TagThe Netherlands

Inequality in America, and what to do about it.

Good, long article in the Santa Fe Reporter on economist Samuel Bowles’s 42 years of research on economic inequality.

Again with the numbers:


The first number is the likelihood, expressed as a percentage, that a child born to parents whose incomes fall within the top 10 percent of Americans will grow up to be at least as wealthy.

The second is the percentage likelihood that a person born into the bottom 10 percent of society will stay at the bottom.

Just to drive the point home, here’s a third number: 1.3

That’s the percentage likelihood that a bottom 10 percenter will ever make it to the top 10 percent. For 99 out of 100 people, rags never lead to riches.

These estimates come from research by one of Bowles’ former students, American University economist Tom Hertz, published in Unequal Chances, a 2004 book co-edited by Bowles. To arrive at these figures, Hertz mined the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a survey of 4,800 American families that’s been updated each year since it began in 1968, the year Martin Luther King inspired Bowles to study inequality.

It may not come as a shock that rich kids who grow up learning to sail eventually buy yachts, while the offspring of burger-flippers might hope to rise to be the night managers for whole crews of burger-flippers. What’s troubling about this research is that poverty tends to persist through generations, no matter how individuals try to improve their circumstances.

So, much of what Americans tell their children is wrong. It doesn’t really matter how long you go to school or even necessarily how hard you work. The single most important factor to success in America is “one’s choice of parents,” as a contributor to Unequal Chances wryly put it.

Bowles’s solution: give every person in America $250,000 when they turn 18.

Santa Fe Reporter: Born Poor? Santa Fe economist Samuel Bowles says you better get used to it

Interesting stuff. Even pro-welfare state pundits are sometime swayed by the myth of American upward mobility. Take this pro-Netherlands article from the New York Times:

Another corollary of collectivist thinking is a cultural tendency not to stand out or excel. “Just be normal” is a national saying, and in an earlier era children were taught, in effect, that “if you were born a dime, you’ll never be a quarter” — the very antithesis of the American ideal of upward mobility. There seem to be fewer risk-takers here. Those who do go out on a limb or otherwise follow their own internal music — the architect Rem Koolhaas, say, or Vincent Van Gogh — tend to leave.

But is this accurate? As stated above, most Americans are never able to actually pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And according to this study the Netherlands actually lead in economic mobility amongst several developed nations, at least as of 1999:

economic mobility graph

The lack of outliers who become hugely successful has obscured the greater truth: the Dutch are far more successful than Americans.

Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals

The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.

During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.

Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.

The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry’s research department expects to continue for some time.

NRC: Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals

(via Cryptogon)


1. If certain politicians and pundits are to believed, The Netherlands has been experiencing a crime epidemic as the result of rampant immigration. Could it be that this was only xenophobic scare mongering?

2. What would happen in the US if prison populations were to decline? Also, since the US has been experiencing overall reductions in crime over time as well, why is our prison population not decreasing? What is the key difference between the US and the the Netherlands in this regard?

Update: I forgot to give link back to Cryptogon early. Many apologies.

Fuck Guy Fawkes

OK, I’m a day late on this one but I’ve been in Canada, so I’m catching up and I can’t not bring this up. Individualist anarchist Wendy McElroy (who I think is a Paul supporter but I could be wrong):

I don’t get it. So Guy Fawkes was used as a role model in a comic book (actually a wonderful graphic novel V for Vendetta that was trashed by its movie adaptation)…does that make him a libertarian ideal? There was nothing libertarian about Fawkes. He was a Catholic crusader who wanted to blow up Parliament as part-and-parcel of removing a Protestant monarch from power. He wasn’t against government or tyranny; he was against one form of government that he wanted to replace with another form he liked better: a Catholic one. There is no indication that Fawkes was a champion of the people whose personal vision of political power would have produced less tyranny than what proceeded it. Certainly, 17th century Catholic states were no more tolerant than Protestant ones — indeed, the Protestant Netherlands were freer and more tolerant than most. If wanting to overthrow a government per se makes you a libertarian, why not idealize Che Guevara? At least he was a successful revolutionary.

Full Story: WendyMcElroy.com.

Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie on Dutch government’s failure to protect Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It is important to realize that Hirsi Ali may be the first refugee from Western Europe since the Holocaust. As such, she is a unique and indispensable witness to both the strength and weakness of the West: to the splendor of open society, and to the boundless energy of its antagonists. She knows the challenges we face in our struggle to contain the misogyny and religious fanaticism of the Muslim world, and she lives with the consequences of our failure each day. There is no one in a better position to remind us that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.


There is also the matter of broken promises: Hirsi Ali was persuaded to run for Parliament, and to become the world’s most visible and imperiled spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women, on the understanding that she would be provided security for as long as she needed it. Gerrit Zalm, in his capacity as both the deputy prime minister and the minister of finance, promised her such security without qualification. Most shamefully, Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister, has recommended that Hirsi Ali simply quit the Netherlands, while refusing to grant her even a week’s protection outside the country during which she might raise funds to hire security of her own. Is this a craven attempt to placate Muslim fanatics? A warning to other Dutch dissidents not to stir up trouble by speaking too frankly about Islam? Or just pure thoughtlessness?

Full Story: International Herald Tribune.

(via Hit and Run).

Mushrooms Declared Illegal in Netherlands

amsterdam smart shop

The party is over in Amsterdam. The Dutch government today announced a ban on psilocybin mushrooms, long tolerated under the Netherlands’ notoriously liberal drug laws, after the well-publicized suicide of a teenage user. The fungus ‘will be outlawed the same way as other drugs,’ the justice minister said. The government will crack down on sellers to enforce the ban, the AP reports.

Full Story: Newser.

The Netherlands Legalizes Gay Marriage

As expected, the Netherlands has legalized gay marriage. The story comes from Plastic and can be found on CNN:

Four gay couples have exchanged rings and vows at Amsterdam’s City Hall in the first same-sex marriages recognised by any country.

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen officiated at the ceremony for three male couples and one female couple, which took place immediately after the law permitting gays to wed took effect at midnight on Saturday.

It was the denouement of a 15-year campaign to allow gay couples equal rights under civil law. The legislation easily passed through both houses of parliament last year.

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