Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Europe travel report

Last week I noted I was traveling to Brussels, Belgium where I attended the annual "Capitalist Ball" which is a black tie dinner hosted by the Centre for the New Europe to celebrate the virtues of capitalism.

Overall I can report that Europe is still broken in many ways as confirmed by my European friends such as my former flat mate who had to secure an electrician to fix the wiring in my former apartment. It was very difficult for my friend to organize this repair work due to the poor customer service so he lived via candle light for over one week -- but at least he reduced his carbon footprint to help ease global warming!! Another example was the overall customer service experience in many venues. Overall there is a staff shortage for either/or both of these reasons:

  • European unemployment/welfare payments are higher than what some of these service economy jobs would pay so why should people take the jobs?
  • Employment law makes the labor market VERY restrictive because Belgian law requires nearly two years of severance payments to be made to most employees that are fired I am told. Two years!!! So if you hire someone to fry hamburgers at your restaurant but they never develop the skill you essentially can't afford to fire them due to the severance payment rules. So employers simply avoid hiring more staff.

If you don't believe me just stop by the UGC movie theatres in Brussels sometime which regularly have staff shortages. You have to arrive at least 30 minutes early just to line up to buy a ticket.

Well that is enough discussion of employment law - let me return to the Capitalist Ball. When my wife and I stepped out of our taxi we noticed the "anti-capitalism" protesters stationed across the street from the ball's venue. These people were reading from scripts to protest the "evils of capitalism" since the local government authorities require planned protests to submit transcripts of what they plan to protest about -- no doubt to simply give a bureaucrat something to do for a job.

Personally I like the capitalist system especially since I experience the Soviet Union's command/control economy first hand back in the 1980's where I saw everybody but the Communist Party leadership living in dire conditions. Let's consider some "evils" that capitalism produces including:

  • safe drinking water
  • iPods
  • computers that double computing capacity every 18 months
  • cellular telephones that are given away to attract customers
  • shoes that fit and come in a variety of colors :-)

Perhaps you have a favorite product or service that comes to you via capitalism versus a government program?

The Capitalist Ball was very entertaining and provided me with some excellent professional networking opportunities so I look forward to attending next year.

Competition not compulsion,


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