(Nov. 2) A book I just finished offers lessons to the increasing number of young people who fail to appreciate the virtues of the free market or of the American opportunity society. It also reminds us that legal immigration, following the rules, can be beneficial to society.

Unfortunately, The Dutchman’s Journey, by Jan van Meerveld (written with Carter Hillyer, my uncle, as his scribe), is privately published and available (for now) only through Pass Christian Books in coastal Mississippi — but that also means the point of this column is not to sell the few copies that remain but instead to really focus on the lessons readers can take from it.

Van Meerveld, now 89, has a remarkable story. He grew up on a dairy farm in Holland without electricity or plumbing, on lowlands commandeered by the Nazis as a site for anti-aircraft batteries, meaning he and his father sometimes had to dodge falling shrapnel as they milked cows or herded sheep. His father also helped the “resistance” whenever he could, and of course, the van Meervelds suffered from the Germans’ serious rationing of goods as the war wore on.

At age 19, without serious higher education and with just $100 in his pocket and a temporary farming job waiting for him (arranged through his church), Jan van Meerveld III emigrated to Canada , only to soon find the farm overseer was stiffing him of half of the paltry pay he had been promised. He left the farm and traveled to Toronto with less than $200, knowing nobody, without any job leads or place to stay, and with a noticeable Dutch accent along with a semi-limited English vocabulary.

Of course, that doesn’t sound like a promising career start. Yet, through pluck and a willingness to take whatever hard work he could find in any field he could find (mushroom farmer, house painter, heavy machine operator, bakery delivery salesman), he made his way to success and a family — none of which, it is safe to say, is an obvious path to what he ended up doing: spending decades making a fortune in the banana business, mostly based in Europe for a company headquartered in New Orleans , brokering fruit grown in South America, eventually as a U.S. citizen…. [The full column is at this link.]


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