11 June 2010

Dutch Politics and the Social Model

(**Disclaimer.** I can only claim to be reasonably proficient in Dutch. About 95% of the sources and media I have used have been in Dutch, so therefore I may have missed key points or the spirit of the source. This article is in no way definitive and is just written as a guide to the Dutch Political and Social model for those who have no previous knowledge. It has also been filmed before a live studio audience.)

As expected and is custom, the Dutch General Election of June 9th 2010 has produced a result with no clear majority for any party. As is also the custom, the closed doors horse trading and protracted negotiations begin in earnest. The processes involved in forming a new Dutch Government are notable for the length of time it takes. On average 79.8 days are needed to form a new cabinet from election day. The longest took place in 1977 with 208 days and the shortest 10 days in 1956.

This article will highlight 4 areas:
1. A little History and Geography
2. The Dutch Political System
3. The Dutch Social Model (Polder Model)
4. A brief analysis of the 2010 results

God made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands (Dutch proverb)

The Netherlands is an estuary and delta just over half the size in square kilometers of Scotland where the Rivers Rhine and Maas (Meuse in French and English) empty into the North Sea. With 27% of the landmass and 60% of the population under sea level, the History and Geography of the Netherlands has been one constant struggle against nature, a struggle which has shaped the Dutch psyche as well as the social and political model of the country. In the words of Professor Herman Pleij in his book Hollands Welbehagen (The wellbeing of Holland):

''The Netherlands owes its existence to the democracy of dry feet. We need each other literally in order not to drown and subsequently have to rely on co-operation for the means to stay alive.''

In addition, since the Industrial Revolution, the importance of water purification has been at the very heart of the Dutch social and economic base. The pollution of the Rhine and Maas from the 19th Century onwards combined with the exceptionally low non-salinated water table and high population density, have historically been the Geographical factors behind the Dutch practice of consensus and co-operation. It is of no coincidence that the earliest recorded civil organizations in the Netherlands is Water Boards. 800 year old Water Boards meetings and minutes are on display in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Historically, the strict class distinctions at the heart of British of politics and society have been all but absent in the Netherlands. After decades long struggle, the Dutch Republic was declared independent of Spain in 1648. The struggle against the Spanish created and cemented common cause between the classes. The established religion of the new Dutch Republic, Calvinism, was an egalitarian doctrine which emphasized the personal relationship between man and God and taught thriftiness, hard work and tolerance, qualities which the Dutch are still thought to possess today.

The tolerance of the authorities to religion was the key to the flourishing of commerce, trade, arts and culture otherwise known as the Dutch ‘Golden Age’. Huguenots from France and Jews from all corners of Europe fled to the Dutch Republic in the face of persecution. Jewish and Huguenot renown in commerce and finance allied with the traditional Dutch skills in seafaring and mapmaking saw Amsterdam become the international capital of finance. The Dutch East India company (the first transnational corporation) had already been founded in 1602 controlled the flow of spices and gold into Europe and had a trade monopoly in the East.

The unprecedented wealth which now flowed into the Dutch Republic saw the flourishing of arts and culture. Although class was an issue, in general terms, all classes mixed freely with each other for the common good in terms of commerce, protection against the elements and religion.
The Socio-economic and Political model of the Netherlands (the Polder model) is a direct result of these Geographical, Topographical, Historical and Religious causes.

The Dutch Political System

The Netherlands is a Constitutional Monarchy with universal suffrage based on proportional representation established in 1919. The organization of the Dutch State is based on the principles of Montesquieu’s trias politica or ‘separation’ of powers. The legislature consists of two chambers, the Eerste Kamer and Tweede Kamer (first and second chambers).
The Eerste Kamer is elected by the States Provincial (the Regions) and meets part time. It has the right to accept or reject legislation but cannot amend or initiate legislation. In layman’s terms it is a political watchdog consisting of veteran politicians elected by the regions of the Netherlands to work on their behalf. It has 75 Senators.

The Tweede Kamer is the most significant chamber in the Dutch Government and is elected by the electorate using the d’Hondt method of PR. There are no electoral constituencies, the Netherlands itself is one large constituency when voting for the Tweede Kamer. In effect, this means every single vote has equal weighting. There are 150 seats in the Tweede Kamer, if a political party gains 20% of the popular vote, they gain 20% of the seats or 30 seats in this instance. Each party publishes a list of candidates for election with the leader at the top. The voter can ‘preferentially vote’ for a candidate on the list if the candidate is well known in a region but for all intents and purposes, the further the up the list the candidate is, the more likely they are to gain a seat.

The quota - that is the number of votes that entitles a party to one seat depends on how many votes have been cast. If 9 million votes are cast, this is divided by 150 meaning each party has to gain 60,000 votes to gain one seat.

Every advantage has its disadvantage (Johan Cruyff)

As representative as the Dutch system is in terms of voter preference and power, the permanent result of Dutch Elections and the subsequent criticism is that it leads to weeks or months of discussions and meetings behind closed doors. Or in other words, anti-democratic horse trading which does not reflect voter preference.

An example of this occurred yesterday. One of Geert Wilders PVV policies was staunch opposition to the raising of the retirement age to 67. As a result, he gained many votes from the 45 and upwards age group. In initial coalition talks with the largest party, the VVD who want the retirement age rise, Wilders immediately announced he had dropped opposition to this measure.
If the election creates only permanent coalitions where all parties drop core ideological beliefs to be in power, how then does the governance of the Netherlands avoid accusations of anti-democratic practices by a small party political elite? The answer is in the Polder Model.

The Polder Model

A ‘polder’ is a dyke. The loaded significance of this word is not hard to fathom and immediately harks back to the earliest struggles against the elements. The Polder model is a system of negotiation, consensus and representation between all ranks in society, between Government, Employers and Trade Unions.

In practice since 1945, Government, Industrial and Political policy has only been formed and implemented after series of negotiations which take place at the SER De Sociaal-Economische Raad or Social Economic Council. The SER which is a federation of employers and Trade Unions advises the government on fiscal, economic and employment policies. Employees and Trade Unions are represented by the FNV, the Dutch equivalent of the TUC.

The SER’s core principles are:

• balanced economic growth and sustainable development
• the highest possible level of employment
• a fair distribution of income.

Since 1995, the Government by law does not have to consult with the SER before passing legislation but in practice and tradition it still does.

At the heart of the Polder Model is the Works Council Ondernemingsraad. This Act makes all employers responsible in setting up a works council if they employ 100 or more people. The Works Council is involved in all major decision making processes made by the employer and by law must be consulted by the lawyer. The average Dutch worker is protected both by the Works Council which mainly deals with labour related, technical and organizational issues whilst the Unions deal with representing the employee as part of the FNV at the forum of the SER.
In companies with fewer than 100 employees, Works Councils are not a legal requirement, however 60% of all companies with fewer than 100 employees have done so. This gives lie to the Union and worker bashing policies within the UK that giving power to a worker means Industrial strife. For those smaller companies without a Works Council, they are legally obliged to consult workers twice a year and on exceptionally important matters.

If, like me, you believe that Democracy in the workplace and representation of your interests to Government are integral to being an active citizen, the Polder Model is a shining beacon of how this can work. The works council in my place of employment can be time consuming and slow, but there is a harmony between employers and staff which is unheard of in my experiences in the UK. There is disagreements and arguments and the system is not perfect, but the Polder Model shows that Industrial Relations within a Western capitalist society can be structured for the benefit of all.

The 2010 General Election

Even for Dutch standards, the result of the 2010 election is exceptionally fractured. Since 1919, the leading party has never had as small a margin of victory as the VVD has now. This will make the process of coalition forming even more difficult and time consuming than has been in the past. And of course the elephant in the room is Geert Wilders PVV.

From reading the newspapers, watching television and speaking to colleagues and friends, the general consensus (there’s that word again) is that Wilders PVV will fall apart from the weight of its own contradictions and the amateurish nature of the organization. However, the question on everyone’s lips is why 1/6th of the population voted for an avowed racist who campaigned virtually on one anti-Islamic policy. Organisations which represent Moroccans and Muslims have expressed shock at the support for the PVV and the suspicions the following morning after the elections that colleagues, friends etc may have voted for Wilders.

Exacerbating the coalition building situation is the economic crisis. An administration has to be implemented as soon as possible and the only alternative the VVD has to building a coalition with Wilders is to build one with the PvDA (Labour Party). Two ideologically opposed parties may join together to nullify Wilders and it would be in the PvDA’s interests to try to stem the hard right economic manifesto of the VVD.

What makes the VVD’s coalition problem worse is that although the VVD has not ruled out joining a coalition with the PVV, every other party has. Also preventing a coalition with Wilders is International image. Between 60- 70% of the Dutch economy is export based. Having an Islamophobe and Europhobe as a Minister of Government is not conducive to promoting Dutch exports abroad.

For the first time, every newspaper has a different opinion on what is going to happen, no one is sure in the short term. The one outcome of this election that everyone is concerned with is the popular vote for Geert Wilders and what this means firstly for the future of race relations and the Dutch culture of openness and discussion as the exit polls showed much less support for the PVV than they subsequently gained.

For the first time in its history, Dutch Politics may be entering ‘interesting times’.


  1. Well done Your Grice!

    Excellent essay.

    I would add a couple of embellishments:

    Historically, the strict class distinctions at the heart of British of politics and society have been all but absent in the Netherlands. After decades long struggle, the Dutch Republic was declared independent of Spain in 1648.

    Strictly speaking true, but the Dutch had an additional factor of class distinction on top of the distinction between those with property and those without: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verzuiling>Verzuiling = Pillarisation which placed its stamp on Dutch society and politics over most of the twentieth century and some remnants of which remain significant today (see linky).

    The struggle against Spain did end de jure with the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, having started in 1568, but the Dutch Republic was already an ipso facto recognised superpower by the start of the seventeenth century which is known in the Netherlands as de Gouden Eeuw (the golden century).

    Nitpickingly: Polder is an area of (reclaimed) land that must be kept dry by pumping out water. Dijk is rather a dam against water, usually with a polder to one side. [dyke n a barrier constructed to contain the flow of water or to keep out the sea [syn: dam, dike, levee] v : enclose with a dike; "dike the land to protect it from water" [syn: dike] ]

    Proportional representation was introduced in the revision of the constitution of 1917, as well as passive suffrage for women. Active suffrage for women was introduced by act of parliament in 1919 as His Dukeness says and confirmed in a further revision of the constitution in 1922.

    Finally, the three main principles of Dutch socio-political-economic organisation have not been mentioned: Pragmatism, pragmatism, and pragmatism.

  2. medve,

    phew, Ik spreek geen ouwehoeren, I passed the Dutch test! I did this article using almost all Dutch sources to test my Dutch as much as anything. Glad to see I got almost everything correct.

    I did a shortcut straight to 1648 but you are absolutely correct to say the Dutch Republic was a de facto state before then hence the foundation of the VOC in 1602.

  3. Excellent piece, Duke, had no idea water levels were of such relevance nor that the country was so small in area.

    This "Polder model" sounds light years ahead of UK employment practice and structure. I remember hearing about this Polder stuff a while back, maybe even from you, and sounded very interesting, has any other EU state got anything similar?

    Coalition forming times sound horrendous. Much as i favour PR, months of negotiating sounds painful to watch unfold. 1/6 voting Wilders is astonishing, the BNP caused mayhem here with, what, 3% of the vote - if they got 15% of the national vote then i cant even imagine how the nation would react.

    If 80 days is average to form, what are the bookies saying for this one?

  4. Thats a really interesting overview Your Dukeness. Compared with our antiquated, class and ritual riven, adversarial system - it sounds much fairer, even though a bit unwieldy at times - but thats the nature of consensus decision making. The Dutch must think we're bonkers going about things the way we do in the UK.

    This Geert Wilders business must be a real shock. Do you know anyone who has admitted voting for him? It'll be interesting to see how long it takes to form a government.

    It took the BNP beginning to look like they might get somewhere with the local council wins and Griffin's MEP success before the Brits decided to wipe them out. They were also useless as councillors which helped. Do you think Wilders mob will have a similar fate?

  5. "The Dutch must think we're bonkers going about things the way we do in the UK."

    We are bonkers, i dont know why we tolerate archaic, absurd structures and institutions for the sake of tradition, even when they are hideously unfair and outdated. Europe must find the UK a pitiful site.

  6. We're supposed to worship at the shrine of bloody tradition in this godforsaken nation, Jay. It's one of the main reasons we've remained so class ridden and deferential. It's pathetic and loathesome.

    We need to reawaken our inner anarchist and resist!

  7. Where else in the world would a prime minister, a pm for gods sake, refer to the equivalent of old ladies on bikes and village cricket matches as a yearned for benchmark of the national culture?

  8. "Where else in the world would a prime minister, a pm for gods sake, refer to the equivalent of old ladies on bikes and village cricket matches as a yearned for benchmark of the national culture?"

    Now now, Sheff, village cricket IS a benchmark of national culture. When you drive through a little town and there's a village green with a church and game of cricket, there's something quaint and pleasant about it (even as an atheist). But then village cricket doesnt impoverish people and crush democratic spirit - but sadly we seem to tolerate ALL tradition, including those that cause the above problems.

    The Netherlands sounds a social paradise in comparison to this place.

  9. Your Grice:

    Forgive me. Ik spreek geen ouwehoeren

    Either: Ik ouwehoer niet.

    Or: Ik spreek geen onzin. Ouwehoeren is a verb oddly enough. If you want to use it as a noun geouwehoer will do.

    As for your command of Dutch: impressive, kudos to you! I would also add that your understanding of the political system far surpasses that of the "average" Dutch person. Your knowledge of the present sad situation surpasses mine too, so i will refer all questions back to you!


    Many happy returns!

    Sheff & Jay:

    Speaking as an Anglophile, bonkers only in the nicest sense. Fucked over good and proper particularly since 1979, that i would agree with.

  10. Jay - I'm not opposed to village cricket but you'd think a bloody prime minister could come up with something a bit more striking than a 'quaint'. country ritual. Makes us all sound like morris dancers that live on treacle toffee and ginger biscuits.

  11. Whoops, just noticed i buggered up my linky.

    Sorry, this one will work.

  12. Sheff: Don't let the bastard grind you down -- we know better.

  13. Yeah fair point, i dont think "quaintness" should be top of the PMs priorities right now, the country is economically disintegrating. I still havent heard what sacrifice the rich are making yet. "We're all in this together" - ok, show us then, show us whats being sacrificed at the top for the common good - nothing.

    I read the article on faith schools/academies today and for the first time in a while i was too angry and disgusted to even comment, just ran out of words to convey my disgust with this country and its elite. Grim times are on the way.

  14. Jay

    Well if what's happening in my workplace (and no doubt countless others across the country), is anything to go by, the rich and powerful will be consolidating their positions and hunkering down to outlast the storm - they certainly won't be sharing any of the pain with the hoi poloi.

  15. Sorry to hear about your work nonsense, Sheff, sounds appalling. And even worse, it seems to be echoed by so many people - huge pay rises for this new breed of management that have no innate skill, they are simply managers - and at the same time redundancies and pay cuts for people actually working. Just amazed at what we, as a nation, put up with.

    Right, gotta finish this dissertation and get it submitted by midnight.

  16. Thanks duke

    as someone who is completely ignorant of Dutch politics this is quite an insight, especially on how workplace councils work.....

    as regards the swing to the far right it seems to be symbolic of europe going further and further to the right in general, I have always perceived the Netherlands as a liberal and tolerant society so it really is curious that wilders has got so much support....fear of loss of jobs, fear of extremism, fear of being "swamped"..., inability of other parties, left and right, to address the "real" concerns of the Dutch people......what do you think has caused this?

  17. very interesting, your grace - like many others, i'm most bemused how Wilders got so many votes. I mean, appeal tot he over 45s all you want, if you're an overt racist, that's going to put people off, surely?

    if all the other parties have rules out working with him, and a colaition of VVD + PVV wouldn't have a majority, why are the VVD even speaking to him? Hoping that the other rightish parties will ditch their principles to join the coalition? But add up all the rightish parties other than PVV and you get to 80 (ish - numbers seem to have changed since the first list I saw...) So why attract opprobrium by speaking to him?

    Anyway - good stuff, hope you'll keep us updated!

  18. Thanks for this, it is educational.

    Two things spring to mind, both appropos to EU institutions, and it would be interesting to hear your views

    1 As representative as the Dutch system is in terms of voter preference and power, the permanent result of Dutch Elections and the subsequent criticism is that it leads to weeks or months of discussions and meetings behind closed doors. Or in other words, anti-democratic horse trading which does not reflect voter preference..

    Within the EU, co-decision has meant that Parliament now has a more equal footing with the Council of Ministers. Yet within the CoM, (the factory of EU policy making) is a rather well hidden structure known as the Committee of Permanent Representation (Coreper). Staffed by diplomatic professionals, this is where precisely this same sort of opaque hores-trading goes on. Of national and supranational importance. But there is no line of accountability, save to Whitehall department desk officals (hence not the public), and yet, it is where the vast majority of EU law is ratified. I wonder if the EU could ever be sufficiently big, honest and just enough to admit this should perhaps be opened to influence, and place on it brakes suchs as workers' coucils. I doubt it.

    2 A country the size of Holland has far fewer internal differences in economy than Britain - can we really justify any sort of list based electoral system in our EU Parliament elections ? My feeling is that while centrally approved lists theoreticaly counteract corrupt and powerful regional elites, they can be and are, demonstrable tools to distancing voters from their government.

    I did European Politics, so I'm a bit obsessed about these things.

    That said, it's a great post - and thank you.

  19. Evening all,

    thanks for the comments.

    medve, mijn Nederlands grammatica is geen zuiver koffie zo hartstikke bedankt voor uw geduld ;)


    I remember hearing about this Polder stuff a while back, maybe even from you, and sounded very interesting, has any other EU state got anything similar?

    I must confess my ignorance of this question. I would personally like to find out if this type of model exists elsewhere. It would most likely be in a smaller European state. If Scherfig is reading, I wonder if Denmark has something similar.

    As for the tortuous coalition building, it's a tradition isn't it? In the same way the UK accepts an astonishingly unrepresentative political system, the Dutch accept tortuous coalition building.


    Wilders. It really has come of a shock to the Dutch that so many voted for him on his flimsy anti-Islam platform. As I mentioned above, most people seem to think he will disappear soon due to the amateurish nature of his party and organisation but the question remains regarding race relations.

    I've been working today and just in from the darts and everyone I have spoken to is appalled at the size of his vote. Wilders will disappear but the tensions he has played successfully on will remain.


    I have always perceived the Netherlands as a liberal and tolerant society so it really is curious that wilders has got so much support....fear of loss of jobs, fear of extremism, fear of being "swamped"..., inability of other parties, left and right, to address the "real" concerns of the Dutch people

    Bang on, that's exactly it. The liberalism and tolerance of the Dutch is a bit overplayed. Go to the east and north into Friesland, Overijssel, Drenthe etc and you will find much more 'traditional' values.

    Medve will have a better understanding of the Dutch psyche, so hopefully he will enlighten us a bit more.


    I totally agree that the system used in the Netherlands wouldn't be suitable for the UK to an extent. I've had too many beers to go into the intricacies of the different forms of PR just now(!) but I thought highlighting the completely different systems used by two EU neighbours would be educational.

    For me the most important point is Industrial Relations. The Netherlands is light years ahead in workers rights and is no doubt unique in the generally harmonious nature that it works. It goes to show that the fostering of proper relations between Govt, Industry and Employee can work and is indeed a normal process. And it is no coincidence that despite exceptionally strong Unions here inomparison with the UK, there are less days lost to strikes.


    VVD + PVV - PvDA x CDA(2GL) continues................

    The formulations are completely up in the air and have all manner of outcomes.

    Ultimately, I don't think the VVD will go for a coalition with Wilders due to the International image, effect on trade, the amateurish nature of Wilders PVVV and the fact no other party will work with the PVV. However I may be wrong.

    I think there will either be a 'purple coalition' ie a coalition without the CDA, the traditional ruling party, or another election.

    As I say it's uncharted territory but I'll keep the updates coming in the next few days, weeks and hopefully not months.

  20. Thanks for your reply Duke; my main point was my first - a constructive argument about about how do we get some kind of represntation into the CoM Process ? It's unthinkable under current terms, but frankly, the unthinkable is what we need right now. Related, but tangental I suppose...

    Your intended argument is not lost on me, but I suppose the old trope that profiteering has won over productivity in this country for the last three decades is academic... highly skilled engineers view themselved here in the UK more as independent entrepreneurs rather than potential benefactors and social mentors...

    The old 'we build great things in the garden shed' mentality still lingers perhaps...

  21. It's a good point Bitterweed.

    The unrepresentative nature of the EU had a lot to do with the Dutch and French no vote to the EU constitution in 2005. Of course, this was ignored and the Lisbon Treaty is the result via asking the Irish as many times as needed until they said yes.

    I have no doubt that an element of Wilders support came from those sick of faceless politicians doung deals behind closed doors. Wilders often said he was against this and that he would never enter into coalition...Until now he is in the position to enter a coalition in a position of power and it all changes.

    My personal position has always been yes to Europe, no to the EU in terms of its anti-democratic nature. How we go about creating that argument in favour of CofM reform is an extremely complex and difficult question.

  22. @duke

    thanks for the reply...yes i'd be interested in seeing what medve has to say on the dutch psyche

  23. Duke
    This is the whole point I've always had about the EU. There is something systematically bad and undemocratic about its construction, yet I've benn thrwon off - deleted - from mainstream political threads by merely pointing out structural deficiencies that could be identified by a bright eighteen year old. Not to take the focus too much away from your article though..

  24. OK, so duty calls even if it is after four AM already.

    Your Grice:

    medve, mijn Nederlands grammatica is geen zuiver koffie zo hartstikke bedankt voor uw geduld ;)

    Mijn Nederlandse grammatica is geen zuivere koffie dus hartstikke bedankt voor uw geduld ;)

    Assuming we are both "mature" men with fairly compatible views and judging by the fine levels of respect we have afforded each other i propose we use the more informal (and friendly) je in our Dutch exchanges.

    All who have wondered about the polder model and the Dutch psyche:


    I am old and crusty and have only actually lived half of that time in the Netherlands. Therefore these are my personal impressions and i have no wider mandate to speak on behalf of other Dutch people.

    I was born in Amsterdam in the fifties of the last century, which was a period of austerity and verzuiling / pillarisation. As a young child i lived with my grandmother for a while in God-fearing village, where old men and women still wore traditional local dress. I loved to ride my bike, but it happened on Sundays that such old God-fearing women in traditional dress would throw stones at me to punish my sin of enjoying myself on my bike on a Sunday. So that was an early experience of Dutch religious intolerance, pockets of which endure to this day. Of course, such attitudes were not shared by the majority of people and perhaps many compensated by exaggerating their tolerance. Building on this theme i include an interesting view provided by an American friend:

    (in the next post as i have just been warned that i have exceed 4096 characters)

  25. [blockquote]

    This is probably as good a time as any to pass along an interesting theory, propounded by Rop Gonggrijp, co-founder of Xs4all.nl and foe of bent (or easily bendable) electronic voting machines, about where the famous Dutch tolerance for drugs, sex and gay marriage came from and where it may be going. It's from an interview in the "ps" supplement Het Parool, 8 May 2010. I think the theory has legs.

    Amsterdam wouldn't be the hippie Xanadu it was if not for all the Europeans, Americans (North, South and Central) and others fleeing the collapse or non-occurrence of the Sixties Revolution in their home countries. The US also had the draft and the Vietnam War, and Europe offered war resisters something a little more exotic than Canada. In the Netherlands, with the size and population of New Jersey, an influx of cultural refugees (and draft dodgers) could have a larger impact than in, say, France or the UK. The battles were fought mostly in the 1960s, but, where they were won, the spoils, like the first "coffeeshop" or the Wet Dreams Film Festival, were enjoyed in the 1970s.

    If true, then the cooling of the cultural climate here at least since 2000 is not surprising. It coincides with ongoing Great Baby-Boomer Extinction, and the relatively smaller numbers of newer generations apparently unable to do any more than squander the inheritance of the 1960s.

    Balkenende II, probably the most successful of the four coalition governments Pieter Balkenende headed, consisted of the Christian Democrats, no friends of the hippies, the People's Freedom & Democracy party, which didn't care about hippies one way or the other but wanted to privatize everything (and slam the door on darker-hued would-be immigrants) and the inoffensive D66 (Democrats of 1966 - Provos who donned ties?). The third party could be fed a few crumbs
    or simply cowed into going along with the other two parties, in the name of harmony. The VVD I think were far more effective than the CDA bluenoses in destroying the fabled Dutch lifestyle by making it financially infeasible except for the well-off. Gutting social services, reducing subsidized housing--in short, administering the economic solutions of the Chicago Boys, Thatcher, Reagan, Sarkozy, et al. to the problem of citizens having enough leisure time to make trouble for their socio-political betters.

    I've known too many bitter old hippies to become one and rail at those goddamn kids who pissed away a good thing when they had it and the ecopocalypse can't come soon enough, so I'll just conclude that the good life in Amsterdam may not be doomed but it certainly is in mortal danger.

    [end of blockquote]

  26. medve,

    that's a really interesting couple of posts.

    The international image of the Dutch is really cemented in place by late 60's Amsterdam. 'Youth Revolution', the provos, John and Yoko at the Amsterdam Hilton etc.

    This whole image was encapsulated by the Ajax side of the early 70's and Holland at the 1974 World Cup.

    They always walked out the tunnel like they didn't give a fuck- a shambles, hair all over the place, love beads hanging round their necks, socks around their ankles, ambling on.

    And would then play the most revolutionary style of football seen since the 1950's Hungarians, sweeping all before them.

    Dutch individualism and rebellion working to brilliant effect within a strict team system. Pretty much the polder model on a football pitch.

    It's also apposite to draw comparisons between the Provos and the 'children of 68'. All of them have become either bitter right wingers (Fortuyn and his mob), Wilders is also a product of this or elder statesman overseeing the diminution of the opportunities they themselves had- Joschka Fischer, Daniel Cohn-Bendit et al.

  27. Your Grace / Medve - could you weigh in on the leader article? Guardian is saying 'liberals' came top, whereas I thought the VVD is right-ish. And there's a lot of pro-Wilders stuff (MaM's there already) and...well - just think i'd learn more if you chaps were involved.

  28. Philippa,

    I'm not breaking my non-CiF posting rule to feed a troll ;)

    I thought out of interest I would collate the 2010 UK results if the d'hondt method was used, using the UK as one constituency as is the case in the Netherlands. See what you think:

    Party D’Hondt FPTP
    Conservatives 240 306
    Labour 194 258
    LibDems 153 57
    UKIP 20 0
    BNP 12 0
    SNP 11 6
    Greens 6 1
    Dem. Unionists 3 8
    Sinn Fein 3 5
    Plaid Cymru 3 3
    Ulster Unionists 2 0
    SDLP 2 3
    English Dems 1 0
    Respect 0 0
    SSP 0 0

  29. I can't get the formatting right at all.

    To clarify. The first number is under the d'hondt method, the second the actual FPTP results.

  30. blimey. my previous attempt to do that was prob too complicated as i split Britain into three to reflect the local nature of the SNP / PC vote...but that's very interesting.

    particularly as the only workable coalition would still have been con or lab + libdem...

  31. Philippa: Notwithstanding what i said just now on UT proper, i have posted this:

    and, taking insurance against fickle moddery, here's an extract:


    Even so, this week's general election has produced an exceptionally fragmented result, with the Liberals leapfrogging from fourth to first in the vote, though still with only 20% support and a mere 31 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, while the previously governing centre-right Christian Democrats plunged in the opposite direction to 14% (21 seats), the worst result in the party's history.

    Referring to the "victorious" VVD party as liberal will raise many eyebrows. Here is one opinion of recent VVD policies:

    The VVD I think were far more effective than the CDA bluenoses in destroying the fabled Dutch lifestyle by making it financially infeasible except for the well-off. Gutting social services, reducing subsidized housing--in short, administering the economic solutions of the Chicago Boys, Thatcher, Reagan, Sarkozy, et al. to the problem of citizens having enough leisure time to make trouble for their socio-political betters.

    NEO-liberal maybe, certainly more to the right than centre-right.

    As for the CDA perhaps they were hammered because of the war and baby-boomers' worries about their forthcoming (or not!) pensions.

  32. Really interesting article your Duke and great posts from you and Medve. Great lessons in the Dutch system and the way of life. Been assaulted for riding your bike on a sunday Medve is stern stuff indeed!

    I have to admit that I was a bit shocked Philippa to see the 'liberal' description. Although maybe they are going by our own lovely 'liberals' who are right now helping roll back the UK to 1914!

    Re the far right - it seems to be something which is gaining traction in many parts of Europe. I still cant get over my mum telling me that in Italy a newspaper was giving away a free calendar of Mussolini photos commemorating the 'great man' - completely barking!

  33. Princess

    The resurrection of murderous and despotic old bastards as heroes seems to be on the rise - its happening in Russia with Stalin and Franco in Spain.

  34. Princess:

    Being assaulted for riding your bike on a sunday Medve is stern stuff indeed!

    Looking back, it was very pythonesque. These were large old women in traditional dress (only black with bits of white) throwing stones at a child on a bike. You couldn't make it up. Luckily, either their aim was not too good, or i was too clever at dodging them. I soon started to avoid the areas where they might be (close to the church naturally).

  35. Duke

    Very interesting essay.The whole of Dutch
    society seems to be underpinned by the
    principles of consensus and compromise.
    Although that takes place within a framework
    of a society that is still conservative with
    a small c.

    I,ve heard it said that what is tolerated in
    Amsterdam is called the Dutch compromise.That
    what goes on in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam
    whilst the rest of the country goes about its
    business in a way that is much more typically
    Dutch.Be interested in what your take on that

    Regarding the results of election my gut
    feeling is that the Dutch mindset will allow
    for enough people in most of the parties to reach that all-important Dutch compromise.
    Although i wouldn,t be so confident if a
    similar result with the same number of
    parties had taken place here in the UK.

  36. Thanks for your comments Paul and princess.


    I think you're right about the dutch compromise. I genuinely don't think they will have Wilders in a coalition.

    Interestingly today, the VVD have voiced concerns that they think the PVV is unstable.A PVV MP, Hero Brinkman has called for the PVV to be democratic. At the moment the PVV is Wilders and Wilders alone. It's no wonder the likes of MAM love him. So there's rumours going around that all is not well in the PVV.

    Also, Wilders styled himself as the anti-establishment choice and that he would never go into coalition. As soon as he gets a whiff of power he dropped his 'breekpunt', a policy held by one party which would stop a coalition happening. In this case it is the rising of the retirement age. Wilders campaigned that it should stay 65. The VVD want to raise it to 67. As soon as he was in a position to negotiate, he dropped his opposition to the retirement age immediately.

    Wilders is as hypocritical as the rest and I don't think the VVD will go into coalition with him.

    I may be wrong.

  37. A thought about the British results as it might have been with a list system: it is quite conceivable that the share of the vote of "minor" parties (bnp, green, ukip, etc) would have been greater because with fptp voters who might wish to support these may gone for the "major" parties instead.

    Continuing from my larger posts above:

    polder model:

    Notwithstanding the obvious sense of Prof. Pleij's analysis, i will throw a spanner in the works and draw his Dukeness' attention to a PhD thesis published in November 2009, which claims that the polder model was conceived by the French reactionary thinker De Bonald (1754 - 1840). linky

    Nevertheless, i think it is fair to say that the ability to lay aside differences (temporarily!) and work together for a common aim is a Dutch characteristic. I also think that the Dutch have had quite a high degree of grass-roots organisation, at least when i have lived there. Only in Iceland have seen a similar willingness of people to form small (often informal) local organisations to tackle particular problems.

    Finally a random mini collection of Dutch proverbs with rough translations to provide a view into the "Dutch psyche":

    Werk gaat voor het meisje -- Work first, then girl(s)

    De wal zal het schip keren -- The shore will turn the ship

    Liever een goede buur dan een verre vriend -- Rather a good neighbour than a far friend

  38. Medve

    for sure this image of hippie dutch lifestyle endures today...coffee shops and amsterdam night life has indoctrinated the psyche of european liberals who have looked towards the netherlands as the model of freedom....alas always looking at it from a 1968 perspective rather than what it really is or really was. So to see someone like wilders winning a significant vote has kind of mind fucked them all they don't quite "get it"....be interesting to see what happens in belgium.....

    "I still cant get over my mum telling me that in Italy a newspaper was giving away a free calendar of Mussolini photos commemorating the 'great man' - completely barking!"

    There was another that was selling with it DVDs of "Mussolini's Greatest Speeches" also advertised on TV quite openly....

    barking or preparing for our new emperor??

  39. medve,

    interesting article. I think however the Dutch were working to the Polder model, it just wasn't given a name until De Bonald?


    the Belgian election today. I daresay exactly the same outcome as usual. Both sides will continue to bicker whilst Belgium will continue as an entity as neither Flemish nor Walloons will give up the enoromous great cash cow known as Brussels.

    As for the Mussolini great speeches. Jesus Fkn Christ on a bike.

    It would be really interesting for you to do an article on what is happening in Itlay if you have the time.

  40. duke

    there is so much happening where to start.....!! I'll have to think about it...

  41. Your Grice:

    The Parool article about the Polder Model PhD thesis was published in the category BIZAR.




    will, i think, put the issue to bed, largely along the lines of your essay above.

  42. Really interesting piece and discussion - thanks!

    I believe Germany has something similar to the Polder Model also - both unions and workers have to have representation on publicly traded companies' boards (of a certain size).

  43. Duke,

    Obviously I'm a bit late, but I really enjoyed this.
    Extremely interesting stuff....