Dutch Capitalism – not always very capitalistic

A Chinese colleague of mine once claimed that Maoism (a form of communism) is better implemented in the Netherlands than China. I don’t know enough about Maoism to be able to argue for or against this, but sometimes the Dutch system of capitalism is very anti-capitalistic. Take, for instance, a practice known as “koopzondagen”.

These are Sundays on which shops open for business. Until recently I just thought shops chose to be closed on Sundays, except for the koopzondagen. In Amsterdam this appears to be the case. But it is not so in the rest of the country. Local governments (or municipalities – I am not sure which) have the power to regulate whether shops can open on Sundays or not. Thus it is that in Tilburg there have been shops opening on Sundays despite this not being allowed (after some debate it has been decided to allow them to open).

I could hardly believe it when I heard this. Why would you not allow shops to open on Sundays? If you are of certain (dogmatic) religious bent you could argue that it respects the Sabbath. But Dutch people are not. Perhaps it is a legacy of the Dutch religious past that they have not done away with yet.

A country that values the freedoms of its people and its economy (as the Dutch do) cannot allow such a nonsensical system to continue. There are many consumers that would  like to shop on Sundays, many shops that would like the freedom to open on Sundays and many people willing to work on Sundays. Everybody benefits. Many shops may choose to stay closed on Sundays and this is fine. But it should be their choice.

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  1. #1 by lifeofbetty on 09/03/2013 - 3:57 pm

    My understanding of shops in certain European countries, such as Denmark, Germany and Spain, closing on Sundays is due to tradition and Sunday being the day of rest in Christianity. It is interesting to note that, as you mentioned, the practice of closing on Sundays varies across The Netherlands, from all being open in The Hague to everything, including supermarkets, being shut over in Maastricht which is more Catholic, or at least Christian. In Denmark, a rule has been implemented that if a shop is of a certain size then it is allowed to be open on Sundays, although supermarkets may not practice trading in consecutive years (so every other) meaning that often there will be two of the same supermarkets in one town, ensuring that the chain will be able to operate on Sundays.
    It does seem strange that despite being in the 21st century so many countries imply these bizarre rules limiting the amount of shopping people can do, still I suppose there’s always the internet available 24/7

    • #2 by johandp on 09/03/2013 - 4:08 pm

      my goodness, Denmark’s rule is weird. I thought it was just the Dutch, but clearly I was wrong.

  2. #3 by Michael on 09/03/2013 - 10:01 pm

    The motivation to the Dutch rule is not only religous. A large store can have many employees who can work shifts. Small businesses often have only one employee – the owner. If stores are allowed to be open all week, the owners of smaller businesses can’t have a day off because that would cost them customers. So its a socio-economic rule, that is actually protecting small enterpreneurs from unfair competition.

    Personally, I am for the Sunday rest rule, and I’m not even religious. I think its nice to have one day of peace and quiet in the week.

    • #4 by johandp on 11/03/2013 - 10:46 pm

      There is truth in that. However, I wonder how many such small businesses there are and whether they feel they benefit. Even a medium-sized business could benefit from a relaxation of the rule. The question of whether such small businesses should be protected (and whether the competition is “unfair”) is of course a normative one. However, I wonder if the costs do not outweigh the benefits. Personally, I want to shop on Sundays.

      • #5 by Michael on 12/03/2013 - 5:54 pm

        Of course it is a normative question. This norm gives people a chance to start a business without having to spend 365 days a week behind the counter. I think that giving the smaller businesses a chance is positive for the consumer as well as it promotes competition. The costs of not being able to shop at any given hour? That’s what webstores are for. Besides, there’s plenty of opportunity to shop on Sundays in the big cities.

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