In New York Magazine, Russell Shorto talks about his experience living in the Netherlands for the past 18 months. After explaining how picturesque Holland is, he writes:
For the first few months I was haunted by a number: 52. It reverberated in my head; I felt myself a prisoner trying to escape its bars. For it represents the rate at which the income I earn, as a writer and as the director of an institute, is to be taxed. To be plain: more than half of my modest haul, I learned on arrival, was to be swallowed by the Dutch welfare state. Nothing in my time here has made me feel so much like an American as my reaction to this number.
And yet as the months rolled along, I found the defiant anger softening by intervals, thanks to a succession of little events and awarenesses.
What he calls “little events and awarenesses” is what we call government payouts:
Logging into my bank account, I noted with fleeting but pleasant confusion the arrival of two mysterious payments of 316 euros (about $410) each. The remarks line said “accommodation schoolbooks.” My confusion was not total. On looking at the payor — the Sociale Verzekeringsbank, or Social Insurance Bank — I nodded with sage if partial understanding. Our paths had crossed several times before. I have two daughters, you see. Every quarter, the SVB quietly drops $665 into my account with the one-word explanation kinderbijslag, or child benefit. As the SVB’s Web site cheerily informed me when I went there in bewilderment after the first deposit: “Babies are expensive. Nappies, clothes, the pram . . . all these things cost money. The Dutch government provides for child benefit to help you with the costs of bringing up your child.” Any parents living in the country receive quarterly payments until their children turn 18. And thanks to a recently passed law, the state now gives parents a hand in paying for school materials.
Payments arrive from other sources too.
This piece is a good illustration of how people grow to accept high taxes and the growth of government. For a good response to Shorto’s article, read this piece by Dutch expatriate Jurgen Reinhoudt, over at NewMajority.com. Jurgen writes:
But Shorto does not describe in detail issues that are well worth talking about: welfare state overreach, the Dutch approach towards multiculturalism and the Dutch approach towards crime. All three are highly relevant to understanding a growing sense of disillusionment in Dutch society and a rising enthusiasm for emigration.
For more on these three issues, go here.