Amsterdam: Prostitution, Marijuana, and Personal Responsibility
One of my favorite tours in Amsterdam was the Red Light District Walking Tour. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, and the Red Light District in Amsterdam is concentrated with it.
Before prostitution was legal in Amsterdam, it has already been happening of course. Just like in all other big cities in the world. After all, it is the world's oldest profession.
But when something is illegal, it becomes dangerous - for both the women involved and those taking advantage of the services. So they legalized it - that way, there are no pimps, the women work for themselves, and there are safety mechanisms in place if things go wrong. There are lots of police in the Red Light District there to help out in case any problems arise.
So it's not that the Dutch love prostitution or agree with it for that matter. They just acknowledge that it happens a lot, and by making it legal, they can have regulations around it (including having the sex workers pay taxes on their earnings!).
This is the same attitude the Dutch take toward marijuana. Although marijuana is not actually legal, it is highly tolerated - as in, businesses (aka coffee shops) are allowed to sell it.
They did studies that showed that the most illegal drug used was marijuana. So instead of keeping it dangerous for those getting it, they allow businesses to sell it to whoever wants it, making it a lot less dangerous and exciting for the buyers.
This all brings me to the other interesting concept I love from Amsterdam: Personal Responsibility. You can do whatever you want as long as you're not a jerk about it. For example, there are no barriers or fences along the canals. If you fall in, it is your fault for walking drunk so close to the canal - you cannot sue the city for that.
Acknowledging the problem and trusting people to be responsible for their own actions, what a concept!