Napoleon called England a nation of shopkeepers, but he should have given that distinction to Belgium. The country counts one store for every 49 residents, the highest ratio in Europe; the government even has a Ministry of Middle Class Affairs, which is supposed to protect the interests of small shopkeepers. Lately, at least, the ministry has not been notably successful. Shopkeepers have been complaining loudly and long about rising taxes and rising competition from cut-rate chain stores. Last week they put their complaints into action and went on strike for two days, practically shutting down the country.

What finally touched...

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