Mocha-flavored capitalism

When Starbucks announced that it was shutting the doors on 600 stores across the United States, American coffee-drinkers took a second while sipping on their caramel macchiatos and skinny mocha lattes to reflect upon a very real manifestation of our current economic woes.  For many, a cup of coffee that now cost as much as a gallon of gas was a luxury needing to be sacrificed, and enough people made this same decision to warrant the closure of 8.5 percent their stores nationwide.

While many were lamenting the possible closure of their favorite coffee shop, others were taking glee in Starbuck’s decision to cut back on their more than 7,000 stores. 

A recent Reuters article captured some of the celebration in a local coffee house in New York:

"I’m so happy. I’m so not a Starbucks person," said Melinda Vigliotti, sipping iced coffee at the Irving Farm Coffee House in New York. "I believe in supporting small businesses. Starbucks, bye-bye."

"Amen," chimed in Keith DiLauro, a local caterer. "They went too big, too fast."

Too big, too fast?

The explosion of Starbucks into mainstream culture came to define and brand the coffee culture that once could only be found in small, independent shops scattered sparsely in more metropolitan areas of the country.  Quickly roaring to become the largest coffee chain in the world, Starbucks soon developed the same iconoclast image as other corporate giants like Microsoft and Walmart.

Hated more for their shear size and dominance of the small market in which they operate, rather than anything to do with the coffee they served, Starbucks was made into an icon of corporate evil. Starbucks has been constantly demonized for their success (and profit) at turning an underground culture of coffee into a mainstream affair.

Such comments as those made by the two patrons from the Reuters article reflect the lingering sentiments of anti-capitalism and envy that plague the psyche of the American public. 

It is true that Starbucks does make it harder for smaller shops to compete, just as Walmart does for local stores, but it is ultimately the consumer who decides the fate of this competition.  Starbucks should not have to apologize for their astronomical success at branding a cup of coffee, nor for being able to sell that coffee for more than smaller, independent shops sell theirs.

The fact remains that the independent shops, which are more frequently popping up across the nation, owe thanks–not scorn–to Starbucks for creating the coffee-fueled society in which we live today.  After all, how many of those baristas learned their trade from the millions of hours of training Starbucks gives their employees? 

The Starbucks-symptom of envy and contempt far surpass any reasonable complaint against the java-juggernaut, and simply highlights the sociological gulf that libertarians must bridge in order to advance the philosophy of capitalism, profit and economic liberty. 

Howard Schultz, Bill Gates and Sam Walton should be looked upon as heroes who built the great American empires of the 20th century.  It is because of them that computers are just as common as the telephone, poor families can purchase cheap prescription drugs and tired truckers can be rejuvenated on triple venti caramel macchiatos off an interstate exit.

The loss of 600 Starbucks stores is certainly nothing to lose sleep over, as such is just the nature of these times, but those that take such corporeal satisfaction in the misfortune of a corporation should stop and reflect upon the benefits that society has enjoyed from the labors of those entrepreneurs who built the American business icons that shoulder the full weight of the U.S. economy.