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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Almost an Earthly Paradise

AMSTERDAM -- According to Murphy's or some other law, everything that can get worse gets worse, and everything that cannot get worse also gets worse. Bearing this in mind, I was feeling a little uneasy heading to the Netherlands, a country that I have not visited in three years.

During my previous trips to this country, I got the firm impression that here we had a unique state, where everything works, problematic issues are minimized, and people feel happy and well taken care of.

But look what has happened to Sweden -- another Europaradise, 10 years back.

Now I was expecting to see the grim consequences of recession in lucky old Netherlands. Surprisingly, there are none.

Immediately after my arrival, I went to Caf? Bern, in Amsterdam, where a group of famous local journalists have held weekly meetings for many years. I answered questions about the mafia, the ruble and Zhirinovsky.

I also asked questions of my own. My colleagues tried to be as critical as possible, but even so, they couldn't find much ground for skepticism about developments in the Netherlands.

Crime seems to be the issue causing the most alarm in the media.

One of the local godfathers tried to escape from jail, using explosives, and failed, but the police used the case to demand more subsidies and manpower to fight the rich and well-organized mafia.

However from talking to the so-called man on the street, I understood that you can't really smell the crime in the air there; it doesn't contaminate everyday life or make folks frightened.

The ecological situation seems also to be under control.

The economy works well. Even the issues of nationalism and immigration that are now shaking the rest of Europe and bringing votes to the ultra-right in neighboring Belgium are virtually nonexistent in the Netherlands.

Some things are changing, though, bringing the heavenly laws of Dutch society slightly closer to Earth.

To give an example: In 1988, when I visited the country for the very first time, I met a friend from Moscow who had recently married (pro forma) a Dutch girl and gone to live in Amsterdam. A typical bohemian schmoozer, he has never worked in either Russia or the Netherlands, but -- just because of his marital status -- has been receiving a very generous monthly welfare payment from the Dutch government.

These days, the guy wouldn't be so lucky: Before putting him on the state budget, they would do their best to find him a job first.

I don't know exactly what the secret recipe of the Netherlands' prosperity is.

I would say that the country champions several important values -- tolerance, pragmatism, care of the individual, for instance -- which, when put in perfect balance, create a system that is both absolutely rational and extremely liberal.

Here is an example. The Netherlands is famous -- and controversial, to some -- for its permissive policy toward soft drugs.

Hashish and marijuana are sold openly in coffee shops and, although this is not completely legal, the police turn a blind eye to the trade.

Now, the latest development is that they're going to distribute some hard stuff among drug addicts -- such as heroin, for free, or almost free.

On first hearing this, it seems insane. But there is some sophisticated, typically Dutch logic behind the concept.

What they say is simple: Junkies are responsible for the lion's share of street crime; it is they who, for a gram of drug, break into cars, steal bicycles and attack and rob people.

To secure the citizenry and stop spreading fear and violence in the streets, why can't the state give junkies what they want?

This measure would also help put the hard-drug situation under control and, above all, serve as a kind of medical treatment.

Of course there may be plenty of counterarguments and tricky details, but, knowing the Dutch ability to organize things perfectly, I don't think they'll fail -- even if they risk severe criticism from the European community.

Monuments to liberty may be installed elsewhere, but Holland is where it's still alive.