Sunday, August 3, 2008

Most ridiculous item of the week (2008-08-03)

Over the last twenty years, most of Europe has gone back to the future with open borders; with most of the former Eastern Bloc joining up last year. I think that's a good thing and could eventually -- with some adjustments -- serve as a model for Canada and the United States.

But open borders can also have unintended consequences. For example, if the sales and excise taxes are not more or less even across the trade zone, people will run for the border, buy hard and soft goods and go back home without tax consequences. (For example, cigarettes and alcohol have long been less expensive in Eastern Europe than in the West. Guess where people along the border get their stuff? Exactly.)

And then there's the inevitable cultural clashes that occur with open borders.

Last week, Germany and Poland got into a bit of a row over a beach on the Baltic Sea. Yes, a beach. Here's the story: On Usedom Island, the border that cuts through it and on the sea side there is a beach. The German side is clothing optional. The Polish side is not.

Until last December, a fence separated the German and Polish sides; but with the implementation of Schengen in Eastern Europe the fence went away with only the odd coloured post indicating which side is which and a no man's land of about a metre between them. Some Poles are complaining about the "sinful" Germans frolicking on the beach where the border is not defined anymore, not even with a sign saying which side is clothing optional and which isn't. The Germans, however, are complaining some Poles are going to the beach simply to "gawk" at the Germans.

Oh please. Poland has clothing optional beaches too. So do the vast majority of European states. How come no one complained until now?

Authorities think a sign will solve the issue. Maybe. But these people have got to lighten up ... or down, depending on how you view it. We've heard of soccer wars. Do we really need a beach war?

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