April 3, 2023

Howard Roark, Ayn Rand’s character in The Fountainhead, points out the ingratitude that man has for the entrepreneur , for the creator: “Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burnt at the stake he’d taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived and he lifted darkness from the face of the Earth.”

Starbucks didn’t discover fire, but it did find that somehow, somewhere in the depths of man’s soul, he would pay as much for a double mocha latte as he once did for a week’s worth of coffee.

My wife Kelley and I tried to get my grandparents some fancy coffee once. My grandfather, a survivor of the Depression, informed us in no uncertain terms that he drank Maxwell House — $3.99 for at least a week’s worth of coffee.

The Pauls, though German, often missed the zeitgeist, and so, while we continued to purchase Maxwell House, our contemporaries bought Starbucks stock. Who knew people would pay $6 for one cup of coffee?

The bottom line is that although convincing the public to buy very expensive coffee is not history’s greatest innovation, it still deserves respect. Instead, Congress held a hearing last week not to praise Starbucks, but to bury it. The hearing, convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), was designed to attack a private company for its success , even though that success has benefited both its customers and its employees alike.

Starbucks is a Fortune 500 company that pays its baristas a minimum $15 per hour and an average of $17 per hour. The company offers health insurance, a 401(k) plan, six full weeks of paid parental leave (even for part-time workers), family sick time benefits, and vacation. Starbucks even invests in its employees’ education by covering 100% tuition and fees for a first-time bachelor’s degree through a partnership with Arizona State University.

Starbucks is also among the most charitable companies in the country. Since 2016, it has had a program to donate unsold food to those in need, which has fed over 5 million hungry families. Since 2019, Starbucks gave over $10 million to organizations in the U.S. and Canada through its Neighborhood Grants Program. In 2020 alone, Starbucks made $20 million in charitable disbursements.

Starbucks didn’t do all this under orders from a government bureau. It did these things because capitalism works.

Capitalism means voluntary exchange and mutual benefit. Capitalism means higher productivity and wealth creation. There’s more for the employer, but as Starbucks shows us, there is more for the worker and the community too.

In other words, capitalism demonstrates that we help our fellow man not because we are forced to, but because we want to.

If the goal is to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg, then by all means, this hearing is a good beginning. For me, I see the fabulous success of Starbucks and I understand that luxury, the luxury to spend an extraordinary amount of money for a cup of coffee, is a testament to capitalism, a testament to what made America great, and I, for one, want no part of any witch hunt that vilifies American business. So, count me out. Count me as one who is ecstatic that Starbucks is an American success story. I’ll have no part in trashing its success.

You can read the op-ed HERE.