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Lindsey Bestebreurtje
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Mar 16, 2010
This time last week Americans were busy planning menus, researching recipes, polishing the good silver, and picking up all of the canned cranberry sauce they could get their hands on. Chefs young and old were also focus on Thanksgiving’s center piece – the Turkey. Though the focus of Thanksgiving, many do not think about the business of getting their food on the table and where that Turkey came from. The truth is that Thanksgiving is big business. And that that business is somewhat disturbing. Big business has taken over the agricultural industry as factory farming has become the standard of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
This week’s readings highlight the fragility of America’s economic stability in the years from the Nation’s founding until the Great Crash of 1929. Almost cyclically early Americans suffered through economic recessions once every five to ten years. The journal articles in particular reinforce this cycle –featuring four different economic panics in the course of forty years from 1854 to 1893. Though the severity of these depressions varied, their consistency showed a need for change. Willingness to push for economic reform via regulation did not take hold until after the severe economic slump of the Great Depression. Galbraith’s The Great Crash:... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier is the story of Frank A. Cowperwood, a Philadelphia businessman who seems destined for greatness. Even as a young man Cowperwood excels in business with his calculating logic and aversion to risk. As he grows into his career as a fancier even his aptly suited personal traits cannot save him from the lure of money and power. In an attempt to feed his ever growing need for consumption Cowperwood becomes involved with some shady politicians and begins embezzling mutual funds. While playing the risky market he has dismissed as irrational his entire life, a panic causes... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
In the book Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in Big Business Roland Marchand tells the story of how expanding corporations sought legitimacy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As corporations grew in size and scope their power in relation to the family, town and church grew as well. This led to fear of big business and created a “crisis of legitimacy” for American corporations. (pp.2) In their quest for social and moral legitimacy big businesses turned to public relations campaigns for both the public at large and their employees to shape... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
In her book Imaging Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning, Regina Lee Blaszczyk describes the creation of market research. Rather than coercing consumers, the manufactures in this book wanted to design products that Americans truly wanted. In trying to determine preferences from dishware to bathroom fixtures, companies researched who their consumers were and imagined what may draw them in. This led manufactures to see the buying power of women for the first time. In their roles as wives and mothers women did 80% of the household shopping in the early 20th Century. (Blaszczyk, pp. 130) Companies began catering... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Walter A Friedman’s Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America tells the story of the creation of a unique sales force within the US. Friedman lays out how a standardized salesman was established throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century who used tactics of repetition, intensity, and association to create a market for specialty products. (pp. 175) Salesman not only provided supply where demand existed, they also created demand where none existed before. In this way American consumerism was born. The door-to-door salesman described by Friedman is no longer a reality in America. In our modern economy... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
The tide is finally starting to turn in America’s war on drugs. And who do we have to thank for it? These people: Law enforcement agents who patrol the border between Mexico and California say that sales are down for drug traffickers. Not because of decreased demand, but because small scale Mom and Pop pot growers in California are taking their customers. For decades the war on drugs has gotten us nowhere. Despite increased man hours and funds devoted to anti-narcotic efforts smugglers have still been able to bring drugs into the US. At the same time drug related violence... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
The movies Wall Street (1985) and Boiler Room (2000) tell similar tales. In each a wet behind the ears stock broker seeks fast money while striving for the approval of his father. Despite these plot similarities, the conflicts between the lead characters of each film and their fathers illustrate the changes in the perception of business and Wall Street from 1985 to 2000. In the world of 1985 Bud Fox is lured into insider trading deals by the slick haired Gordon Gekko. Despite his shady dealings, Gekko is a well known business man on Wall Street, even appearing on the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
One of the key businessmen featured by Richard S. Tedlow in his book Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires they Built is Charles Revson, the creator of Revlon. Revson is chosen for his influence on the art of consumer marketing. Tedlow holds that Revson was the first person to market beauty products to women in a way which sold luxury and moved the product away from its less than savory connections to prostitution. By taking these unique approaches in advertising Revson forever shaped the world of advertising. To this I would have to disagree. The beauty industry... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Michael O’Malley’s article Specie and Species: Race and the Money Question in Nineteenth-Century America points out the connection between the languages of money and race. He shows that the similarities in the two reflect how people seek to define themselves as intrinsically more valuable based on their ability to control entry to the market. A recent Mad Men episode titled “The_Fog” dealt with similar themes about the issue of race in the economy. In a 1963 board meeting the character Pete suggests that the execs from Admiral Television consider creating an integrated commercial because market data has shown an increase... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Last night I happened to catch "The Wizard of Oz" on TBS and given the Rockoff reading for this week I thought I would watch for a few minutes. It had been quite a few years since I had seen the film and I haven't seen it that many times, yet I knew all the songs and many of the quotes. This is because the Wizard of Oz is so permeated in our culture. I'm not really sure that I understand why, but I thought that I would take a few minutes to point out some of its influences. Check... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
In his book “The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business,” Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. examines the process of how large, vertically-integrated, and scientifically-managed firms of the 20th century came to dominate the modern economy. Chandler argues that advances in the technologies of communication and transportation changed the process of production and distribution which, when combined with the application of scientific knowledge to industrial technology, created the modern business enterprise (Chandler, pp. 376). Chandler shows how the size and scope of a firm’s powers evolved over time. Scientific Management made them no longer reliant on the invisible hand of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Because the notion of an active monetary policy to combat the business cycle was so novel and the knowledge of how the economy worked so primitive, debates among the various factions within the Fed became highly confused and at time even incomprehensible. -Liaquat Ahamed, pp. 365 This week marks the one year anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers, the starting point of our current economic recession. This is a fitting time to read Liaquat Ahamed’s book “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World.” Ahamed focuses on the events, but more importantly the individual financial leaders of the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
It made me think of class because of our conversations about motives of the Founders and how we choose to think about them in an idyllic light. Wuhl was saying that this sort of thinking is ridiculous, and not just for the Founders, but for American history more broadly. On Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 5:24 PM, wrote:
Over the weekend I happened to catch a re-airing of an HBO special from 2006 entitled "Assume the Position with Mr Wuhl." Comedian Robert Wuhl gives a history class for film students at NYU where he focuses on the facts and myths which come together to make American history. His discussion on the Founding Fathers made me think of our in class discussion from last week and I thought that others would like it too. There is also a sequel, "Assume the Position 201 with Mr Wuhl," which I haven't seen but if you like the intro class I will... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America
Charles A Beard’s 1913 thesis stated that the arguments between the different political groups over the formation of the Constitution reflected conflicts between economic groups and that these groups were shaped in different ways by the adoption of the Constitution. This pragmatic economic view of the motivations of the Founding Fathers was accepted until the 1950s. He states that “merchants, money lenders, security holders, manufacturers, shippers, capitalists, and financiers” were likely supporters, while “farmers and debtors” were likely opponents.[1] He argues that the Founders were not patriots blindly acting on ideals, but rather that they were in pursuit of economic... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2009 at The Creation of Corporate America