Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Outsourcing the Welfare State

Americans have Wal-Mart; Europeans have Ikea. The differences are instructive.

Here's one. The story's been kicking around for years now that Wal-Mart employees' low wages mean they rack up a kajillion dollars (or something) in government welfare, amounting to a kajillion dollar government subsidy to Wal-Mart. Another example of American capitalism at its most contradictory and perverse.

Then, I saw this post on Boing Boing linking to this article from Der Spiegel: "The Swedish Feeding Trough." Man, oh man.

If you've ever been to an Ikea, you know that two of its features which make it stand out from American stores are its free-of-charge child play area and its cheap-as-free in-store cafeteria. Now, this hasn't caught on in the states, but apparently in Germany, the following have happened:

1) Pensioners and poor people are turning to Ikea's restaurants instead of soup kitchens. Some are drawn by the low prices, others by the opportunity to "scrounge" for free stuff in the kitchen and bathrooms -- used cups, toilet paper, baby food, diapers, etc.

2) Parents are using the Ikea play center as a free babysitting service: dropping their kids off while they go to work, run errands, etc. In at least one case, parents dropped their daughter off and forgot to pick her up again until an hour after closing time.

In other words, instead of the government subsidizing Ikea, Ikea is subsidizing the government, and people are treating the store's loss leaders as free social services. In other words, European socialism at its most contradictory and perverse.

1 comment:

DDK23 said...

Hey thanks for letting us in on this Tim....we have an IKEA opening up soon near us, A baby on the way and we have no idea what we are doing about child care yet....perfect solution;-)