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August 23, 2013

"Better Coffee Rockefeller's Money Can't Buy"



BlackPageMortonAndHusbandWilliamBlack2013-08-04.jpg




"Page Morton Black, a cabaret singer, and William Black, the founder of the Chock Full o'Nuts company, in the early 1960s." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A17) For Gothamites of a certain vintage, it was . . . a part of life . . . -- a jaunty little waltz, its lyrics connoting warmth, fiscal security and celestial reward:


Chock Full o'Nuts is that heavenly coffee,

Heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee.

Chock Full o'Nuts is that heavenly coffee,

Better coffee a millionaire's money can't buy.



Page Morton Black, the cabaret singer whose sprightly rendition of that song in radio and television ads was indelibly engraved on New Yorkers' brains at midcentury, died on Sunday [July 21, 2013] at her home in the Premium Point enclave of New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 97.


. . .


Mrs. Black, the widow of William Black, the founder of the Chock Full o'Nuts company, curtailed her singing career after their marriage. But her voice lived on in the jingle, which was broadcast for more than 20 years.


. . .


The jingle's original last line, "Better coffee Rockefeller's money can't buy," was changed in 1957, after John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family complained.


. . .


Chock Full o'Nuts, now owned by Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, has revived the jingle, in a new arrangement, for its contemporary ads. The lyrics have been adjusted for inflation, with "billionaire" replacing "millionaire" in the last line.



For the full obituary, see:

MARGALIT FOX. "Page Morton Black, 97; Sang Heavenly Jingle." The New York Times (Tues., July 23, 2013): B3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added; jingle italicized and indented in print version of obituary, by not online version.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the title "Page Morton Black, Who Sang Heavenly Jingle, Dies at 97.")






July 6, 2013

In the England of the Late 1600s, Coffeehouses Were "Crucibles of Creativity"



AHistoryOfTheWorldInSixGlassesBK2013-07-04.jpg





















Source of book image: http://www.drinkoftheweek.com/wp-content/plugins/simple-post-thumbnails/timthumb.php?src=/wp-content/thumbnails/23682.jpg&w=250&h=400&zc=1&ft=jpg



(p. 8) Like coffee itself, coffeehouses were an import from the Arab world.


. . .


Patrons were not merely permitted but encouraged to strike up conversations with strangers from entirely different walks of life. As the poet Samuel Butler put it, "gentleman, mechanic, lord, and scoundrel mix, and are all of a piece."


. . .


. . . , coffeehouses were in fact crucibles of creativity, because of the way in which they facilitated the mixing of both people and ideas. Members of the Royal Society, England's pioneering scientific society, frequently retired to coffeehouses to extend their discussions. Scientists often conducted experiments and gave lectures in coffeehouses, and because admission cost just a penny (the price of a single cup), coffeehouses were sometimes referred to as "penny universities." It was a coffeehouse argument among several fellow scientists that spurred Isaac Newton to write his "Principia Mathematica," one of the foundational works of modern science.

Coffeehouses were platforms for innovation in the world of business, too. Merchants used coffeehouses as meeting rooms, which gave rise to new companies and new business models. A London coffeehouse called Jonathan's, where merchants kept particular tables at which they would transact their business, turned into the London Stock Exchange. Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, a popular meeting place for ship captains, shipowners and traders, became the famous insurance market Lloyd's.

And the economist Adam Smith wrote much of his masterpiece "The Wealth of Nations" in the British Coffee House, a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated early drafts of his book for discussion.



For the full commentary, see:

TOM STANDAGE. "OPINION; Social Networking in the 1600s." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., June 23, 2013): 8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 22, 2013.)



The author of the commentary is also the author of a related book:

Standage, Tom. A History of the World in Six Glasses. New York: Walker & Company, 2005.






February 7, 2013

The Universality of Values: Every Kid Wants a Cell Phone



(p. 528) When they got to Istanbul, . . . [Jobs] hired a history professor to give his family a tour. At the end they went to a Turkish bath, where the professor's lecture gave Jobs an insight about the globalization of youth:

I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from anywhere else, and I realized, "So fucking what?" Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that look like they were bought at the Gap, and they are all using cell phones. They were like kids everywhere else. It hit me that, for young people, this whole world is the same now. When we're making products, there is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that's different from one young people elsewhere would want. We're just one world now.


Source:

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.

(Note: ellipsis and bracketed "Jobs" added; indented Jobs block quote was indented in the original.)






November 14, 2012

Entrepreneurs of Coffee, the Battlefield, and Missing Minerals



InventionOfEnterpriseBK2012-11-04.jpg














Source of book image: http://img.qbd.com.au/product/l/9780691143705.jpg



[p. 167] The book . . . contains a variety of entertaining stories and colorful facts about entrepreneurship that could potentially be used for teaching. [p. 168] Murray, for instance, explains that the word "entrepreneur" was borrowed from the French language in the late Middle Ages, a time when it was used to describe a battlefield commander (p. 88). Kuran describes how Middle Eastern coffee entrepreneurs originally faced harsh resistance from many clerics who believed that "coffee drinkers reap hell-fire" (pp. 71-72). Hudson traces early merchant activity and entrepreneurship all the way back to Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC (pp. 11-17). These cities, made rich by their fertile alluvial soil, still needed to acquire other important minerals, missing in their own ground, from the distant Iranian plateau or Anatolia. Since military conquest proved too expensive and because the Sumerian cities really needed these resources, they pioneered international import-export activities in their temples and palaces.


For the full review, see:

Bikard, Michael, and Scott Stern. "The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times." Journal of Economic Literature 49, no. 1 (March 2011): 164-68.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the page numbers in square parentheses refer to the review; the page numbers in curved parentheses refer to the book under review.)


Book being reviewed:

Landes, David S., Joel Mokyr, and William J. Baumol, eds. Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.






April 17, 2009

Coffee Facilitated the Age of Enlightenment



(p. 54) Coffee is a stimulant that has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function---particularly for memory-related tasks---during the first cup or two. Increase the amount of "smart" drugs flowing through individual brains, and the collective intelligence of the culture will become smarter, if enough people get hooked. Create enough caffeine-abusers in your society and you'll be statistically more likely to launch an Age of Reason. That may itself sound like the self-justifying fantasy of a longtime coffee-drinker, but to connect coffee plausibly to the Age of Enlightenment you have to consider the context of recreational drug abuse in seventeenth-century Europe. Coffee-drinkers are not necessarily smarter, in the long run, than those who abstain from caffeine. (Even if they are smarter for that first cup.) But when coffee originally arrived as a mass phenomenon in the mid-1600s,it was not seducing a culture of perfect sobriety. It was replacing alcohol as the daytime drug of choice. The historian Tom Standage writes in his ingenious A History of the World in Six Glasses:

The impact of the introduction of coffee into Europe during the seventeenth century was particularly noticeable since the most common beverages of the time, even at breakfast, were weak "small beer" and wine. . . . Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of work improved. . . . Western Europe began to emerge from an alcoholic haze that had lasted for centuries.


Source:

Johnson, Steven. The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.

(Note: ellipses in original.)





April 14, 2009

Steven Johnson's The Invention of Air



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Source of book image: http://stevenberlinjohnson.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/09/10/invention_final_81908.jpg


Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, about the determined entrepreneurial detective work that uncovered the cause of cholera, is one of my all-time favorite books, so I am now in the mode of reading everything else that Steven Johnson has written, or will write.

The most recent book, The Invention of Air, is not as spectacular as The Ghost Map, but is well-written on a thought-provoking topic. It focuses on Joseph Priestley's role in the American Revolution. Priestley is best known as an early chemist, but Johnson paints him as a poly-math whose science was of a piece with his philosophy, politics and his religion.

Johnson's broader point is that for many of the founding fathers, science was not a compartment of their lives, but part of the whole cloth (hey, it's my blog, so I can mix as many metaphors as I want to).

And the neat bottom line is that Priestley's method of science (and polity) is the same broadly empirical/experimental/entrepreneurial method that usually leads to truth and progress.

Along the way, Johnson makes many amusing and thought-provoking observations, such as the paragraphs devoted to his coffee-house theory of the enlightenment. (You see, coffee makes for clearer thinking than beer.)


The book:

Johnson, Steven. The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.






July 17, 2008

Starbucks Hypocritically Censors Its Customers


(p. A12) Laissez-faire. It's a policy that made Starbucks vastly successful. But don't try to put that phrase on a customized Starbucks Card.

The cards are supposed be personalized to reflect customers' tastes and uniqueness. They are available in a range of colors, often given as gifts and used by regular customers who prefer to prepay for their java.

But when my friend Roger Ream, president of the Fund for American Studies, received a Starbucks gift card for Christmas, he found there was a limit to how personalized a card could be. His card required him to customize it on the company's Web site. So he went to the site and requested that the phrase "Laissez Faire" be printed on his card. A few days later he was informed that the company couldn't issue such a card because the wording violated company policy.

. . .

Maybe Starbucks considers the phrase inappropriate because it's "overtly political commentary"? Certainly my friend regards it as a firm statement of political philosophy.

And so, at my suggestion, my friend went back to the Web site and asked that his card be issued with the phrase "People Not Profits." Bingo! Starbucks had no problem with that phrase, and the card arrived in a few days.

I wondered just what the company's standards were. If "laissez-faire" is unacceptably political, how could the socialist slogan "people not profits" be acceptable?

. . .

Starbucks has prospered mightily in a free economy. For the most recent fiscal year, the company earned $672.6 million on revenue of $9.4 billion, a very healthy profit. And these days, in the wake of a California Superior Court judge's order that the company repay $100 million in back tips that were shared by shift supervisors, Starbucks honchos just might like a little less government intervention in their affairs and a little more laissez-faire.



For the full commentary, see:

DAVID BOAZ. "Starbucks and 'Laissez Faire'." The Wall Street Journal
(Mon., April 7, 2008): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)




May 22, 2007

Why Starbucks Coffee is a Bargain

 

(p. 161)  These coffee places, most of which didn't even exist ten years ago, had several virtues.  They were always in convenient locations.  They permitted, even welcomed, patrons to sit and talk for several hours.  And they had tables for spreading out my materials and electrical outlets for plugging in my equipment.  In short, they provided a four-hour office rental for the price of a three-dollar latte.

. . .  

(p. 162)  Starbucks and its caffeinated cousins are part of what I call the free agent infrastructure.  The components of this infrastructure, which I'll review in a moment, include copy shops, office supply superstores, bookstore cafés, overnight delivery services, executive suites, and the Internet.  Like America's system of federal highways, the free agent infrastructures form the physical foundation on which the economy operates.  But unlike the federal highway system, which was planned and paid for by the government, this infrastructure emerged more or less spontaneously.  Like so many other aspects of Free Agent Nation, it is self-organized.  Nobody is in charge of it.  That's why it woks.  It  works so well, in fact, that few people realize that this collection of commercial Establishments even constitutes an infrastructure.

 

Source:

Pink, Daniel H. Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live. New York: Warner Business Books, 2001.

 




April 17, 2007

Anti-Wal-Mart is Anti-Free-Choice

     Source of logo/header:  http://www.muddycup.com/mudlane/img/header.jpg

 

The article excerpted below reveals the soul of much of the anti-Wal-Mart movement.  It is not anti-big; it is anti-competition and anti-free-choice.

 

How in the world did a guy who started his first coffee shop on Staten Island six years ago and now runs five others in far-flung Hudson Valley towns become the moral equivalent of Wal-Mart and Starbucks? “Well, it’s now official,” he announced last month on the Web site that promotes his Muddy Cup coffeehouses. “I am now head of the evil empire.”

. . .

And now the talk of New Paltz has to do with something far more important than mere marriage — coffee. More specifically it’s whether Mr. Svetz is plotting an act of entrepreneurial imperialism by presuming to open one of his Muddy Cup coffeehouses next door to the ultimate green icon in town, the funky 60 Main coffee shop operated in conjunction with the nonprofit New Paltz Cultural Collective.

. . .

Little did he know. As word filtered out he began receiving a blizzard of e-mail messages from 60 Main proponents, reacting to an urgent appeal from the collective. The messages threatened a boycott and told him to stay home. “If we can stop Wal-Mart we can stop you,” said one.

“We do not want to become yet another small town taken over by huge corporations,” read another.

. . .

Mr. Svetz is still stunned by the whole thing, particularly his sudden status as a giant corporation. He says that just as lots of bars coexist in town, several coffee shops can too. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s not. He’s not Wal-Mart, but maybe it’s fair to ask how many artist-friendly coffeehouses the village can support. But it’s hard to argue when he says that even in New Paltz, businesses generally have to compete to survive, not find a way to build a Berlin Wall around town.

“When a community starts building walls and saying you don’t belong here or you don’t think like we do, that can’t be a good thing,” he said.

 

For the full story, see: 

PETER APPLEBOME.  "Coffee Puts Laid-Back Town on Edge."  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., March 4, 2007):  21. 

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




April 12, 2007

We Need Caffeine

MohinderAndSylar.jpg   Mohinder on left; Sylar on right.  Source of photo:  http://www.nbc.com/Heroes/images/photos/scet/645/NUP_104904_0252.jpg

 

In the hit series "Heroes" episode "Parasites" Sylar (pretending to be someone else) unctuously thanks Mohinder Suresh for giving him hope.  I loved Mohinder's response:

Hope is great; we need caffeine.

 

(The "Parasites" episode was first broadcast on NBC on 3/5/07)

 




November 28, 2006

Is Variety Good?

Chris Anderson has a stimulating and useful chapter in The Long Tail on why having variety and choice is good.

Not all agree.  My old Wabash economics professor, Ben Rogge, with wry amusement, used to refer us to Alvin Toffler's Future Shock.  Toffler's view was that choice was stressful---visualize the Robin Williams' Russian émigré character in "Moscow on the Hudson," when he collapses in panic on not knowing how to choose amongst the variety of coffees in the Manhattan supermarket aisle.

What amused Rogge was the contrast between the old critics of capitalism, who criticized capitalism for providing too few goods for the proletariat, and the new critics, like Toffler, who criticized capitalism for providing too many goods for the proletariat. 

Although Toffler has recanted his earlier views, others, such as Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice, have picked up the anti-choice banner.

Here's my current two cents worth.  Sometimes we value variety for its own sake, and sometimes not.  I may find the variety of ethnic restaurants exciting, but not the variety of music on I-tunes.

But even when I don't value variety for its own sake, I still may value it because it increases the odds that the product I can find matches the product I want.  Let me explain.

In the language of Clayton Christensen and co-author Raynor, in The Innovator's Solution, generally what I want is a good that does well, a "job" that I want or need to get done.

Some critics of mass production descried the loss of the variety of products produced by pre-industrial craftsmen.  But what good did it do the peasants that no two chairs were quite alike, if all of them were too hard and misshapen for the job of comfortably sitting in them?

Mass production reduced variety, but increased quality, in the sense of bringing (cheaply) to market, products that were far better at doing the jobs that most people wanted/needed to get done. 

If the modern varieties of chairs are a response to differences in the jobs that different consumers need to get done, then I might generally, and accurately, presume that variety is usually good, not because I want to constantly sample a lot of different chairs (like I want to sample a lot of different ethnic foods), but rather because variety increases the odds that I will find the one or two particular chairs that allow me to do the job that I want a chair to do for me.  

Specifically, recently, we were looking for a chair that was firm, spill-resistant, would swivel to allow talking to someone in the kitchen, would recline for watching television, would be dog-chew resistant, and would have a color/fabric complementary to the rest of the furniture.  We shopped at Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is the largest furniture store in the U.S., with the greatest selection, because we hoped to find the one chair that would do all of these jobs.

We came close, but I wish there was a store with even greater selection.

   




November 2, 2006

Contra the Pundits: "Buy the Damned Coffee, if it Makes You Happy"

  Source of illustration:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

APPARENTLY, I’m an idiot.  Every financial advice columnist seems to be telling me so.

My crime:  buying morning coffee from Starbucks for my wife and me.

Avoiding the regular cup of overpriced coffee has become an easy cliché for financial advisers, a symbol of money frittered away.  The advice has appeared just about everywhere.  Drop the caramel mocha frappu-whatever, they say, or you’ll spend your retirement testing recipes that combine Hamburger Helper and dog food.  David Bach, the author of “The Automatic Millionaire,” pushes what he calls the Latte Factor, which he has defined as “the daily extravagances that drain your resources.”  Another guru, Paul Farrell, has estimated that skipping Starbucks and compounding the savings could save you an eye-popping $500,000 by retirement.  At my own newspaper, Damon Darlin, a financial columnist, has repeatedly brought up this issue.

Before bringing up a point of disagreement — what logicians call the “Big But” — it is common to bestow a few compliments to ease the sting.  So, as a preface to the Big But, let me say that Mr. Darlin is a fine journalist and, for all I know, a swell dancer besides.

Still, I disagree.  Buy the damned coffee, if it makes you happy.  When I show up back at the house after dropping off my high schooler in the morning and I have that latte in hand for my wife, she will sometimes refer to me as “my hero!”  After more than 30 years together, this is about the only time I am called that.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

JOHN SCHWARTZ.  "ESSAY; Skip the Coffee? What’ s Money for, Anyway?"  The New York Times, Section 3, Part 2  (Sun., October 8, 2006):  25.

 




March 26, 2006

"The world we have lost was ripe for rejection"

   The source for the image of the book cover is: http://img.textbookx.com/images/large/91/0521633591.jpg

 

Roche delineates minimal light and exiguous fires, chilblains and miasmas, the distinction of white linen, the rare treat of sweetness, the still rarer taste of coffee that made its drinkers sparkle, and the hankerings they inspired. Limited access to water affected drinking habits, cooking, hygiene, and sartorial practices. Housewives and laundresses coped with mountains of dirty linen by river or by pond; the great sent their laundry to the American islands for a whiter wash; the poor rioted for soap as well as bread. Society moved from an economy of scarcity and salvation to one of plenty and prodigality. But the move was slow and spotty. The world we have lost was ripe for rejection.

 

For the full review, see:

Weber, Eugen. "Recommended Reading." The Key Reporter 67, no. 2 (Winter 2002): 12.

 

The reviewed book is:

Roche, Daniel. A History of Everyday Things: The Birth of Consumption in France, 1600-1800. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

 




February 21, 2006

NGOs Throw Money at Poverty, and Then Declare Success

Mark Pendergrast, in his opus on coffee, tells us about Bill Fishbein, a coffee retailer from Rhode Island, who wanted to help small, poor, coffee farmers in Guatemala:

 

(p. 419) . . . , Fishbein wanted to do something to help.  At first, he worked with established nongovernment organizations (NGOs) but soon became disillusioned. Too often, the NGOs simply threw money at communities, then declared projects successful even without long-term improvements.  "It amounts to a network to move money around, to pull the heartstrings of donors," he complains.

 

Source:

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

 




February 18, 2006

Specialty Coffee: How Does it Fit Christensen?

Christensen and Raynor:
(p. 55) Not all innovative ideas can be shaped into disruptive stategies, however, because the necessary preconditions do not exist; in such situations, the opportunity is best licensed or left to the firms that are already in the market. On occasion, entrant companies have simply caught the leaders asleep at the switch and have succeeded with a strategy of sustaining innovation. But this is rare.

 

Source: 

Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

 

In several later chapters of Mark Pendergrast's Uncommon Grounds, he documents how the major coffee retailers failed to perceive and respond to the threat posed to their business by the specialty coffee retailers.  In some ways specialty coffee firms would seem to be disruptors.  But they were neither "low end" nor "new market."  Wasn't specialty coffee what Christensen would call a "sustaining innovation"?

 




February 16, 2006

Hayek Was Right: Free Speech is Fragile, When Property Can be Seized


For those who doubt the central message of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, something to ponder:

 

(p. 351) The Sandinistas called coffee farmers who cooperated with them "patriotic producers." Anyone who questioned their politics or policies was labeled a capitalist parasite. Throughout most of the 1980s, any farms that did not produce sufficiently, or whose owners were too vocal, were confiscated by the government.

 

Source: 

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.





February 14, 2006

Coffee Cartel Quotas: "someone always cheated"

In his comprehensive history of coffee, Mark Pendergrast discusses efforts of the coffee-producing nations to raise the price of coffee in 1977:

 

(p. 332) Quota restrictions without consumer country participation never worked in the past, since someone always cheated.

 

Source:

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

 




February 3, 2006

"Better Coffee Rockefeller's Money Can't Buy"


(p. 263) In the middle of this fierce competition, with its low quality standards and apparent market saturation, a New York nut vendor and restaurateur proved that a new brand stressing quality could triumph.

 . . .

Black understood the power of advertising.  In radio spots, which blanketed the New York metropolitan airwaves,  Black's second wife, Jean Martin, sang a hummable jingle:
Chock full o' Nuts is that heavenly coffee,
Heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee.
(p. 264) Chock full o' Nuts is that heavenly coffee-
Better coffee Rockefeller's money can't buy.
By August 1954, less than a year after its debut, Chock full o' Nuts had grabbed third place among vacuum-packed coffees in New York City.

 

Source: 

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




January 25, 2006

The Good Old Days, When Coffee Smelled Like Wet Dogs




We tend to romanticize the country store, and to deride chain stores and name brands. But maybe coffee lovers should think twice.


 

(p. 116, footnote 1) "The air was thick with an all-embracing odor," wrote Gerald Carson in The Old Country Store, "an aroma composed of dry herbs and wet dogs, [of] strong tobacco, green hides and raw humanity."  Bulk roasted coffee absorbed all such smells.

 

Source: 

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

 

(Note: the "of" in brackets in the Carson quote is the word Carson used in his book; Pendergrast mistakenly substitutes the word "or"; I have corrected Pendergrast's mistake.)






January 5, 2006

Ethiopian Comparative Advantage Squandered through Graft and Corruption: More on Why Africa is Poor

   The source for the image of the book is: http://nasw.org/users/markp/grounds.html

 

One theory of how countries acquire a comparative advantage in a commodity ties the comparative advantage to some natural resource, climate or other "endowment" advantage the country has. This partially 'explains' some comparative advantages, but leaves many others unexplained (like why Japan has a comparative advantage in cars).

But even on the endowment theory's own terms, it would seem that an initial comparative advantage can be squandered. Consider Ethiopia, which is the country in which coffee beans were first discovered, many centuries ago.

(p. 153) . . . Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, now exported a negligible amount of the bean, largely due to graft and corruption extending from King Menelik down to the country's customs agents, . . .

(King Menelek II ruled Ethiopia from 1889 until his death in 1911.)

 

The quotation is from:

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

 




December 29, 2005

Nebraska Congressman Opposed Government Supporting Agricultural Prices

 

(p. 85) ". . . in March 1911 Nebraskan Representative George W. Norris sponsored a congressional resolution asking the Attorney General to investigate "a monopoly in the coffee industry."  Wickersham replied that he indeed was conducting an ongoing investigation.

(p. 86) In April, Norris lambasted the coffee trust from the floor of the House, summarizing the valorization loan process.  He concluded that "this gigantic combination [has been able] to control the supply and the sale of coffee throughout the civilized world.  [They] sold only in such quantities as would not break the market."  Frustrated by Brazil's involvement, he observed that when a conspiracy to monopolize a product involved a domestic corporation, it was termed a trust and could be broken.  "But if the combination has behind it the power and influence of a great nation, it is dignified with the new term 'valorization.'  Reduced to common language, it is simply a hold-up of the people by a combination."

 

Source:

Mark Pendergrast. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. Basic Books, 2000. (ISBN: 0465054676)

 




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