Brussels vs. the Tophats

So I’m waiting for a doctor’s appointment this morning paging through Spiegel and see this article (G) about chimney sweeps in Germany. Germany still has Schornsteinfeger, those quaint figures in black tophats (good-luck symbols!) who make sure your coal-burning stoves and tile-ovens are in order and clean your chimneys of all the dust, dead pigeons, urchin residue, and unexploded bombs.

But wait, nobody has basement boilers or coal-burning stoves anymore; and the number of apartments with actual working chimneys is pretty tiny. So the chimney sweep must be a thing of the past, right? Wrong! There are most definitely still chimney sweeps in Germany. They not only offer their services to you, they force their services upon you. When they come by to inspect your building, you must let them in (they can even call the police and force entry), and you must pay them a fee determined by the local board.

Http___wwwschornsteinfeger1The article profiles Joachim Datko, a 55-year-old engineer from Regensburg who tried to reject the chimney-sweeper’s services, pointing out that he had installed an ultra-modern gas heating system that didn’t produce a single particle of dust or smoke. He lost, and the chimney sweeper was permitted to barge his way into Datko’s house to conduct pointless measurements.

Who gave them these secure, life-long jobs? The Nazis, of course. In a job-creation boondoogle that’s more reminiscent of 1435 than 1935, they they divided all of Germany up into small "sweep districts," and created a tiny chimney-sweep monopoly in each one. Chimney-sweeps in training have to wait 12 years to be assigned a district. When they get one, they have to live there and volunteer for the fire department. In return, though, they have a monopoly on inspecting and cleaning chimneys and heating devices in that district. In their defense, they point out that they’re much more than chimney sweeps and are, like, totally modern now, and know how to check your home for all sorts of harmful vapors and gases. But however useful their services may be, they still have a monopoly.

Who will save us? The EU, of course. Monopolies violate EU guidelines, so Brussels is soon going to force the chimney sweepers to compete for their services. Yes, that’s right — Brussels will be intervening to reduce bureaucracy. The battle-lines are drawn. On the one side, chimney-sweeps, with their official website glorifying themselves as "experts on security, energy, and the environment" The website’s mascot is the charming young thing picture above, who can sweep my chimney anytime. [was that really necessary? — ed.]. In the other corner, Joachim Datko — yes, that Datko — who’s got his own anti-chinmey-sweep website (G)!

I don’t know where I stand on this issue. On the one hand, it does seem awfully old-fashioned to preserve a monopoly, especially a Nazi monopoly (Nazopoly?). On the other hand, they wear tophats!

8 thoughts on “Brussels vs. the Tophats

  1. I believe “Nazipoly” is the more pleasing translation, one which fits in well with current events.

    A philosophical question: Is Halliburton a Nazipoly?


  2. Your ability to summarize ultra-boring topics such as this one into funny posts is astounding. Congratulations!

    Joachim Datko has already figured prominently in various TV reportages covering the necessity of this neat little monopoly. He is today’s Robin Hood of house owners. I hope that Brussels will prove him right (there is no real reason why they won’t).


  3. These and other shenanigans such as the GEZ are part of a general understanding that the government is allowed to charge people for random things and even violate their constitutional rights at a whim. They need to be maintained lest people start getting ideas about ‘rights’ and ‘reason’.
    It also speaks volumes about the author of this post that any odd person is welcome to violate his constitutional right as long as they look cute. Hey you know, that can be arranged for.


  4. Grayblog said:

    It also speaks volumes about the author of this post that any odd person is welcome to violate his constitutional right as long as they look cute. Hey you know, that can be arranged for.

    I didn’t say she could violate my rights, grayblog. I said she could sweep my chimney. Or perhaps I should say, “sweep” my “chimney.”


  5. The history of perfume goes back to Egypt, although it was prevalent in East Asia as well. Early perfumes were based on incense, not chemicals, so aromas were passed around through fumes. The Roman and Islamic cultures further refined the harvesting and manufacturing of perfumery processes to include other aromatic ingredients.

    Thus, the ancient Islamic culture marked the history of modern perfumery with the introduction of spices and herbs. Fragrances and other exotic substances, such as Jasmine and Citruses, were adapted to be harvested in climates outside of their indigenous Asia.


  6. Ah….the sweet, smell of perfume! Today’s market is flooded with hundreds and hundreds of different fragrances ranging

    from floral to woodsy. Most women love the smell of perfume, wearing it even when going to the grocery store. The problem

    is that perfume allergy for some women, is anything but nice.


  7. Really enjoyed reading your blog post. I will have to bookmark your site for later.
    TITLE: Website der Woche: German Joys
    BLOG NAME: Würdevoll und Preiswert
    DATE: 09/18/2007 08:06:47 AM
    Dass einem als Deutschen ja gewisse kollektive Neurosen und Zwangsverhaltensweisen von Kindesbeinen an eingeflößt und aufgeprägt wurden, sollte klar sein, allein schon deswegen, weil eine dieser Gruppenkompulsionen die zwanghafte Selbstreflexion ist…


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