By ignoring the adverse effects of laissez-faire economics on the environment and on social disparities, the Queen’s speech from the throne ignites indignation.
As is tradition in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on the 3rd Tuesday of September of every year, the ‘puppet’ Queen reads out the so-called “Troonrede” (her speech from the throne) to the nation. This document presents the main policy line that the Dutch government will carry out that following year.
This year was no exception to the customary rule, and the streets of the Hague were once again the décor of the nostalgic royal parade in the golden coach. Like every year, thousands gathered behind the iron fences to see the Queen do what she does best: wave at her people — and how they love to wave back! After these friendly staged proceedings and the arrival of the coach at the ‘Ridderzaal’, the Queen reads out the Troonrede.
The document she reads out is elaborated by the government and reflects solely that government’s policy. Now with all the events of the past year, the growing environmental concerns, the growing frequency and deepening severity of economic crises, the degradation of Western welfare states, etc., there is a lot on the government’s plate this year. It is therefore no surprise to observe a clear focus on economic stability in the document.
It is however striking that the Dutch government’s policy almost solely focuses on economics, and that, in approaching these economic concerns, it adopts and plans measures that strongly remind us of the measures we already know (cutting the costs of the welfare state, reducing the amount of civil servants, forcing people to work longer and receive fewer benefits, investing public money in the stability of the banks, etc).
The focus once again lies on the Utopian model of incessant economic growth and continued dependence on the global market. The government maintains its positions on that market and seeks no measures to evolve towards a less dependent situation. It asks its people to tighten their belt once again. It deregulates health care even further to lower costs, and promises to sanction people trying to cheat the subsidy schemes. It seeks, in other words, to be a true liberal state, refusing to obstruct entrepreneurship in any way.
In that same paragraph promoting economic ‘laissez-faire’, one can find the only reference to environmental concerns. This is perhaps the most shocking part of the document: climate change and resource depletion are mentioned whilst reminding us of the importance of a parallel strengthening of the market economy. So only in the context of continued economic growth is environmental protection mentioned, totally ignoring the adverse effects that the current economic system induces on the environment and on social disparities.
This year’s Troonrede bears no surprises. It does, however, ignite indignation. It is truly regrettable to observe that the Dutch government focuses mainly, if not solely, on economic growth and encompasses solutions which are in no way different as when faced with the last economic crisis (2008), and the one before that (1974). The environment, in the year 2011, is still merely a side issue in Dutch policy.
Indeed, the intertwined links between economics, social issues and the environment appear to bear no particular interest at all to the current government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Pierre E. Laernoes graduated in Sustainable Development and Environmental Law from Utrecht University. He is the Director of Art, Media and Communications at Spearhead Action Group in the Netherlands.