“Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of societies: those where you can get a shoe shine and those where you can’t,” wrote Roger Cohen in a 2008 Op-ed.
Americans love their shoe shines. The opposite is true of egalitarian societies like France where such a cleaning service “rubs the Gallic egalitarian spirit the wrong way.” But in New York and Chicago, shoe shiners are aplenty.
“There’s something about having someone applying polish to a blithe client’s boots that comforts American notions of free enterprise, make-a-buck opportunism and the survival of the fittest.”
Yet, as Thomas Chatterton Williams so wisely notes, there’s a price to pay for brutal capitalism. As an American expat living in France, he writes: “it’s also nice to live in a society where not everything is for sale. When I landed back in Paris, I placed my heavy bags on a luggage cart, which I unlocked free of charge. It would have set me back $6 in New York.”
Quid pro quo.