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September 20, 2013 7:12 AM Is this the End of the Dutch Welfare State?

By Henry Farrell

Recently in the Financial Times.

The Netherlands’ newly inaugurated King Willem-Alexander has made his first annual appearance before parliament one to remember, with a speech effectively announcing the end of the generous Dutch welfare state. … “Due to social developments such as globalisation and an ageing population, our labour market and public services are no longer suited to the demands of the times,” the king said, in a speech written by the Liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his cabinet. “The classical welfare state is slowly but surely evolving into a ‘participatory society’,” he continued – one, that is, where citizens will be expected to take care of themselves, or create civil-society solutions for problems such as retiree welfare.

Rene Cuperus has an article on the politics of this in Policy Network today.

the actual political and social situation in the Netherlands … is quite depressing …The country is [a] member of the Northern Elite Club of Triple A creditors, but at the same time it is suffering from Southern European-style economic problems: a home-made housing bubble, rising youth unemployment, marginal economic growth. … For that reason, political trust in the social-liberal Grand Coalition of the conservative-liberal VVD (prime minister Mark Rutte) and the social-democratic PvdA (Party Leader Diederik Samsom; Vice Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher) is at an all-time low. The established parties got all the blame for the predicament of the Dutch economy, whilst the populist protest parties are sky high rocketing in the opinion polls. This applies especially to the right-wing populist PVV Freedom party of Geert Wilders, and to a lesser extent to the Party for the Elderly (50Plus) and the left-wing Socialist Party (SP).
The Netherlands now has become one of the populist laboratories of Europe and the world … One could even state, that this new Netherlands constitutes and represents a huge warning to other countries, especially to neighbouring Germany. For Germany, the Netherlands has transformed from a positive guide land to follow into a “negative guide land’’ not to follow. The Dutch developments are a nightmare scenario for Germany, an image of fear.

I don’t know enough about Dutch politics to comment intelligently. But I know that some commenters are in a much better position, and would be interested to see what you have to say.

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

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Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.

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