Meanwhile in the Netherlands….

I have been to the Netherlands only once—I visited Amsterdam a few years back. It is a city like no other; its brothels and marijuana cafes not withstanding, Amsterdam is safer than London or New York.  It is a city of vice, but also a city of law.

This extraordinary balance may be jeopardized by the City Council of Amsterdam’s decision to cut the brothels and  marijuana cafes by half. Some of these establishments are “a cover for organised crime,  drugs and human trafficking”, the City Council noted. It may be true, but I simply don’t see how reduction of these establishments will reduce crime.

Firstly, prostitutes will be driven out of their establishments. According to a 2004 census, only 10% of prostitutes in the Netherlands are driven into prostitution (primarily by drug addiction). The number is significantly larger in other EU countries. So if these prostitutes lost their jobs, where will they do? Take alternative jobs in factories and offices? I don’t think so. Unless the government offers a large subsidy for job training, they will be driven into the streets or into other establishments. If that is the case, they will need “agents”, whose connections with organized crime are more than a theory.

In 2006, de Rodedraad (the Red Thread), 20,000 member Dutch prostitute union, released a statement which noted that prostitutes are still treated terribly within some brothels. If the number of brothels are to be halved, such conditions are likely to exacerbate as supply of prostitutes in a city will overtakes maximum capacity a brothel can hold. As the result, the minimal wage will also fall, and the city, the police and the streetwalkers themselves may find themselves in an utter mess.

Drugs will take to the streets. This evokes the memory of the Prohibition instituted in the US. In the 1920s and 30s, the Prohibition not only created Jay Gatsbys but also Al Capones and Lucky Lucianos. Some will argue that reducing drugs by half is not comparable to the blanket sanctions of the Prohibition, but the latter example showed the prevalence of the organized crime during the eras of restriction.

Closing brothels and drug cafes to curb crime is like closing coal plants to fight global warming. It may work, but there will terrible consequences—the consequences that will make everyone unhappy, and angry, the latter especially with the utilitarians. Not all change is good. This change definitely not. So, Amsterdam should throw out this plan totally and find an alternative route to fight crime–like more involvement with De Rodedraad to systematically tackle the terrible conditions.


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