As I write this U.S. government remains in partial shutdown and the debt ceiling crisis is looming. Normally I wouldn’t wish my own blog entry to be obsolete by the time it’s in front of the readers but this is an exception to the rule. My daughter is taking a course on government. They should have a lot to discuss in class in right now but the course is partially shut down. Just kidding. What a strange time in politics and government. In 1979, I took a course at Princeton with the dubious title of “Party Politics” and wrote a paper on whether there was sufficient distinction between the parties to provide the American people with policy choices. Hah!
Speaking of government, on a recent trip to Europe I spent a day in Brussels interacting with the European Union (EU) government, particularly the European Commission (EC). The EC is the civil service or bureaucracy of the EU. The other major elements of the EU are the Council of Ministers (i.e. where the 28 member states speak for themselves) and the European Parliament (where elected representatives serve in the legislature – there are elections next spring). I learned more about the EU in one day than I had known in all of my previous life put together. The EU, often simply referred to as “Brussels,” receives frequent criticism like all governments do these days. They can decide some things for Europe but many areas are off limits to them, i.e., the member states are free to decide whatever they like in large swathes of life. This leads to the curious result that the Brussels bureaucrats are simultaneously criticized for doing nothing and for doing too much. I guess it isn’t easy to govern anywhere these days. Nevertheless, it was clear to me that our company and the cruise industry in general need to start paying more attention to the EU, including making sure the EC bureaucracy is aware of the advances we are continually making in safety, environment, security and health. While the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has worldwide oversight of the shipping industry and a lot of the cruise industry’s attention and effort goes towards the IMO, the EU is a powerful voice within the IMO. And Europe has become much more significant to the cruise industry both as a remarkable set of destinations and a very meaningful source of customers. As someone who majored in Government of a Democracy, I actually look forward to that!
Please note that when I refer to Brussels above, I am not referring to the country of Belgium in which Brussels sits. That’s a whole other story. Recently, Belgium went approximately two years without any government at all. And it seemed to survive quite well. So this entry may not be obsolete for a while to come.