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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

I love the smell of glamour in the morning

I have been to a marvelous party and now I am back.

The marvelous party was the CNE Capitalist Ball, held at the Belgian Stock Exchange in central Brussels.

Now before I go any further here, I have a confession to make. Two confessions, in fact. Last Thursday, I referred to Brussels as the ‘Heart of Darkness’. Well, I was wrong about that. I also suspected that I was going to find myself in Brussels amid a room full of musty, fusty academics plus a few corporate types and policy wonks. I was wrong about that too.

In fact, my travelling companion and fellow Samizdatista Antoine Clarke and I found ourselves in sumptuous surroundings with hundreds of European, British and American glitterati and illuminati from the worlds of business, finance, politics, journalism and academia. In other words, lots of clever, interesting men and lots of clever, interesting and head-turningly lovely women. They were smart, young, chic, funny and sexy.

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The belles are ringing for capitalism

Imagine how much fun you could have with those kind of people mixed with lashings of the finest food, alcohol and tobacco that money can buy and a sixteen-piece swing band? Well, it was even more fun than that. If you don’t believe me then see the pictures below.

But the pictures can only convey a part of the whole. What they cannot really convey is the atmosphere. Yes, it was sexy but it was something more than sexy too. It was mingled with that kind of giddy excitement that comes from being in the company of winners.

That is the impression I am left with. These clever, dynamic people are in the process of straightening out an entire continent and I cannot imagine any obstacle being enough to deter them or get in their way for long enough to even slow them down. If history possesses even a modicum of common sense then it will get on their side. Quickly.

I want to go again. In fact, I want to go again right now. Sadly, I am going to have to wait another year.

I will let you go to the photo-fest now but, before you rush off, I just want to say a few words about my hosts, the Centre for New Europe. Not only did they organise this weekends event (and for that alone they would deserve global plaudits) but it is the CNE that is networking all these brilliant free-market campaigners, writers, doers and thinkers and bringing into together so that they get to know each other and trade their ideas and strategies. That is real progress. Bloggers like me may talk a lot about changing things but the crew at the CNE are out there actually changing things.

No-one, least of all me, is going to even try to pretend that Europe does not have its serious and structural problems but if that continent is going to be saved at all from terminal and ruinous decline, then it is the CNE that is most likely to save it.

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A couple of interns

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A terrific French band playing American swing music in front of a
New York skyline backdrop! French anti-Americanism? Pah!

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Tall, glamourous Texan woman with short, drunk, unglamourous British man

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Gawain Towler (editor of The Sprout) and his wife Joslin

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Stephen Pollard and friend.

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Plenty of bright, young things in attendance

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A very charming Phd student from California

And now for a few words about Brussels. I was unjustified in referring to it as the ‘Heart of Darkness’ but not entirely off the mark. Anywhere that hosts the European Commission and a clutch of similar toxic bureaucratic monoliths deserves a bit of a battering. But there is more to Brussels than that.

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The Grand Platz of Brussels

Away from the soulless, modernist horror blocks are towering and inspirational monuments to the old Flemish mercantile traditions upon which the city was built. It is still a very prosperous place. Walking around the city centre, I lost count of the number and choice of high-quality retail outlets, restaurants, cafes and bars. There is also a bustling, commercial quality to the atmosphere that gives Brussels quite a buzz.

Of course, two days is nowhere near long enough to get an accurate impression of what it would be like to live in a place. But it is long enough to dispel this caricature notion of Europe being a socialist hell-hole as compared to the English-speaking world. If only thing were that cut and dried. They are not. Certainly we do some things better in Britain but there are also very many areas in which I think the Belgians are doing things better than we are. I hope we can learn the good things from each other and I hope to be taking another trip to Brussels quite soon.

20 comments to I love the smell of glamour in the morning

  • Rob Read

    So you pulled?

  • Tim Sturm

    Excellent stuff! And how great to see babes at a libertarian/capitalist function!

    I like the thought of libertarians behaving as the carefree, happy and successful people that our philosophy says we should be. Superb.

  • David,

    You’re right, there are things that are appealing about continental Europe, despite the economic stagnation and ridiculous level of taxation and bureaucracy. As a Brit living in Munich, I find:

    The beer is the best in the world (I admit Brussels also has a strong claim in that direction). I’m an hour’s drive from the Alps and can decide to go snowboarding on a Sunday afternoon if I feel like it. The climate is better – we have real summers and real winters, not lukewarm drizzle for half the year and cold drizzle the rest of the time. Partly as a result of these two things, people are generally more active and so probably healthier – if you go otu by the river on a summer evening it’s alive with people running, mountain biking, rollerblading, canoeing …

    Crime rates are low. I like living in cities and don’t want to move to the countryside. But when I lived in Manchester I couldn’t go out for an evening without wondering whether (a) I would get beaten up or stabbed and (b) my house would be burgled while I was out. In Munich that kind of thing never crosses your mind. I don’t know why this should be – if Germans are, in fact, more socially cohesive & annately law-abiding than Brits, or the police force is better, or Munich is just a much richer city than Manchester, or what, but it’s certainly true

    And, as Theodore Dalrymple said about moving to France – the taxes are high but at least you get something for your money, unlike in Britain. It would be easy to get the impression, living in Britain, that it’s actually impossible for any kind of publicly-funded service to work at all – which isn’t quite the case. I like being able to hop on a reliable, clean, not-too-crowded tube to work and do something worthwhile instead of wsating my time sitting in traffic (and without worrying abotu somebody stealing my laptop).

    And the women are generally, on average, better looking. Which may just be the lure of the exotic and oh shit, all British women now hate me.

  • Your report strikes me as uncharacteristically optimistic, Mr. Carr, so I can only assume you had a really good time.

    I am, however, not convinced that Brussels is quite as prosperous as you make it out to be – when I was last there I got the uneasy feeling that the only thing giving the atmosphere a ‘buzz’ was the endless flow of taxpayers’ money into the city and the presense of thousands of Eurocrats working and living near to the EU’s various expensive buildings.

    What really transforms Brussels from being a true ‘heart of darkness’ is beacons of light like the CNE.

  • I must say that Mr Carr dresses okay. The claret outfit works well. I’m glad you didn’t take your Chelsea replica shirt…

  • It really was that much fun.

    David, you couldn’t have captured my enthusiasm about the ball better, and a quiet Monday in the office has been greatly cheered by those photos. Great work.

  • Kerry Hardy

    It was a fab and glam affair… and even more so, a bright spot of hope in the decaying swamp of socialism. And I do agree, David, that the most encouraging part of the evening was realizing how many young people were present to carry the torch. I suppose one could say that the future of liberty in the EU is, to quote Henley, bloody but unbowed.

    Not to mention that in your claret vest, you cut a dashing figure…

  • Charles Copeland

    David Carr writes:
    “Anywhere that hosts the European Commission and a clutch of similar toxic bureaucratic monoliths deserves a bit of a battering …”

    Why is it always Brussels that gets the battering and the headlines? Luxembourg hosts at least 3000 Commission staff, not to mention the Eurocrats employed by other EC institutions. Without us, the country would be flushed down the Moselle overnight. But nobody ever mentions us. It’s as though we don’t exist … just bricks in the wall … mere cogs nobody even bothers to hate or despise .. like as if we’re just total fucking nobodies even the goddam libertarians won’t go the trouble of walloping. And most people can’t even tell the difference between Luxembourg and Lichtenstein. Batter us for a change! Don’t forget we’re also part of the Heart of Darkness!

    “Frustrated EC official”,
    Luxembourg

  • Linda Sloane

    I think David’s gone native. Or is “David Carr” now an EU replicant? ;-)

  • No, Linda. Still resolutely British and anti-EU. But it was a great party.

  • Where do I sign up for this gig ?

  • If it’s up to us Brussels anarcho-capitalists (l’avant-garde ludique des libertariens bruxellois), before long only socialists will write that Brussels is the heart of darkness !

    It was wonderful meeting you Mr Carr, and I’m happy that you discovered that there is more to Brussels than the EU. I hope you’ll keep that in mind next time you write about “Brussels”, our wounded Brussels hearts will be grateful.

    Puute van de koech !

  • It was really good to see you again :)

  • Charles,

    I thought Luxembourg was mainly kept afloat by “offshore” German bank accounts? So yes, I suppose you are neglected. And what about the European parliament gravy train in Strasbourg?

  • Guy Herbert

    “[…]the carefree, happy and successful people that our philosophy says we should be.”

    “Should be allowed to be,” surely? If actually being carefree, happy and successful is guaranteed, I want my money back.

  • Andy 'The Jealous One' Duncan

    Hi David,

    If you’re still reading this thread, I’m with Sylvain. Just how the heck do I get to go this party next year? :-)

    I always did say that the Belgians make the finest Belle Vue Kriek cherry beer, in the world, and that Tin-tin? I love ‘im! ;-)

    Yours, in hope

    Rgds,
    AndyD

    PS. Not forgetting Hercules Poirot, of course. Fine man. Imaginary, of course, but a fine Belgian.

  • Many thanks to the folks at CNE for an outstanding event. Although severely jetlagged, my boss and I managed to have a rip-roaring good time. It was wonderful to come across the Atlantic and see so many familiar faces. Count me in for next year’s Ball.

    P.s. – H.A. and S.K. – Miss you already!

  • aristophane

    Tonight is my night !
    We’ll rock and roll, baby !

  • Wonderful description of the ball; 5 months down-7 to go for the next one! (Luckily more to come) You didn’t put my picture up though, (in the light of short, drunk (…)) I am very dissappointed…

  • I believe you had much fun. I wish i were there.