In the early years of the twentieth century, Henry Ford seemed to know how to do everything better and faster. He built cars that got Americans moving faster than ever before, and he built them in a way that people could afford. Year after year, he was able to increase the number of cars he built while also reducing the number of workers needed to build them. Whatever he tried, worked. Ford was a man who knew he was right, and knew that his way of doing things was the best way, and he saw no reason why those ideas shouldn't apply everywhere to everyone. He was wrong.
In Fordlandia, Greg Grandin tells the story of Ford's misbegotten attempt to build a rubber plantation in Brazil in the late 1920s. This is one of those little pieces of history that can best be described as "rolling disaster," as in people making mistake after mistake at every turn. The choice of site was wrong; the Americans didn't get how to do business in Brazil; Ford didn't hire experts of any sort (botanists, people who knew how to run a plantation, people experienced with working in the Amazon). And of course, the rubber boom in Brazil had ended decades before; the British had realized that they could grow rubber trees on their plantations in Southeast Asia, where a pest that killed the trees in South America didn't exist.