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The Box

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition ix Acknowledgments xv Chapter 1: The World the Box Made 1 Chapter 2: Gridlock on the Docks 16 Chapter 3: The Trucker 36 Chapter 4: The System 54 Chapter 5: The Battle for New York's Port 76 Chapter 6: Union Disunion 101 Chapter 7: Setting the Standard 127 Chapter 8: Takeoff 150 Chapter 9: Vietnam 171 Chapter 10: Ports in a Storm 189 Chapter 11: Boom and Bust 212 Chapter 12: The Bigness Complex 231 Chapter 13: The Shippers' Revenge 245 Chapter 14: Just in Time 264 Abbreviations 279 Notes 281 Bibliography 343 Index 365

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The continuous decline of ocean shipping costs in the last 40 years is rarely credited for the growth of global trade in contemporary literature. Don't miss this amazing history. -- George Stalk, Boston Consulting Group and author of "Surviving the China Riptide" An excellent piece of work. -- Bruce Nelson, Dartmouth College This book is dynamite. The experts who tell you the transistor and microchips changed the world are off base. The ugly, unglamorous, little-noticed shipping container has changed the world. Without it, there would be no globalization, no Wal-Mart, maybe even no high-tech. And what looks like low-tech is in fact a breathtaking technological innovation. Marc Levinson's sparkling and authoritative story is great fun to read, but it is spectacular economic history as well. -- Peter L. Bernstein, author of "Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk" Fascinating, informative, wonderfully historicized. This is a terrific untold story. -- Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara, and editor of "Wal-Mart: the Face of Twenty-First Century Capitalism" The adoption of the modern shipping container may be a close second to the Internet in the way it has changed our lives. It has made products from every corner of the world commonplace and accessible everywhere. It has dramatically cut the cost of transportation and thereby made outsourcing a significant issue. It has transformed the world's port cities, and more. This book, very nicely written, makes a fascinating set of true stories of an apparently mundane subject, and dramatically illustrates how simple innovations can transform our lives. -- William Baumol, Director, Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, author of "The Free-Market Innovation Machine"

About the Author

Marc Levinson is an economist in New York and author of three previous books. He was formerly finance and economics editor of the "Economist", a writer at "Newsweek", and editorial director of the "Journal of Commerce".


Economist Levinson (The Economist Guide to Financial Markets) shows in this history of the shipping container how its invention helped form our modern global economy by bringing down the cost of transporting goods. He explains how the advent of the shipping container in the mid-1950s-the book is published on the 50th anniversary of the first container voyage-was a radical break from the labor-intensive loading and transport of loose cargo by trucks, railroads, and break-bulk ships. Levinson demonstrates how, despite strong opposition from longshoremen, transportation companies, and government regulators, the economic advantages of containerization won out in the end and how, as a result, the shipping industry, port cities, and whole national economies have been transformed. Levinson presents a clear, comprehensive history of the now-ubiquitous shipping container while highlighting its crucial economic role in global interconnectivity. Highly recommended for transportation and economics collections in academic and larger public libraries.-Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Shortlisted for the 2006 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Winner of the 2007 Bronze Medal in Finance/Investment/Economics, Independent Publisher Book Awards Honorable Mention for the 2006 John Lyman Book Award, Science and Technology category, North American Society for Ocean History Winner of the 2007 Anderson Medal, Society for Nautical Research "One of the most significant, yet least noticed, economic developments of the last few decades [was] the transformation of international shipping... The idea of containerization was simple: to move trailer-size loads of goods seamlessly among trucks, trains and ships, without breaking bulk... Along the way, even the most foresighted people made mistakes and lost millions... [A] classic tale of trial and error, and of creative destruction."--Virginia Postrel, The New York Times "Marc Levinson's concern is business history on a grand scale. He tells a moral tale. There are villains ... and there is one larger than life hero: Malcom McLean... Levinson has produced a fascinating exposition of the romance of the steel container. I'll never look at a truck in the same way again."--Howard Davies, The Times (UK) "Like much of today's international cargo, Marc Levinson's The Box arrives 'just in time.'... It is a tribute to the box itself that far-off places matter so much to us now: It has eased trade, sped up delivery, lowered prices and widened the offering of goods everywhere. Not bad for something so simple and self-contained."--Tim W. Ferguson, The Wall Street Journal "[A] smart, engaging book... Mr. Levinson makes a persuasive case that the container has been woefully underappreciated... [T]he story he tells is that of a classic disruptive technology: the world worked in one fashion before the container came onto the scene, and in a completely different fashion after it took hold."--Joe Nocera, The New York Times "Mr Levinson... makes a strong case that it was McLean's thinking that led to modern-day containerisation. It altered the economics of shipping and with that the flow of world trade. Without the container, there would be no globalization."--The Economist "A fascinating new book... [I]t shows vividly how resistance to technological change caused shipping movements to migrate away from the Hudson river to other East Coast ports."--Management Today "Marc Levinson's The Box ... illustrates clearly how great risks are taken by entrepreneurs when entrenched interests and government regulators conspire against them. Even after these opponents are dispatched, technological and economic uncertainty plague the entrepreneur just as much as the vaunted 'first-mover advantage' blesses him, perhaps more. The story of the shipping container is the story of the opponents of innovation."--Chris Berg, Institute of Public Affairs Review "International trade ... owes its exponential growth to something utterly ordinary and overlooked, says author Marc Levinson: the metal shipping container... The Box makes a strong argument... Levinson ... spins yarns of the men who fought to retain the old On the Waterfront ways and of those who made the box ubiquitous."--Michael Arndt, BusinessWeek "[An] enlightening new history... [The shipping container] was the real-world equivalent of the Internet revolution."--Justin Fox, Fortune "Marc Levinson's The Box is ... broad-ranging and ... readable. It describes not just the amazing course of the container-ship phenomenon but the turmoil of human affairs in its wake."--Bob Simmons, The Seattle Times "Author and economist Marc Levinson recounts the little-known story of how the humble shipping container has revolutionized world commerce. He tells his tale using just the right blend of hard economic data and human interest... Mr. Levinson's elegant weave of transportation economics, innovation, and geography is economic history at its accessible best."--David K. Hurst, Strategy + Business "The Box is ... an engrossing read... The book is well-written, with detailed notes and an index. I found it absorbing and informative from the first page."--Graham Williams, Sydney Morning Herald "This well-researched and highly readable book about the ubiquitous containers that carry so much of the world's freight will no doubt surprise most readers with its description of the immensity of the impact this simple rectangular steel box has had on global and regional economics, employment, labor relations, and the environment... The Box makes for an excellent primer on innovation, risk taking, and strategic thinking. It's also a thoroughly good read."--Craig B. Grossgart, Taiwan Business Topics "The ubiquitous shipping container ... as Mark Levinson's multilayered study shows ... has transformed the global economy."--The Australian "By artfully weaving together the nuts and bolts of what happened at which port with the grand sweep of economic history, Levinson has produced a marvelous read for anyone who cares about how the interconnected world economy came to be."--Neil Irwin, Washington Post "Here's another item we see every day that had a revolutionary effect. The shipping container didn't just rearrange the shipping industry, or make winners of some ports (Seattle and Tacoma among them). It changed the dynamics and economics of where goods are made and shipped to."--Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer "Excellent."--J Bradford DeLong, The Edge Financial Daily "An engrossing read... The book is well written, with detailed notes and an index. I found it absorbing and informative from the first page."--Sydney Morning Herald "A fascinating history of the shipping container."--Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs "For sheer originality ... [this book] by Marc Levinson, is hard to beat. The Box explains how the modern era of globalization was made possible, not by politicians agreeing to cut trade tariffs and quotas, but by the humble shipping container."--David Smith, The Sunday Times (London) "Ingenious analysis of the phenomenon of containerism."--Stefan Stern, Financial Times "This is a smoothly written history of the ocean shipping container... Marc Levinson turns it into a fascinating economic history of the last 50 years that helps us to understand globalization and industrial growth in North America."--Harvey Schachter, Globe and Mail "This is an ingenious analysis of containerization--a process that, Levinson argues, in fact made globalization possible."--Business Voice "Using a blend of hard economic data and financial projections, combined with human interest, Levinson manages to provide insights into a revolution that changed transport forever and transformed world trade."--Leon Gettler, The Age "There is much to like about Marc Levinson's recent book, The Box... Levinson uses rich detail, a combination of archival and anecdotal data to build his story, and is constantly moving across levels of observation... And the story of the box is a very good read."--Administrative Science Quarterly "A lively and entertaining history of the shipping container... The Box does a fine job of demonstrating how exciting the container industry is, and how much economists stand to lose by ignoring it."--William Sjostrom, EH.Net "The Box is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in understanding the emergence of our contemporary 'globalized' world economy."--Pierre Desrochers, Independent Review "[T]he insights the book provides make it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in how international trade in goods has evolved over the last 50 years."--Meredith A. Crowley, World Trade Review "The Box reveals the subject to be interesting and powerful, shedding light on all kinds of issues, from the role of trade unions to the Vietnam War."--NUMAST Telegraph

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