THE NETHERLANDS: Rather Unusual Phenomenon

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Her Majesty Queen Juliana regretted that she would be unable to attend the gala concert of the visiting Philadelphia Orchestra as planned. Late into the evening, Her Majesty would be compelled to spend her time sorting out that most un-Dutch of royal embarrassments: a Cabinet crisis. "A rather unusual phenomenon in the Netherlands," the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant termed it. "But there are moments in life," the Het Parool of Amsterdam told its readers, "when one has to make a decision."

Premier Willem Drees, a walrus-mustachioed Laborite whom Dutchmen respect for his honest stolidity, was suddenly out of a job. He had made the mistake of proposing a rent-increase bill that satisfied no one. Everybody agreed that something had to be done about housing (one family in six still has to share with another), but Dutch housing is bedeviled by a shortage of building workers, by wage controls that destroy incentive, by cartels that keep material costs high, and by inequitable rent controls (rents have been allowed to go up 40% on prewar houses, while the cost of living has gone up 200% since 1939). Premier Drees' makeshift bill did little to overcome all this. In The Netherlands such difficulties are usually worked out discreetly among the big parties, the Laborites and Catholics, who sit together in the Cabinet (along with the Calvinist Anti-Revolutionary Party and the Christian Historical Union) in a kind of gruff but reasonable coalition. But this time Premier Willem Drees let the argument get to a vote, and Parliament doggedly overruled him 50-48 (with two members absent). There was nothing else to do. Premier Willem Drees, the ex-stenographer who had run The Netherlands for six uninterrupted years on a welfare-state platform, trotted off to the Queen to resign.