Whether it’s Berlin, Portland or Timbuktu, there are always people out to make a quick buck. The other day, I answered the doorbell to find what appeared to be a member of the German Red Cross asking for donations. Before the young man had an opportunity to open his mouth, I politely said I wasn’t interested and closed the door.

I didn’t give the matter much thought until 20 minutes later when I left the house to do some shopping. As I was walking down the street, I noticed the “Red Cross Man” being arrested. Apparently, he had been scamming the neighborhood and someone had called the police.

When I think about it, there was something odd about him. Perhaps, it was the over-the-top uniform festooned with Red Cross emblems or the strangeness of the Red Cross making door-to-door solicitations. In any case, I found the incident quintessentially German. First, somebody noticed the scam and immediately called the police. And more surprisingly, the police responded quickly to what I took as a minor offense. How would things have unfolded in the United States? Would someone have called the police? Would the police have responded? And if so, would the culprit have been arrested?

In Germany there is no offense that is too small to go unreported, let alone unpunished. Germans seem to have a law or regulation for almost everything. Big government isn’t something that needs to be reduced but nurtured.