One year into Joe Biden’s presidency, the media consensus is that he is failing.
The Financial Times reports that the Democrat is trying to “reboot” his “faltering” presidency. The Washington Post believes he is “stumbling”. The Wall Street Journal calls it “flailing”.
Foreign journalists agree. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper writes that Biden is historically unpopular and “much of his domestic agenda is stalled on Capitol Hill.” Here in the Netherlands, EW Magazine wonders if anybody is still happy with the president while RTL reports that he has “blundered” abroad and “broken” his election promises. Read more “Give Joe Biden a Break”
Berliners voted in September to expropriate apartments from large landlords. 56 percent voted for the proposal in a referendum, which would put around 243,000 of the city’s 1.5 million rental apartments in public ownership.
I argued against expropriation at the time, and have written a follow-up for the Dutch opinion website Wynia’s Week in which I argue the city is unlikely to go through with it. It is a bad proposal, one that is opposed by even the center-left, and it may not stand up in court.
The Netherlands is finally about to have a new government. Ten months after the elections, and three weeks after parties did a deal, Mark Rutte is due to present his fourth cabinet in a week.
I’m happy with many of the proposals in the coalition agreement, which I summarized here before Christmas; not surprising, since it’s a coalition of four centrist and center-right parties, led by my own (Rutte’s).
I am worried about their plans for the labor market, which would raise costs for employers and freelancers in order to discourage abuses of self-employment laws.
Spanish employers and trade unions have done a deal with Pedro Sánchez’ socialist government to overturn several labor reforms of his conservative predecessor, Mariano Rajoy.
I argued against repeal. Rajoy’s liberalizations helped bring down unemployment, from a peak of 26 percent to 14 percent before the pandemic, and encouraged business growth. They allowed companies to opt out of collective bargaining agreements and expanded trial periods.
The reforms did not create more precarious jobs. The share of part-time, temporary and self-employed workers barely changed.
2021 wasn’t all bad. Joe Biden became president of the United States. Israel and Italy got better governments. Spain took a step in the right direction for Catalonia — but a step in the wrong direction on labor policy. Political fragmentation didn’t weaken Germany. The Netherlands scored a little-noticed antitrust victory in Brussels.
Historians tend to discourage each other from writing sweeping histories. Usually that’s good advice. Few individuals know enough to write “the” history of peasantry or “the” history of the fifteenth century or “the” history of France. Better to devote a few years of your life to writing a thorough history of peasant life in fifteenth-century France than try to be the next Fernand Braudel.
We still want the best historians to at least make an attempt at grand narrative, or we couldn’t see the forest of history through the microhistory trees.
Good examples from recent years include John Darwin’s After Tamerlane (2007) and Peter Frankopan The Silk Roads (2015) for inner, and Victor Lieberman’s Strange Parallels (2003, 2009) for coastal, Eurasia, and Jack Goldstone’s Why Europe? (2008) for the rise of the West (far superior to Niall Ferguson’s more popular book on the topic).
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) has completed negotiations with the left-liberal D66 and two Christian democratic parties to form his fourth government in the Netherlands.
At 47 pages, the coalition agreement is short by Dutch standards. In some cases, the parties define the outlines of a compromise but leave it to the next cabinet to fill in the blanks. Rutte has to find nineteen ministers and ten junior ministers.
Yesterday, I listed the key policies at a high level, which was based on Dutch media reports and the draft of an agreement Christian Union leader Gert-Jan Segers forgot on a train in November. Now that I’ve read the full text, I can give you the details. Read more “What’s in the Dutch Coalition Agreement”
Nine months after parliamentary elections, parties in the Netherlands are finally ready to form a government.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member) has completed negotiations with the left-liberal D66, the Christian democratic CDA and the Christian Union (CU). The same four parties formed his last government.
At 271 days, this was the longest government formation in postwar Dutch history.