Elves live to travel, especially Boiler Elves. From touring boiler plants in Brazil to fact-finding missions at plush resorts in the Caribbean to top secret visits to an ocketsleigh-ray actory-fay in ina-Chay, we just can’t get enough. In fact, we just returned from London, where we attended the Elf Professional International Cookie Accounting Conference (EPICAC.) The topics this year have been somewhat disheartening:
- Biscuits, Cookies & Shortbread: The Crumbling World of Multi-national BakingAs we listened to lectures on chocolate chip depreciation recapture, our minds started to wander, and we found ourselves thinking - does it really matter if Europe collapses?
- Emerging Markets and Sugar Quality
- Baked Goods at Tea Time - A Necessity? (an extremely heretical stance even to question, mind you, but not surprising in this day of cutbacks)
Europe teeters on the edge. Everything south of Germany is broke. No one wants to throw good Elf Marks after bad Euros. European banks are near collapse. Britain just had riots and now their government is fighting to keep Britons from voting to take back power from Brussels. Government after government seems ready to collapse, and the headlines scream about the end of Europe. Even Alan Greenspan said yesterday that the European Union is doomed to fail.
In our networking sessions at the conference, we met several elves whose lives have changed because of the crisis. One elf from Portugal, well into his maple years, told us he hoped to retire quietly to his kitchen, but was now forced to start anew in the UK. Carlo, an elf from Italy had been happily making a living as an actor until about a year ago. Now he works in England as a waiter. The cookie buyers guilds’ profit forecasts were way down. A consultant from Baker & McElfzie, said his firm had been driven to branch out into teacakes and muffins. (How the mighty have fallen...) Difficult times, my friends, difficult times.
But this is how capitalism works and what Europe doesn’t seem to understand. When people stop buying red and white candy canes, you innovate and give them red and white and green. If the candy cane market dries up altogether, you find something new to do for a living. You don’t wait for another handout from another government because your red-and-white candy cane union needs their 6 weeks of paid vacation and retirement at age 50. The USA never went as far as Europe down that path, and you can see the pain we’re having just trying to back away.
There’s no doubt a collapse of Europe would be bad for stock markets, big companies, European governments, and red-tape makers everywhere. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better, but in the long run, the whole world will be better off if every country just takes its medicine.
Of course, you know the old conventional wisdom -- “as goes Europe, so goes the North Pole.” The North Pole’s Santa-based economy is admittedly highly export oriented and its biggest market is Europe. Even America, the land of the soon to be free again and the home of the Boiler Room Elves does a lot of business with Europe. We elves would like to see Europe grow strong again. Will it take a complete collapse to do set them straight?