(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘commerce

“The international situation is desperate, as usual”*…

… so desperate, an increasing number of pundits argue, that globalization– the “flat world” proclaimed by Tom Friedman– that was to totem of the turn of the century, is no longer possible. But as the estimable Martin Wolf argues, we shouldn’t be too hasty– nor too sweeping and blunt– in our judgements. Trade in goods may be slowing, but the potential for technology-enabled trade in services remains huge…

What is the future of globalisation? This is among the biggest questions of our time. In June, I argued that, contrary to increasingly widespread opinion, “Globalisation is not dead. It may not even be dying. But it is changing.” Among the most important ways in which it is changing is via the growth of services provided at a distance.

A crucial point is that the expansion of trade in such services has depended little on trade agreements. The regulation of service activities focuses on final services, not intermediate ones. There exist, for example, strict rules on selling accounting services in the US. Yet there are few rules on the qualifications of the workers that do the paperwork behind the provision of such services.

Thus, a “US accountant can employ pretty much anybody to tally up a client’s travel expenses and collate them with expense receipts”. Examples of occupations that provide intermediate as opposed to final services include book-keepers, forensic accountants, screeners of CVs, administrative assistants, online help staff, graphic designers, copy-editors, personal assistants, X-ray readers, IT security consultants, IT help staff, software engineers, lawyers who check contracts, financial analysts who write reports. The list goes on. As Baldwin argues in The Globotics Upheaval, the potential for this sort of technology-enabled trade is huge. It will also be highly disruptive: the white-collar workers who provide these services in high-income countries are an important part of the middle class. But it will be hard to protect them.

In all, the evidence suggests that natural economic forces have largely been responsible for past changes in the pattern of world trade. Growing concern over the security of supply chains will no doubt add to these changes, though whether the result will be “reshoring” or “friendshoring” is doubtful. More likely is a complex pattern of diversification. Meanwhile, technology is opening up new areas of growth in services…

Globalisation is not dying, it’s changing,” from @martinwolf_ in @FT.

* Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

###

As we contemplate commerce, we might send muckraking birthday greetings to Upton Sinclair; he was born on this date in 1878. A writer, activist, and politician, he is probably best remembered for his classic novel, The Jungle, which exposed labor and sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry, causing a public uproar that contributed in part to the passage a few months later of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.

Many of his novels can be read as historical works. Writing during the Progressive Era, Sinclair describes the world of the industrialized United States from both the working man’s and the industrialist’s points of view. Novels such as King Coal (1917, covering John D. Rockefeller and the 1914 Ludlow Massacre in the coal fields of Colorado), Oil! (1927, the Teapot Dome Scandal), and The Flivver King (1937, Henry Ford– his “wage reform” and his company’s Sociological Department, to his decline into antisemitism) describe the working conditions of the coal, oil, and auto industries at the time.

Sinclair ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a nominee from the Socialist Party. Then he ran, as a Democrat, for Governor of California during the Great Depression, under the banner of the End Poverty in California campaign, but was defeated in the 1934 election.

He was awarded he Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943 for Dragon’s Teeth, which portrayed the Nazi takeover of Germany during the 1930s.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair, ruminating on his gubernatorial loss

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 20, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams”*…

Loading bees for transport

And moving those bees…

About 75% of crops and one-third of the global food supply rely on pollinators such as honeybees, according to Our World in Data. But farmers have to rely on commercially managed honeybees trucked in from other states to help pollinate certain crops, such as almonds, because there aren’t enough wild bees to do the job. And trucking bees hundreds or thousands of miles is not simple…

Honeybees are disappearing due to shrinking habitats and the growing use of pesticides. When there aren’t enough bees to pollinate fields of crops, companies pay beekeepers to transport their colonies of bees for pollination season. 

“The great pollination migration” happens every year in February when the almonds bloom in California.

Pollinating the seemingly endless fields of almond trees in California requires 85% to 90% of all honeybees available to pollinate in the U.S… Bees are trucked into California from across the country…

Earl and Merle Warren are brothers, truck drivers and co-owners of Star’s Ferry Transport, based in Burley, Idaho. They started hauling bees for a local beekeeper in 1990 and moved about 50 loads of approximately 22 million bees each last year for companies such as Browning’s Honey Co.

“This is not like a load of steel or lumber. These are live creatures. This is those beekeepers’ livelihoods, so we do everything possible to keep them alive,” Earl Warren said.

Some beekeepers estimate that every time you move a truck of bees, up to 5% of the queens die… Minimizing stress for bees is critical, so beekeepers rely on experienced truck drivers to navigate difficult situations such as warm weather, few opportunities to stop during the day and inspections…

A fascinating link in the modern food chain: “A day in the life of a honeybee trucker,” from Alyssa Sporrer (@SporrerAlyssa).

* Henry David Thoreau

###

As we ponder pollination, we might spare a thought for a scientist whose very field of study was (and is) made possible by bees, Anders (Andreas) Dahl; he died on this date in 1789.  A botanist and student of Carl Linnaeus, he is the inspiration for, the namesake of, the dahlia flower.

220px-Double_dahlia
Dahlia, the flower named after Anders Dahl [source]

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way”*…

Each year, millions of barrels are shipped from NYC to the Caribbean. Ameena Walker unpacks the why, how, and the economics involved…

For many Caribbean communities across New York City, carefully curating barrels to ship to relatives outside of the U.S. is a relatively common practice. Fueled by an urge to provide for loved ones left back home, the Caribbean diaspora in New York, and cities around the country, meticulously source a variety of sought-after goods, intricately packing them in barrels on the cusp of overflowing and eventually mailing them overseas. The unconventional shipping method is the most affordable way to get a hefty load abroad. More than four million barrels are shipped from the northeast to the Caribbean annually, indicating a strong demand for merchandise from the U.S and a thriving business in this niche logistic sector….

The justification for using barrels to ship goods is practical. An empty 55-gallon HDPE or HMWPE drum weighs around 50 kg, but has a capacity of around 1,200 kg. Their maneuverability also plays a large part, as they can be easily stacked, rolled, or forklifted and withstand pressure and temperature changes during storage and handling….

Once the barrel is obtained, you’ll need to fill it to the brim. This is one of the more intriguing aspects of the process, as it is essential that no space is left unfilled. Practices like rolling clothes as tight as possible, stuffing the insides of footwear with additional items, removing excess packaging (e.g., taking shoes out of boxes) and shoving small items like batteries and toothbrushes into nooks and crannies ensure that not even a single crevice is left void. It’s not uncommon for someone to climb into the barrel to squish the whole mass further down, provided there aren’t any breakables or spillables inside. Virtually any item can be shipped, and it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to several months to fill a drum to maximum capacity. It’s an unspoken rule that if the barrel doesn’t require a full-sized adult to sit on top of it to force it closed, there’s room to pack more! After the drum is willed shut, it is sealed with a metal clamp and locking security cable that secures the lid and ensures its contents will not be accessed while enroute. It is then labeled on the top and side with sender and receiver’s information that should match whatever is on the shipping documents…

Despite the expansion of e-commerce, many Caribbean countries still don’t have access to simple conveniences like online shopping, making it difficult to obtain necessities. Relatives in major U.S. cities mollify this by making sure their loved ones back home get the goods they want and need, with no ocean standing in their way and no barrel packed too full…

Eminently worth reading in full: “Remittance by the Barrel,” from @awalkinny in @the_prepared.

Proverb

###

As we pack it tight, we might send gilded birthday greetings to Johns Hopkins; he was born on this date in 1795. A businessman who is largely remembered as a philanthropist, he operated wholesale and retail businesses in the Baltimore area; he built his fortune by judiciously investing his proceeds in myriad other ventures, most notably, the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad. In 1996, Johns Hopkins ranked 69th in “The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates – A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present

His bequests founded a number institutions bearing his name, the best-known of which are, of course, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University.

Although Hopkins is widely-noted as an abolitionist, recent research indicates that Johns Hopkins was a slave owner for at least part of his life.

source

“By temporarily disrupting the order of the brain, a new order forms. And that order may have incredible value at either the level of mental health and psychology or the level of creativity.”*…

But, Zoe Cormier warns, if the means of that constructive disruption are industrialized and turned into aggressively-marketed products, we could be in for trouble…

Welcome to the strange new world of “psychedelic capitalism,” where dozens of start-ups have already raised millions (and in some cases billions) of dollars to commercialize psilocybin (the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms), DMT (found in the Amazonian brew ayahuasca), mescaline (peyote’s active component), and LSD—despite the fact that all of these “classic psychedelics” are still ranked as Schedule I drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Manufacturing any of these drugs without a license can still land you a long prison sentence. But marketing one, even though they all remain illegal and none have passed all the clinical trials required for approval? That can make you a millionaire…

The days when mind-bending psychedelics were seen as appealing only to drug dealers, nut jobs, and hippies are over. Today, serious-minded people interested in randomized controlled trials and stock valuations are leading the charge.

The “psychedelic renaissance” we’ve awaited for half a century—the promised era when acid, shrooms, and peyote would be brought back into legitimate research and legal access—is finally here. But will it turn out to be worth the wait? Or the hype?

Because it’s not like we ever stopped enjoying them: In the West, hippies, scientists, “healers,” and others have used psychedelics continuously for seven decades. And before we got our hands on them, Indigenous cultures used psychedelics for thousands of years as ritual sacraments. Now dozens of start-ups want to standardize, commercialize, alter, patent, and market these ancient compounds—and they stand to make a fortune doing so.

Will old-school profit-centered tactics bring down decades of dogged work by activists, scientists, and reformers to have these drugs reassessed for their virtues? Will we experience another nasty, research-smothering backlash?…

The profiteers have arrived; get ready for Psychedelics Inc.: “The Brave New World of Legalized Psychedelics Is Already Here,” from @zoecormier @thenation.

* Michael Pollan, in conversation with Tim Ferriss on Ferriss’ blog

###

As we tune in, we might spare a thought for Ellen Swallow Richards; she died on this date in 1911. The first female student admitted to MIT, she became its first female faculty member. A chemist, she did pioneering work in sanitary engineering, but is best remembered for her experimental research in domestic science, which laid the foundation for the new science of home economics, of which she is considered founder. She was one of the first ecofeminists, believing that women’s work within the home was not just vital to the economy, but also a critical aspect of our relationship to the earth.

source

“Prediction and explanation are exactly symmetrical”*…

From a December, 1969 episode of the BBC series Tomorrow’s World, an eerily-prescient look at the computerized future of banking…

The emergence of the debit card, the impact on back-office jobs, the receding importance of branch banks… they nailed it.

TotH to Benedict Evans (@benedictevans)

* “Prediction and explanation are exactly symmetrical. Explanations are, in effect, predictions about what has happened; predictions are explanations about what’s going to happen.” – John Searle

###

As we find our ways into the future, we might recall that it was on this date in 1878 that the modern music business was effectively born: Thomas Edison was awarded U.S. Patent No. 200,521 for his invention, the phonograph.

Thomas Edison with his phonograph, photographed by Mathew Brady in Washington, April 1878

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 19, 2022 at 1:00 am

%d bloggers like this: