The King’s Speech

by Henry on September 19, 2013

Yesterday in the Financial Times.

The Netherlands’ newly inaugurated King Willem-Alexander has made his first annual appearance before parliament one to remember, with a speech effectively announcing the end of the generous Dutch welfare state. … “Due to social developments such as globalisation and an ageing population, our labour market and public services are no longer suited to the demands of the times,” the king said, in a speech written by the Liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his cabinet. “The classical welfare state is slowly but surely evolving into a ‘participatory society’,” he continued – one, that is, where citizens will be expected to take care of themselves, or create civil-society solutions for problems such as retiree welfare.

Rene Cuperus has an article on the politics of this in Policy Network today.

the actual political and social situation in the Netherlands … is quite depressing …The country is [a] member of the Northern Elite Club of Triple A creditors, but at the same time it is suffering from Southern European-style economic problems: a home-made housing bubble, rising youth unemployment, marginal economic growth. … For that reason, political trust in the social-liberal Grand Coalition of the conservative-liberal VVD (prime minister Mark Rutte) and the social-democratic PvdA (Party Leader Diederik Samsom; Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher) is at an all-time low. The established parties got all the blame for the predicament of the Dutch economy, whilst the populist protest parties are sky high rocketing in the opinion polls. This applies especially to the right-wing populist PVV Freedom party of Geert Wilders, and to a lesser extent to the Party for the Elderly (50Plus) and the left-wing Socialist Party (SP).
The Netherlands now has become one of the populist laboratories of Europe and the world … One could even state, that this new Netherlands constitutes and represents a huge warning to other countries, especially to neighbouring Germany. For Germany, the Netherlands has transformed from a positive guide land to follow into a “negative guide land’’ not to follow. The Dutch developments are a nightmare scenario for Germany, an image of fear.

I don’t know enough about Dutch politics to comment intelligently. But I know that some of our commenters are in a much better position, and would be interested to see what you have to say.

{ 82 comments }

1

David Kaib 09.19.13 at 3:12 pm

I also don’t know enough about Dutch politics to comment intelligently, but I’d be surprised if having a king announce that everyone else has to have a lower standard of living is good politics. Maybe that’s my American bias…

2

Chris Bertram 09.19.13 at 3:19 pm

So much that is similar to the UK too. Low growth, mass disaffection with politicians, growth of populist/nativist alternatives. Whilst I’m hostile to first-past-the-post, I think we’d look even more “Dutch” with a proportional system.

3

ajay 09.19.13 at 3:22 pm

England, anyway.

4

Sev 09.19.13 at 3:24 pm

#1 I could see the royal “We” coming in handy there; don’t know if that exists in Dutch.
Bit of German foreboding might be in order; Krugman has this:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/more-on-the-coming-french-imperium/?_r=0

5

fledermaus 09.19.13 at 3:31 pm

“King Willem-Alexander has made his first annual appearance before parliament one to remember, with a speech effectively announcing the end of the generous Dutch welfare state”

Hopefully he’ll start by cutting his own “welfare”. I’m not going to hold my breath, though

6

Chris Bertram 09.19.13 at 3:31 pm

@ajay, that rather depends on how you see the SNP and PC, but describing them as populist alternatives to the traditional Westminster parties doesn’t seem too wide of the mark.

7

Pete 09.19.13 at 3:35 pm

Which would you rather have as your populist alternative to traditional parties, UKIP or the SNP? They’re very different.

8

Manoel 09.19.13 at 3:58 pm

I was always curious about what rule do you follow about when post something here or at the Monkey Cage, since there is some overlapping. In this case, I think Erik Voeten can provide valuable comment, don’t you think?

M

9

ajay 09.19.13 at 3:58 pm

describing them as populist alternatives to the traditional Westminster parties doesn’t seem too wide of the mark.

Popular, yes. But “populist” really is wide of the mark. SNP isn’t particularly anti-elite or anti-EU or anti-immigrant or nativist or the product of mass disillusionment with politicians. It doesn’t market itself as somehow a “politician-free” party, in the way that UKIP does. It’s not talking about the need to destroy the welfare state in the name of reform. It’s not a new arrival on the political scene in Scotland and its rise to success has not been a consequence of the recession.

10

ajay 09.19.13 at 4:03 pm

It’s easy to assume that politics in Scotland must be broadly the same as in England – that there’s Labour, Tories, Lib Dems, and a few wacky protest parties; that there’s a huge latent groundswell of right-wing anti-immigrant Euroscepticism – but that really isn’t the case, as Nigel Farage found out last time he visited. The SNP has been, pretty much since the Parliament opened, either the main opposition party or (as now) the party of government.

11

hix 09.19.13 at 4:10 pm

Isnt the problem in the Dutch party sytem that they dont have any established parties? The ones called established are somewhat older – but they have no roots in society, with many party members the way the CDU/CSU or SPD has in Germany.

To 4: Those linear population trends based on current birthrates are getting boring, no matter in which direction a catastroph is projected, be it overpopulation or no population at all.

12

otto 09.19.13 at 4:50 pm

“with a speech effectively announcing the end of the generous Dutch welfare state”

A bit of hyperbole perhaps? More likely just a little nudge from one from of welfare to another, as politicians decide. It’s not going to be the UK, let alone Alabama.

13

Substance McGravitas 09.19.13 at 5:22 pm

It interests me that the first link takes me to a story about pot. As a failed link it supplies its own reason.

14

Anspen 09.19.13 at 5:33 pm

It should be noted (#1, #5) that the occasion was quite similar to the opening of parliament in the UK in that the speech (content wise) was written by the (right wing liberal) Prime minister, who said very similar things in a speech the week before. It was not the personal opinion of the King (though he may have agreed with it).

It should also be noted that while the current government has done some serious damage to the welfare state and made some badly thought out cuts, it has also (under pressure from an otherwise acquiescent Labour party) done a fair amount of income redistribution, including more and more hard limits to income for government and related (schools, hospitals) employees. This at least seems a good signal, though of course even under crisis circumstance nationalized bank employees, like in the UK receive ridiculous bonuses.

“Isnt the problem in the Dutch party sytem that they dont have any established parties? The ones called established are somewhat older – but they have no roots in society, with many party members the way the CDU/CSU or SPD has in Germany. “

The two older established parties, CDA (Christian Democrats) and PvdA (Labour) each have about 60.00 members, which is about half of the proportional figure for CDU/SPD. They and most of the other larger parties have an extensive network of provincial and local party organisations. The problem, as in many other long standing democracies, is that these local organisations are rather insulated and have/had little feeling for “man on the street” issues. The success of the CDU/CSU to me seems more the result of (seemingly) successful economic performance.

15

Henry 09.19.13 at 7:07 pm

Manoel – Erik unfortunately is busy with other stuff at the moment. I usually post stuff at the Monkey Cage which is specifically political science-related, and stuff here which is more in the way of general commentary. Occasionally there is overlap, but not often, and I don’t think I’ll be able to crosspost anymore once TMC moves to the Post for copyright reasons (not that this is a big deal – I think there have been 4 or 5 total in the last several years).

16

WEU 09.19.13 at 7:11 pm

In this respect, I’ve always felt a bit sorry for kings and queens in parliamentary systems. I certainly wouldn’t want to parrot Thatcherite bilge in public.

17

ingrid robeyns 09.19.13 at 8:55 pm

the King is really a red herring in this story — the real issue is what is happening with the Dutch welfare state. And from what we see and know, the signs are not good at all. There are cuts in many forms of care – including 15% in ‘Jeugdzorg’ which are the child protection agencies and child psychiatric care. The voters are widely disillusioned with the social-democrats, since they are not behaving like an equal partner in the coalition with the conservative-liberals and hence the latter are heavily dominating the policies. Two (I believe) MP of the Social Democrats have already quitted parliament after declaring that they cannot fight for the values and ideals for which they entered parliamentary politics. In the meantime the coalition is about to decide on buying a dozen or so (or even much more, I can’t recall and am in a rush) JSF military planes (which are hugely expensive) and is seriously investigating fracking as an ‘alternative’ source of energy. Most economists say the macropolicies should be focussing on investing, structural reforms and regaining consumer trust — and not on austerity measures, but that’s exactly what they do.

So, unfortunately, it is true: no good news from the Netherlands – at least not from Dutch politics.

18

Norwegian Guy 09.19.13 at 11:03 pm

While Mark Rutte, or some of his aides, may have written the speech, this kind of thing is supposed to be an outline of the government’s policies, not the personal opinions of the Prime Minister. And the government includes the Party of Labour (PvdA) as well as VVD. But if I understood the 2012 election campaign correctly, PvdA, unlike for instance the Green Left, were critical of the austerity measures that were being proposed. Signing up to the abolishment of the welfare state doesn’t sound like a good move by the party.

19

John Quiggin 09.19.13 at 11:42 pm

Across a number of countries (Greece being another obvious example), it seems like there is a question of whether it is possible to salvage the traditional social democratic parties from the embrace of market liberalism, or whether it is better to try for a populist alternative (Syriza). I’d be interested in links, thoughts on this.

20

Mao Cheng Ji 09.20.13 at 12:42 am

I got the feeling that any party has to embrace market liberalism if it wants to be relevant. These are, after all, *liberal* democracies. And they tend to stay liberal. And *liberal* ain’t mean a thing if they don’t let you control your private property. And the welfare state is all about redistribution. That’s not very liberal. Something has to give.

21

Bruce Wilder 09.20.13 at 1:00 am

I’d appreciate a thumbnail sketch of what “populist” means in a Dutch (or other European) context, in contra-distinction to liberal or social democratic.

22

adam.smith 09.20.13 at 1:17 am

So far “populist” in Europe has always meant anti-foreigner as its clearest distinctive mark (Haider’s FPÖ in Austria, Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands, the Folkeparti in Denmark etc.), with a very flexible view on economic policy. Where populist parties have participated in governments, it’s always been right-wing governments, led by the major conservative party.

23

derrida derider 09.20.13 at 2:14 am

WEU@16 -
Yes, Liz occasionally struggled a bit to present those speeches written for her by Maggie. IIRC the body language of one in particular attracted some comment (Liz and Maggie, of course, famously did not like each other).

24

Dick Veldkamp 09.20.13 at 5:05 am

I think Ingrid Robeyn (#17) sums up the situation in the Netherlands nicely.

I might add that the right wing party in government (VVD) is using the ‘there is no alternative’ austerity to reform welfare laws they don’t like anyway for ideological reasons. Unfortunately Labour (PvdA) is going along with that, infected as they are by the austerity meme (at least the party leadership is).

25

Foppe 09.20.13 at 6:48 am

@22,21: so far populist generally referred to anti-immigration views, yes, but the other meaning that PvdA member Cuperus is relying on to ‘explain’ the SP with is populist as referring to pie-in-the-sky thinking. (It’s the same thing the PvdA was charged with for decades until they started to neoliberalize.) Having said that, I find the picture Cuperus draws of the dutch situation uninformative to the point of inanity, which I suspect it is either for political purposes, or because he really is blind.

First off, I would point out that a lot of the ‘experimentation’ that happened in the past happened during times in which the PvdA was not ruled by neoliberal technocrats.
Secondly, Cuperus’s refusal to say that a lot of the problems that we see now are being caused by the creation of the Eurozone (given that he complains about how hard it is to “sell a happy story about europe”) suggests he is suffering from extreme forms of myopia. A large driver of the housing price bubble/boom was the fact that, due to the privatization (and subsequent mismanagement) of the housing corporations, way too little building of additional affordable housing was happening. This forced a lot of people to buy who otherwise probably never would have, which of course made the banks very happy. The housing bubble was cheered on by a feckless (and even when they hadn’t been, powerless) Central Bank, in close coordination with the Finance ministry, under a succession of governments that often included the PvdA (with a labor finance minister, too). Other privatizations have of course also led to substantial cost-of-living increases. (One of the most visible examples here is probably the privatization of day care institutions, though in terms of cost increases the changes to the way our health insurance system works are probably the most important.)

An important driver of all of these changes has been the PvdA, which started being ruled by cheery neoliberals under Wim Kok, when he became vice-PM and minister of finance under Lubbers in 1986. It is not entirely clear to me to what extent the party has supported neoliberalization because it believed in them, and to what extent it did so because it no longer served as a counterweight to the VVD, but apart from the occasional, and largely consequence-free ‘i have seen the light’ speech (f.i. from Wouter Bos, when he ‘left politics’ to get rich consulting) about how the party should really ‘return to its social roots’, the party leadership has been remarkably successful in keeping discipline, as hardly any major figures have left the party for ideological reasons.

Cuperus also mentions how ‘well’ Germany is doing; for people who can read dutch I would recommend this article, which provides a much-needed antidote to the cheering of the German situation. To sum up, the Hartz reforms have mostly served to define away the problem of unemployment, but have not led to meaningful increases in quality of life (or internal demand). As such, I wonder how viable the German situation really is.

26

Foppe 09.20.13 at 7:04 am

To sum up, a lot of the problems in NL are being part-caused by reforms that were nearly all sold as ‘mandatory because we signed the Maastricht Treaty’, while none of the establishment parties, which includes D’66 and Groenlinks, dare to suggest that the particular shape the Maastricht Treaty took, is oddly helpful to neoliberal reformers in search of ‘apolitical’ excuses to push through their desired policies. And while the SP has been offering substantive criticisms of the treaty since the start, it’s been effectively painted as ‘populist’ and un-respectable and unSerious (as any critic of the Euro-project is; the media has always been uninterested in making critics of the EU project seem like they might have something interesting and thoughtful to say, preferring instead to straw-man them and their arguments, or to allow establishment to attack straw-manned versions of those criticisms).

27

ajay 09.20.13 at 8:35 am

It should be noted (#1, #5) that the occasion was quite similar to the opening of parliament in the UK in that the speech (content wise) was written by the (right wing liberal) Prime minister, who said very similar things in a speech the week before. It was not the personal opinion of the King (though he may have agreed with it).

(Until I read this) I didn’t (even) think (it was (possible (to type (with a (LISP))))).

28

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.20.13 at 8:37 am

So. A leech living fat on the teat of the State announces that it is necessary to move to a “participatory society” where anybody is welcome to try and survive however they can while the true participatory society, the welfare state where everybody participates to create a better and more just society, is closing because “freedom” and “right to choose” and “participation” == services are for the rich that pay from their wallet directly, screw you if you expected taxes to built a better country for all citizens.

I gather the thought of not being the one with a moral standing to open his mouth never crossed his high-born mind.

29

Chaz 09.20.13 at 8:59 am

WEU@16,

It’s probably my Americanness–I’ve never seen one of these speeches–but I don’t get it. Surely a king has freedom of speech. Why on earth would they let a prime minister dictate a speech to them that they did not agree with? If the king hates the PM’s policies, why not just have the king open with generic platitudes and nationalist talk and then have the PM do a follow-up speech presenting his plans himself?

I guess it’s tradition but it doesn’t seem like PMs have any leverage to force fealty to that tradition. I guess a radical leftist government could threaten to revoke the monarch’s privileges but conservatives could never make that threat credibly. Are these monarchs trying to maintain the pretense that the government’s policy is dictated by the king, so the king will present it, and never admit that he disagrees with it in any way?

30

Chris Williams 09.20.13 at 9:34 am

The King thing is a red herring. Leave it. If that’s hard, think about the words that the US Chief Justice uses to swear in the President. Yes, the Chief Justice has freedom of speech, but at that point, s/he is engaging in a constitutional ceremony and thus it’s part of their role to say certain words in a certain order.

Constitutiona monarchs as heads of state may or may not be a good thing, but it’s been a thing for about a hundred million Europeans for more than a hundred years: focus on the content.

31

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 9:35 am

This is not an out of the blue speech by the king. It’s the yearly speech that accompanies the proposed new budget of the government. Having the king read it is purely ceremonial. Similar to how the US state of the union is a big event with spectators, even though they could just put the text on a website and be done with it.

Also, the king does not have simple freedom of speech. This is formally a tricky matter. The ministers are responsible for the king’s actions, so the king is in some abstracted sense above the law, but in the legal system is taken to mean that the king cannot do or say anything controversial. It’s a somewhat grey legal area, never pushed hard by the royal family.

In practice the king simply cannot go against the government’s wishes. Implicitly, the system assumes that the monarchy will be disbanded or reformed if the king would test the formal powers they still have left. Something like that actually happened in Belgium: the king refused to sign an abortion law, was removed, the law was signed, and the king reinstated. The dutch royal family has a lot stronger place in society than the Belgium royals, and it’s highly unlikely they would threaten that position with a similar action.

There’s a yearly Christmas speech where the king can give a personal view on the country. The previous queen would sometimes push the limits here on neutrality, but in a very roundabout way.

32

ajay 09.20.13 at 9:35 am

28, 29: certainly in the UK and I presume in the Netherlands as well, the monarch opens parliament by making a speech outlining what the government (“my government”) is going to do over the next year. If the monarch refused to make such a speech unless she agreed with every word of it, then you have a constitutional crisis: the whole point of a constitutional monarchy is that the monarch is supposed to be above party politics, not just at the Opening of Parliament but all the time. They shouldn’t be going around saying “I wholeheartedly support a 50p income tax band” or “we should definitely reform planning application procedures to make it easier to re-use brownfield sites” because that’s not their job and they don’t have the democratic standing to say so. The king, in this case, certainly doesn’t have freedom of speech, any more than a business executive or a university professor has freedom of speech – it’s very severely constrained by the terms of his employment.

The alternative would be to abolish the Queen’s /King’s Speech and just have the PM give an opening address. No reason why that shouldn’t happen, I suppose, but there doesn’t seem to be a good case for changing it at present.
28′s incoherence is excused by its ignorance.

33

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.20.13 at 9:44 am

#32 I prefer to think my “incoherence” is born of my Republican (Spanish meaning) bias. It may be his job; I want his job to disappear from Earth.

34

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 10:17 am

To get back to the politics:

Foppe says: secondly, Cuperus’s refusal to say that a lot of the problems that we see now are being caused by the creation of the Eurozone (given that he complains about how hard it is to “sell a happy story about europe”) suggests he is suffering from extreme forms of myopia.

I thought that Cuperus was anti-euro, and generally skeptical about the EU, and he was kind of side lined in the PvdA as result. Not sure though. I suspect he wants you to draw the conclusion that the euro is the root problem, without explicitly saying so.

35

Foppe 09.20.13 at 11:45 am

@34: I just googled him a bit, and it seems he contributed to a recently released book with the ambitious critical title ‘de politiek vd Euro/the politics of the Euro’; so it seems likely that he is familiar with its flaws. I can’t access the book contents online though, so I don’t know what he thinks is the problem. None of the insights in the book are particularly new, though, so it seems to me that the WBS is a bit late to the party, regardless of how interesting the book may be. But better late than never, I suppose.
And from what little else I can find of his output, it doesn’t seem as though he was writing/preaching very hard about the whole eurozone/maastricht issue, given that most of the publications listed discuss party-political considerations and issues. His volkskrant output is equally bland and middle of the road.

Anyway, assuming for the moment that he indeed understands the flaws, I have two questions for him: 1, related to the article linked to above, is why does he choose for this style of argumentation, which strikes me as elitist, as well as counterproductive? It seems to allow him to seem in-the-know in the eyes of cognescenti, whilst keeping anyone who doesn’t already have access to the same information in the dark. Why on earth is it that the naming, and discussion of the specific flaws of the Maastricht treaty is being left to closed-doors discussions, where apparently not even a closed community such as ‘Policy Network’ isn’t sufficiently private that he feels free to explicitly identify problems? (In this light, consider his remarks in <a href=http://www.socialistenendemocraten.nl/nieuws/2012/10/Partijlid-over-Europa-Rene-Cuperusthis article, where he paints the same neat and wrong, straw-man dichotomy between eurosceptics and europhiles that I see every establishmentarian doing.)
#2: why doesn’t he seem to be talking anywhere about the role the PvdA played in all of this? Is loyalty to the party more important to him than making party members, as well as prospective members, understand what kind of party they are or will be voting for? Does he consider it too boring or too difficult for “ordinary people” to understand and weigh such information (see elitism), or did he just not want to lose his job at the WBS?

36

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 12:02 pm

This must be as explicit as it gets:

http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/6484/Rene-Cuperus/article/detail/2858451/2011/08/22/De-euro-is-de-zelfmoordpil-van-Europa.dhtml

In english: The euro is the suicide pill of Europe

I don’t know enough about the internal politics of the PvdA to figure out Cuperus. He sometimes seems so be influential and well-connectdd, but I don’t know his relation to Samson or Dijsselblom.

37

Martin 09.20.13 at 12:17 pm

I haven’t voted in a Dutch election in a while and as such have not paid much attention to the politics. I did not expect anything to change for the foreseeable future and apparently nothing really did.

The political class still cares very well for its own, the difference between the traditional parties are symbolic at best, and the extremes do not offer a viable alternative. That and all parties are either for devolving more responsibility to the EU even though there exists little to no accountability at that level, or against devolving more responsibility to the EU but take an inhumane view on immigration.

I would very much like to see a liberal party in the Netherlands, but apparently there is no demand for it from the voters or it is difficult to find those voters. What I would also like to see is that if you voice criticism of the EU or on how immigration has gone in the Netherlands, that you’re not branded as “afraid” or “reactionary” or whatever ad hominem is in vogue nowadays to dismiss critics.

38

Dutchie 09.20.13 at 12:23 pm

The ‘participation society’ is just a mixed bag of Cameron’s Big Society and Blue Labour. Mark Rutte is pals with Cameron and vice-PM Lodewijk Asscher is a supporter of Blue Labour, as also reflected in his negative comments on Bulgarian and Romanian labour migration. I think he explicitly endorsed these ideas at a conference where Maurice Glasman also spoke. It’s part of the anglophile orientation of Dutch politics, where we would rather look to the UK than to Germany for our ideas. Just as in the UK, we may view these pseudo-sociological constructs as the poster for the coming Potemkin version of welfare.

Fundamentally, the social-democrats have lost their own capacity to form a serious economic analysis and are now making do with ‘participation’, an idea that will probably fare quite well in the kind of social circles they mingle. The Cuperus character is really not offering any credible policies either, he’s been repeating the populism story for years.

The problem is that in the Dutch case TINA really rules, for apart from the job of cobbling together coalitions of parties that all more or less subscribe to the neoliberal agenda there is only Geert Wilders. Yes, there is a Socialist Party, made up of decent folk with a vision of equality and humanism, but they will be rejected at every turn for not following the consensus line (which makes you a populist by their standards) and are not aggressive enough to really mobilise the people to force their way in.

Real Dutch populism is people commenting on websites how right it was that a refugee child with acute leukemia was not treated (she was treated in Poland), how her parents had abused her illness (even though they had been here for years a think, what part of ‘acute’ can one not understand?) and how we should prevent anyone with a disease to turn up at our border. So, there you have it, the participation society and the mindless egoism. What joy does our era bring!

The Dutch progressive era is over, and I would say for a very, very long time. The good thing is that we’re in a quiet neighbourhood, so probably no major accidents will occur.

39

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 12:31 pm

When you ‘liberal’, what do you have in mind? I am honestly wondering what style of liberalism is not yet covered somewhere between Vvd, d66 and the liberal wings of PvdA or GroenLinks.

40

Martin 09.20.13 at 1:01 pm

Zamfir, no doubt different parties do have people who hold a position on some topic that can be called liberal. Just however because a part of a party is liberal on some topic, does not mean that the whole party is a liberal party.

There is no party in the Netherlands that holds a liberal view when it comes to immigration, the EU, and the welfare state simultaneously. What do I mean by this?

1. Well, a liberal view on immigration means that you are happy with more immigrants coming to the Netherlands around the world. People should be free to go and stand where they want to go and trade, interact, marry with whomever they want.

2. A liberal view on the EU means that you do not transfer sovereignty, when that means that there is less accountability. Unchecked power poses a grave threat to freedom.

3. A liberal view on the welfare state means that the welfare state is there primarily for the purpose of insurance against those great calamities of rare occurrence in life for which it is difficult to save yourself. Instead what we have is the transfer of resources from one group to another, and those people who need insurance against life’s hardships and are a negligible part of the electorate are the first to feel the cuts.

41

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 1:28 pm

You think Rutte would, personally, disagree much with anything on that list?

42

Nicholas 09.20.13 at 1:49 pm

It’s pretty disheartening to see the direction that the PvdA has taken after entering a coalition with the VVD. As I see it there are two particularly tragic developments that enabled this to happen:
1) The frenzied voting in the elections of last September, in which the last-minute gains Samsom made on Rutte in the polls drew away a lot of voters from other left-wing and progressive parties, mainly the Socialist Party, GroenLinks and D’66 in the hope there would once more be a center-left prime minister after ten years of Christian Democrat and VVD rule. But instead of building a solid progressive block, all that this did was to fill inflate the PvdA’s parliamentary strength while keeping Rutte as prime minister, due to the proportional voting system. The Dutch social-democratic left has been in a state of decline ever since the early 2000s, and it’s current size as the second-largest party obscures that it has not found a coherent and distinctive political program suited to 21st century realities.
2) The silly and preventable decline of GroenLinks (Green Left) in the summer of 2012, due to internal squabbles in the party leadership, which has decimated the party’s size in parliament. It’s remarkable that as of 2013 a country like the Netherlands does not have a viable green party in the way that Germany does. This also means the only progressive party outside of the current coalition which is still prepared to work to reform without majorly changing the Dutch position within the EU is D’66; but as has been pointed out, their insistence on pragmatic politics has left them teethless in the face of the coalition’s austerity program.
I think that one driver of this obstinacy in times of clearly self-defeating economic policies is the legacy of socio-political cooperation (the ‘Poldermodel’) in Dutch politics. In good times it enables the burdens and dividends to be distributed more equally, but we haven’t really seen as big an economic crisis as we’re seeing now since the system emerged in the wake of World War II. We’ll have to see if it can survive. But it’s certain that if current tensions in the relations with social partners are driven to a breaking point, then the political spectrum of the Netherlands may end up permanently more polarised as a result.

43

Martin 09.20.13 at 2:39 pm

I don’t know him personally, so I don’t know whether he would. All I can see is what his party does and judge accordingly.

I don’t see the immigration policy of the VVD or this cabinet as particularly friendly towards immigrants. And as for the EU and the eurozone, the VVD seems to do systematically the opposite of what it promises. Do you remember when Rutte said during the election debate that no further penny would go to Greece? After the elections were over… well let’s say he was not completely honest about what he meant by that.

That said, there are more problems with the VVD than just those areas. It’s a liberal party in name only. For example, the mortgage interest deduction and all the policies associated with it are ridiculous. I don’t see what is so liberal about that. Neither do I see what is so liberal about our health insurance. It seems to finance mostly expenditure that people expect to make and when cuts need to be made, the proposals are such to make those at the expense of those people with the rarest of diseases (e.g. Ziekte van Pompe).

44

Martin 09.20.13 at 2:46 pm

@Dutchie,

I am pretty happy with the decline of the PvdA, I hope they will be wiped out and marginalized pretty soon, and so should you hope too if you are a social democrat. The Socialist Party would be a much better substitute for the PvdA, same sort of politics, bit more consistent (i.e. not self-contradictory policies), and far less corrupt.

45

Foppe 09.20.13 at 3:49 pm

@36: it is explicit, yes, but it paints the picture as though the Euro is the only problem; which it isn’t. And he paints the problem as following from elite failure, which is a horribly misleading explanation of how and why the Euro was adopted, and why it was institutionalized the way it was.

46

Zamfir 09.20.13 at 4:07 pm

@Foppe, what’s your alternative take?

47

mpowell 09.20.13 at 5:20 pm

Not having any feel for it, I wonder how much the creation of the Euro and the push for austerity was intended by at least some of the involved parties to have this effect. Or are they all just misguided?

48

Foppe 09.20.13 at 5:28 pm

@46: well, like I alluded to above when I discussed the role of privatization in raising the cost of living, the whole of the Maastricht Treaty (which requires privatization, and which forbids governments from taking lots of actions to stabilize local economies) is part of the problem. Then there is the fact that at least Germany and NL deliberately undervalued their currencies when they entered the Euro, which exacerbated the problem of competitive differences between West/rest. Then there was the choice to leave Eurostat toothless, in order to ensure that southern demand for western products would not taper, as this was helping the Western economies grow. Then there was the fact that banks like GS were allowed, with what amounts to unspoken, official permission (it was basically an open secret that Italy creatively bookkept its way into meeting the requirements for Eurozone entry) to help certain countries meet the requirements for entry into the EZ. Then there was the fact that the ECB decided to pursue a strict hands-off policy, and forbade banks such as the Spanish CB to intervene in its own market to prevent the Spanish housing bubble from growing as large as it did (AE Pritchard of the Telegraph reported on this back in 2005/06 somewhere). Etcetera.

49

Chaz 09.20.13 at 8:46 pm

Ajay @32: ” the monarch is supposed to be above party politics”

That’s what I mean though. It seems like the King here is doing just the opposite: taking an ideological stance with this participatory society crap.

I suspect he believes what he said. Probably he wouldn’t have said it without the PM’s support, and maybe he wouldn’t have come up with those words, but I bet in this guy’s head he’s thinking the same old “the rich deserve what they have, the poor should fend for themselves” bs the spoiled rich have always thought. If the PM had written him a speech saying, “Due to social developments such as globalisation and an ageing population, our labour market and public services are no longer suited to the demands of the times. We must forge a participatory society through the nationalization of all industry and confiscation of fortunes above 1 million euroes,” he wouldn’t have delivered it.

50

Hidari 09.20.13 at 8:59 pm

” the monarch is supposed to be above party politics”.

Beneath, surely?

51

Bruce Wilder 09.20.13 at 9:11 pm

mpowell @ 47: . . . how much . . . was intended . . . ?

The political question of our times.

52

Cian 09.20.13 at 9:15 pm

@49 – In Britain the queen is given a speech which she has to read. I very much doubt it’s any different in the Netherlands.

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Katherine 09.20.13 at 10:00 pm

It seems like the King here is doing just the opposite: taking an ideological stance with this participatory society crap.

You are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of a constitutional monarchy. They read what they are given to read – it’s not their words.

It’s the nature of the delicate balance between Monarch and government. Theoretically and ritually, the monarch has enormous power. Practically, they mustn’t ever wield it, since to do so would provoke a constitutional crisis, which would not end well for the monarch that broke the rules. They may be inbred leeches on society, but they’re not that stupid.

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mpowell 09.20.13 at 10:01 pm

Foppe @ 48: It sure sounds like you’re arguing that it’s mostly the Euro that’s the problem. Most of your extras involve institutional arrangements that were part of the Euro’s creation and thus not really separate from the Euro as realized. Maybe there could have been a different Euro that worked better, but I think that is obvious to most critics.

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mpowell 09.20.13 at 10:05 pm

BW @ 51: It is an interesting question for sure Of course, if you talk to average euro citizens or read publications, they really don’t seem to have an appreciation for the difficulties with macro management that the single currency has created. On the intellectual side, a lot of it seems like defiance of all the US economists who told them the euro wasn’t an optimal currency area. On the populist front, it seems like people really think that aggressive monetary policy will deliver inflation and no more employment. So I think it’s hardly to rule out that ‘mostly just misguided’ is more or less correct.

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hix 09.21.13 at 12:51 am

“To sum up, the Hartz reforms have mostly served to define away the problem of unemployment, but have not led to meaningful increases in quality of life (or internal demand). As such, I wonder how viable the German situation really is.”

Dont think anyone ever intended to increase internal demand or quality of life with hartz4. Rather the opposit. Those who made it to the top from poverty can be quite hard against those who did not suceed like them. I had to deal with the unemployment agency myself recently and figured it would be a lot easier now due to the low unemployment, but it was quite the opposit. That does not change that unemployment numbers and gdp growth numbers compare very favourable to the rest of the developed world since arround 2006 after a long run into the opposit direction. Additional creative accounting (this started long before hartz4) adds maybe 1% to unemployment and some other nations still do more creative unemployment accounting. My takeaway from the last 10 years is that gdp growth barely responds to social policy changes or any other reforms.

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Bruce Wilder 09.21.13 at 1:38 am

Symbolically, European institutions have been associated with progress, and in the European south the Euro seemed like the ticket out of petty political corruption, and into the 1st world of institutions that worked. The politics of the euro is entangled with general institutional reform & probity in the public mind across Europe, and that association is a siamese twin to contempt for national politicians. In Greece, it is impossible to summon a nationalism to respond to the country’s travails without reviving the civil war. In Italy, the quicksand of Berlusconi sucks everything into the sink. In Spain, Catalonian independence comes to the fore.

NL is one of those 1st tier countries that the Med periphery hoped to emulate, but it is near the economic cliff. The technics of economics matter, but the megarich hired Olli Rehn (and Ben Bernanke) when no one was paying attention. C seemed like Maureen Dowd, but in some weird way he got the main thrust. Somewhere, maybe, there’s a new Marx to shred the ideological curtain.

The Left — any Left — needs a theory plus a devil. They lack a theory, I think.

The Left lacks a coherent theory of money, and that’s a particular problem with the Euro. The other day on Naked Capitalism, yves had some numbskull advocating a $60 trillion platinum coin for Obama’s debt ceiling debacle. 200+ years ago the French Revolution foundered on the unwillingness of the lawyers to distribute bread or institute a central bank.

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Foppe 09.21.13 at 6:53 am

@56: a lot of the gdp growth of the past decade and a half has come from german/dutch exports supplanting local output in spain/greece/etc., which was largely funded by the banks (from the same countries) lending money in or to those countries.. Certainly Germany is also exporting a lot to China, but it is hugely dependent for its success on the mercantilist strategy it is pursuing inside the EZ. How is that going to end well, now that they are forcing Olli Rehn on everyone?
@54: no, they are separate; they also affect countries that either aren’t part of the EZ yet, or that don’t want to be (such as .dk/.se).

59

Foppe 09.21.13 at 6:57 am

@57: Bruce, the fact that you dislike PCS doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be legal; that aside, the issue isn’t that the left needs a theory, but that Obama wants those debt ceiling crises in order to be able to enact his grand bargaining away of social security for “prudence’s sake”.

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Katherine 09.21.13 at 9:36 am

On the populist front, it seems like people really think that aggressive monetary policy will deliver inflation and no more employment.

Most people wouldn’t have the first idea what that sentence even means. Most people after all don’t have even basic education in economics, since it’s not taught at school.

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Matt Steinglass 09.21.13 at 11:37 am

Excellent discussion here. To Dutchie’s comment on the end of the Dutch progressive era, that certainly seems broadly right, but it is interesting to think about how much recent developments have been driven by unpredictable personal factors. Had Roemer done better in the debates in August 2012, had Samsom done worse, had Tofik Dibi not decided to destroy GroenLinks, etc. Of course these may be only symptoms of basic weaknesses in left-wing parties. It is notable that Geert Wilders, who seemed a year ago to have failed to take leadership on the anti-EU and anti-austerity issues away from the Socialists, now clearly seems to have done so.

62

Salem 09.21.13 at 12:22 pm

The Left — any Left — needs a theory plus a devil. They lack a theory, I think.

BW always has the most interesting comments on these threads. I wish it was possible to upvote this.

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Akshay 09.21.13 at 2:44 pm

While commenters above have mentioned i) current Eurozone politics and ii) the longer term trend of a social-democratic party embracing market liberalism, what I find most terrifying is the rise of the populist far-right. I thought I grew up in a sensible country: now vast sections of it seem to have been carted off into the Murdochverse, admiring and voting for a range of trolls and orcs. The speed and scope of the process has been utterly alienating.

Well, its not the Murdochverse precisely, it’s different in many ways, but in answer to Bruce Wilders question @21, I would say that NL right-wing “populism” reminds me of the UK Murdochverse, but having adapted to the local cultural characteristics. Left-wing “populism” is basically “Old Labour”, which got abandoned when the social democratic parties went “New Labour”. In PR voting systems, this means that another party took over that part of the vote. However, Labour, Old and New, has been structurally weakened and the Right is now structurally stronger, having captured much of Labour’s voting base.

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Sad Paul Ryan 09.21.13 at 3:33 pm

I would just like to point out that the major problem here is the Euro-area monetary policy union sewn together with the 3% budget deficit cap.

No self-respecting left party would push these policies if the country had control of its own monetary policy and could run anti-cyclical fiscal policy. In fact, I very much suspect that if this were the 1980s, we would have seen centre-left governments narrowly hold on in Spain and Portugal, with some turmoil in Greece as they were bailed out by the IMF. Methinks Sarkozy still would have lost, but the Dutch election would have gone somewhat differently.

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Bruce Wilder 09.21.13 at 4:44 pm

Foppe @ 59 I don’t “dislike” the platinum coin solution, per se, and the legality is not an issue for me. Proposing a $60 trillion coin, and the elimination of the marketable national debt, seemed more like a cry for help from a lunatic than an economic theory.

I agree that Obama wants the political theatre of the debt ceiling fight, but that political theatre, for all sides, rests on vague premises about what constitutes good and responsible economic governance. Theatre is drama and drama is about the moral character of actors and actions, and our emotional reactions to them, reactions as rehearsed as the doings of the actors. The political theatre of the debt ceiling fight has been set up and prepared by years of propaganda, shaping the audience’s responses in ways that favor outcomes desired by one or another faction of the kleptocratic rich.

I think the platinum coin — a collection of coins totaling a modest $2 or $4 trillion — might actually be a sensible economic policy, one element of a pivot away from a policy of transforming fraudulent private debt into the full faith and credit of public debt. Aggressive extinction of bad debts, counterbalanced by aggressive fiscal spending on re-structuring the economy, and refurbishing its public goods, would make sense in our circumstances. (Hell on the mega-rich and their banksters, though.) My seeing that clearly, and the general public adopting that interpretation, however, are widely separated.

There’s a tiny faction of the blogospheric left, which likes the PCS as a deus ex machina to escape the debt ceiling drama, but such an artifice in politics as in theatre, tends to fall flat, because it is not emotionally satisfying or convincing. People — the general public — wouldn’t know what to make of it. It’s quite possible that its actual implementation, without preparation of the mind, would set off a general panic of a very destructive kind. And, it doesn’t address the core problem of who is in power — Obama would still be Obama, Bernanke would still be Bernanke (or Yellen, which might not be that different).

To bring this back to the topic of the OP, Europe is trapped by its institutional commitments to the Euro, in a similar sort of pathological political drama. The liberals, the conservatives and the authoritarian right are all empowered to push their most destructive agendas, with the cover story that they are pushing necessary institutional reforms, probity in budgeting, good government, accommodation and adjustment to emerging realities (aka unappeasable gods, like globalization and an aging population, as cited in the King’s Speech). They cannot be accused of “intending” anything, least of all stealing the future and robbing the poor to enrich parasitic rentiers. At worst, everyone is “misguided” in their responses, the centre-left, missing the complacent consensus of a generation ago, most of all.

The centre-left in Europe has a deus-ex-machina in exiting the currency union, and re-claiming national sovereignty in monetary policy and banking governance, but it doesn’t have a convincing story for why that would be good for Greece and Greeks, or Spain and Spaniards. Nor, in the opposite policy direction, does it have a program for making changes to the Euro, banking union, and the system of financing national government, work in ways that secure the welfare state against the depredations of the looters, banksters and Olli Rehn.

The lack of institutional imagination handicaps the left. They need a theory of the way the world works, which dis-empowers abstractions like “globalization” and makes the connection between policy and consequences in a morally potent way.

66

wp200 09.22.13 at 6:29 am

The analysis of Dutch politics is simple:

This government and the last two have mismanaged the economic crisis. This is because all the mainstream parties have bought into Hooverism (Colijnisme in Dutch). Not just the Liberals and Labour, but also the Christian-Democrats, D66 (Lib-Dems), small Christian parties and even GroenLinks (GreenLeft: the old pacifists and communists). Cutting your way to growth is the broad consensus, the arguments are only about what to cut.

Common-sense Keynesian anti-cyclical policy is simply not on offer, except from the far left (SP, the Socialist Party, old Maoists) and the far right (Geert Wilders and his PVV), but these are more or less “accidental” Keynesians. The SP always wants to spend more money and Geert Wilders thinks he can achieve the savings the government wants just by cutting foreign aid and immigration.

I used to follow US politics because Dutch politics is too boring. Not anymore. The Circus of Stupid on display right now is fascinating. Horrifying and really, really harmful, but fascinating. How can it be that in a Parliament with 10 different parties none of them is making sense?

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Gert-Jan C. Prins 09.22.13 at 7:12 am

Although an older thread, perhaps someone might find interest in this: When looking at the last 10 to 15 years in Dutch politics all real critics but the superficial ones have been removed from the playing field. If you take “growth from recession” as a truth even in the worst depression (i.o.w. it will take at least a decade or even a generations worth of time), then what must take place is a stabilization of the situation and not a sale of all things of worth which limits the capacity of society to retain even a very limited growth (or limit negative growth). Looking at all the privatizations over the last 15 years and the willingness of the liberals (that are not real liberals but robber-barons holding out for corporate-welfare and like to “socialize” corporate risks) to sell off social rights/guarantees and national assets at below marked prices while these products and services are cost covering enterprises, have under European rules/regulations been not-for-profit, limited in scope to provided for the in-need and yet are “lean”-enterprises that could if privatized be a ground for a nice stable profit margin. The amount of debt that has been created at the state level to cover socialized risk is troublesome (bank-bailouts for example) and yet now the corporate lobbyists are pleading to the government to sell the Nationalized (and thereby saved) Abn-Amro bank under true marked value which is in effect thereby a transfer from wealth from the state (borrowed money’s even) to the corporate market since the day after de-nationalization the not-for-profit bank will be for-profit again and will increase in value overnight… This type of behavior is not a long term plan for “growth out of recession”, but putting a lean on future government policy by leading the taxpayer with debt for a generation (as Iceland has been) and thereby ensuring social policy can not be enacted but must be rooted out and destroyed because of costs. Adam Smiths invisible hand of marked forces at work one could say, but as misinterpreted on this as he has been he did worn us about… Corporate non-governmental transnational entities have become death, destroyers of worlds…

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Matt Steinglass 09.22.13 at 9:09 am

wp200, I doubt that Geert Wilders actually thinks the budget numbers he presents in his platform, in which he claims he can balance the budget by eliminating foreign aid and sustainable-energy subsidies and by blocking immigration, are a realistic programme. Rather he probably realises that budget plans created for purposes of political propaganda don’t bear any close relationship to the budgets that ultimately emerge from the legislative process, so there ‘s not much point in handicapping your propaganda by making them realistic. You have to do that to some extent before elections because the CPB will evaluate the budget proposal, but right now there’s no need to do so. What is more important is the general direction of the move he’s making: he’s channeling anti-austerity sentiment largely into anti-tax sentiment. Of course he’s also against cuts to pensions and healthcare, but that’s taking a back seat lately to his attacks on austerity-driven tax hikes. Because Wilders is currently more successful than the Socialists in grabbing the horns of the Dutch public’s revolt against austerity, that means that the direction of this turn against Colijnism is likely to end up meaning cuts to public investment and to progressive taxation, when it might have been the opposite if Labour had taken a Keynesian position from the start of the crisis. For the past two years the Socialists have been saying they have no idea what Labour thinks it’s doing; they’re going to end up eating Labour’s lunch, but it’ll be a much smaller lunch than it was last September.

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wp200 09.22.13 at 9:40 am

Matt, I take it you agree with the general thrust of my argument: there are no true Keynesians in Dutch politics.

As for Geert Wilders’ policy preferences: as he used to be a Liberal, I strongly suspect that his own preference is for a low-tax, small safety-net society. But at the moment my guess is that he’s just watching the poll numbers and seeing where his support is coming from. Old folks vote for him? Keep Social Security! VAT-hike? Lower taxes!

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Akshay 09.22.13 at 10:07 am

Surely one of the reasons there are no true Keynesians in Dutch politics is that there are very few Keynesians among the Dutch population? A recent Pew Reasearch poll found solid “Pay down the debt” majorities even in France, Spain and Italy. I suspect the numbers would be similar in NL, though perhaps the population is gradually turning on this (?).

Swabian housewife economics is easy to understand and deeply ingrained; politicians are simply calculating that they will never convince the majority out of its incurably pro-cyclical economic views, and any attempt to do so will get them branded ‘irresponsible’.

71

wp200 09.22.13 at 12:42 pm

Akshary – It wasn’t always thus.

Colijn’s Finance Minister, Pieter Oud, leader of the Liberals, was asked a question in the Tweede Kamer in 1957:

Nederhost (Labour): “What about Keynes?”
Oud (Liberals): “I offer my apologies, Mister Speaker, I cannot help it. I am not an economist. You cannot blame us for not knowing then, what we know now.”</blockquote.

This is the Andrew Mellon of the Lowlands admitting, plain and simple, that he was wrong and Keynes was right. He is the direct predecessor of Prime Minister Rutte as leader of the Liberal Party.

Source: http://www.ftm.nl/exclusive/de-wederopstanding-van-colijn/

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wp200 09.22.13 at 12:44 pm

Oops. Forgot a >.

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wp200 09.22.13 at 12:57 pm

Akshay –

Of course you are right about the lack of Keynesians in Holland. But that doesn’t mean that the Dutch haven’t begun to notice that austerity does not work.

They liked it fine when it was applied to Spain and Greece. Now, not so much.

At the polls the coalition is at 43 seats, down from 79 (in a 150 seat House) at the 2012 election. SP and Wilders are winners, as well as D66, who are austerians, but who lost a lot of votes to Liberals and Labour in 2012 because the elections hinged on who got to be biggest—Labour or Liberals—and get to form the new coalition.

Source: http://www.ipsos-nederland.nl/content.asp?targetid=621

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Dutchie 09.22.13 at 1:18 pm

@wp200

Don’t agree that, as you say, the SP ‘always wants to spend more money’, their economic agenda is more complex than that. Of course, in the end it is not a Keynesian agenda but a socialist one dressed up in popular front terms. I do not think their leadership nor the majority of members see themselves as social-democrats, despite the fact that this is often said about them. In popular front terms, Keynes would just be the first step to start doing other things. The fact that this did not work just points to how far to the economic right the country has moved. Or perhaps better: returned to its natural petit-bourgeois habits.

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Foppe 09.22.13 at 3:19 pm

@62: I am afraid I enjoy such unargued-for one-liners rather less than you do, especially since I have no clue which ‘the’ left BW is referring to, why he disapproves of the theories that are out there already, and which theories he is aware of.. YMMV, of course.

@66: I love drive-by-putdowns such as your casting the SP as ‘old maoists’, presented as though it’s a relevant consideration for foreigners trying to understand what the contemporary SP is about, as much as anyone with a functioning brain who is aware of the history of ‘left demonization’, so I would humbly suggest you to look into what the party stands for, f.i. by reading their ‘passport’.. It might surprise you. (Also, I find it quite tiresome how even on sites such as this one, these knee-jerk characterizations can still be sold. But I guess everything is allowed when the object is to prevent oneself from having to even consider the idea they might need to reassess decades-old stigmas that were largely irrelevant even when they *were* accurate, because of how little influence the study-chamber love of Mao had for actual party positions. But whatever.)

Having said that, I must say that the reasons you provide for why you (still) think US politics are more seem to me the wrong ones, of the ‘I am looking in the direction the officer told me to’ variety.. What passes for US politics is horribly boring, except if you want to train your taboo sensor. (Though you could do this just as easily by following Dutch politics, which is almost as bad ever since the neoliberalization of the PvdA.) To insert a nice quote by Brecht that was recently brought to my attention: “Was sind das für Zeiten, wo ein Gespräch über Bäume fast ein Verbrechen ist – Weil es ein Schweigen über so viele Untaten einschließt?” So please remember, political boredom varies inversely with the formation of political taboos, and with the maintenance of message discipline by parties and media.

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wp200 09.22.13 at 6:50 pm

@Foppe

You are taking my characterization of the political parties a bit too serious. I almost voted SP, precisely because they are “accidental Keynesians” and are not Geert Wilders.

Still, the founders of the SP were Maoists in the ’70s when it was already abundantly clear that Mao was not a very nice person. And they only renounced Marxism-Leninism in 1991. Such a difference in judgment from my own makes it hard for me to vote for them, even though (I will readily admit) during the last elections they made all the right noises to woo me.

They haven’t earned my trust yet, but all the other (so-called) leftwing parties have earned my distrust with their austerity.

As for US politics vs Dutch politics, the US is not lacking in it’s own Circus of Stupid. It is called the Republican Party. Their multifaceted stupidity has been on display for longer than the monomaniacal stupidity of austerians here in Holland (and in the UK, Germany, Brussels and Frankfurt). I still find the US variety more entertaining, even if less threatening to me personally.

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Foppe 09.22.13 at 7:02 pm

I find parties labeling themselves the ‘responsible party’ (the dems/PvdA/D’66) much scarier than parties like the GOP…

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wp200 09.22.13 at 7:16 pm

@Dutchie

I agree with you that even though the agenda put forward by the SP is pretty much Keynesian, I too get the feeling the SP are socialists at heart, not social-democrats.

In 2006 & 2010 I wanted the SP to win seats and move the Overton window to the left.
I did not want to see them in power in a coalition to find out where they will stop.

In 2012 I hoped the SP would become junior partners in a coalition, preferably the fabled “Grand Left-wing Coalition” that the Dutch never get.

But now it is different. All the other left-wing parties have lost their minds. Now I want the SP to become the largest leftwing party. I still don’t trust them, but the others are rubbish.

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wp200 09.22.13 at 8:20 pm

@Foppe

“I find parties labeling themselves the ‘responsible party’ (the dems/PvdA/D’66) much scarier than parties like the GOP…”

In Holland, yes. In the US…… the GOP is home to election-stealers, young-earthers and war-criminals. And they are austerians. Hard to top.

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Foppe 09.22.13 at 8:42 pm

Hey, that’s what you get when you allow scotus to “apolitically” forbid a recount.. Just proves once more that depoliticization of political decisions and political fora, and outsourcing political decisions to the judicial realm is dangerous (by design). Furthermore, please don’t forget that Obama quite happily endorses the “look forward, not backward” policy of not prosecuting elite crimes/war criminals, and is the most proactive persecutor of traitorous whistleblowers in the history of the Espionage act. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

81

Foppe 09.23.13 at 8:14 am

Just to continue my character exposure effort wrt Cuperus a bit, here’s some proof that that he either can’t, or doesn’t care about, the distinguish between being successful at the political game (in this case, by depoliticizing the German elections by turning them into a ‘do you trust Angela Merkel, no questions asked about policy’ referendum), and making the right policy and/or political choices. (These remarks come the morning after the German elections):

‘Ik ben een beetje verliefd op Merkel. Merkel is de kurk op de fles als het gaat om spanningen en populistische krachten in Europa. In een tijd dat Nederland de weg een beetje kwijt is, de stabiliteit in de politiek zoek is, straalt Merkel rust uit. Ze is een natuurkundige – de moeilijkste studie die er is – en zo pakt ze problemen ook aan, stapje voor stapje. Ze laat zich niet gek maken. Een goede mix tussen hippe trends en traditie. Laptop und lederhosen, wordt dat ook wel genoemd. Merkel is daarvan de verpersoonlijking.

‘Merkel voelt heel goed aan wat de Duitse bevolking aankan en wat niet.

Translation:

I am a little bit in love with Merkel. She is the cork in the bottle when it comes to tensions and populist forces in Europe. Whereas the Netherlands seems a bit lost — that is, lacking political stability — Merkel exudes quiet. She is a physicist — the hardest study there is — and approaches problems in that way, step by step. She is impossible to lead around by the nose. A good mix between traditions and hipness. Laptop und Lederhosen, they call it. Merkel personifies that.

Merkel knows very well what the German population can and cannot handle.

Now, these remarks come after an election season in which Merkel’s propaganda team took every effort to make sure that no substantive discussion could take hold, by ignoring every attempt to start a discussion, and by constantly hammering on the message ‘trust [mutti] Merkel’. (Cuperus is quite into that, you might notice..) No discussion about the role German politicians (and the secret service) played in aiding and abetting GCHQ/NSA spying on German citizens and corporations, no discussion of the inviability of the ‘solution’ to the Greek crisis, etc. Cuperus doesn’t seem bothered by this, or perhaps he prefers it when such difficult issues are only discussed by ‘respectable’ people, without there being any politicians who successfully politicize those discussions (that would be populist, after all), as evidenced by his paternalistic suggestion that there are things that “the german population‘ cannot handle”. How is that in any way reconcilable with being a democrat, rather than a technocratic anti-democrat?
It seems to me quite clear, in any case, that his main worry is not that the EU is being run into the ground (or however you want to put what’s going on) by incompetent and corrupt technocrats, but that this might allow ‘populists’ to take hold. And thus, that he is quite unwilling to see that his own party, and ‘third way thinking’ in general, that’s largely to blame for the problems that we are now faced with. Therefore, assuming Henry is still reading the thread he created (;)), I would suggest that he take Cuperus’s article with a kilo or two of salt, and that he bring tweezers to remove the beam that is stuck in Cuperus’s eye whenever he reads another piece by him.

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Dutchie 09.23.13 at 10:51 am

Read the same remarks this morning and Foppe expresses it well, take the Cuperus guy with a very heavy dose of salt. There are much better analysts from the Netherlands, like Dick Pels or Ewald Engelen, who actually do have a clue.

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