Dutch Law in Action
A strong civil society, a booming economy and a generous welfare state – at the dawn of the new millennium the Netherlands apparently had many attributes of the perfect world. Moreover, the purple coalition (a cabinet without the Christian democrats) paved the way for a society with a maximum of individual freedom and a minimum of State repression:
– regularizing the sex business in 2000: a new Act lifted the ban on keeping a brothel, a major change as regards law in the books, but a minor change with respect to the standard practice of the police turning a blind eye to red light districts in full swing;
– decriminalizing euthanasia carried out by doctors in 2001: the gap between the explicit prohibitions of the criminal code and the permissive medical practice had gradually been bridged by case law and by-laws, but the new Act transformed a tolerated practice into a legitimate practice;
– the introduction of same sex marriages, also in 2001: during the very first hour when the new law became valid the Mayor of Amsterdam inaugurated four weddings of this kind.
The reader should not be under the false impression that these are planned outcomes of a principled libertarianism: legalized practices in the Netherlands are the consequences of a dislike of morality by law and a concern about the adverse side-effects of strict law enforcement.