Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dutch tolerance led to New York's greatness

Great op-ed by Russell Shorto in today's Times showing that the secret to New York's success lay in the roots of the Dutch 17th century tolerance for others. Here is the full essay but I'd like to pull some excerpts here:

 In founding New Amsterdam in the 1620s, the Dutch planted the seeds for the city’s remarkable flowering. Specifically, the Dutch brought two concepts that became part of New York’s foundation: tolerance of religious differences and an entrepreneurial, free-trading culture.
In the 17th century, when it was universally held elsewhere in Europe that a strong society required intolerance as official policy, the Dutch Republic was a melting pot. The Dutch codified the concept of tolerance of religious differences, built a vast commercial empire and spawned a golden age of science and art in part by turning the “problem” of their mixed society into an advantage. Dutch tolerance was transplanted to Manhattan: They were so welcoming that a reported 18 languages were spoken in New Amsterdam at a time when its population was only about 500.
While many economies elsewhere in Europe were still feudal, the Dutch pioneered an economic system based on individual ownership of real estate. That came about because the Dutch provinces occupied a vast river delta, in which land was at or below sea level and therefore constantly under threat. People in those communities banded together to build dams and dikes and reclaim land. The new land was not owned by a king or a church. Instead, the people who had created it divided it and began buying and selling parcels. That incentivized a whole society, fueled the growth of an empire, turned the Dutch into entrepreneurs and made them the envy of other Europeans.

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