A Scold

Despite Jet Lag Majoris, I had an absolutely delightful time on Wednesday participating in Catalonia's annual day of homage to innovation. Once more the reception was overwhelming. And the "new friends" role ballooned. I felt so good, in fact, that my "feisty gene" kicked in.

For instance, I rejected the conventional idea that for a modest-sized geographic area to be successful there's a need to attract Giant Enterprise. To the contrary, I argued for entrepreneurialism and a central role for medium-sized enterprise.

I also questioned the need to depend on "leading edge" industries. Significant participation in such industries is a plus, no doubt—but once again, it is the excellence of enterprise that matters most. There is, as I see it, almost no such thing as an "old industry"—most every industry is ripe for new approaches. Think, for example, Wal*Mart, discount retailing and Bentonville-Rodgers AK.

Warmed up, I took on the European issue of declining or stagnant populations. I extolled the historically immigrant-DEPENDENT U.S. approach to growth. I surprised myself with my vehemence. "Who better an entrant than someone with the nerve to leave their roots behind, and swim across a river while dogs bared their teeth on the desired bank?" The issue is hyper-controversial, and I am hardly urging blanket amnesty for millions upon millions. Yet it is true that America's surprisingly sustained vitality is spurred mightily (mostly?) by new waves of those who "want it more" than the stagnant scions of the past. Hey, such untrammeled hunger is what rightfully scares us about the Indian surge. Moreover, waves of new & different "immigrants" are the only possible route to that rarest of corporate accomplishments—renewal. It surely is the trick of tricks at the likes of PepsiCo and GE.

Still on a roll, I questioned the future of the EU, taking that easiest of targets—the French. It's not the degree to which the Airbus fiasco reveals the problems of "picking 'national champions'" that bothers me. Instead, it's the absurd idea that anyone could compete today with a 35-hour work week. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. Yet it is true that the relatively vigorous UK is about to go to the mat (again) over the proposed universal EU restriction on work weeks over 48 hours. The Brits chose earlier to use the "opt out" option—but the EU apparently has the votes to nullify their opt-out and force them to comply. I also decried the power of the exponentially growing army of faceless, largely unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels busily churning out thousands of pages of competition-restricting regulations each and every day-year. Is Europe attempting to copy India's notorious "license Raj"?

And then I came home.