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Old 01-29-2012, 03:57 AM
 
Location: Kowaniec, Nowy Targ, Podhale. 666 m n.p.m.
371 posts, read 811,065 times
Reputation: 470

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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
I don't think you can compare the mess of the Belgian political system to the Dutch one. Belgium didn't have a government for over a year and the country is extremely divided (I just came back a week ago after living in Namur for 6 months so I got to witness this firsthand). I think there are too many political parties in the Netherlands and the differences between them are still not very clear to most people (which creates these "floating voters" during elections) but it's exactly the same in nearly all other continental European countries. What exactly do you consider to be a 'mess' about the Dutch political system? If it's the populist Wilders party (which I don't like either), this is unfortunately a problem that exists in most West-European countries.
The biggest mess is that there are a bunch of parties, with wings within these parties and most of them tend to change allegiance whenever they see a chance to get into government themselves. Didn't the Netherlands have like 6 or 7 different governments over the last 10 years or so? I personally think the Netherlands only has four main political "ideologies" - a large populist group, a large progressive-liberal group and somewhat smaller social-democratic and Christian-democratic groups. Still, these are spread out over 7 different parties as far as I know, with almost each of these seven parties having members in to at least two, and often three of these ideologies... To me, in a "party" system, this is messy, as you vote primarily for a party and you never know which way the party is going to swing after the elections when they need to for a government. As long as major economic reforms are being delayed in favour of more important things like a ban on burqa's which only affects a few dozen tribal immigrants and some Western European converts, I will remain sceptical...

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
Actually, most of these reforms have already been implemented or are about to. The retirement age is raised to 66 (likely to be 67 in the future) and I don't think it should be higher than that. It is almost certain that the mortgage interest rate deduction will be changed (but not abolished) as most parties are in favour of that and criticism about it is increasing. I find it rather ironic that Wilders wants to keep this law exactly as it is 'cause he's claiming to stand up for "the common man" while this law mostly benefits the wealthy. He's taking conservatism to the extreme The educational system is also reformed as students will no longer receive a study grant (studiefinanciering) for their Masters studies and this money will instead be invested in education. I don't think the quality of Dutch education is lacking though, the Netherlands consistently performs well in PISA studies (~ top 10 in maths, science and reading) and has more Universities in the World University Ranking top 110 than any other continental European country (I believe there were 7).
Fair enough, there was already talk about implementation of these policies in the early 2000's and every single time it has led to the fall of the government in question. I highly doubt anything will actually change there until either the baby-boom generation has died off, or the Netherlands is being hit by such a severe economic crisis that they have no choice. And then again, the young generation will be hit the hardest because the ones in power will do everything to avoid hurting themselves...

About education, I don't see how only dropping study grants for master degrees is a very good idea, I'd rather see them dropping all grants all together and in change making all education completely free. That way, people can continue learning part-time while having a job on the side without necessarily being in university full-time, bringing "life-long learning" a step closer to reality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
I totally agree with you. My political preference is somewhere in between PVDA (Labour Party), D66 (Democrats) and GroenLinks (Greens). You may be pleased to learn that Wilders' popularity has dropped significantly according to recent polls. The only problem is: his voters went straight to the SP which is at a record high right now Which proves the point I made recently in another thread that the far-right wing parties like the PVV draw from the same voter base as the far-left wing parties like the SP as they are very similar in terms of economic policy (*cough* one person thought I was crazy for suggesting this, remember Glucorious? ). At least the SP is not xenophobic so I'd take them over the PVV any time.

Edit: btw, I don't know when you were living in the Netherlands (from your posts I assume it was in the 1990s/early 2000s) but I have to say that despite your personal opinions, the Netherlands has greatly improved in the last decade in many areas (economics, safety, environment, infrastructure, etc.). The 1990s may have been more liberal but there were many problems that remained unsolved because of it, such as the integration of new immigrants (particularly those from non-Western countries). It was a taboo to mention this because people didn't want to be called racist or xenophobic but we must be honest and recognise that this is an issue that requires our attention. Of course, I know that there are many non-western immigrants who integrate into Dutch society successfully and I applaud them for that, but there are also cases of immigrants who do not or cannot integrate well and stay left behind. We should address this problem and try to fix it so that we can all become active contributors to society. This wasn't done in the past (I think that is why the PVV and similar parties before them became popular, because they were the only ones who acknowledged this problem) and although I do not like the approach of the PVV, at least people are not afraid to mention their concerns without being ostracised by their friends and family.
Right-wing populism or left-wing populism is populism nonetheless. And if the SP will actually get elected on a socialist platform, they will have no other choice but to become increasingly xenophobic, as socialism and an open society are not mutually inclusive due to their very nature. One can not have far-reaching benefits for everyone without limiting this "everyone" to a limited group, as resources, even in a "rich" country like NL, does not equal ∞.
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:36 AM
 
Location: The Midst of Insanity
3,225 posts, read 6,123,192 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Proterra View Post
Yes and no. Romania is fairly similar in terms of size, population, the way the population is spread over the country; the way Bucharest is a primary city like Warszawa with a bunch of regional centres like Constanta, Timisoara, Cluj, Brasow, Iasi, etc.

Some other things are markedly different though; during the communist period Romania suffered under the most brutal dictatorship available in the Soviet bloc (save for Albania, which wasn't really in the Soviet bloc anyways) where in Poland, at least after Bierut, they were most of the time just loyal enough to the official Moscow line to avoid ending up like another Prague or Budapest.
Here, after the events of 1988-89, "shock therapy" drastically decreased standard of living for the first few years during democracy, but laid the foundation for a healthy economy in the years after, also avoiding some of the biggest excesses seen in other post-soviet countries where some people became excessively rich, where the vast majority of the population stuggled, in countries like Poland, Czechoslowakia and Hungary, a large middle class stayed intact, where in other countries it got largely dismantled during the first few years of democracy, having to be rebuilt in the years after.
In countries like Romania and Bulgaria, these events allowed for a lot of corruption to seep in to the political system, far more than ever seen in the Visegrad countries. This is something that they've only recently (after 2000) started to deal with. Also, investments in Romania and Bulgaria for a long time have mainly ended up in Sofia and Bucharest, which effects can easily be seen if one travels for example to Bucharest and then on to some village in the countryside; Bucharest approaches Western European standards, I've never seen so many luxury cars in my life as I have in Sofia, where there are in the meanwhile still some villages without running water and electricity. In Poland (and I think this goes for all the Visegrad countries - would like to see some Czech, Hungarian or Slowakian input on this) the countryside is poor, but your average teenager growing up on the village does so with internet, cable television, enough education to put him in a proper university if he or she chooses and water which comes out of a tap instead of a well.

I do have to add for consistency that the villages in Romania that truly approach third-world standards are mainly Roma (Gypsy) villages. Still, with gypsies being around 15% of the population they are very visible, and the fact that on the countryside they live in such conditions does bring a lot of bad press to countries like Romania. This is in my opinion an issue that need to be tackled by the Roma community as well as the Romanian government. I understand that they want their culture preserved, but in my opinion waste and poverty shouldn't be part of a culture. Neither should huge palaces for Roma chiefs while their people suffer - that is so African...

So, to pretty much sum up my opinion about Romanian/Bulgarian development; in essence there are some comparisons to the Visegrad countries, they have more challenges as in their minorities, relatively high levels of corruption (Although Romania nowadays is doing better in that field than Italy, for whatever that means) a small middle class, and an extremely underdeveloped countryside, definitely compared to Western Europe, but also to the former Visegrad countries of Central Europe.
Very much the same in Slovenia (I think the Roma population may possibly be a bit higher, though they're very concentrated/segregated).
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:50 AM
 
Location: Kowaniec, Nowy Targ, Podhale. 666 m n.p.m.
371 posts, read 811,065 times
Reputation: 470
Quote:
Originally Posted by annika08 View Post
Very much the same in Slovenia (I think the Roma population may possibly be a bit higher, though they're very concentrated/segregated).
Could you please elaborate? I've only been to Slovenia once, where I spent a few days in the Alps close to the Austrian border, and took a train to Ljubljana for a day of sightseeing.

I found Slovenia to be one of the cleanest countries I've ever visited and saw very little to almost zero poverty (unless it's very well hidden)
I also saw no visible Roma, although I don't rule out Roma communities in the east of the country.

So, do you mean Slovenia is very much the same as Romania, or very much the same as say, Czech? I can agree with the latter, although my impression is that the standard of living in Slovenia is actually even higher, and more similar to Austria.
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Old 01-29-2012, 08:24 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,683 posts, read 43,130,167 times
Reputation: 11862
The world is now so global that every country is linked to every other country. What happens in the US or China reverberates around the world. Without either civilisation as we know it wouldn't be possible, along with a host of other countries. So in a sense, some countries might do better, and some a bit worse, but no nation is an island, as economic depressions clearly show. Global warming and the energy crisis will be a severe challenge for nations in both the developing and developed world.
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:07 AM
 
Location: The Netherlands
2,942 posts, read 4,216,951 times
Reputation: 3401
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proterra View Post
The biggest mess is that there are a bunch of parties, with wings within these parties and most of them tend to change allegiance whenever they see a chance to get into government themselves. Didn't the Netherlands have like 6 or 7 different governments over the last 10 years or so? I personally think the Netherlands only has four main political "ideologies" - a large populist group, a large progressive-liberal group and somewhat smaller social-democratic and Christian-democratic groups. Still, these are spread out over 7 different parties as far as I know, with almost each of these seven parties having members in to at least two, and often three of these ideologies... To me, in a "party" system, this is messy, as you vote primarily for a party and you never know which way the party is going to swing after the elections when they need to for a government. As long as major economic reforms are being delayed in favour of more important things like a ban on burqa's which only affects a few dozen tribal immigrants and some Western European converts, I will remain sceptical...
Yes, I agree with that but again, that is a European-wide problem. It's no different in Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, etc. According to Wikipedia, Poland also has 6 political parties represented in Parliament and 8 if you include the EP. Ideally, these parties would form alliances and merge into one ideological block, such as the Liberals, the (Christian) Conservatives and the Socialists. I think it's easier said than done though because the SP and the Greens have markedly different approaches (conservative vs. progressive) although they are both classified as 'left-wing'. Same goes for the Christian parties, the Christian Democrats are (relatively speaking) financially conservative but socially more liberal, whereas the Christian Union is socially conservative but financially more socialist. And with whom should D66 (liberal-democrats) side, the Socialists or the Liberals? They are somewhere in between the Greens and the Liberals. On the one hand, this multitude of political parties is more democratic because it gives a voice to minority opinions but on the other hand, it is more confusing to the electorate and in the end, many people vote strategically for the historically bigger party that reflects their interests anyway (that's what I've always done), which is why polls are misleading. I think one thing that definitely needs to happen is raising the voter threshold which makes it harder for any party to obtain a seat in Parliament. As I understand it, the NL has a lower threshold than most other countries and that is why we have several parties with 1-2 seats in Parliament.

By the way, I looked up the number of governments over the last decade and there were four:

2002 - 2002 (this coalition only lasted for 87 days due to problems within the LPF after the murder of its leader (Pim Fortuyn) one week before the elections. This is a highly exceptional case so I don't think you can take this as a general example of Dutch politics)
2003 - 2006
2006 - 2010
2010 - now

All governments from 2002 to 2010 were headed by the same person (Jan-Peter Balkenende) so there was a certain continuity in this period. I don't think it was as chaotic as you believe it to be compared to other countries.

Quote:
Fair enough, there was already talk about implementation of these policies in the early 2000's and every single time it has led to the fall of the government in question. I highly doubt anything will actually change there until either the baby-boom generation has died off, or the Netherlands is being hit by such a severe economic crisis that they have no choice. And then again, the young generation will be hit the hardest because the ones in power will do everything to avoid hurting themselves...
Most of the policies I mentioned have already been implemented or have passed the Parliament and await approval from the Senate. I'm not sure if you have kept up-to-date about politics in the Netherlands but if you had, you would know that the current government has introduced very drastic measures to change the economy and the welfare state (despite not being in a crisis at the moment) so I'm a bit surprised by your comments.

Quote:
About education, I don't see how only dropping study grants for master degrees is a very good idea, I'd rather see them dropping all grants all together and in change making all education completely free. That way, people can continue learning part-time while having a job on the side without necessarily being in university full-time, bringing "life-long learning" a step closer to reality.
Education is never "free", someone is always paying for it. I partially agree with your proposal but only when it comes to the 'basic grant' (basisbeurs) of 250 euros per month that every student currently receives. I would get rid of this grant and instead abolish tuition fees (which are around 135 euros a month). That way, the state would save over a 100 euros/month per student and it can re-invest this in the education system. I would not get rid of the 'additional grant' (aanvullende beurs) of 250 euros per month for poor students (those who have poor parents) because this would make it virtually impossible and certainly not attractive for them to pursue a higher education as they would have to get into deep debts to subsidise it. I come from a poor family myself (parents divorced, mother disabled and father unemployed) and I certainly couldn't have paid for my studies (full-time) without this additional grant. Given the fact that the NL is a knowledge-driven economy, we must do everything we can to encourage students to get a tertiary education and certainly not exclude the lowest class from participation.

Quote:
Right-wing populism or left-wing populism is populism nonetheless. And if the SP will actually get elected on a socialist platform, they will have no other choice but to become increasingly xenophobic, as socialism and an open society are not mutually inclusive due to their very nature. One can not have far-reaching benefits for everyone without limiting this "everyone" to a limited group, as resources, even in a "rich" country like NL, does not equal ∞.
You're forgetting the fact that the SP will never be able to govern on its own, it will always need a coalition of more economically liberal parties (which is everyone but the PVV, of which the SP has already said they will never cooperate with) and this will put a limit to their proposals for far-reaching social benefits. I don't think there has ever been a socialist party in a democratic developed country that got elected and as a result became increasingly xenophobic so there is no empirical evidence for your claim (if there is, I'd like to hear about it). I personally think it's highly unlikely for a socialist party to become xenophobic as that is in direct contrast to their ideology (a "brotherhood of man") and if they did, they would lose their electorate and not get re-elected for a second term.

Last edited by LindavG; 01-29-2012 at 10:33 AM..
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Old 01-29-2012, 11:56 AM
 
Location: Chicagoland
289 posts, read 695,414 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
According to Wikipedia, Poland also has 6 political parties represented in Parliament and 8 if you include the EP.
That's progress. Back in the early 1990s, Poland had over 200 political parties. I'm glad to see things are a little more manageable now. I remember when the Polish Beer Lovers' Party (PPPP in its Polish acronym) actually got a sizable number of seats in Parliament, in 1993 I think.
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Old 01-29-2012, 12:37 PM
 
Location: Fortaleza, Brazil
2,544 posts, read 4,439,826 times
Reputation: 1538
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindavG View Post
I don't think there is a "best country in the world" but Brazil is certainly up there with the best Great weather, great food, great people, great nature, great language, great music! I would move there in a heartbeat. My former roommate was from Rio de Janeiro and she told me I could visit her there any time, I'm definitely keeping her to that promise I'm already getting in the mood for it with this wonderful song (this is a huge hit all over Europe right now):







This country is "delicious, delicious..."


And yeah, I'm proud to say that this is the best country in the world.

I have traveled abroad, and studied enough about all the other countries in the world, to have a very firm personal opinion that Brazil is the best country in the world.

I'm extremely lucky to be born in the best country in the world. And I understand that not everybody can be so lucky...
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Old 01-29-2012, 01:41 PM
 
Location: Leeds, UK
22,198 posts, read 22,375,211 times
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I think the Norwegians don't think so
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Old 01-29-2012, 01:48 PM
 
Location: Spain
195 posts, read 583,174 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MalaMan View Post



This country is "delicious, delicious..."


And yeah, I'm proud to say that this is the best country in the world.

I have traveled abroad, and studied enough about all the other countries in the world, to have a very firm personal opinion that Brazil is the best country in the world.

I'm extremely lucky to be born in the best country in the world. And I understand that not everybody can be so lucky...






Quite chauvinistic.

"and studied enough about all the other countries in the world, to have a very firm personal opinion that Brazil is the best country in the world."

You need a little humility, in my opinion
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Old 01-29-2012, 07:01 PM
 
Location: Fortaleza, Brazil
2,544 posts, read 4,439,826 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bailarina View Post
Quite chauvinistic.

"and studied enough about all the other countries in the world, to have a very firm personal opinion that Brazil is the best country in the world."

You need a little humility, in my opinion

I don't see anything chauvinistic about it. I'm not despising people from other countries.

I just have my personal opinion that Brazil is the best country in the world. For an incredible coincidence, this is the country where I was lucky enough to be born.

Nothing wrong in thinking that a country is "the best in the world". It doesn't mean that other countries aren't good. Many countries are good. It's just that Brazil is better.

If most people don't think that the country where they were born is the best in the world, that's OK. But it happens that, in my case, I think that I am a lucky bastard who was born in the best country in the world.

It's simple, nothing to do with chauvinism.
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