereas in the imaginary of the Chicago School, government ultimately becomes market government. In all aspects of life, ranging from work, to the family and crime, it projects the market as the model of government and homo oeconomicus as its subject. In both versions, the market has become the regulative idea of government.
The departure from the earlier forms of governmentality may thus be evident. Where in the liberal versions the market and state are both governmentalized, in its neoliberal versions, government becomes ‘marketized.’ Where in the liberal governmentality the market had become an intrinsic part of government, in the neoliberal versions the market is further highlighted and becomes the sole norm of government.

There is no doubt that market discourse in the Netherlands at the policy think tanks is well entrenched in a governmental logic. A conclusive answer to the question whether market discourse in the Netherlands is becoming neoliberal, is harder to come by. As was argued above, there is certainly a heightened tendency to include the market in the governmental mix and to afford it more room. It goes to far however to conclude that the governmental order has become completely neoliberal. As shown in Foucault’s discussion of the liberal governmentality, the inclusion of the market in the governmental order is in itself not sufficient reason to brandish it as neoliberal. The criterion for whether a governmental order is neoliberal or increasingly becoming so, is to see whether the market is used to rewrite or reconstruct the political rationality in its entirety and becomes its sole norm.
There is substantial evidence in the reports that points at the emergence of a neoliberal governmentality. One could for instance distinguish Ordo-liberal strains of discourse. It is reflected for instance in an emphasis on issues of market structuring (‘ordenings-vraagstukken’). Some reports (e.g. RVW 2003; RVW 2004), advocate an increased role for government in ordering and regulating the market in order to secure socially desirable outcomes. One can also distinguish an Ordo-liberal rationality in the omnipresence of what could be labeled ‘supervision’-discourse about the market. Many reports argue that the introduction of the market or market forces should always be accompanied by establishing a market-authority (‘toezichthouder’) that regulates and checks the behavior of the market participants. Both the discourse on market structuring and supervision, reflect the Ordo-Liberal logic of reconstructing the social world, such that the market can become its norm. It advocates a role for the state that is at the service of this market norm.
The policy discourse also provides evidence of neoliberal tendencies, which resemble those of the Chicago School. These consist of the active redescription or reconstruction of existing social practices in terms of the market. Above, we already saw how the images of markets serve to redescribe certain social practices. I discussed in some what more detail, how in Van Patient tot Klant (RVZ 2003a) the image of consumer sovereignty and freedom of choice was used to reconstruct parts of the healthcare system in terms of the market. Even though the report recognized that the actual institutional setting would never come to resemble that of a ‘real’ market, it nevertheless established the market, or some image thereof, as norm of this institutional hybrid. It established that a healthcare system deemed good when it caters to the needs of its customers. Similarly have other images of markets been invoked to reconstruct a social system and assess its legitimacy in market terms. The SER (1999) for instance imposes a welfare cost-benefit norm to assess whether government should be allowed to provide market-services. The RVW (2000) for instance raises the image of competition in the form of dispersed as against central decision-making, to argue for increased competition over and on infrastructural projects, because of its contribution to consumer sovereignty and efficiency. Again, the market serves as the norm for governmental arrangements. Even though the reports on education and the market (OR 2003a; OR 2003b) firmly reaffirm the centrality of the state if it comes to governmental arrangements, it uses the market imagery of consumer sovereignty, innovation, and accessibility to fine-tune its governmental performance.
These, I contend, are all instances that testify of the emergence of an unmistakably neoliberal governmental rationality. The debate over the market in these policy reports points at the emergence of a governmental order in which market and state jointly govern. Moreover, this governmental order comes increasingly under the spell of the market. It is thus slowly transformed into a neoliberal governmental order, in which the market and market imagery constitutes the norm of political legitimacy. One of the lessons is that the market need not be ‘real’ nor need it be omnipresent as policy recommendation in order for it to be adopted as the primary political norm. That is how neoliberalism travels. The images of markets do the job: silently, slowly, but oh so effectively.

Dealing with the Market: ‘Borgen’ as Dutch Twist to Market Discourse
To stop the analysis at this point, and conclude that the political discourse about the market in the Netherlands is neoliberal in character, would be a grave misrepresentation and would overlook a vital aspect of the discourse. Despite evident neoliberal overtones in the discourse, there is an obvious subtext to all these texts. It is a common threat that runs from one of the earliest of these reports (ROB 1998) up to the last RVW (2004). In the reports of the ROB and RVW it was the focal point of their analysis, for the OR (2001a and 2001b) it appeared so obvious that they did not even bother dealing with it. Only the RVZ (2000, 2003a, 2003b, and 2004) seems to be somewhat impervious to its appeal, but that could also be because they have already internalized its logic. The subtext I am talking about was brought wide in the open and subsequently carved in stone by the WRR (2000) in their report Het Borgen van Publiek Belang (‘Safeguarding the Public Interest’) and is a discourse of the safeguarding of public interests. In this report, the WRR studies the issue of privatization of government and claims to offer a comprehensive frame of analysis for guidance. Its argument is that the debate is too often cast as a ‘wedstrijd overheid - markt’ (WRR 2000, 11). The whole effort of the report is to displace this oppositional logic and it does so by introducing a governmental logic. It proceeds by means of two interventions. First, it dissects the issue in two separate issues, labeled the ‘what’ of privatization and the ‘how’ (WRR 2000, 19). This distinction hinges on the concept of ‘public interests.’ The idea is that public interests serve as the fundamental rationale of government. The public interests should first be determined – as part of the ‘what’ question – and then one should look for the best way of ‘how’ to procure these. The second intervention is that the public interests can be executed both by public as well as private parties and that there exist a variety of mechanisms for protecting or safeguarding public interests in the process. These protection mechanisms are labeled ‘bogingsmechanismen.’ As both public and private organization do not necessarily aim at protecting the public interest, the ‘borgingmechanisms’ are needed to discipline them:
‘Het is derhalve nodig organisaties zodanig te disciplineren dat de publiekebelangenbehartiging wordt veiliggesteld.’ (WRR 2000, 110)
The report distinguishes four of these disciplinary mechanisms: rules, competition, hierarchy, and institutional values. The ensemble of private and public organizations can be disciplined to promote the public interests, either by means of regulation, by means of competition, through hierarchical commands, or because of values (e.g. professionalism or care) that are typical to a certain institution. The government should design and supervise the practices and institutions such that public interests are safeguarded.
The doctrine of ‘safeguarding public interests’ affirms the governmental logic. First, it recognizes that government can take place through a number practices and institutions and that these institutions need not all be centered in the state, but also branch out into the private sector. Secondly, it emphasizes the logic of government. Through the notion of ‘borgingsmechanismen,’ it approaches the issue of public interests as an issue of discipline and not one of rule. Government by means of the market, or competition, is one of the options among many. And thus irrespective of the governmental arrangements chosen, the WRR argues that they should be judged along the principles of good government: democratic legitimacy, equality before the law, rule of law, effectiveness, and efficiency.
While it hardly says so, this study and the others were clearly provoked by the neoliberal political rationality that has been taking hold in the Netherlands. As shown by its impact over the discourse of the other reports, the WRR appears to have voiced a central concern. Their discourse and that of many other reports on the safeguarding of public interests is, I argue, in the end a reactionary discourse, or a discourse marked by resistance to the market. It resists the establishment of the market as the ultimate political norm. This is evident from the way ‘public interests’ are brought to bear on the discussion, but mostly so because of the choice in wording: ‘waarborgen,’ safeguarding. This choice of words appears to be deliberate:
Het behandelt de vraag hoe publieke belangen - dat wil zeggen maatschappelijke belangen waarvoor de overheid de eindverantwoordelijkheid op zich neemt - het beste zijn te ‘borgen’, in de zin van “beletten dat iets los of verloren gaat”. (WRR 2000, 9)
Safeguarding stands for ‘preventing that something is being lost,’ and that ‘something’ are public interests. Throughout the discourse of the policy councils a variety of strategies have already been put forward to give form to the resistance against a neoliberal order: supervision (‘toezicht)’, regulation, self-regulation, market structuring, and market authorities (‘marktmeesterschap’). As part of this tendency, the WRR report should be read as a discursive attempt to bring in the concept of public interests to counter and displace a neoliberal governmental rationality that was slowly getting a hold of the Netherlands. In doing so, it has effectively turned a debate over the market into a debate over public interests. While we appear to speak about the market, we are in fact talking about public interests. This, I think, could be read as a quintessentially Dutch twist to an otherwise neoliberal governmental rationality.

By way of conclusion, the question that thus remains is how to read and interpret this Dutch twist of market discourse. While the approach to the market fits with a governmental political rationality, it however puts up the notion of public interests to resist and contest the emergence of a neoliberal order. This can be interpreted to mean different things. It could be interpreted as a return to, or remainder of a sovereign logic, namely a renewed assertion of a clear political primacy over the governmental order. It could also be interpreted that a governmental order, and certainly the seemingly a-political market dominated order of neoliberalism cannot exist without a renewed assertion of political stakes. One could also imagine interpretations that are more cynical. The appeal to public interests, could for instance serve to merely sweeten or give a veneer of legitimacy to an otherwise increasingly neoliberal order. Or it presents a possibly mistaken desire that the governmental order, may ultimately be a rational order, based on a calculation of the public interests (viz. Teulings et al. 2003). In that scenario, the inclusion of the market in the governmental matrix is nothing other than a continuation of the ideals of social engineering, as for instance Duyvendak en de Haan (1997) have argued.

Table 4: Summary of all Reports Analyzed

Author Year Title Area Research Question Main Argument Dominant Image of Market Displacement Rearticulation State
Council for Public Administration (ROB) 1998 Pricing / Praising government into and out of the market General Under what circumstances can the provisioning of public services be subject to market forces? Introducing market forces into the provisioning of public services carries the risk of undermining public interests, therefore it requires public surveillance and supervision. Marktwerking: marketmechanism as instrument for realizing public goals in the interests of citizens, because it:
- offers more freedom of choice
- is more efficient
- is more creative / innovative Public Interests require government safeguarding and protection from market forces. Government determines limits of markets, surveils, facilitates and corrects markets.
Council for Public Health and Healthcare
(RVZ) 1998 Between Market and State Healthcare How to deal with the tension between the market and the regulation of supply in the provisioning of healthcare? Argues that ‘real’ markets for healthcare may be unfeasible, but one should nonetheless move in the direction of more market forces by introducing the concept of ‘joint administration’ Market populism: the market represents demand and consumer interests, freedom of choice but not supply. ‘Real’ markets may be unfeasible, but market displaces argument toward demand side (vraagsturing) In ‘joint administration,’ the state guides and surveils (deregulates supply, stimulates social entrepreneurship, consults with partners).
The Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) 1999 Market and Government General What legislation is needed to regulate market activities of the state (concerning he so-called Market-Government problem)? Legislation should abide by two requirements:
1. No market activities without statutory basis.
2. Proven net welfare effect when weighing private interests and public goals. Unimpeded Competition is socially neutral (‘Level Playing Field’). [market-constructivism] Re-imposes the market also to evaluate the market activities of the state. Public interests are made subject to Welfare Calculation.
State surveils welfare outcomes.
Council for Transportation and Water Management (RVW) 2000 More Market, Different Government Transport and Infrastructure In what circumstances is the market better at supplying Transport and Infrastructural services than the government? The market is better than the government at knowing and supplying what people want (‘maatwerk vraagt marktwerking’) and does so with greater efficiency. Competition: Mechanism for social provisioning that is based on consumer sovereignty and not on central authority. Populist Displacement: the market is better suited to supply what people want than – a democratic – government. State governs from a distance and exercises power by means of surveillance or supervision over the market.
Education Council
(OR) 2001a Public and Private: Prospects and consequences of private resources for public education Education What are the wishes, possibilities and consequences of employing private resources for public education The market - in the form of (financial) resources – can at best supplement the state. It should never replace the state in providing public education and can only perform functions in its margin. The market is foremost a funding resource which is and should only be a supplement to and not a substitute for state support. Market is delegated to the margins of the state and prohibited from the core activities of education. State is firmly reinforced in center and issues of market supplied education are deflected. State is primary responsible for supplying basic goods of education and determines delimitation of the market.
Education Council
(OR) 2001b Mastering the Market? Education To what extent are there markets and market forces at play for education and what are the implications for the relation between education, the state and the market? The extent of the market and market forces for education are diverse but nonetheless limited and hardly the effect of government policy. Its possible benefits remains confined to bringing supply more in tune with demand and some limited efficiency effects, however this requires adequate government regulation. While the market and market forces may bring enhance performance, innovation, efficiency, distribution, and additional funding, its main attribute is consumer sovereignty. Market (Re-) constructivism: while the role of the state as funder and regulator of education goes uncontested, the encounter with the idea of the market helped to expose typical market issues such as consumer sovereignty, performance, innovation, efficiency and accessibility, it may however crowd out other views, and constructs the market as the new norm. State remains the sovereign provider of education, yet by reconstructing its activities after the image of the market, it is rearticulated to enhance consumer sovereignty.
Council for Transportation and Water Management
(RVW) 2003 Careful Introduction of the Market in Vital Infrastructural Services Transport and Infrastructure What lessons can be learned from recent negative experiences around the introduction of markets for the ways in which the market is being introduced in infrastructural services? As ideal-typical benefits of markets do not emerge automatically and in order to safeguard public interests, the introduction of markets requires:
- a more comprehensive analytical framework for analysis of markets
- awareness of risk and uncertainty
- management of processes of change - Benefits of market forces do not emerge automatically but are outcome of complex processes of change and careful design. [constructivist image of market]
- competition
- private parties
- demand incentives Internal displacement within the concept of the market:
- within chain of supply
- with regard to dimensions of
a. liberalization
b. privatization
c. de/regulation
Rearticulation of its role as guardian of Public Interests:
from safeguarding to managing the ‘marketization’ process.
Council for Public Health and Healthcare
(RVZ) 2003a From Patient to Customer Healthcare What conditions, means and incentives are needed to move healthcare suppliers to account better for healthcare demands? Enable the establishing of customerrelations (which ideally include payment-relations) between patients and Healthcare providers. Where these relations cannot be established directly alternative solutions should be devised, preferably in the form of client interest groups. Market populism: the market represents freedom of choice and consumer sovereignty [autonomy]. Market (re)constructivism: Demand Side Imagery (choice and payment: ‘exit’ strategies) is used to make a largely state regulated and funded sector more attuned to the interests of its constituency. While the primary responsible for Healthcare in terms of supply and quality standards, the state also becomes responsible for responding to demand.
Council for Transportation and Water Management
(RVW) 2004 What Do You Mean, Market Forces …? Transport and Infrastructure How to improve – given negative results in terms of prices, quality and choice - the effectiveness of changes in market order of infrastructural services? Since real markets for infrastructural services are hardly attainable, there is a need for greater explication of the public interests at stake and more careful management of introducing markets into this sector Real market:
- liberalization: competition
- privatization: private actors
- de/regulation: rules/freedom
Market in reality: - government induced demand driven: consumer interests The idea of market forces (most notably competition) and ‘real markets’ is displaced by that of government induced demand driven supply. Market supervisor in order to safeguard public interests and manager of the ‘marketization’ process.
Council for Public Health and Healthcare
(RVZ) 2004 Due Care Healthcare To what extent are levels of healthcare consumption in the Netherlands appropriate and what, if any, additional incentives are needed to prevent needless Healthcare consumption and control Healthcare costs in a system governed by market demand [question for devising an invisible hand][market is equated with squander or unchecked consumption] From an international perspective, Healthcare consumption in the Netherlands appears to be moderate and there seems to be no evidence of overconsumption. If any further incentives are needed, non-financial incentives, such as information in the form of Healthcare education, health needs screening and performance standards are deemed to be more effective than purely financial incentives. While market forces in Healthcare are generally equated with demand and consumer choice, the report grapples with the issue that this may present an incomplete account of the market as the supply side and equilibrating forces of for instance prices appear to be absent. [market (re)constructivism]: the idea of the market is invoked to further reconstruct the market for health by shifting emphasis to equilibrating forces. The state is given the task to devise further structures that simulate an invisible hand.

Table 5: Frequency Distribution of all (relevant) Terms in all 12 Reports
ROB 1998 RVZ 1998 SER 1999 RVW 2000 WRR 2000 OR 2001a OR 2001b RVW 2003 RVZ 2003a RVZ 2003b RVW 2004 RVZ 2004 TOTAAL
PUBLIEKE 96 20 85 27 968 170 43 14 0 37 162 1 1623
BELANG(EN) 23 30 53 66 1042 37 46 20 22 49 218 9 1615
OVERHEID 106 85 135 233 583 43 164 2 23 30 72 19 1495
MARKT(EN) 77 46 98 150 245 37 295 8 23 60 67 6 1112
PRIVATE 22 7 29 45 369 316 65 0 1 6 28 1 889
MARKTWERKING 85 83 5 38 53 13 247 11 35 192 48 10 820
CONCURRENTIE 21 11 41 125 222 10 67 8 8 10 45 2 570
VRAAG 29 37 56 34 100 38 57 8 34 62 35 17 507
BORGING 0 0 0 0 278 0 0 0 1 9 26 0 314
AANBOD 1 12 0 46 2 17 100 3 21 35 27 3 267
TOEZICHT 76 14 21 25 73 0 3 0 5 3 39 1 260
MAATSCHAPPELIJKE 14 8 1 21 70 79 32 0 7 6 20 0 258
STAAT 6 20 6 14 68 32 37 2 20 17 19 17 258
KOSTEN 17 15 32 20 26 21 21 0 23 35 13 28 251
BELEID 10 32 6 14 86 13 50 1 11 11 12 4 250
VERANTWOORDELIJKHEID 38 5 1 13 147 4 15 0 6 2 10 6 247
BORGEN 0 0 0 0 192 0 2 2 4 3 31 0 234
MARKTACTIVITEIT(EN) 0 0 195 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 195
FINANCIERING 0 5 1 16 3 130 18 0 2 14 1 2 192
PRIVATISERING 7 1 2 4 105 6 12 4 0 0 30 0 171
ECONOMISCHE 4 3 40 10 29 7 18 0 1 11 25 1 149
OVERHEDEN 4 0 70 12 25 1 4 3 0 0 21 1 141
POLITIEK 15 7 2 8 50 1 2 3 0 2 44 1 135
VERZELFSTANDIGING 4 0 2 38 42 1 7 2 0 0 25 0 121
GOEDEREN 18 4 13 15 24 6 23 2 0 0 12 0 117
PRIKKELS 2 4 0 4 3 0 1 0 31 4 2 50 101
MARKTORDENING 1 0 0 0 5 0 0 11 1 0 80 0 98
EFFICIENTIE 6 0 1 0 54 18 9 0 3 0 4 0 95
TOEZICHTHOUDER 13 0 40 0 6 0 0 0 1 0 34 0 94
VRAAGSTURING 0 14 0 0 0 1 0 0 27 8 35 5 90
CONSUMENT 3 0 0 12 5 1 30 1 4 4 13 15 88

Original Sources
OR 2001a
Publiek en Privaat: Mogelijkheden en Gevolgen van Private Middelen in het Publieke Onderwijs
Onderwijsraad: Den Haag
OR 2001b De Markt Meester? Een verkenning naar marktwerking in het onderwijs
Onderwijsraad: 's-Gravenhage
ROB 1998 De Overheid de markt in- of uitprijzen
Raad voor het openbaar bestuur: 's-Gravenhage
RVW 2000 Meer Markt, Andere Overheid: Advies over de veranderende relatie tussen markt en overheid op terreinen van Verkeer en Watestaat
Raad voor Verkeer en Waterstaat: 's-Gravenhage
RVW 2004 Hoezo Marktwerking.? Over de borging van publieke belangen en effectief trajectmanagement bij veranderingen in de marktordening van vitale infrastructuurgebonden sectoren
Raad voor Verkeer en Waterstaat: 's-Gravenhage,
RVW and AE (2003) Zorgvuldig Omgaan met de Introductie van Marktwerking rond Vitale Infrastructrurele Voorzieningen
Raad voor Verkeer en Waterstaat en Algemene Energieraad: 's-Gravenhage
RVZ 1998 Tussen Overheid en Markt
Raad voor de Volksgezondheid en Zorg: Zoetermeer
RVZ 2003a Van Patient tot Klant
Raad voor de Volksgezondheid en Zorg: Zoetermeer
RVZ 2003b Marktwerking in de Medisch Specialistische Zorg
Raad voor de Volksgezondheid en Zorg: Zoetermeer
RVZ 2004 Gepaste Zorg
Raad voor de Volksgezondheid en Zorg: Zoetermeer
SER 1999 Markt en Overheid
Sociaal Economische Raad: 's-Gravenhage
WRR 2000 Het Borgen van Publiek Belang
Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid: 's-Gravenhage,

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