An examination of Holland’s de facto legalization of a number of victimless crimes reveals the beneficial effects of that legalization. [Dir: Jonathan Blank/ 87 min/ Documentary-Educational/ Government Enforced Morality, Libertarianism 101]
In Holland, prostitutes sit in store windows, advertising their “wares.” Marijuana can be purchased at designated shops. Drug addicts can buy clean needles. Homosexuals can marry. Terminally ill patients can choose euthanasia. Pornography is sold openly. In short, there is a great deal of personal freedom in Holland. So if moral authoritarians are correct, Holland should also have skyrocketing social problems—a rising population of crack addicted prostitutes, rampant drug-related violence, etc. But it doesn’t.
In fact, according to this documentary, it has such low rates of serious drug abuse, sexually transmitted disease, abortion, teen pregnancy, and drug-related crime as to make any American green with envy. And here’s something else to warm libertarian hearts: it has the lowest rate of incarceration in the Western world. If the interviews of ordinary Dutch here are representative, all this social freedom arises from a popular live-andlet-live attitude. The Dutch are just more tolerant culturally.
Interestingly, this tolerance isn’t entirely reflected in the law. Marijuana, for instance, is officially illegal (due to international pressure). However, the Dutch authorities act with tremendous self-restraint, arresting and convicting only when someone is creating a problem. This self-restraint seems to be the product of pragmatic thinking. That is, the Dutch authorities have made the simple observation that flexible containment of social problems has lower social costs than a U.S.-style jihad of eradication (e.g., the “War on Drugs”). Of course, there is a downside to giving the police and courts so much discretion. It gives them the power to incarcerate pretty much anyone they choose. It would be better to repeal bad laws in the first place.
In any case, despite all this personal freedom, Holland is not strictly speaking a libertarian paradise but more a liberal one. For instance, there is a total ban on handguns. (No wonder the Nazis were able to get Anne Frank without a fight.) Also, companies are taxed “progressively” with rates of up to sixty percent. And the Dutch constitution itself, highlighted here and there in this film, is a document that libertarians would find abominable as it gives the government authority in many aspects of ordinary life. Happily, the emphasis of this film is on the social liberties side of Dutch life, and these more objectionable points are an aside.
This is an entertaining documentary with a variety of colorful footage, though some of it is not suitable for the kiddies due to the emphasis on the wilder side of human activity. All in all, the Dutch seem to be in many ways a very admirable people. And from a libertarian perspective they’ve got it at least half right, which is more than can be said for most countries. Their experience as portrayed in this interesting film should be instructive to many.