Sometime in the 20th century capitalists abandoned the coffeehouses to the intellectuals as they abandoned philosophy to them. During the 20th century coffeehouses became synonymous with crazy intellectuals proclaiming the world's non-existence and capitalism's evil nature.† I will grant them this haven no longer. (Read more...)
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Thanks for this interesting slice of history. However, isn't the real reason why right-thinking people stay away from the leftist-occupied coffee houses is that leftists tend to be, well, smelly?
More seriously, hasn't the internet replaced the coffee houses for the function of exchanging ideas? Of course the internet is a bit sterile and doesn't replicate the conviviality of a neighborhood gathering spot, but you do get access to the ideas of a wider variety of people.
Inspired by "Making the Genius Quicker" I had in mind to write something about coffeehouses, myself. I knew about the commercial aspect of the London coffeehouses as the origin of bank clearing and insurance. At the American Numismatic Association convention in Cincinnati in 1998, one of the judged educational exhibits was about the Siege of Vienna. The exhibitor tied the coins to the cultural dispersion of Turkish roast.
(This would not be an Objectivist forum if I did not disagree with something. in a well-crafted statement. Personally, I find Starbuck's to be bad coffee, Fair Trade or not. To me, they could achieve the same result by using twice as much Maxwell House.)
Bottom line: You came to market sooner with a product I cannot outdo.
Thanks for this post. It reinforces my choice of Barnes and Noble with its resident Starbucks Coffee as the ideal meeting place for our monthly SOLO Florida Objectivist Junto.
For those who want to start a local chapter of SOLO, please consider Eric's arguments as you ponder meeting locations. Barnes and Noble supports book discussion groups and most of them now have a Starbucks Coffee shop.
I liked the article and agree in principle but how exactly will you "grant them this haven no longer" (quote from the original post comment).
The comment sounds powerful and I hear "grant them" a lot in Objectivist circles but in reality you do not have such abilities. Do we feel so weak that we must state a result without action and hope that people will belive it?
If you notice its only in the summary of the article and not in the article body itself. My point for placing it there was to draw people in to read the article and no more.
I agree with you thoughts on Starbuck's coffee, I tend not to drink their roast coffee i stick to their espresso drinks. (I just breezed over your post the first time and did not see the funny things you had said. Maxwell House! now that is a dig to them i cannot disagree with entirely. But like I said I keep to the espresso. When I want coffee I go to one of the local diners where I know I am drinking coffee that the company I work for has sold. Or i go to one of the local Cafe's that I frequent where the coffee is better than Starbucks hands down, but its all the way across the city.)
I think both the net and the coffee house are needed for a well balanced diet of idea exchange.
Eric J Tower wrote: "When I want coffee I go to one of the local diners where I know I am drinking coffee that the company I work for has sold. Or i go to one of the local Cafe's that I frequent where the coffee is better than Starbucks hands down, but its all the way across the city.)"
He also wrote: "But the man from Seattle has brought stiff competition into the market, and as a result obliterated a number of poorly-run anti-capitalist coffeehouses in my area, leaving the anti-anti-ists above no place to go but Starbucks where it is difficult to deny the fact that you are sitting in a capitalistís coffeehouse, drinking a wondrously capitalist beverage"
So what is the *primary* purpose of going to a coffee house? To have a *good* cup of coffee or a 'capitalist' cup of coffee? If I have a choice, I would go for the former, even if it is made by a communist.
One minor point of disagreement - In my experience, Starbucks actually make the best coffee "hands down"! My one minor grievence with Starbucks is that (at least in the UK) they kowtow to the PC brigade and offer "fair trade" variants of their drinks. Not sure how much intellectualism there is in coffee houses here either - I remember my friends and acquaintances being very bemused when I explained that early London coffee houses were known as penny universities!! Perhaps I just don't frequent the right ones.
I guess you could say that someone selling a good cup of coffee for a profit is by definition a capitalist, even if he claims to be a communist :-)
Not being a coffee expert, I couldn't tell you the difference between French Roast and Columbian...but I tend to prefer Starbucks for the atmosphere. I would go to Barnes and Nobles before Borders for that reason. Having worked in both, I find the Starbucks run B and N cleaner and more professional that the Borders, where the bookstaff also work the cafe without really understanding the job. I attribute the atmosphere to Howard Schultz, based on an employment seminar at the Key Arena in Seattle, where I learned about the Starbucks way of doing things (Shultz is associated with the arena.) First, they tell you that the customer is NOT a customer, but a guest. Customers are people you have to put up with...and having lived in Seattle, I tried Seattle's Best, and Tully's. I kept going back to Starbucks! Of course, the controversy in Seattle is that Starbucks is devouring everyone, but it's not just the coffee, but the service. They are consistently pleasant and dependable. They deserve their success.
what is the *primary* purpose of going to a coffee house? To have a *good* cup of coffee or a 'capitalist' cup of coffee? If I have a choice, I would go for the former, even if it is made by a communist.
If someone is selling a good product with great service, I go there. I don't care what he calls himself. The capitalist aspect is implied in the fact that even a 'communist' sells his coffee to me. Practiceing capitalism is hard to avoid physicaly even if the 'communist' avoids it mentaly.
I have a book on fair trade coffee practices I keep meaning to check out to see what its all about, I know the basics of how its run and I think it comes down to the farmers coming together to restrict supply or to negotiate higher prices for their coffee. Kind of a Coffee OPEC? But there are a number of fair trade groups so they are far from a powerful ologopoly. And you would be suprised that inteligence of the people who come through coffee houses I think. I once sat at my table talking to my friend with a small sign that read "Public Conversation Please Join Us" and in a short while I had a number of inteligent people to talk with. Sometimes I run into them just by saying hi. I discussed the nature of objective reality with a guy who looked like a club bouncer for a good half hour once. I would never have guessed he would have been able to follow my conversation but I was wrong.
It is my intention to see if I can't bring to market an East Coast competitor for Starbucks some day. I have been trying to figure out what slip ups I could improve on to make my store better, in the future when I can aford to open it. I keep thinking that their tendency towards post-modernist art might be something I could improve upon but thats hardly a competitive edge.
One idea for you, Eric: While in Seattle, I did find one coffee place with public internet service, free 20 minutes with purchase. I haven't seen many public internet spots in Philly...could be a niche to pursue...
A lot of places around here have free net access too. And a number of Starbucks are all ready doing just that, well at least the one I frequent. If I only had my wireless connection in my laptop i could sit, drink coffee at starbucks and post on SOLO at the same time.
Here is another idea. Starbucks charges a premium for their coffee (and it is good coffee) and they can get away with it because customers buy into the idea that they are being fair to the laborers, the trees, the whales, and postmodern artists. How about turning that around with a coffee shop that embraces capitalism and the Enlightenment . . . while offering lower prices!
Ha ha oh Byron that was exactly the plan actually. I want the place to be pro-capitalist and so on but right now I am studying how to bring you a better starbucks cheaper. I work for a coffee distributor right now I know what coffee costs and I repair industrial coffee machines so I know how to cut costs effectively there. I am also still in school working on a finance degree. Its all to further my goal of owning my own place some day and giving you a good cup of Joe for less.
Starbuck's (which I don't enjoy at all) gets a bad rap because it's big -- and the hatred for it is no more obvious than in my little liberal hometown of Missoula, Montana. Here's a column I wrote about our first Starbuck's moving to town a few months ago:
There was a South Park episode that defends Starbucks against accusations of being evil. The local coffee shop gets the town up in arms over the new place, and the townspeople protest, but when they actually try it, they find it better, with more variety. Working in an independent bookstore in 97, I heard a lot about the evils of the big chains, so I hung an article from REASON on the bulletin board about the variety and discounts that a big chain offers...it was taken down the next day. Well, the independent is gone, and the chains are still there...
I remember a very informative commentary on techcentral.com that basically argued that independent stores of all stripes are valuable, in that they whittle down your choices into exactly what you're looking for. You don't have to deal with the lines, mal-informed workers, any of the cheaper merchandise or the "stigma" foisted on you by smug liberals of shopping at, say, Target. He called such independents "editors for consumers." I found that particular phrase brilliant (of course, I'm a journalist). In any case, there will always be a market for the higher-end products and the stores that carry them. Which makes you wonder: Why the hell are liberals so offended by Wal-Mart and other "box stores"? Their railing against so-called "third-world" countries and the "sweatshops" is fantastically belligerent anti-capitalist bunk. Talk about disdain for the poor. Liberals, for all their defensive harping and posturing, secretly hate the poor, but more particularly what the "poor" choose to buy, the places they hang out (remember Rand's assessment of bowling alleys?) and how they live their lives. All in the name of ... what? So they can put an anti-globalization sticker on their fucking Subaru? Or ignore the fact that the "poor" save a ton of money by shopping at such stores? Under their shitty way of looking at the world, they'd lambaste anyone who bought a Chevy as a consumer option to a Saab. I live in a town populated by such assholes, and sometimes it's hard to keep my sanity.
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