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  • Writer's pictureDoug Howarth

Got Guano?

If you try any preversions in there, I’ll blow your head off – Col.” Bat” Guano, Dr. Strangelove Hypernomics notes that of all the perverted ways to start a war, Bolivia’s imposed tax on Chile is one of the most strange. I mean, who fights for bat poop? Countries looking for saltpeter, that’s who. Hungry for part of the burgeoning saltpeter trade, Bolivia imposed a tax on a Chilean company mining bat guano from its soil. That violated a treaty to which both countries were parties. It started the War of the Pacific. In it, Chile took on a secret alliance of Peru and Bolivia. Before the War, Bolivia had sea access, and Peru’s lands included part of the Atacama Desert (A). When the conflict ended, both countries lost ground to Chile, Bolivia became landlocked, and Peru surrendered its Atacama claims (shaded areas in B). Scant years later, Fritz Haber (C) worked out a catalytic formation of ammonia, for which he won the Nobel Prize. The process drove Chilean nitrate mining employment and prices down by two-thirds. Looking for a quick buck, Bolivia and Peru endured tens of thousands of casualties for a technology that quickly became outdated. Don’t go to war for short-term gains without considering long-term consequences. #technology #markets #innovation
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