I'm a little late to the party in commenting on it, but this article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine is worth reading, for a fascinating and detailed look at what it's like to live in the Netherlands and participate in a high-tax, welfare state economy. The Dutch system is an interesting mix of public and private elements, and it has its good and bad points, but for many people, particularly families, it sounds like you get your money's worth! It's hard to sum up the article in a quick quote, as the whole point is that the usual stereotypes don't apply and the system is full of surprising contradictions:
American perceptions of European-style social welfare are seriously skewed. The system in which I have embedded myself has its faults, some of them lampoonable. But does the cartoon image of it — encapsulated in the dread slur “socialism,” which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring?Read the rest of "Going Dutch" to find out!
Let's focus first on the slur. I spent my initial months in Amsterdam under the impression that I was living in a quasi-socialistic system, built upon ideas that originated in the brains of Marx and Engels. This was one of the puzzling features of the Netherlands. It is and has long been a highly capitalistic country — the Dutch pioneered the multinational corporation and advanced the concept of shares of stock, and last year the country was the third-largest investor in U.S. businesses — and yet it has what I had been led to believe was a vast, socialistic welfare state. How can these polar-opposite value systems coexist?