Distribution, Competition, and Antitrust / IP Law

Competition Law in Novels: David Liss’ The Coffee Trader

The Coffee Trader

Not many novels present competition law and policy as an issue.  There are some, however, and from time-to-time I’ll cover them here.

David Liss’ novel The Coffee Trader is one such novel.  It tells the story of Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese-Jewish trader living in mid-17th century Amsterdam.  At the time, coffee is just beginning to make its appearance on the European stage.  The novel vividly describes both the initial introduction and impact of coffee (hard to imagine in a world of ubiquitous Starbucks), as well as daily life in Amsterdam and the life of a trader in the then relatively novel financial industry of the Netherlands.

Without giving away too much of the plot, Miguel hatches a sophisticated and complex plan involving the coffee trade.  Much of the novel traces its inception and development.  The story is engrossing, especially, I suspect, for people who are lovers of coffee.  Miguel’s plan involves a sort-of attempt to create a monopoly on coffee distribution in Europe.  One quibble: after having read the book, I’m not certain that a distribution monopoly on a commodity good, as presented in the novel, makes sense or would be economically viable.  But quibbles aside, the book is highly entertaining.

To the right (in the image) I’ve linked to the author’s webpage.

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About Howard Ullman

Antitrust, competition, and IP law enthusiast.


  1. Very interesting post. For further inspiration have a look at this link: “Antitrust in Pop Culture: A Guide for Antitrust Gurus” http://www.luc.edu/law/academics/special/center/antitrust/pdfs/antitrust_in_pop_culure.pdf

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