The Netherlands. Prominent Dutchmen live outside Holland's borders nowadays. In Belgium, France, Switzerland and Spain one can find "Dutch villages," well padded with individualists.
In Holland itself the people in the limelight are all politicians:
The Prime Minister goes on TV to declare that unemployment is steadily rising despite the hundreds of millions of guilders he pumped into various sectors of the economy.
The Minister of Social Affairs let it be known that the disbursements under the social security legislation will have doubled between 1973 and 1977 if the present trend continues. The total amount for the year 1977 may be equal to the government's annual receipts in taxes.
The Minister of Defense professes to the news media his hatred for uniforms but remains silent when questioned about his many absences from duty and presences in various bars.
The Minister of Development Aid just received his second court sentence for drunken driving. And rumor has it that the cost for replacing his total-loss car was assumed by the government as a normal business expense.
But a shocker, even for many liberated Netherlanders is that the son of the totally ineffective Minister for the Environment very effectively appears on a weekly radio program to broadcast prices of drugs.
Dutch collectivism is spawning legislation such as the seatbelt law and aid to ailing newspapers, to be paid for by a tax on advertising. As The Netherlands' most successful newspaper (resembling Wynand's Banner in Ayn Rand's Fountainhead) is at the same time the most critical of the government, it is clear that the tax on advertising is aimed at destroying one newspaper rather than aiding all the others.
Some collectivist legislation can be quite amusing indeed—as for instance the government's solution for the shortage in the supply of academic education and subsidies to the ailing building industry. Students and contractors will henceforward partake in a lottery to obtain these privileges from the state. The political debate is now drifting from the abortion laws towards a tax on "super profits." Generally speaking Parliament is hinting that five times the guaranteed minimum income should be the maximum income for any Netherlander. An exception will possibly be the income of the Prime Minister, who at present receives 20 times the amount of the lowest paid civil servant.
(The governing parties leave no doubt as to their wishes for more regimentation of the individual citizen: one of their leaders parades the various cocktail-parties in a Mao uniform!)
Also, companies will be taxed on their super profits. The idea stems from old Karl Marx's assumption that labour rather than management, machines and capital is the source of profits. Possibly anything above 10 percent profits would be taxed away to the benefit of a workers' fund. As all Dutch workers would have an equal claim on this fund, the most productive workers would thus subsidize the least productive—an event undoubtedly valued by the lawmakers as a necessary step towards the workers' paradise.
While the Prime Minister is openly advocating the nationalization of all business and increased workers' participation in management decisions, the main opposition party which normally speaks for business and farmers, frantically endeavours to stem the collectivist tide. Their latest ploy is to advocate total agreement with government except that its decrees should be accepted voluntarily instead of being forced upon the population!
But of course the trend towards more coercion will continue for some time in The Netherlands until the roots of the altruist morality have been effectively exposed. It is in this light that one should look at the debate in parliament on the strengthening of the powers of the Dutch secret police. Particularly interesting is the omission by the government of a clear description of those considered to be the enemies of the state.
A LOOK AT THE BOTTOM
A year ago a handful of enterprising Netherlanders—most of them living abroad—provided an item of real interest for libertarian readers. Schooled in the teachings of Rand and von Mises they founded the Dutch Libertarian Center. A libertarian bookshop, a newsletter and a six-lectures-per-year program are its first accomplishments. A Dutch translation of Rand's Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal will be on the market shortly. Quite an elaborate organization is in preparation and a Dutch version of Hayek's Full Employment At Any Price is due for publication this fall.
In May a nice surprise was Nathaniel Branden's arrival in Amsterdam with a lecture and a three-day seminar on psychology. A month earlier Harry Schultz lectured to the Libertarian Center on gold.
Both speakers held newspaper interviews in the hope of boosting our spadework to build the road to freedom in The Netherlands.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Foreign Correspondent: The Worst on Top".