A Day in Story Land

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Aug 9, 2012 10:42:27 AM

and tagged Commentary, Europe

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Sorry to miss yesterday’s post, but I spent the day in Story Land. For those of you not from New England, this is a small amusement park built around fairy tales—Cinderella’s castle, Heidi’s grandfather’s hut, the Three Billy Goats Gruff, and similar exhibits. It is perfect for small children, and my four-year-old son had what was possibly the best day of his life. We opened and closed the park and had a two-hour drive each way—thus, the day was not conducive to posting a blog.

It was an interesting day, though. From my son’s perspective, the whole thing was free, as it was paid for by a higher power (me). The visitors covered an amazingly wide range of people—Hasidim, Muslims, WASPs (me again), multiple races and socio-economic classes—all united in letting our kids have fun. The park itself was very well designed, well run, and incredibly effective at extracting money from dad’s wallet.

There are a couple of ways I can take this discussion now, with the obvious one comparing a child’s paradise paid for by someone else to Greece or the rest of Europe, but I don’t think that is the most interesting angle.

What interested me most about Story Land was the implicit cultural common denominator, at some level, of all the visitors, ranging from me, to the Sikhs, to the Hasidim, to the Chinese, and everyone in between. The whole point of the U.S. is that we all share some base cultural commonality, no matter where we came from or how recently we got here, and it really hit me hard that this small theme park was a good example of it.

I will be starting a special six-part series that looks at what is happening in Europe and what it will take for the euro to survive, not on a day-to-day level, but on more of a conceptual level. One of the points I want to make is that Europe will have to develop a common cultural identity to a level I don’t think it now has. Story Land hit me as a great example of what that identity might have to look like.

The counterexample I am thinking of is the opening of Euro Disney in France years ago. As I remember, there was a great deal of controversy about importing an Anglo-Saxon amusement park into Europe, but there did not seem to be a genuine European alternative. We are now at a point where there does have to be some sort of genuine European amusement park that can draw crowds from across the eurozone as a cultural touchstone—at least in potential form.

The comparison may seem frivolous, but as I have said before, even though the elites remain committed to Europe, the common populace is losing faith. They will ultimately be the decision makers on Europe and the euro, and they need to have that amusement park base in common to decide that Europe is really something they are part of and want to be part of.

I would be interested if anyone actually knows anything about the amusement park industry—or something with the same potential for a common bond—in Europe. Is there anything like that out there that has genuine cross-border appeal? Please let me know either directly or in the comments.

In today’s news, nothing of particular systemic interest. Ongoing stories continue to evolve, but August lives up to its quiet expectations. Thank goodness, as I am off to the pool and then to go fly a kite.

Have a great day!

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