Starbucks vs. the Viennese Kaffeehaus

Posted On: Friday - March 23rd 2018 10:53PM MST
In Topics: 
  General Stupidity  History  Economics

"Get back to work - what do you think this is, a Viennese Kafeehaus?"

That's what we'd hear long ago doing some work for this one old man, if we sat down on the job. He was referrring to the famous coffee shops of old Vienna, Austria, a tradition since the end of the 1600's. Yep, he could have been there pre-WWII and nope, Starbucks doesn't go back that far. This phrase came back to me while at one of the local coffee shops yesterday.

The reader may very well wonder whether the Peak Stupidity blog has something personal against coffee, coffee shops, a certain pretty barista who has spurned this blogs advances (haha), what? It's true I personally am not into the fancy lattes, expresso's and the like, but, nah, this is more just about our thoughts on the economic and social conditions of society, as already discussed with respect to the ubiquitous American coffee shop early this month. This post is up due to our taking another blog-tax-write-off to the coffee shop this very morning to hang out with friends - yes, I had hot chocolate, mmm, that hits the spot... not so many hotties in this particular store, I must report....

OK, culinary review over with here, let me say the crowd at this store were more a bunch of people getting their fix of caffeine for the morning, and getting some sort of "work" done vs. the longer-term hang-outers of the shop described in the above link. My question was (and still is) regarding this relaxed, easygoing, not-particularly-productive lifestyle of the young people who stay there large chunks of the day, work in the same environment, and never get ahead much economically. Can this last, as the American economy does not create much wealth anymore and hums along on borrowed time, due to borrowed money? Is there a parallel with the pre-WWII Austrian society, in which the Kaffee Hauses and hanging out at said Hauses was a really big thing also?

Back in that long-ago day in Vienna, Austria was a more significant part of Europe and Europe was a more significant part of the world. Vienna, being the capital and by-far biggest city there, contained the high-society types, but coffee shops were for the every-man, as life was in some ways more relaxed back then. They would have sauntered up from their "flats" or hopped off the trolley, vs. pulling up on a fancy scooter or stepping out of an oversized pickup truck in the present time. The customers, as is the case today, must have included the not-hard-working every-Commie, to pound his fists on the table and rant about society. Rather than a grande caffe latte, maybe he would have just a normal cup of fucking coffee, but at about 1/100th the price* (yes, 5 cents a cup was probably in the ballpark), along with some apple strudel instead of those overpriced sticky pastries you'd get at Starbucks. Something tells me the talk would have been more sophisticated, as that's how Europeans are (not necessarily a good thing), and times were just a whole lot less stupid everywhere.

That's most of a century ago, but the more things change, the more they stay the same, said some French guy (but in a more sophisticated way, since it was in French). Is this the problem though? As things approach Peak economic Stupidity in today's America, are we in for the same complete societal turnmoil as the Viennese coffee drinkers unknowingly were on those beautiful spring days in the middle of the 1930's?

* My time period discussed here is well after World War I, meaning after the great hyperinflation of the early 1920's, as also experienced in Weimar Republic Germany and elsewhere around Central Eurpope. It'd be hard to come up with any good number of what anything cost during that terrible time.

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