Trying to make sense of nonsense

Holland: home of druggies, grannie killers and polygamy

For conservative Christians, the Netherlands must seem like their worst nightmare: legalised prostitution, gay marriage, euthanasia and a liberal drug policy to name a few headline policies. Perhaps than, I shouldn’t be too surprised my country gets dragged into many a political discussion. However, rather than being used as an example of how these policies can work for the best, conservative Christians tend to use them to show how they have turned Holland into a ‘cesspool of corruption and crime’.

Now, I have seen many a cesspool in the Netherlands as I grew up in a very rural area. Crime and corruption however, I didn’t notice that much. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News thinks differently. According to him, the liberal drug policy has made Amsterdam into ‘a Disneyworld for those people’, whatever that may mean. His arguments are easily overturned in the excellent YouTube video below. His rather feeble response to this video (‘They do statistics differently in the Netherlands! It’s a much smaller country!’), prove the points of his challenger rather nicely.

Fox News is not alone in trying to abuse Dutch policies for their own gain. Only a few weeks ago, Rick Santorum announced that euthanasia is used to kill off the elderly population in the Netherlands, who have started wearing ‘do not euthanize me’-bracelets. According to Santorum, 10% of deaths were due to euthanasia, and half of these were involuntary. This time, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker came to our aid and showed that there is not a shred of evidence to back up his claims (I’ll leave you to read the WP piece for more details, as it is rather good).

Last in line to show the evildoings of liberal policies are the UK Christian Institute. Although not as explicit as the above, they claim polygamy has legal status in the Netherlands, and that this form of culture leads to higher levels of robbery, rape, kidnapping fraud and murder. Quite a statement to make. First things first: polygamy is not legal in the Netherlands. Although, as the text rightly states, a so-called ‘cohabitation agreement’ between multiple people is allowed.

This sort of contract, however, is very far removed from a legal marriage. It is a contract you can put together yourself (and have verified by a notary, if you so wish) if you move in with someone, be it your partner(s), or your perhaps your house mates. You can arrange whatever you like in it, from who owns which CDs, to who is responsible for making sure there is enough toilet paper at the end of the week. Sheldon Cooper’s roommate agreement would be a perfect example of a cohabitation agreement.

Sheldon Cooper and his roommate agreement

The 2005 ‘three-way’ case referred to by the Christian Institute was a case of a relationship between one man and two women. However, as they did not wish to marry each other, but merely live together, this is legal in the Netherlands, and you can draw a contract to make it just that bit more official. Cohabitation contracts are popular in the Netherlands, as shown in the figure below. The graph only takes couples into account, and shows that up to 2/3 of unmarried couples – that’s around 450.000 – had a cohabitation agreement in 2008 (the graph wrongly states ‘partnership contract’, but as I have access to the original Dutch data, I can assure you it is on cohabitation agreements). Coincidentally, cohabitation agreements did not arise from the precedent of gay marriage to allow for some form of polygamy, but rather from a desire by unmarried couples to have some agreements in writing, in case their lives together did not work out.

Share of unmarried couples who have drawn up a cohabitation agreement or intend to do so

So, contrary to what the Christian Institute insinuate, polygamy and its rather far-fetched consequences aren’t thriving in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the paper they reference, so I can’t comment on the effects of polygamy on crime levels. Although going over the abstract, it reads like an ecological study, which is a type of study that cannot provide evidence for a causal link, only associations. And as we all know: association is not causation.


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