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May 26, 2010 Under communism


rubber stamps are a kind of currency. If your documents didn't have the right ones, they were worthless. And getting one made was very difficult: it was part of the regime's apparatus of repression to control tightly who was allowed to exercise any kind of institutional power. Round stamps were official and made under strict control by the authorities. But even square ones were hard enough to come by. Romania's "blogging banker", Steven van Groninen, has a nice piece about the way in which the rubber stamp mentality shaped business life in that country even after the collapse of communism: nothing has changed, without a rubber stamp you are still non-existing. You are a nobody in corporate Romania if you donít have a rubber stamp. Never was this more clear than the time when we received a notice from the Post Office. A parcel had arrived and was waiting to be picked up. Our first attempt was unsuccessful; we didnít have a rubber stamp and therefore couldnít stamp the document attesting receipt of the parcel and our signature was not enough. On a second visit we tried to convince the post office that the package was actually addressed to a private individual. It didnít work mainly because we didnít know what the content was. After painful negotiations during our third visit we finally agreed on the following compromise: the package would be opened and if the content was clearly for personal use, we could take it with us, if it was however for business purposes, we would not get it unless we could stamp the receipt. So the parcel was opened and revealed its content which proved to be surprisingly Ö a rubber stamp. Many years ago I have made a "rubber stamp against the rubber stamps". We bang it on everything and behold, nobody reads the text in four languages, most important is a rubber stamp at all. The text of my rubber stamp is: Gelesen, gelacht und weggeworfen Citit, muzat si aruncat Read, laughed and discarded Lu, amusť et jetť