The Lexus and the Olive Tree – 5 gas stations

Thimageomas Friedman has a very interesting example to reflect his view on the world’s economies. I cannot say that I fully agree with him on this because businesses all over the world has now learnt from others for the better. However, what is said by the author is fundamental nature of business in each operation system.

“I believe you can reduce the world’s economies today to basically five different gas stations.

First there is the Japanese gas station. Gas is $5 a gallon. Four men in uniforms and white gloves, with lifetime employment contracts, wait on you. They pump your gas. They change your oil. They wash your windows, and they wave at you with a friendly smile as you drive away in peace.

Second is the American gas station. Gas costs only $1 a gallon, but you pump it yourself. You wash your own windows. You fill your own tires. And when you drive around the corner four homeless people try to steal your hubcaps.

Third is the Western European gas station. Gas there also costs $5 a gallon. There is only one man on duty. He grudgingly pumps your gas and unsmilingly changes your oil, reminding you all the time that his union contract says he only has to pump gas and change oil. He doesn’t do windows. He works only thirty-five hours a week, with ninety minutes off each day for lunch, during which time the gas station is closed. He also has six weeks’ vacation every summer in the south of France. Across the street, his two brothers and uncle, who have not worked in ten years because their state unemployment insurance pays more than their last job, are playing boccie ball.

Fourth is the developing country gas station. Fifteen people work there and they are all cousins. When you drive in, no one pays any attention to you because they are all too busy talking to each other. Gas is only 35 cents a gallon because it is subsidized by the government, but only one of the six gas pumps actually works. The others are broken and they are waiting for the replacement parts to be flown in from Europe. The gas station is rather run down because the absentee owner lives in Zurich and takes all the profits out of the country. The owner doesn’t know that half his employees actually sleep in the repair shop at night and use the car wash equipment to shower. Most of the customers at the developing country gas station either drive the latest model Mercedes or a motor scooter – nothing in between. The place is always busy, though, because so many people stop in to use the air pump to fill their bicycle tires.

Lastly there is the communist gas station. Gas there is only 50 cents a gallon – but there is none, because the four guys working there have sold it all on the black market for $5 a gallon. Just one of the four guys who is employed at the communist gas station is actually there. The other three are working at second jobs in the underground economy and only come around once a week to collect their paychecks.”

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