Kathleen Ann is a freelance writer from New England. At Huffington Post she describes how her life changed over several years from a so-called ‘Have’ to a ‘Have-not’ or rather a ‘Used-to-Have’.

There once was a time when she owned a home, when she could go shopping in department stores or go to the hairdresser or have a pedicure. Now she’s living in an apartment where she doesn’t know if she can pay the rent next month. Because despite her degree from a prestigious college she is without a job.

So that’s why she’s freelancing now, but even the freelancing isn’t how it once was. She went from an hourly rate of 100 dollars to (far) below 30 dollars. All in all, she’s on an income of less than 20,000 dollars a year now.

So how did this happen? Well, simply in the way these things happen not only in the United States but also happen more and more here in Europe: after having worked very hard in a financial job, overtime, weekends, you name it, her employer decided he didn’t need her anymore, so she was laid off. By then she’d reached an age at which many employers seem to be very wary of early dementia and hardly will hire you anymore, so she never found a job again, not even at a basic salary.

ArmoedeIt’s a process that sounds all too familiar to me. As I said, I feel we’re headed in the same direction here: towards the disappearance of the middle class, towards a society with a big working poor class.

Specifically here in the Netherlands we’re headed that way led by the largest political party, the VVD, who like to call themselves liberals. Liberals in the Dutch sense, that is.

A short explanation is in place here, because both this Dutch interpretation of liberalism as the American one are not quite correct.

Liberalism is a political movement that stems from the nineteenth century, as a response to the conservative, authoritarian and aristocrat systems of that age. It was a philosophy that promoted the individual freedom of people but also equal chances for everyone, regardless of their family or class.

So it definitely was not socialism, like the word ‘liberal’ almost seems to mean in the US (the interpretation in European countries varies a bit from country to country). Socialism not only wants to give everyone equal chances, but also wants to equalize the outcome of people’s lives, for example by compensating those who simply are not as gifted as other people or who have been unfortunate in other ways, or by having progressive tax rates depending on income.

But if you read the following quotes by the first liberal Dutch prime minister (Pieter Cort van der Linden (1846-1935)) – our current prime minister is only the second one, according to himself that is – you can tell that it is distinctly different from the neo-conservative ideas of our VVD as well:

“Everyone who thinks about the relationship between man and the goods of the earth, will see that often those who labour are poor,while those who spend their lives idle are wallowing in wealth”

“Those who reap are often not the ones who have sown”.

“When by abstainance of the government, the laws of chance are being left to rule, the inequalities of existing legislation are being maintained and the overwhelming power of an elite is supported, laissez faire is a misleading slogan. Then it will impede freedom instead of facilitate it.”

At the moment it seems we’re headed for a step backward from nineteenth century liberalism though, both  economically and ethically.