First saw this here on tumblr; it’s from the fifth floor in the Walker building at Emerson college. Three sticky notes have been added. I wish I had a pen to write on the bottom, “this is why I love people,” because I think this shit is hilarious. A lot of people shit with writing utensils… Today I was not one of them. Regardless, this is one of the reasons I love Emerson, people have ongoing philosophical/economic/cultural discussions on sticky notes in the bathrooms. Priceless.
Russell Shorto - Going Dutch (2009) Article

Russell Shorto is one of my favorite authors, his book, “The Island at the Center of the World.” was particularly fabulous. I like this article because it really brings to light a few of the pros and cons and real and made-up worries that some people have in regard to the [American] economy and the talk of tweaking it. I happen to like how Russell describes his experience and the intricacies in the Dutch system. I’d quite like to experience it myself! Worry worry worry as I become a little bit of a socialist. haha.

PICTURE ME, IF YOU WILL, as I settle at my desk to begin my workday, and feel free to use a Vermeer image as your template. The pale-yellow light that gives Dutch paintings their special glow suffuses the room. The interior is simple, with high walls and beams across the ceiling. The view through the windows of the 17th-century house in which I have my apartment is of similarly gabled buildings lining the other side of one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals. Only instead of a plump maid or a raffish soldier at the center of the canvas, you should substitute a sleep-rumpled writer squinting at a laptop.

As always Russell’s writing is a delight. With the flourishing details of fiction Russell brings his recount to our doorstep with an effortless grace weaving in the necessary and enlightening information he has gathered amidst numbers, events, quotes, and observation. Russell’s writing is not to be missed and his website doesn’t need to beg to be bookmarked!

An excerpt from the article:

Decent housing is another area where the Dutch are in broad agreement. As does nearly every Western nation, the Netherlands has a public housing system, in which qualified people get apartments for below-market rents. About one-third of all dwellings in the country are “social housing.” But here again, attitudes are different from those in the United States. I was surprised to learn, for example, that a friend who is a successful psychologist lives in a social-housing apartment, which he has had since his student days. It turns out the term does not have the stigma attached to it that “public housing” does in the United States. (“In the U.S., public housing is a last resort, but here it’s just a good, cheap house,” said Fred Martin, an official at Impuls, an Amsterdam social-services organization.) Beyond that, while my friend obviously can afford to pay more than his bargain-basement rent of 360 euros ($470), the system doesn’t require him to move on, and one reason is that there is perceived to be a value in keeping a mix of income levels in the units.

Social housing differs from much of the public housing in the United States in that the government does not own or manage the properties. Rather, each is owned by an independent real estate cooperative. The system is not-for-profit, but it pays for itself. The housing market, then, is actually two real estate markets running alongside each other, one of which operates at government-mandated cheaper rates.

This points up something that seems to be overlooked when Americans dismiss European-style social-welfare systems: they are not necessarily state-run or state-financed. Rather, these societies have chosen to combine the various entities that play a role in social well-being — individuals, corporations, government, nongovernmental entities like unions and churches — in different ways, in an effort to balance individual freedom and overall social security.

Hope you enjoy his work as much as I have! 


Another great article he wrote on this site is an article from 2005, “What’s Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage?” I haven’t read it in a while but I remember him being suffocatingly thorough and it is an emotionally distressing article… but then again most articles about discrimination, inequality, and bigotry are.