05 May 2009

Let's Drop the Anti-French Schtick and Turn Our Ire Towards the Dutch

More Amsterdam Weirdness Here

So 6 years after "Freedom Fries" came into the American lexicon as a symbol of our disdain for all things euro-weenie, we're seeing the French Navy defying all stereotypes and really kicking pirate ass . From Fox (by way of TSO):
When the boats were close enough, Lt. Commander Jean-Marc le Quilliec sent his commandos out on outboards, with a helicopter to provide air support.

The helicopter fired two warning shots to stop the three boats from fleeing and within minutes the 11 pirates had surrendered.

Two of the attack boats were small skiffs which the pirates used as attack vessels and the third was a 30-foot mothership, used to transport supplies such as petrol, water and food.
I also recently visited Yorktown, where if the French weren't helping us out, we might still be under the rule of the hated British. So, perhaps we were all a bit hasty in castigating the French earlier this decade, showing our boorish and uncouth nature as Americans.

But, let's not spare any mercy for those commies in the Netherlands! The New York Times Magazine has an extensive article about the pros and cons of a writer living under the social safety net of the Dutch:
Geert Mak, the Dutch author, insisted that happiness is tied directly to the social system. We were sitting at his favorite cafe, a hangout of Dutch journalists since the end of World War II, and the genial, old-wood setting of the place, as well as its location, around the corner from the Dam and the center of the city’s history, added a bit of luster to his words and reminded me, for the thousandth time, why I’m still here, despite the downside. “One problem with the American system,” he said, “is that if you lose your job and are without an income, that’s not just bad for you but for the economy. Our system has more security. And I think it makes our quality of life better. My American friends say they live in the best country in the world, and in a lot of ways they are right. But they always have to worry: ‘What happens to my family if I have a heart attack? What happens when I turn 65 or 70?’ America is the land of the free. But I think we are freer.”
Hmm, I'm curious from any commenters across the pond. It seems that the state ultimately has you "over a barrel" from cradle to grave by getting you wrapped up into various social programs. We have too many as it is in the States and the culture of entitlement has led to some notable decay in otherwise once prosperous cities (e.g. Detroit). Also, the pro side of a large safety net assumes that the purpose of life is "happiness", but then you run into this Eloi-like culture of frolicking and doing it in the streets just waiting for some Morlock to come eat you. But that's just my dumb opinion, what's yours?


dutchmarbel said...

What specifically do you want to know? What I like better in Americans, in general, or why I prefer the Netherlands?

I think that Americans are more enthousiastic, more 'hands on' than we are. I think that Dutch people take the 'cradle to grave' safety net too much for granted sometimes. Fortunately I can vote for a party that believes in individual responsibility, because we have much more choice than you do in election time ;)

We have a consensus society. We are more inclined to search for common ground and I find that Americans are more polarizing. I prefer our ways and feel that it usually leads to a situation that I find at least acceptable and that most people are ok with. Americans are imho more inclined to perceive things as either win or loose.

I wish childcare was as easy as the author described, but he is definately on the mark with healthcare. It is affordable for everybody (linked to the individual not the employer, we pay 350 dollar for a family of 5) and though we have a few weeks of waitinglist if we want to make an appointment with a specialist I can always see my MP either the same or the next day. My child got a high fever this Easter weekend. My GP doesn't work weekends so I called the doctors telephoneline in our neighbourhood (in most hospitals they are situated in the ER). They wanted to see my son, I made an appointment for half an hour later, saw the doctor and was home again with prescribed antibiotics exactly one hour after I called. In 27 years I've never had any communications with my health insurance company other than sending them bills if I had to pay for something directly and them reïnbursing me for the appropriate amounts. I have free choice of doctors, hospitals and specialists.

Full time work means 36-40 hours a week. My husband works 4 days of 9 hours and has one day to take care of our three sons. I have friends without children who work 4 days and spend one day on learning things they love, or their hobby, travelling or just their leasure. My GP works part-time because she has a busy live next to her job. And yes, my husband has about 6 weeks of holiday per year.

Though we all complain about our schoolsystem our youth performs well in international comparisons (www.pisa.oecd.org) and everybody who is smart enough can get a government loan to study at a university. Intergenerational social mobility in the Netherlands is higher than in the States.

The chance of getting really rich is much lower in the Netherlands, but a much bigger percentage of the population has a good enough income. I am a SAHM and my husband works for a big Dutch bank, which is not the most secure industry in the current crisis. Yet we know that if he is made redundant our income will decrease gradually, giving him enough time to search for a job that he likes and that pays enough. We will be able to pay for the mortgage of our house and we will all keep our health insurance. Ditto if he (as our breadwinner) gets and accident or gets very ill.

We are a very egalitarian society with a lot of respect for common sense and practical solutions. Everybody is entitled to their opinion and everybody is most definately allowed to disagree, which makes us rather blunt or even rude for people who come from less outspoken cultures.

I used to like holidays in the States, but I would never want to live there. Does that answer your curiosity?

Anonymous said...

well it answered mine. USA has a lot to learn. The Netherlands have some very good policies that could make the USA a much more enjoyable place to live. Thank you for your comments.

Lisa said...

Yes, I enjoyed dutchmarbel's comment. She has hit upon one of the major tragedies in the U.S. today -- that of our highly polarized culture.

The good of the nation is not the determinant of opinion, but rather which party one affiliates with. We are becoming foolish caricatures of a once-free nation now ruled by hatred and intolerance. We are kept spinning our wheels by our exclusionary posture to (you name it).

Gays, pro-choicers, pro-lifers, "people on the other side." NIMBY is our rallying call.

If one sides with "live and let live," we fear all hell will break loose in an Eloi-like situation. Only freaks and Oregonians live without ramparts, because, y'know, teh gay will come for yer kids. We fear all of this because we are so immature and hate-filled.

We're so anti-tax, but what makes for a livable life, and how much does one need? Are most poeple's needs met in the U.S.?

Makes me think the days of American empire are numbered.

Bag Blog said...

The Dutch do have some interesting policies. And the the days of American empire may be over - because we are becoming more of a socialist country every day.

Lisa said...

Empire ends when overreach occurs and the coffers are empty. See the Brits for an example.

Kinda like what what 2-term Bush has left us with.

subrookie said...

Lisa, although our highly polarized culture is one of the not so good things about the US, in my opinion the corporate culture of 2 weeks vacation a year is the other. Much like the Dutch, one of my best friends is a German teacher in Bavaria. She gets at least 6 weeks holiday a year, and because far less people are being born than are dying she gets 1 year paid leave if she gets pregnant.

Americans put in more hours at work than any other nation, even more than the Japanese. We average nine more weeks of work per year than our working counterparts in Western Europe (like the Dutch), who get at least 20 paid days of vacation each year. It sucks. I've worked with Fins, Germans, Englishmen, Canadians, and Japanese. With the exception of the Japanese, I think every other nation actually grasps the concept that having some time off actually improves productivity.

That being said, wasn't the 6 weeks off 36 hour work week a total failure in France? I'd be happy with even a compromise, I get 2 weeks off a year and work 45 hour work weeks on 25% less than I made last year.

Thanks for your comments Dutch.

Nixon said...

Thank you for the input DutchMarbel, very insightful. As for the ends of empire you need bread and circuses too (as Cicero noted). Which I guess is "organic" foods and American Idol in the 21st century.

dutchmarbel said...

Which I guess is "organic" foods and American Idol in the 21st century.Fish and Kris ;)

But if you are scared you might like my lovely country too much, I can direct you to the forum of our English speaking expatcommunity. Filled with critisism about 'The Swamp' or 'The Netherworld' and us 'cloggies': our shops are too small, they have to pack their own shopping, we speak English too often - but badly - and our national IRS doesn't want to speak English, we expect them to learn Dutch, we are rude...

Nixon said...


Sounds like you should borrow some Americanesque rhetoric in dealing with these snooty types. "Love it or get the fuck out!" haha.

dutchmarbel said...

Or go British :)

The funny thing is that many of the things that irritate the hell our of them are the things that I really appreciate in the Netherlands. Guess there's no place like home ;)

Lisa said...


I agree -- we do not value downtime or solace at all! (I'm being tweeted, must blackberry...) Like the Japanese, it is a badge of honor to say how exhausted we are, how late we stayed at the office . . .

When you face death, will you remember fondly those sacrifices?


You've just done a cross-country, so you know the bread is white Sunbeam or Dixie Lily or a Little Debbie product (no organic in there), but you are correct that the circus is any number of Idol/reality shows.

Our eyes are now comfortable with the impossible number of shaky quick frame shifts. We cannot even follow a plot, lest we become bored.

olgreydog7 said...

I just want to point out that I don't think the Dutch system would work here. Not because it is bad, but because we aren't Dutch. Social systems work great in small countries or in countries that have large revenue outside of taxes. They have yet to be proven to work in large countries or countries that do not have outside revenue.