The New Europe and Old Ideas

Last night, the Charlie Rose show had on Jean-Maris Colombani, Editor of the French paper, Le Monde. The topic was the European Union and, given the show and the guest, the point of view was from that of the world's elites. Colombani said that one of the reasons for a United Europe was to act as counterbalance to the rising economic challenge of China and India. The money line, from Rose, was “while the French want a 35-hour work week, the Indians want a 35-hour work day.” This fascinated me because the rise of China and India is exactly proportional to their ability to remove the government bureaucracies that have stifled their development. Europe's logical response to this is to add another level of bureaucracy with the thought that will make them more competitive. The views of the elites make me giggle. However, this got me thinking about the strategic role of governments in an age of increasing globalization and economic competition. Governments are extremely useful during period of military competition, but how do they serve their people during periods of economic competition? All they can do is get in the way. Even though we are a small publisher, we do a great deal of business around the world. Our main expense, printing, goes to China, where our books are printing. However, we also have book distributors all over the world. Our biggest ones are in Thailand and Singapore. The real people that benefit from this are the shipping companies who are moving these goods back and forth, but if shipping wasn't so inexpensive, all of this globalization wouldn't be happening. How does government help or hurt in this process? Government is simply an expense. It costs us to bring our books in through customs and costs our customers to do the same. Globalization exists through small companies getting in touch with one another, working out deals, and doing business not as something being determined at G8 meetings in Brussels. When something goes wrong (we had a printer in China that printed a book that was so terrible we couldn't accept it), a business just takes its losses and moves on. There is no real recourse to the courts for small business, which, overall, may be a good thing. I am mystified by how the Europeans think a United Europe is going to help them compete against China and India except that it gives the national governments someone (Brussels) to blame their troubles on.