Founder of American Apparel & Creative Team
On Creating a contemporary, integrated, free-flowing, corporate culture. On the democratization of progressive urban and cool suburban style.Self Service
American Apparel is about much more than just being American. Created and driven by its brilliant, controversial, and charismatic founder and CEO, Dov Charney, the brand is the champion of a new generation. It is transparent, creatively flowing, organized chaos that offers us a glimpse of a completely contemporary and un-kosher way of doing business. Canadian-born, 37-year-old Charney has been able to turn a fetish for perfectly fitted, high-quality "Made in the USA" cotton T-shirts into a $250-million business with over 110 new store openings worldwide last year, and the single largest garment factory in the United States. But Charney's obsession goes beyond cotton, and his communications guruism has created an image that represents the best that the "Anglo-American empire" has to offer: borderless, youthful, optimistic, sexualized, relaxed yet deliberate, tech-savvy and socially progressive urban and cool suburban innovation. The company also happens to be a sweatshop-free, socially conscious, equal-opportunity organization, with egoless creative sharing, better-than-competitive wages, and full health-care benefits for all employees. Charney has even brilliantly used his own people in the brand's advertising, once again effortlessly finding a way to make the ordinary deliciously extraordinary. Ezra Petronio sat down with Dov and creative directors Iris Alonzo and Marsha Brady in Paris to witness a performance on fiber obsession, soft politics, mobility, marketing, global aspirations, the balance of high and low tech, and the creative chaos that has made an enormously successful and seductive business.
Conversation by Ezra Petronio
Ezra Petronio: When did you join the company?
Iris Alonzo: About two years ago.
Ezra: And what were you doing before that?
Iris: I worked for another clothing company called Fresh Jive. The owner of that company knows Dov and he kind of, like, passed me down. He was, like "I don't want your hand-me-down-employees" And then I started running around with Dov as his assistant and got to know him and the company and we only had two stores then and everything was just growing and happening and moving. It was very interesting.
Ezra: What's your exact involvement in the company?
Iris: Kind of a lot of different things because that's kind of what happened over the last few years. There was so much to do. Anyone with some energy can just grab any task that they want, and anything you think you're good at that's what we want people to do. I started learning how to take pictures, so I take a lot of the photos, such as this one. This is actually the photo we're using for the next Self Service ad. So I'm taking some pictures and designing garments but everyone is pretty much designing garments. I get emails and Dov gets emails and Marsha gets emails from people all over the world saying we should make cropped leggings with buttons or, oh my God, we should make umbrellas, so anyone that has a good idea is kind of a designer, there are no designers for the company really.
Ezra: That's what I felt reading through all the material about the company, which I find a very healthy way of working.
Iris: That's the point. We just want people to do what they're good at - not what they're not good at.
Marsha Brady: And also have some variety in what they do, so they're not just locked into one part of the company, because that really helps people feel...
Ezra: Fell more involved. And it builds confidence in people. People will take initiative and be proactive, which is an interesting concept when it's a small-scale situation, and it's interesting to see how that is applied with a larger-scale company.
Iris: It's weird because when I was 16 I worked at Urban Outfitters in Santa Monica. I was a cashier and I would fold clothes to make the store look neat and I would see a big pile of dirt in the corner; and I would just look at it and not do anything about it. I wouldn't go sweep it up because I was, like "Someone else is going to do it if I don't do it." But at American Apparel, if you don't do it no one else is going to do it! No one has job titles. It's not like, "Hey, you're the sweeper-upper man, sweep it up!" It's more like if you see something that needs to get done and you're capable of doing it, just do it, don't even ask, just do it. It's great I think that little by little people are less afraid of making mistakes and more open to, like, just giving it a shot. It's nice but at the same time, we're also micro-managers, you have to be a micro-manager with some things but you also have to know when to let go. Otherwise, you never get anything done.
Ezra: How would you describe your boss?
Marsha: Well, he's brilliant, he's charismatic, he's sincere, and he's extremely hard-working. He sleeps with his cell phone; he's awake in every time zone he can possibly stay up for. I think he's really an inspiration.
Ezra: He's a modern Karl Lagerfeld.
Iris: He's ultra-passionate. Most people get good at one thing in their lives; like, you're an electrician and that's it, you design cars and that's it. He's had five lifetimes already. He's now a lighting expert.
Ezra: Yeah, it was on your website.
Marsha: He's starting to get into air conditioning systems now; he's getting so passionate about it.
Iris: He knows the technical and he's really creative but he's also and incredibly sophisticated businessman; like, he's running the business and making the financing calls while he's designing a T-shirt. It's a really weird mix that you don't often get.
Ezra: Tell me something negative, come on! What's difficult in this kind of work relationship? Not necessarily you and him but what are the negative aspects? Is it maybe confusing sometimes?
Marsha: Flexibility in your mind is required to keep going in all these different directions, and you've got to somehow keep the continuity, but that's a skill that you learn. It's almost like an organized chaos.
Iris: I think what's less interesting about what's controversial or hard about it is that it's new! We're a big business; we could actually do something, and we could really leave a mark.
Ezra: And you have already in such a short time.
Iris: There is so much potential to the whole thing and it's a completely new way of doing everything. We've reinvented our own wheel and once we get out all of these bumps and things - like, when we learn about air conditioning and efficiency and stuff - it's going to be an amazing wheel. And it can't be duplicated because we made it up.
Marsh: Our personalities and character are in it.
Iris: And we made our inefficiency into something efficient.
Marsha: The business is almost more about the process. It's like figuring out how to get things done. I think this is where a lot of creativity falls.
Iris: I didn't go to college. I barely finished high school. Dov didn't graduate fro college. None of us really were educated in what we do. And I still don't know what I'm doing, like when I design. This piece that I'm wearing now is something that I helped develop. I don't know anything about manufacturing but I had to learn. We try to do things and we become experts at things because we learn how to do them.
Ezra: It also seems everything is so transparent. On your website everything is communicated, and on your label. What are the kinds of limitations? I mean, do you feel that sometimes you're caught, certain stereotypes or certain clichés?
Iris: Sure, that's why we stopped saying sweatshop-free, not that we're all of a sudden into sweatshops, but when we say it then everyone expects us to be a charity, and that we can't like maybe be a little bit porno and, like, something that's not politically correct. Everyone expects us to be PC because we're sweatshop-free. We're not a charity. We don't want to toot our own horn but what we do want people to understand is what it means to work with the integrative manufacturing thing. People don't really read that and think it means anything but what it is. It means that this T-shirt that you're holding took 15 people in LA to make! It's a real shirt and people are like, "can you just give us 300 free shirts for a record label blah-blah-blah?" And it's, like, "No man, the shirts aren't free." It's a garment that someone really spent time putting together. We just want people to understand the reality of manufacturing. It's a massive operation with a lot of people involved.
Marsha: And anyone can go see it. I mean, if you go to the factory you can take a tour and it's like the Versailles of factories.
Ezra: It's the biggest retail factory in the States. How do you see the change culturally, in consumer habits, shifts in cultural moods? How do you perceive the present right now?
Marsha: It's funny that we'd been saying for awhile that young people had no money and middle-aged people were the ones you should focus all of your energy on and marketing to because they were just dying to spend money. I think young people have plenty of money and it's so misleading to pay too much attention to what everyone says the economy is really about when you're talking about people and certain demographics of people like innovators, urban innovators. It's so much fun to focus on the things that would make them happy - the things that make us happy, because there's so little out there.
Ezra: You think so?
Marsha: I think so. There's a lot of things that are kind of okay but there's a lot of imagery that I'm frankly really bored with. Even Mac, the computers and stuff; I'm so sick of that white and the metal with that nickel finish thing.
Ezra: And this whole idea of pace and things just happening faster and faster, is that something unsettling or something that you embrace?
Marsha: The execution of things has gotten much quicker but you still have to think things through and they haven't figured out a way to make that go any faster. It's super-effective when everyone is traveling around to different places and you can snap a picture. Iris can snap me a picture, I can snap one back and we know exactly what we're talking about. It's a gift to be able to do that. I don't know how easy it would be to run this business, like, 20 years ago.
Ezra: With a fax.
Marsha: Someone just asked me to fax them something. I'm like, "what is this, 1991?" Who the hell has a fax machine?
Iris: Dov was the first person at his university. He was at Tufts and he was the first student to have not only a fax machine but two fax machines in his dorm room. He was already making, like, a million. That's when he dropped out of college.
Marsha: What a bad ass!
Ezra: It's interesting how you promote this sense of original style and not only your brand but a lot of the big brands have to be uniform; there's a uniformization about setting a certain model that you find in whatever cultural landscape you are in.
Marsha: Well, I think our product is more like art supplies. You can use paint anywhere, down south in the United States, in Paris, Berlin, or Antarctica. Our clothes are so basic and the color range and the silhouettes style so varied that you can pretty much...
Iris: Everyone shops in our store. I've been working in a lot of stores recently and everyone shops there, everyone finds something. It's fat people, it's skinny people, it's trendy people, it's not trendy people, it's totally, like, nerds, it's tourists.
Ezra: That's nice, very modern.
Iris: What we're trying to get better at is learning faster how to develop these products. We're doing a whole line of colored denim-not jeans, the color denim, but only colors, unisex jeans. And sometimes we wish could develop it so much faster. We just want it there and we have to be patient and we're learning. We're also kind of working on this new retail concept so we might use some of our existing locations and convert them or semi-convert them to this new retail concept.
Ezra: Tell me about it.
Iris: Well, because we're manufacturing everything ourselves we're limited to doing certain things. But there are other people that can do something much better than we ever could because they're experts at making cameras or watches. It's not like we only wear American Apparel; we work it in because we like it.
Ezra: Do you incorporate new people?
Iris: We incorporate different manufacturers, yeah.
DOV ENTERS THE ROOM
Dov Charney: At your service! Do you speak English?
Ezra: I'm American.
Dov: You're American? What the fuck? You know, I get here and I see so much opportunity to squeeze the pimple.
Ezra: It's part of the myth about you.
Dov: Yeah? What's the myth?
Ezra: It's all over the place. Eat your sandwich.
Dov: I just can't help but to run to the store and get a few bulbs and try something new.
Ezra: What's this whole obsession with bulbs?
Dov: Well, my obsession with bulbs in my opinion is nothing special because the found of Marks and Spencer, he developed a bulb fetish. Anybody in retail who doesn't give a shit about bulbs is an idiot because lighting is everything. So, I can't believe in Paris everyone is an American Apparel customer; it's worse than New York!
Ezra: An American Apparel what?
Dov: Sucker. I'm just saying there are customers here, the profile of the people, its' our customer but we also have to offer them an American service. You can't say "Oh, it's France, we'll deal with it." You know, I was looking at customers and they're like "Do you have this?" And no, we didn't, and they're not even upset! But to me the shit should be in stock. If it's not in stock, if it's not there, it's a problem.
Ezra: How do you train your people? It's so crazy in France.
Dov: You know, there's a class of young people here, I just walked with a girl to the store. There are some people that appreciate the socialist lifestyle and some people that want an American experience. I have a speech for the staff at this store. Possibly. Why not provide them with somewhat of an American experience? It's not that America doesn't work; it has its faults but, you know, take overtime. There's an aversion to overtime on one level but overtime is money, too. And the extent that you work overtime and propel the company's success you're part of the story. I'll tell you one thing: if I ever do stock options - and I'm not saying that I will or am going public or anything - but if I do I won't carve out my French employees if they're part of the success. I think these kids are ready to work. Half the time it's the management that's afraid to. They're so conditioned to think that they won't want to work that they don't even ask, "Do you want to reorganize the store on Sunday at 2:00 am?" Some people like that. I enjoy it.
Ezra: There are limitations in France that are hard for companies with managers. I mean, I compare my company here and in New York where there's always incentive.
Dov: You know what? The world is changing and time zones...you know, we're atheists now for the most part in advanced society. Who the fuck believes in God? What is Sunday? Monday is the new Sunday, red's the new black, fuck off, who cares? You know what I mean? Some of these beautiful girls, we'll bring them to Florida, we'll bring them to Spain or Mexico City, they're ready to go. One of them down there speaks Spanish. We've just got to mix it up, we've got to break the inertia, but this is what I've done for 10 fucking years. This is what I've done since I was a kid. I'm always pushing the rules. You know, I started because there were better T-shirts in the States than in Canada. I was living in Canada and they were poly-cotton. I mean, now I love the poly-cotton in Canada, you wanted the American version. And that was American Apparel. It was about bringing a better product to Canadians.
Ezra: Just to go back, you said about breaking inertia. Where did that come from? Did it come from your parents?
Dov: I think it comes from the fact I feel that there is something very important that I've been trying to explain, and it is first of all that the Anglo-American empire wins. It's the final straw. We've won, it's fucking over! That's clear. English is the law of the land right now, it's Rome, but what the Americans got wrong is they're kind of xenocentric to themselves. I think a Canadian or a Brit or an Australian or an expatriated American that comes back has a much clearer view of what's going on in the overall empire. Because the Anglo empire, it's in France, too, it's in India.
Ezra: It's in Iran!
Dov: Yeah, it's in Iran; it's everywhere because there were British in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon-there were British influences everywhere. So the new Anglo-American empire, though it is international, it has nothing to do with US passport or American advanced culture. And it doesn't say no to other languages or to bringing French into it. If you want to speak bilingually, like, if I speak English and you come back in French, that's fine. There are no rules to it. It's not English only. That's a weird California nationalism that reacts to Mexican immigrants. English is too powerful to need any protection. You don't have to protect the English language, like these Americans in Texas or in Florida or California. They're, like, "let's make sure English is the official language of Texas." Give me a break, fuck off! It's as if, like, "give Spanish a chance, it's got enough of a handicap already." You know, if a law is written in English and Spanish so be it. I know how ugly nationalism is because I come from Quebec. Quebec nationalism was an ugly thing. I left Quebec because of two things, nationalism and socialism. Two things I didn't like about Quebec. I grew up in the Anglo-phone Jewish community, I mean, forget it! It's a very rich community. Like, French Canadians look to Quebec City as their capital, English Canadians look to Ottawa, and Jewish Canadians look to New York. New York, that's it, that's where it is, that's where the matzo's from! Matzos by Streit's. At night, my Bubby, she was Yiddish and she used to tune in Yiddish radio from New York, because, you know, AM would go that far. "New York was it," my Zaida, my grandfather said. I had a dream about him last night. He went on his honeymoon; where do you think they went? New York. We left with $60, we came back with $100! It was Route 9, you can still see it. Whenever I see Route 9 in the New York freeways, like the West Side Highway says 9, 9 goes all the way to Montreal! So to me, being a Jewish Canadian, there's a little bit of the Jewish game. Do I believe in God? No! No, fuck off, there ain't no God! Hate to break it to everybody but you've been wasting your time! Like, I have no sympathy for religious Jewish people that are sitting there and can't eat at the restaurant. Look at the writing on the wall, there is no God! But Jewish culture is amazing. I love that commercial Jewish culture, the hustle that brings to the table. That I have in me and that drives American Apparel and also being inside the Anglo-American empire is more than America and it's more than just English because it does filter to other languages.
Ezra: What is filtering exactly? Capitalism? Creative Culture?
Dov: It's about communication, it's about a kind of tolerance, a kind of, "Hey, I don't give a shit if she's Muslim, I want to fuck her!" Sex, attraction, it doesn't matter what race or ethnicity or background they are, if they're hot, they're hot! I want to shoot it, I want to photograph it, and I want to be with it, snivel up in it - that's it, that's what the new culture is! That's a nice-looking pair of shoes; I don't care if they're made in China.
Ezra: But at the same time you are "Made in the USA."
Dov: Yes, but we're not pushing "Made in the USA." You know, there's a lot of cool shit made in China to the extent that the United States or Germany or France has dislocated all of its manufacturing elsewhere. Guess who's going to be the next expert? It's not going to be here. The guy that really knows how to make a pair of shoes might be a three-year-old Chinese guy and in 10 years he'll be like, "I've been making shoes for 20 years." Over here what have they been doing? They've been taking Sundays off and they hang out and don't work. I mean, they're working at magazines...There are great magazines out here. I think Self Service is one of the best magazines I'm familiar with. I'm not trying to flatter your ass. I just think that manufacturing is kind of leaving. The old guys know it.
Ezra: It is kind of revolutionary what you are talking about. A completely contemporary way to imagine business.
Dov: I don't like the boomer control. I'm tired of the boomers. They have too much say in finance and fashion and auto design and everything. It's time for the next generation to take control. But I do think that the next generation could use some boomers or even some people that are from the Eisenhower generation. Like, I was taught how to make T-shirts. Let me be absolutely clear, my training in how to manufacture a basic American military shirt with reinforced tape was by men 10 years ago that were in their 60's. My principal fabric, baby rib, I was trained by Steve Gwantly, who was from a village in North Carolina, and I said, "I want to make a finer rib." And he says, "I think we can do that. I have the old cylinder." We put it on the machine. There's some people that would say I made the rib come back in the American context. That Steve Gwantly and I together created a new trend where yarns and things got finer.
Ezra: But what was that key moment when you were in LA or living there? Could you have done something else? What lead to this?
Dov: It's way before LA, it goes to 88-89. Even 87. My friends were selling t-shirts in front of the Montreal concerts. I was their employee. I would get 50 bucks to sell for them. Whatever I sold, it was not like on commission but I would do it, just because I wanted the glory of being the best salesman, I would sell more T-shirts than anybody else but they were using Canadian T-shirts. They were poly cotton and they only had large and extra large, they didn't make small. So I couldn't even wear the T-shirts. So in the 60s I started by bringing a package of American Hanes Red Label with me from my boarding school or whatever. And I said, "Print my T-shirts on these." And then I realized these are altogether better than the crap we are getting. So I started bringing them in from the States, buying them at Kmart. I like to improvise with standardized products rather than reinventing things. Sometimes, the obvious is there. Maybe that's why American Apparel has taken an obvious product, saying, "This could be made better." Or a sock or a legging.
Ezra: Are there limitations to the iconic pieces that exist? I mean, once you've gone over those classics?
Dov: First of all, the classics have to be updated continuously - the colors, we see sizing shifts. You know, right now the fashion is turning, girls are trying to oversize, and this was also true in the late 80s and early 90s. People just bought extra large; small was available. I know also from being involved in buying Hanes T-shirts. I used to be a dealer, just buying and selling T-shirts until 1990. From 88 to 91, I was buying Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, like "gray market," and hauling them into Canada. Now, Hanes used to have a problem; people started buying larger sizes and they couldn't sell the smaller sizes. They actually had an upcharge program where you'd have to pay more if you bought large and extra large only. I think that trend is going to come back now. So, sizes change in men and women. Right now, men have been buying lots of smalls and mediums, but that may change again. Sizes change, fabrics change. What's considered perfectly a basic, that kind of idea changes, but we try to move in three- or four-year runs.
Ezra: What's fascinating is the way you communicate, this whole idea of integrating the people, this whole idea of showing the real people in advertising. It's quite visionary for me in the retail world. How did that come about, this whole organic way or working, this transparency?
Dov: Well, one thing is that there were no boundaries because no one said you have to do it this way or you have to do it that way. I used to have colleagues that were, like, more institutional colleagues that were working with me in American Apparel. They would say, "Hey, you gotta hire a photographer." Sometimes, people don't trust themselves to do it. Or the reason they hire a store designer is also because they don't want to have the head banging experience of designing the store. But when you do it yourself, you learn incredible amounts. I guess, just to try things out, like the men's T-shirt. You know, my rule is fuck the spec sheet and try the motherfucker on. Because, like this one here, it kind of looks cool but it really is a prototype for fit; I don't even remember which fit this was, but funnily enough, whatever I thought fit perfectly last year, two years later I would say it's a little too tight under here, and I would purposely make it tighter under there. So you're chasing the rainbow.
Ezra: Would this be considered your "design logic?"
Dov: I guess what American Apparel is, is kind of like Mercedes in the 80s. They didn't change that much, and American cars just change all the fucking time! Every year, the Cadillac was different. I like that kind of evolutionary cycle more than the American Cadillac cycle. The reason Mercedes - and whatever Mercedes is today it wasn't what it was then, in my opinion, they've Lexused it up, forget it! Mercedes was featureless; if there was a feature there it was for a reason. You look at all the old Cadillacs and I drive a fucking Cadillac now, so don't think I'm anti-Cadillac, but you look at the old Cadillac, all the features, all of the buttons, are broken. I think there is something to be said for that European period at that time. I think they had something special going on in design. We're trying to bring that caliber. Not that we don't test things, because we do. And not that we don't make mistakes, because we do. But we have certain kinds of classics that we're trying to hold on to and do them right.
Ezra: Give me an example of the life story of a new design. What are the criteria?
Dov: We made a men's underwear and I think we made a little contribution to the men's underwear industry; we brought back, in my opinion, the luster of the brief. Everybody wanted a boxer; I didn't want to do a boxer because we don't want to distract the market. We make a good brief in a multiplicity of colors - by the way, cutting out of scrap fabric was a plus and I made sure that there was always a white trim, so we didn't have any issues with trim to keep a continuity. So I think making products that are simplistic to make is key; also, the fact that we have to pay $12 an hour on average plus taxes plus insurance and insurance is up to $2,000 per employee. That's what you pay an employee per year in a third world country. That's just to insure them; you have to pay electricity; you have to pay a mountain of stuff. And rent in Los Angeles is different than an industrial plant in Jakarta. We try to make a product that we're proud of, something that will look good in five months, too. We don't want to do something that just looks good for the moment. We have arguments about it; sometimes, I think my colleagues can get a little restrictive because they care.
Ezra: Have you always been such an obsessive person? Obsessive in detail?
Dov: Yeah, because I love T-shirts and I am obsessed in making sure that I have a small enough shirt, because I was smaller than the other guys. So we were selling these shirts in front of the Forum and I wanted my own T-shirt. I was always a bit of a compulsive obsessive. You can ask anybody, even at a young age, if I wanted something... I also got very enamored with the States; like, if the 800 number didn't work in Canada I was like stomping around or, if there was a particular chewing gum flavor that wasn't available in Canada, the smallest things, like fruit rollups, you know, they weren't available in Canada, I would go nuts. They are available in Canada today. I'd make a special trip, cross an international boundary.
Ezra: We travel so much, everything is so uniform...
Dov: It's not yet uniform.
Ezra: Well, I mean, some of the cultural landscape.
Dov: I don't see any Ruffles in Monoprix.
Ezra: Thank God, but don't you miss sometimes... I'm not being nostalgic but this idea that there was.
.. Dov: Well, those inequalities between Canada and the US that have melted down... some of them are still there. Canadian cigarettes are still different; you can smell the difference.
Ezra: I remember my grandma bringing bagels from New York in her suitcase a few years ago, and that was a magical thing. And Doritos.
Dov: Right, Doritos and stuff like that but as the world enlarges and shrinks those differences... instead of experiencing them between France and Spain... of course, they're a lot less because things have been globalized, but the difference between France and India... 20 to 30 years ago, "You know they don't have toothpaste in India." It was, like, so far away but now I know they have deodorant in Persia, they got on it so the world now is on a different level. I like the interplay of the different countries, and now we have a little angle at American Apparel, because we have the same country of origin manufacturing. We're shipping from one location to all these stores. It's very hard to do, by the way, to get the crap out of our factory to the store floor; there are a lot of little obstacles. Does it get out of the factory into the inventory? Does it get out of the inventory into the shipping area? Does it get out of the shipping area to the airport? Does it get out of the airport to customs? Does it get out of customs to our warehouse in Germany? Does it get out of the German relay thing that we do because we consolidate the shipments?
Ezra: Is opening another factory a big no-no?
Dov: We don't need another factory; it's a waste of time for now, there's not enough volume. When there's 500 in Europe we could look into it. What we were lucky at in the beginning is that we had commodity volume from the imprintable T-shirt business; we were manufacturing 400,000 pieces a week or 300,000 pieces a week in the wholesale area. So we had enough economy of scale to drop some of that merchandise into retail. Otherwise, this whole thing would not have worked as it did.
Ezra: There's something beautiful in one of the interviews where yous poke about one magazine in Paris influencing someone in Berlin, his music then influencing this whole kind of chain and how this cross-culture and exchange represents today's contemporary culture.
Dov: That's true, but where it all gets screwed up in terms of cross-cultural exchange is that people have anxieties when they want to travel into the United States or other places - I don't believe in immigration, I don't believe in any restrictions to the movement of people. Like, if you talk about life, liberty, property, pursuit of happiness, freedom of movement is a big one. Freedom of movement and also that the government shouldn't be involved in the regulation of sexuality, whether it be the right for homosexual couples to do what they want or a heterosexual couple to do whatever they want, that's important. I think we forget that sometimes, especially as we try to protect and help. There's always some kind of codes of conduct that are restricting people's liberty. I can't think that it's right that a kid in Teheran that wants to open up a Starbucks in London can't do it right now. It goes back to the Magna Carta. I've said this a couple of times. I challenge anyone to look at section 41 or 42 - like, the first written law of the west; it says in the Magna Carta that every man should be granted free passage into England if he's a merchant an dif he so chooses to leave, not only if he wants to leave, he should have free passage to come back as long as England is not at war with that country; and even if England is at war with that country merchants from that country should be allowed to enter England as long as merchants from England can enter the other country at war. So that has to be evaluated by the crown. It's all in the Magna Carta. So to think in 1271 that they were thinking about the commercial rights and mobility rights at that time, and codified them, and yet today we're having trouble figuring that out. Like, we're trying to play that we don't know. I think we have an antiquated system where we are imposing some form of nationalism on tribalism on society, and I think it's slowing things down. I don't believe in long-distance rates; we've got to get rid of this shit! We have the technology now, we know there's satellites sitting up there, we know they're ripping us off when they charge us a dollar a minute to call from one country to the other.
Ezra: I'm constantly thinking about the differences in the two work ethics, Socialism vs. Capitalism, too much work or too little. As an American business coming into Europe, how do you feel about it?
Dov: I think it's great what they did in Europe. Harmonizing the currency was a big step and letting people work, I'm looking forward to the opportunity of seeing what happens with all these Polish workers rolling in; it's gonna bring some fucking flavor! It's gonna give Europe a competitive edge. It turns out that the Polish people, they're well educated; they score better on math tests than anybody in France or the US. They're leaders; it's an educated population. They've got a little bit of an edge because the culture is now going through a massive transformation and immigrants are great entrepreneurs and they challenge society, they challenge the aristocracy. Socialism is also the aristocracy trying to maintain a hold on society. Like, you know, in Germany they say you can't work on Sundays, and here you can't work on Sundays. And the corporations have tremendous power here. You know, you say America is corporatized; it's corporatized here. If you think the small businessman can start a business without working Sundays or nights or overtime, he can't. So in the end, the kids go on vacation for a month and jerk off on some island but they really can never beak into the business world because there are no financing opportunities. Everything's on lockdown. If you want to do any kind of construction you need permits, you need this, you need that. There's such a lockdown on the small business guy but they excuse that and say, "Well, at least we pay our workers well and we have socialized health care and all this so it's a cushion." But then it mutes the opportunity for someone to come in and put in check the phone system or put in check the industries that are controlled by the aristocracy. So what I see here is that Europe, unfortunately, still has an aristocracy that is holding the middle guy down.
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