Wrestling with Starbucks: Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino

By Kim Fellner | Go to book overview

10
Capitalism Is
Like Fire …

John Sage, president of Pura Vida Coffee, sat with me in his decidedly un-Starbucks-like Seattle office, located in a low warehouse-style building redolent of counterculture, dimly lit, with bright posters and mismatched furniture, catty-corner from Mermaid Central across the street. “I’m always arguing with my lefty friends, but capitalism as a system is value neutral,” Sage insisted. “It all depends how you make your money and what you do with the profits.”

He was explaining the unique Pura Vida structure, which pairs Pura Vida Coffee, a for-profit, fair trade coffee importer and roaster, with Pura Vida Partners, a charity that holds the coffee company’s voting shares and uses company profits for projects in coffee-growing countries. “Capitalism is like fire,” he told me. “You can use it to cook a great meal, or it can burn down the house.”

“Sure, it’s like fire,” said Alec, when I reported the conversation. “If you don’t regulate it, it burns down the house.”

My friend Beatrice Edwards countered, “It’s an intelligent fire; it finds its way around the regulations meant to contain it.”

“No,” Alec reconsidered, “capitalism is more like molasses. It coats everything and leaves it sticky.”

At its core, the Battle of Seattle was about the competing cultures and consequences of capitalism, which in its pure form relies on private enterprise rather than government control to regulate the

-203-

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Wrestling with Starbucks: Conscience, Capital, Cappuccino
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction - The Global Economy Comes Home 1
  • 1 - The Empire Strikes Gold 15
  • 2 - Running the 10-K 27
  • 3 - Banking on the Bean 47
  • 4 - Go Sell It on the Mountain 69
  • 5 - Moving Up on Eighth Street 105
  • 6 - The Cross­dressing of Coffee-Counter Culture 123
  • 7 - When Worker Met Partner 140
  • 8 - At the Global Crossroads 163
  • 9 - The View from Headquarters 186
  • 10 - Capitalism Is like Fire … 203
  • 11 - Goodness as Battleground 220
  • 12 - Bread. Roses. Coffee 236
  • Acknowledgments 245
  • Notes 249
  • Index 267
  • About the Author 285
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