Tuesday, May 12, 2009
They Got An Awful Lot Of Coffee In Brazil, Except When They Don't
You know, I've warned you repeatedly here that you don't want to go back to the seventies. But you don't listen.
The news today is dire. Coffee costs more, and is likely to cost more still:
Caffeine addicts face higher prices for their daily fix as the wholesale cost of both coffee and sugar rise sharply because of poor crops and robust demand.
It's a subscription site, but don't worry, if you're like me, you would stop reading after that first sentence anyway. That is supposed to be a NEWS item on a NEWS site. I know if you go to real school they tell you to write everything in the overwrought style of the novel you wish you were writing, but out here in the real world where we're interested in getting real information in a hurry, we've got no patience for this style of writing. And it's a particularly trite style of boilerplate about drinking coffee, isn't it? Trite squared.
It doesn't matter what analysis follows the plea for registration, because it's bound to be wrong. "Analysis" in these matters is like an intellectual boat adrift on a sea of sensations, looking for any dock to bump against. The same opinion fits all situations. Bush did it, or Obama did it; take your pick.
If you don't have a memory based on your brain stem instead of the bigger, damper part, you'll remember that the scare chart above is absolutely nothing compared to 1977. In 1977, the price of coffee went from $0.50 a pound to $3.50 a pound. That is not a typo. The coffee in my kitchen right now costs about $3.50 a pound, thirty two years later. I had a job in 1977, and it would have taken me an hour and fifteen minutes to make enough money to buy that pound of coffee then. And I was supporting myself and putting myself through school on that wage.
I've talked to academics about the seventies, people who were living right down the street and a world away from me in Boston, and they all tell me what a blast they were having then. If you're well north of forty maybe you were partying at the disco or something. Rich people often have fun in the ruins of civilizations. Others not so much.
I could find some ax I'd like to grind and blame expensive coffee on it. I could blame the weather or global warming or global cooling caused by global warming or Hugo Chavez or greedy coffee barons or FARC or bad mojo or fiat currency or whatever floats your boat in the "Illuminati are spoiling my summer" sweepstakes you find in any blog comments section. But I'm going to say something more disquieting instead.
There's no rhyme or reason to it. There's a general breakdown in almost every formerly functioning economic and social process I can think of. The intellectual and economic version of delirium tremens rules the day. Bizarre things, with even bizarrer explanations offered for them will happen every damn day for quite a while. And by "explanations," I mean unreasoning blame -- a headwind which does not shift but comes from all points on the compass.
It's the seventies again, baby. You wished it on yourself, but now we're all going to get it, good and hard. Been there, done that, got the straightjacket. Trust me, you're not going to like it.