No Dogs Allowed, but Sex Is Okay

What’s an externality? My friends tell me that in the Vondelpark, a delightful reserve in central Amsterdam, it is illegal to let your dog off a leash. But it’s perfectly legal to have sex in the park, so long as it is not in view of a children’s playground. The argument is that the dog may make a mess that imposes costs on the unwary walker, while the couple imposes no costs on other park users.

I wonder which of these two actions would be more likely to be outlawed in the U.S. Implicitly, how do attitudes toward negative externalities, as expressed in city ordinances, differ between the U.S. and the Netherlands-or among other Western countries?


Plus the view/action is far better than watching a dog poop...


Makes sense to me. Why are Europeans so much more sensible than Americans?


Yeah, I'll bet you I've just joined in your conspiracy to create the longest running threads on the blog by juxtaposing politics. morals, and superstition. Let the games continue.

p.s. I think Amsterdam fears mental illness and cruelty to dogs by allowing them to see humans fornicating. They think we're their parents, for cryin' OL.


Both actions would be outlawed in the US, maybe equally.
The couple having sex may impose no 'costs', but a child may walk by just the same and catch them mid-tryst. Sounds kind of inappropriate to me...


(sorry, typo: the couple having sex MAY impose no costs)


I personally would consider one of these a positive externality (a public good?).


Amerika is a Christianist country that believes, deep down, that anything fun must be immoral. Sex tops the list, then come dancing, movies, drugs, partying and drinking. Working, working out and jogging are very moral, because there is no fun in them.


Um, are you serious? The sex in public is already outlawed. You can't even go naked in public, or semi-naked, or kiss (if you're gay) without someone giving you problems. America has social issues that have nothing to do with externalities and instead only deal in perceptions instead of realities. There was a case not long back where a guy was arrested for being naked IN HIS OWN HOME while a woman walked by with her son. She felt as if she somehow WAS put upon and the man was arrested.


Dan, not sure if I follow you.

It is perfectly legal do many things in the Vondel park. For example, to barbecue and then throw up afterward (even in sight of playing kids), to pick your nose or scratch your pants, to play a flute, to wear clogs, or to walk around carrying 200 pounds of body fat. It is even legal to smoke a cigarette.

Dogs use parks to dump poo, which is a health threat, especially when dogs mistake a children's playground for their toilet.

Amsterdam is densely populated city where dog owners don't collect dog-droppings but pay dog-tax instead so that the city-council can hire someone to clean up the park. The dog-poo externality is priced in!

The incidence of people having sex is low especially in Fall, Winter and Lent, but it may rise a bit because of global warming, or drop a bit as demographics and attitudes are taking a more coy direction.


I think it's pretty clear, you'd more likely to step in dog doo doo than you are on a pair of naked people having a good time. Even if you do step on the end result of said good time chances are it won't stink up the elevator when you get to work.


"while the couple imposes no costs on other park users"

It depends on what you consider a cost.

It is very possible that the cost to a person walking in the park and coming upon a couple doing a lunchtime quickie is a lot more than the cost of a brown spot of grass or a stinky smell stuck to their shoes.

Unless they're porn stars and putting on a great show, I would MUCH rather step in a dozen piles of dog poo than walk up on a couple of people getting it on in a park. Most people are ugly without clothes, and sex isn't a pretty sight except when it's choreographed with beautiful people. (I count myself among the ugly-without-clothes category, too.)


We'd stand a better chance of colonizing Mars before the puritanical hypocrites here in the states would allow such a thing.


That is hilarious. A friend and I backpacked through Europe a few years back and when we were in Amsterdam we got lost, but knew our hotel was right next to Vondelpark, so as we wandered we kept asking people to direct us to Vondelpark. We kept getting odd looks and vague waves of the hand and after a while we really started to wonder why. One guy even furrowed his brow and asked "Why do you guys want to go THERE?" Finally we met a man who cheerfully pointed us in the right direction and one of us asked him why such strange behavior from all the other people we had asked.

"Oh, Vondelpark is where homosexuals go to have sex at night."

Oh, well that would explain it.

Steve O

@2 You make think it's sensible, but I'd rather step in dog poop than witness people having sex in a park (sadly, both have happened to me).

Don Sakers

In general I think it's a bad idea to have dogs running around where people are having sex. You don't want the dogs licking or biting something inappropriate, you don't want to take the chance of landing in dog poop (kills the mood), and you CERTAINLY don't want the dogs to think they're welcome to start participating.


Well...the couple may be disturbed by the dogs. Rule makes perfect sense!


How about a Serious Discussion about the Externalities of the "Press" masquerading as the "Free Press"?

How about a Discussion of a Billionaire Funding Communist Style Global Warming Denial Propaganda. Funding 40 companies, bloggers, scientists and astro-turf groups?

How Koch Industries Blows Millions Each Year on Propaganda instead of simply INVESTING in Wind Farms!

Now THAT would be a discussion.


When I first read the article, for some reason I imagined straight couples openly fornicating in full view on park benches. It didn't seem right to me that strangers would have to be involuntarily involved in the sexual act (as viewers). I didn't understand why, if that was considered harmful to children it wouldn't be considered harmful to adults as well. I also didn't understand what it had to do with pick up after your dog laws. If the two were connected, wouldn't the law be about preventing humans from defecating in the park?

I followed the link. The law is to protect homosexuals from violent harassment when engaging in quickies at night and in the shadows. Not only does the law make sense, it is humane. It is designed to protect citizens.

Dave Hodgkinson

Friend got fined for relieving himself in the Vondelpark too.


The first people to disrobe at nude beaches or to tryst in the park are always the ones we wish wouldn't....

So I vote for outlawing both. I can wash dog poo off my shoes. Panting, squishy ugly people (add "fat" esp. here in the States) may forever be burned into my mind.