Free enterprise system?

As a free lance English trainer in Germany you are forced to become a member of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This means you have no option but pay a yearly Chamber fee no matter if you need their services or not. I think this is against the idea of a free enterprise system.

A couple of years ago when I registered my company, the Chamber raised my fee by about 5 times without even notifying me. They just sent me a bill that was 5 times the previous amount. When I called them, they told me that since my ‘business had grown’, my Chamber fee had grown too. I tried to explain to them that my ‘business’ hadn’t grown five times, I had just decided to register it as a company.

The friendly Chamber man told me that it was not important how much my turnover or profit had grown. What counted to the Chamber of Commerce was the fact that I decided to register a company as opposed to being just a free lancer.

To cut a long story short, they told me that there is no way I can cancel my membership as long as I’m either a free lancer, self-employed or a company. All I get from them is a monthly magazine which primarily contains ads.

So what is the situation in your country? Are you also forced to join the Chamber of Commerce or similar organizations?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Competitive fencing[YSaerTTEW443543]

In the US, the Chamber of Commerce is entirely voluntary. Together, they try to improve the overall business climate of the area and to promote the region as an attractive place to live, buy, shop, work, etc.

Your story would be shocking here!

I agree that such a situation would be shocking in the US, and people would think of it as a type or organized crime. It’s basically legalized extortion. Over here there would be such an outcry by business owners that such forced memberships would soon be illegal.

However, a similar situation exists in the US for 9-to-5 employees who are forced to join and pay dues to a labor union whether they want to or not. Huge numbers of people have to do that, and in many states, if you don’t join the union, you still have to pay dues to it if the union has been organized in your workplace. Most of these unions are also radical political organizations, so a lot of the members find themselves forced to pay dues that are used to support many things they are against – not just a little thing or two, but many things all the time. The labor unions are not supposed to use dues money to advocate for political causes, but I can see that the labor union I am forced to belong to spends millions on political propaganda, and they can’t have received it all from private political donations.

But in Germany you have a lot of things that would shock Americans. You have a tax on radios, and a guy who runs around with a little machine to see if you have more radios than you’ve reported.

Not only that. The GEZ (the organization that collects radio and TV broadcasting fees in Germany) can now also impose a fee on any person who has a computer. Since you can watch TV or listen to the radio with any computer that is hooked up to the Internet, they have the legal right to charge you a fee even if you never use any of the public-law broadcasting channels.

On the one hand, Germany is a country with one of the most modern infrastructures in the world. On the other hand, it still has laws in place that remind you of communism.

There are lot of things going on that I would call “institutionalized corruption”. Since these things are legal, they officially can’t be defined as “corruption” while in really they just are.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: An Asian boat pier[YSaerTTEW443543]

Do you remember exactly when that started, Torsten? I remember being pretty confused by the GEZ when I first arrived in Germany (The GEZ naturally does not speak any English.) :lol: Even after I learned German, the GEZ remained a somewhat mysterious and unpredictable beaurocratic monster to me. However, I do remember thinking back in the late 90s that the GEZ would most likely end up deciding to charge fees for Internet access and various mobile communication devices. The only real question in my mind was what the exact details would be. :lol:

Hi Amy,

I’m not quite when exactly the GEZ came up with this brilliant idea to charge every person in Germany who has access to the Internet – I’ve just found this on Wikipedia:

"Everybody living in Germany is obliged to pay a fee to the GEZ for using Neuartige Rundfunkgeräte (novel broadcast receiving devices) which includes any computer connected to the internet.

The reasoning given for charging all devices with internet access is based on the reasoning that a computer can be used to stream radio and television broadcasts via the internet by visiting one of the websites provided by the German public broadcasting organizations (ARD, ZDF, etc.). It is irrelevant if the computer is actually used for this purpose, simply the ability to use these streams is the basis for the general charge on all internet capable equipment used in Germany.

As not all TV programs are available online, only the charge for radio broadcasts is currently being charged (it was originally planned to charge the full fee for television charges).

The individual computer configuration is not taken into account. The criteria for the internet fee is simply the ability to play broadcast content even if the computer is not actually connected to the internet."

This means that in Germany you have to pay two fees to use the Internet – the first one is for the connection itself and the second one is primarily for a service you often don’t want or need. So much for democracy in Germany![YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Seamen on a sailing boat[YSaerTTEW443543]

That is an absolutely hilarious term! “Neuartige Rundfunkgeräte”. If it’s not a radio, and you want to tax it, just call it a new kind of radio! :smiley:

Well Jamie, organizations like the GEZ have the right to invent all kind of fancy terms they can use to keep extracting money from the population. The Germans are paying the fee happily because many of them think this is a question of “justice and order”. If you really want a good laugh while practicing your German you might want to browse the official website of the GEZ :-).[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: High jumping[YSaerTTEW443543]

Obama has been trying to sell this “social justice” thing to the US electorate. Low taxes for the past eight years have stimulated the economy to the point where most people, even the poor, are making substantially more money. Since he can’t argue that high taxes and socialism will make people better off financially, he tries to push the agenda by convincing people that higher taxes will bring “social justice”. The demonstrated problem is that in states where we already have this type of “social justice” – including my own state – it has resulted in a substantial drop in employment and slow income growth, so then everybody is worse off.

Today’s newspaper mentions that for various reasons small business owners have been registering as individuals for the past several years, rather than incorporating. These businesses provide 75% of the jobs in the US, and Obama’s plan is to impose what would amount to a 60% tax rate on these individuals, leaving them less money in their budgets to give people jobs.

Meanwhile, the idle rich whom people really resent have their assets in sheltered investments, so some of them never pay any taxes. These include a lot of famous politicians. What is being proposed, then, is a tax on productivity, rather than one on wealth.