Foreign Correspondent: Holland

Money, morals, and monarchy


Amsterdam. The Soviet Monarchy Holland is well on its way. The government has doubled its expenses during the last three years. And the Minister of Finance reports huge increases in its tax income. Surprisingly so, because government also moans that approximately one-third of the money held by its citizens is non-registered (black) money. Indeed, corruption of money, morals, and monarchy is rampant in Holland.

Children are disappearing at an alarming rate in the monarchy. Parents lodge an average of 50,000 complaints a year with the police that one of their minors left the house, without leaving a trace. Most of these children stay with thieves, drug traders or their accomplices, but the police and the courts are both unable and unwilling to offer any protection to these youngsters, other than shielding them against their parents.

In May parliamentary elections will be held. The polls indicate that the votes will be cast as follows: 25 percent socialist, 25 percent Christian socialist (CDA), 25 percent business socialist (VVD) and the balance undecided. Several small protest parties traditionally collect up to 10 percent of the votes, but their utter lack of sophistication usually turns their protests into a permanent tragi-comedy.

A New Organisation

One hopeful sign was the recent formation by small businessmen of the Federation of Free Entrepreneurs. They are fed up with the big Federation of Dutch Manufacturers which first pushed them into the trap of nationwide collective bargaining agreements, then into minimum wage laws, and finally into financing the trade unions. Only once have the trade unions suffered a setback. It happened in 1966 when the unions' grab for power was successfully opposed by the spontaneous action of the workers themselves. The scene was the building industry in Amsterdam. The trade union had just offered to the business community to distribute to all workers—union members or not—the so-called holiday premium: a handout which all employers decided to grant to all employees in their trade. The builders accepted this seemingly generous offer of the unions with pleasure. But to everyone's surprise the union withheld from this vacation money 10 guilders ($3.00) from every worker.

The indignation of the workers rose to such a high point that a complete rebellion broke out in the streets of Amsterdam. Windows were smashed, cars overturned and a crisis of authority set in motion which ended only after the government fired the burgomaster from his job as head of the police. Even today, the employees in the building industry are still proud that they squashed this aggressive move to levy dues from every single worker in their trade. But they are an exception because the plans of the unions succeeded in almost all other sectors of trade and industry-mostly in collusion with the employers federations. As a result, some $200 million worth of dues are now disappearing annually without a trace into various trade union activities.

In one of those sectors however, the automotive trade, the union victory was particularly hard fought thanks to the alertness of a small businessman named Henk Hoegen Dijkhof. In 1969 he started visiting the meetings of his employers federation just in time to see how his rights were gradually being sold to the unions. First a series of meetings with carefully doctored minutes. Then the forming of a foundation by four individual employers and four trade union bosses. Then a law reinforcing a private collective bargaining agreement. Henk Hoegen Dijkhof was unable to stop all this but he implored his colleagues to refuse to pay. Two thousand employers responded to his call and 300 lawsuits followed, culminating in March 1976 in a Supreme Court decision in favor of the trade unions.

Undaunted, Hoegen Dijkhof formed his new Federation of Free Entrepreneurs. They drafted a statement of principles and aims with which a Mises, Hayek or even a Rothbard would find no fault. He furthermore lodged a complaint against the Dutch Supreme Court with the International Court for the Protection of the Rights of Man in Strassbourg. Presently he is touring the country (business permitting) to muster support for his fledgling free market organization. With five colleagues he also started new litigation in order to require that the trade unions open their books to show how they are spending "his" money.

The above example is still rather unique but more and more lone crusaders for freedom are attracting attention. Free dentists, free doctors, free teachers, free newspapermen are getting together in the little corners of the country and setting up their organisations. The Dutch Libertarian Center just acquired the Incredible Bread Machine movie with hopes of using it to stimulate the many dispersed opposition groups into a coherent fight for freedom. But after the first two showings we discovered that the viewers simply concluded that things aren't as bad in Holland as they seem to be in the U.S.A. What an illusion!

Free Market Organizations Unite

Fourteen countries were represented at a two-day seminar on free market activism in Zurich last October. The topics of discussion ranged from questions such as "who are our adversaries" and "how to propagate freedom" to the political and economic situation in each of the countries represented.

The reports on the economic situation showed a remarkable similarity. Excessive growth of government expenses everywhere and very little or no growth of private economic activity. Large-scale unemployment, inflation, and loss of moral values. Even Switzerland, which has no inflation and very little unemployment, is having its problems. Despite the highest average living standard in Europe, the younger generation is antagonistic toward the morality of achievement and is asking for socialist interventionism. Although Switzerland has a remarkable degree of sophistication in its political structure, with four referendums a year to veto its power-hungry parliament, this last capitalistic country of Europe is also losing grip of its moral and economic foundations.

The organizations present at the Zurich Conference showed a tremendous variety. The Italian and Austrian organizations, for instance, concentrate their activities on the publication of books on the free market. The Finnish participants represent a group of 58,000 businessmen who actively lobby with their government against interventionism. The Norwegian Libertas organisation issues a weekly illustrated magazine which sells well on public newsstands throughout the country. The English "Aims for Freedom and Enterprise" made a plea for an universal (no—not international) Free Enterprise Day like the one held in England on the first of July 1975 and 1976.