By Marina Krakovsky
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Additional info for The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers, and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit
Most obviously, we are separated from others by geography, which has always held potential for great gains from trade and posed substantial trade barriers. The potential is great because two starkly different lands have quite different things to offer each other. Think, for example, of the frozen ponds of New England, where ice is so abundant it can be had almost for free, and the arid cities of India, where before refrigeration ice was so scarce that only royalty had ever seen it. The potential for profit was immense, but so were the impediments, the great distance raising the risk that much of the ice will melt on the long journey, thus evaporating any profit.
The camp, like other Oflags, was run in accord with the Geneva Convention, which meant, among other things, that the prisoners didn’t have to work to earn their keep. The captors took care of the prisoners’ basic needs, and in addition the captives received occasional parcels from the Red Cross—packages consisting of canned beef and salmon, milk and butter and cheese, even small luxuries like cigarettes and chocolate. A few lucky prisoners received private care packages as well. Like kids at home after trick-or-treating, officers began trading their rations.
A. Radford was not only a soldier and a POW but also a trained economist. 2 Radford was interested in several aspects of life in the camp’s simple, enclosed society—from the emergence of commerce without labor to the rise of cigarettes as the coin of the realm. 3 There is something iconic and deeply true about the story of the itinerant priest even if its repeated retelling distorted some of the details. The story conveys the essence of the middleman I call the Bridge. First and most important, the Bridge connects one island of people to another, spanning otherwise disconnected social networks.