When Cash Isn't King: The Netherland's Tulips for Russian Petroleum


There are plenty of spots around the world where good business is few and far between. You won't find a McDonalds on every corner in Somalia, for instance, just like you probably can't get a good meal in many places around Syria. The aftershocks of a global economy are increasingly making unlikely suspects into corporate no-go zones, however, with surprising names popping up on the business radar. Russia is one such name after the country has turned itself into something of an international pariah, watching its economy tumble down into negative growth after the free-falling price of oil reined in their aspirations to become a global power. Today, it's something of a taboo to do business with Russia, not in the least due to the sanctions slapped onto the Federation by the US and EU. Another unlikely nation has bucked the trend with a novel solution, however, since the Netherlands has stepped up to directly exchange their exports for Russian oil in a program referred to as "tulips for petroleum". What's the reason that the barter system is proving a better bet than cold hard cash?

Tulips: A History of Flowers and Frenzies

The Netherlands are well known for a variety of things these days, ranging from Vermeer to their Oranje soccer team to their liberal drug policies that American tourists love to take advantage of. A few hundred years ago, the word that followed the Netherlands was that of tulips. During the early 1600s, an economic phenomenon known as "tulip mania" caused one of the first true commodity bubbles in history as just about everyone with money bought into the trend of purchasing tulips in both quantity and quality. Nobles sunk half their fortunes into the flower to compete with one another and own the finest, rarest, most deeply-colored of the bulb plants they could find, with nearly all of the flowers raised in the Netherlands. The bubble burst quite dramatically after about a decade, leaving owners with nothing more than an overpriced ...

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