The New York Times: Going Dutch

Discussion in 'Politics' started by jason_els, May 4, 2009.

  1. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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  2. Bbucko

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    Great article, Jason: thanks for posting it.

    Much of what I read reminded me of living in France in the early 90s, especially the parts about worker productivity and vacations. When people quoted their salary, it was so much per month for so many months. Most were paid based on a 13-month plan, but 13.5 and 14 month plans were not unheard of. I thought wistfully about how I'd managed a three-week vacation from my employer back in Boston: one week paid outright and ten weeks of six-day weeks where the payment was deferred to the time I'd be taking my trip. If I hadn't been working for an entrepreneur who was amenable to being flexible in that regard I could never have gone on that life-changing trip to Spain in May of 1990.

    I also remembered the drama of finding core-staple businesses (bread-bakeries and green grocers) who were open in August, when practically my entire neighborhood (Bastille/Nation) was closed for les vacances, and the difficulty I had getting meat on Sunday year-round.

    One thing that became immediately apparent to me was that the sheer livability I enjoyed (high concentrations of all levels of stores and merchandise to the astonishing variety of bars, bistros and cafes to the excellent, affordable public transportation) came from the fact that life in the city was something to be proud of and savored, not some inconvenient, dirty compromise from the suburban "ideal", and community was more than an address. Urban living was a point of pride, not shame.

    One thing that differed completely in my experience from the article is the push to conformity and understatement, which are no doubt culturally Dutch. Nothing could be further from the truth about the people I met in Paris or Barcelona or Madrid, where life really did feel like an Almodovar movie most of the time.
     
  3. swordfishME

    swordfishME Member

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    Great Article Jason....

    One thing that I have learned as an expat living in Europe and Asia for the last 5 years, is that we as americans are very individualistic. The marriage of Capatialism and Socialism that premeates in Europe requires a more "collective benefit" approach to life than the "indvidual benefit" approach that Americans are so identified with. Europe requires a lot of give and take from its inhabitants and Americans are mostly about the take.
     
  4. B_Hung Jon

    B_Hung Jon New Member

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    Yet so many Americans consider themselves "christian". I just wonder how the golden rule gets translated into our capitalistic attitudes? It doesn't make any sense to me.
     
  5. houtx48

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    i have found that the people that beat the drum about how great the united states the loudest are one that have never left the state they were born in. while i have no great complaints about my life here in this country, everybody has to be someplace, the world does not end at the US border.
     
  6. Joll

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    Interesting article (I read the first page fully - only skimmed through the others).

    The British welfare system seems somewhere between the two - maybe closer to the Dutch system, though.

    PS: Didn't the Dutch found New York? :p
     
  7. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Yes they did and their influence is still felt in that the attitude of New Yorkers is, "the business of New York is business." The richest man in New York is its mayor, its government is incomprehensible, and it's a city that doesn't mind open displays of obscene wealth. It's also why it's difficult to get New Yorkers to riot and why the city didn't go to pieces after 9/11.

    When the British first invaded in 1664 with a flotilla of war ships ready for a long and bloody battle, the Dutch governor, the imperious and tyrannical Pieter Stuyvesant, was informed and asked for a meeting. He ceded the colony to the British without a shot because he was said to say that he didn't care whose flag flew overhead so long as business wasn't interrupted. And that's largely been the policy of the city since through every war (including the Revolution) and every crisis.

    Little bits of Dutch ancestry pervade the city here and there. Front steps are still called stoops, rivers are frequently named kills, wetlands named meers, and there are still buildings here and there in the Dutch style.
     
  8. Joll

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    Cheers for the info Jase - very interesting! I watched a documentary a couple of years back about NYC through the ages - was fascinating.

    Interesting the bits of history that filter through. Wetlands are called meres here - must be from the same word originally.
    Front steps are still called stoeps in South Africa - must be the same, from Dutch/Afrikaans.

    Another bit of Anglo-Dutch history - found out recently Cromwell was considering merging England with the Netherlands at one point, presumably because of their Protestantism.

    Pieter Stuyvesant?...he of the cigarettes? :p
     
  9. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    The one thing the article did not mention, is that Dutch LOVE to PARTY, which is what makes them all other politics, etc. aside, one of the great cultures of the world. Ok, here are some comments on the differences between living here and there, having done both.

    Health care. There is no question that the health care in Holland is universal, which makes a big difference, but you can purchase private care, if you want to pay. The Dutch feel a civic responsibility to be healthy. Doctors there will also really make you toe the line with regard to health and weight. And if you are over weight, it can make you an object of social ridicule as you walk by any cafe. The Dutch are overwhelmingly trimmer (and taller, being the tallest culture on the planet) than Americans, however when the Dutch move here, they do become "bigger." This has as much to do with our dependence on the car, as the Dutch have on the bike, as well as the high fat content fast food diet still so prevalent in America. I think America ranks in the bottom six countries in time spent on meals per day at about one hour, or less. The French at the top at closer to two hours - they also sleep more.

    Housing. It used to be less in Holland, but things have changed. Cities like Amsterdam are no longer cheap. 10 years ago flats were very undervalued, but with the adoption of the euro, and the price increases from cheap money, similar to what the US experienced, housing in Amsterdam shot above California prices once per square foot, and exchange rates were considered. Public housing, unlike here, is highly sought after. In the '70s squatters (true socialism, or libertarianism?) overtook a lot of older buildings in Amsterdam, and it showed, but that is no longer the case. Other cities, such as Rotterdam have less expensive housing. It's significant if you figure that half of your paycheck goes to the government. Try buying an apartment in NYC under those terms.

    Funny, they went back to the polder system as the basis for Dutch egalitarianism. You are taught this in school from Grade 4 on. There is no question that "sharing water" with your neighbor will make you change the way you interact. The English convention of riparian rights (where up to 6 feet from shore of the water flowing by your land is "yours") created huge water wars, especially in the Western US, since we use that legal concept. As opposed to the Dutch trying to get rid of water, Westerners were trying to keep it, thus damming rivers upstream, and depriving those downstream of any. (You should see what the Rio Grande looks like when entering Mexico from the US.) When everyone is literally "underwater," it does change your mindset as to whether or not you have a future that is not a collective one.

    Taxes. Although the published tax rates are very high, those who run their own business, or know the loopholes, just as we who do the same here do, are creative in figuring out ways to pay less tax. Despite all the "socialism," in Holland, there is no capital gains tax.

    One of the oldest ruses in Holland, and Europe is under reporting the price you pay when you purchase a home. This reduces your property tax basis, and allows cash to be converted into real property.

    The current socialist model works to a point. When dealing with immigrants you will find the Dutch attitudes can be quite hard line. If an immigrant group does not buy into the Dutch culture, but reaps the economic benefit, there is real anger and resentment. e.g. Moroccans who do not learn Dutch, and largely keep to their own community. The responses can border on racism. The older generation can be very misgiving of intercultural marriages.

    The system also works because Holland is very small. It is actually one of the most dense human communities on the planet, despite having a population of only 15 million. It is also one of the most polluted, if you count water borne pollutants. The Dutch constantly complain about having no room. Given their close proximity, it's easier to design a system to fit a less far ranging array of tastes, and customs.

    Aside from healthcare, the single biggest difference between American government spending and the Dutch is the military. I have blathered on here before about how grossly the US over spends on our "defense," but it is true. The US spends about $1 trillion on the military once you take into account all the off-balance sheet items. That's about 8% of GDP. If you were to spend about 1/3 of the Dutch national budget (vs. 1.5% of GDP they do spend) on the military, there is no way the level of health care, vacation pay, or other social programs would be possible. Simply put Americans could get lots more from their government, which would vastly improve their daily life, if they agreed to a smaller military.

    If America were to cut the military to a budget level on par with Holland, or Germany, we'd free up, at minimum, $400M, perhaps double that once all branches of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, DOD, and Veterans Affairs are taken into consideration. That's enough to pay for the entire stimulus pkg. every year. There is no political will to reduce the military, especially the big weapons systems, because parts for these systems are made in almost every district of every state, a legacy of Casper Weinberger, and David Stockman during the Reagan years.

    Hundreds of years later, I am in total agreement with Pieter Stuyvesant, freely flowing economics, not the military, or nationalism, is the way to keep the citizens prosperous, and happy.

    BTW - there was a great deal of overlap between the British and Dutch cultures. If you recall when the Brits were short of a King (having deposed James II), they asked Prince William of Orange (Protestant) to come over and "fill in," in order to remove a Catholic Head of State - James.
     
  10. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Very cool. Do not forget that Mary was summoned as well due to her direct relationship to Sophia, Electress of Hanover. She was the only British queen married to a king who was Queen-in-her-own-right (as opposed to Queen-consort) meaning she held as much power as he did.

    Your reply was fantastic! Thank you!
     
  11. Joll

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    They certainly do! :p The Dutch hav long been exporters of the finest hard-core techno in Europe, heheh. Many of the best clubs (in the 90s anyway) were in Rotterdam. Also quite a number of trance djs/remixers are Dutch (Ferry Corsten in particular). Great footballers too.

    It seemed to work out really well bringing William of Orange over here - I think it did Britain a great deal of good. Moved us on a stage really into a different era. I think also, Protestant nations in general (apart from Italy during the Renaissance perhaps) have tended to be quite free-thinking and maybe more progressive than Catholic ones. Maybe people would disagree with that though...

    The Dutch are admired over here for their relaxed and mature attitude to alcohol and sex. The drinking culture is much healthier than in the UK - less binge-drinking and more moderation in bars/cafes, etc. over longer hours. Also, I think the rates of teenage pregancy are much lower there - maybe due to a much more open approach to sex education? (I'm sure you know all this already...but just thought I'd add my tuppence-worth lol).

    I'm also quite impressed with road safety initiatives in the Netherlands. They're trying out schemes where there are far less road markings, so people have to think for themselves and be more cautious - as opposed to the current British habit of trying to do everything for the driver...and drowning us in a mass of unecessary road signs and markings.

    Not sure if the relaxed attitiude to immigration and drugs has worked quite so well, though...
     
    #11 Joll, May 6, 2009
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  12. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    Good connecting points you raise...

    Mary's life is full of twists and turns, but she is so eclipsed in history by Elizabeth, she becomes almost a footnote.

    Sophia is an also an interesting figure, as she missed becoming Queen of England by a scant few weeks, having predeceased Anne. If she had become Queen, she would have been the oldest person to have crowned. No small achievement among oft banished, beheaded, and abdicating royals.

    In addition to political matters, the countries share a fair amount of linguistic heritage; it is often said that old English was much more similar to Dutch, than how we speak it today. Cheers!
     
  13. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    I often contribute the Dutch love of a great party (gezelligheid, similar to the German gemuetlichkeit), to the weather, which can be very moody. The need to duck into an Amsterdam brown cafe to escape a shower is almost constant!

    In addition to the current Dutch football sides, which have been nicely led by Marco Van Basten in both the World and Europa Cups, the great Dutch sides of the 70's changed the game. Johann Cruyff is still one of my all time favorite players. Here's my favorite quote of his:

    "I don't believe in God. In Spain all 22 players make a sign of the cross upon entering the pitch, if it works the game is always going to be a tie."


    Generalities by nature only cover part of the equation, but overall Protestantism, with the emphasis on individual choice, rather than interpretation by the Pope, gave their believers greater opportunity for dissent, individualism and innovation. S

    In pioneering economic, rather than military/political imperialism, the Dutch in the 1600's have hopefully set the tone for the next century. This is one area where companies, rather than governments, can lead by example.

    I have never quite understood why some of the lads in the UK continue to drink into their 30's and 40's, as if they are still 16, especially the sporting crews, at either football matches, motorcycle races, or on vacation in foreign countries. I can assure you not everyone in Holland drinks in moderation. The Nacht Van Assen, part of the Assen TT, a motorcycle race run since the 20's, is a legendary bacchanal.

    One thing I do find amazing is the complete willingness to uphold the law in the Netherlands. For instance, everyone will sit patiently and wait in-line in a multi-hour traffic jam, whereas in the US, you'd see people going around, above, or thru in an instant.

    Must be funny for you lads driving on the other side while on the Continent... I'll never forget a relative jerking asleep from a nap, while we were motoring in the UK, and trying to yank the wheel out of my hands and over to the other side of the road. Talk about driving on instinct.
     
  14. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    This is true. Dutch is close to English. The closest language to English, and one which is most comprehensible if you listen carefully, is West Frisian, apparently still spoken in the outlying islands of The Netherlands.

     
  15. B_4inches

    B_4inches New Member

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    This has been a really nice thread to read. Thanks to you Jason and you especially duc :)
     
  16. Joll

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    #16 Joll, May 7, 2009
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  17. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    Friesland, especially the islands, has a slightly different history from Holland. Friesland has been democratic since the 12th century, which is remarkable since most of the rest of northern Europe, including England, was still on a feudal system. Respected by the Romans (who called Holland Batavia), Frieslanders, whose kingdom included parts of Northern Germany, and Denmark, was one of the most sophisticated early economies as they used silver when everyone else was using the barter system. Being a water based people Frieslanders regularly conducted trade throughout northern Europe by boat. Hence the mercantile influence in their economics.

    There definitely is linguistic overlap with Friesan, Dutch and English, but one thing that does not translate from the page is the phoentics. The Dutch "Ghh" sound is unique. Even the Hebrew "Ghh" is relatively lightweight by comparison. Speaking of linguistic variants, Flemish, a form of Dutch spoken in Belgium (Gent, Antwerpen, etc.), has a flatter accent than Amsterdamers, or other Dutch denizens. Zuid Afrikaans, or Dutch spoken in South Africa is the flattest of all forms of Dutch, somewhat similar to Australian English, as compared with the Queen's.

    One other interesting item in Friesian/Dutch history is the height of the people, because genetically they are not so different from the English, Germans, and Danes. The herring catches from the North Sea ensured a plentiful supply of protein during times of drought, and famine, which enabled the Dutch to grow taller than their neighboring counterparts. Hup Holland!
     
  18. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    I always thought the class system, and the ensuing lack of merit based career advancement, in the UK contributed much to the way alcohol is handled. I was floored to see big lorry drivers slam down 2, or 3 large pints before last call at lunch, back when that was the law, and then head out on the road for deliveries. The derivation of pubs closing after lunch law due to the non-returnees to the munitions factories during WWII (as it was told to me) was equally surprising.

    Yeah, funny how something so basic, which one has seen hundreds of times, finally divulges it's origins/meanings!
     
  19. D_Tully Tunnelrat

    D_Tully Tunnelrat New Member

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    I think I just made the connection that you were referring to Mary the II, Williams' wife, whom I had forgotten about. lol Perhaps he did too, as I see in further re-reading of William's life numerous allegations of homosexuality, something that was conveniently omitted from my high school texts, but probably not from his wife's notice!
     
  20. Joll

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    Class definitely had a lot to do with it over here. Traditionally, pub culture tended to be a working class preserve - until recently anyway. Binge-drinking (especially among teens) tends to be across the board now.
     
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