Skip to comments.(Vanity) Confessions of a Crunchy Conservative III, or, Why Don't I Mind *Your* Own Business?
Posted on 10/08/2006 8:20:47 AM PDT by grey_whiskers
In my previous vanities Part I I described my progression into the Condition of Crunchy Conservative.. In Part II, I laid out some musings on where I think were going, and how we got into this handbasket. In this piece, I elaborate a bit more on the themes of the second piece, and offer some suggestions for how to recover from the predicament.
To recap, I pointed out that the state of health of the average US citizen is nowhere near as good as it used to be. A number of factors are involved, including aging; relative lack of exercise; changes in diet; and the exploitation of medical research by industrial interests in the food processing industry, and subsequently by the pharmaceutical industry. In order to understand the solution, we must first correctly diagnose the problem. This will involve a bit of a change of subject, so bear with me!
Why are there large industries anyway? To understand that, you have to understand what any company is there for in the first place. The answer is simple: To make money. Well, there are lots of ways to make money, some more efficient than others. The most efficient way is to walk up to someone and demand their money. But the government has declared that to be theft. Besides, government thinks that just taking money from people is their job anyway, through the IRS. So businesses have to find other ways to get money.
A better way to get money, and one that usually keeps the government off of your back, is to offer to sell somebody something. This can take two forms: swindling, in which you offer someone the Brooklyn Bridge in exchange for their money, or selling someone something else. Swindling is out, because, once again, thats the governments job, in the form of State Lotteries. So if you want to make money, you have to sell something real.
But there are two forms of selling people something. First, you can sell them something that they really need, and cant make for themselves. This type of sale guarantees you a market. This is pretty much the position that the agribusinesses found themselves in. It is true, that to some extent, you can grow a lot of your own food. Lots of people have a garden. But for most people, doing more than corn, tomatoes, maybe potatoes, is just too much trouble. So a lot of people want someone else to raise pigs, cattle, milk cows for them, as well as fruits and vegetables. And at this point, economies of scale kick in. Isnt it easier to have a mega-farm, and adopt an assembly line approach to raising food, than to have pig-killin time and invite the neighbors?
Now, there are two drawbacks to this mass production approach. We have already seen the advantages. But one problem is, since you are guaranteed some buyers, you are bound to have a lot of competitiona lot of other people have figured out that you can make money selling this thing. So they will try and undercut you on price, or they will try to explain why their widget is better than yours. This led directly to the invention of marketing. (More on this in a bit.) Another problem is, if you are going to do things on the basis of economy of scale, than in order for things to work for you at all, you have to do them on a large scale.
So, what does all this have to do with health and food? Well, lets return to markting. We have seen that you can make money selling something people need. But there is a second way to make money by selling to people. That way is to sell them something they *want*. The way to get rich doing this is to inflame their wants, so you can yank their chain. That way you get to charge a lot more for the exact same thing. A good example here is fashion. A Coach handbag may retail for $300, and to some women it is a sign to other women of having arrived. But in terms of function, in an engineering sense, it does no more than a $15.00 handbag from Target. An even more extreme example is automobiles. Lexusthe relentless pursuit of perfection. So you shell out upwards of $30,000 for what is for all practical purposes a Toyota Camry with slightly different sheet metal and trim. Sociologists used to call this conspicuous consumption. Today the MBAs rule the roost and call it smart business. (See for example this link; or google the term mass luxury.)
Now heres the way it all ties together. Successful businesses grow by supplying something people need. If they are good at it, they grow. Really successfully businesses can grow *huge*. But once a business reaches a certain size, they discover one of two things. Either they say, Everyone else is competing with us, we need to compete on priceand we need to make it up on volume or they say Why are we wasting money on low volume, we need to move upscale so we can charge more. Either way, the focus moves away from just meeting peoples needs and towards making more and more money. Adam Smiths hidden hand of the market has led to Hidden Valley Ranch. (Check out their website. They started small, but they are now a household name.) If the process of moving upscale goes on long enough, then the customers actual needs and wants do more than just get left behindthey become an actual hindrance. Why take the time to understand the customer when its easier and more profitable to just railroad them?
And so it has happened with the food industry. The focus was originally on getting people more food, healthier food, a greater variety, than they could provide for themselves. After the essentials were taken care of, the question was how to reduce unit cost of production. Once that was done, the issue became how do we drive sales, in order to create a mass market, so that we can SELL the large quantities of food we can now produce? And for all the resthydrogenated oils, margarines, potato chipsthey are not sold because they are a need, as the original mega-farm products were. They were created because they had properties the mass marketers wanted: cheap to produce, long shelf life, they encourage repeat business (bet you cant eat just one): and because they generate a large profit. This is the entrepreneurial genius of America, run amok. It is not a victim of its own success-but its customers are, as the state of America's waistlines can attest.
But paradoxically, the hidden hand of the market is at work in another way.
As the major conglomerates moved away from providing healthy food in favor of prefabricated junk, this lack created a *new* market. One for healthy, unprocessed, flavorful food. The kind liberals (and crunchy cons) like. And guess what is happening? The entrepreneurial genius of America, which has led to the problem, is now contributing to a solution. Allow the Free Market to work (not free trade, by the way, which is a misnomer)and the hidden hand will supply a solution!
I've read a few studies as well, detailing the costs to our health that hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils can have, and that these additives have a direct link to the increase in Multiple Sclerosis patients in "modern" countries where foods containing them are mass-produced.
Pinging to the Multiple Sclerosis and Health lists for discussion, if anyone has heard similar.
This subject obviously released your inner totalitarian. I disagree with your initial premis and all following and suggest that most of what you hear on these subjects comes from lobbyists.
Were you talking to cgk or to me?
Wouldn't that just be the kicker - that she wasn't even talking to me... sorry, maybe? :)
Almost all foods are labelled as to content. So... if people are buying them, they must like the taste. As time goes on we find out the effects of what we do.
The Romans had lead problems, their water pipes used lead and their cups had lead in them.
The pharmaceutical industry does not have a lock on us or anyone else. There is no hidden agenda, the reason that pharmaceutical companies get profit is because they are the best game in town.
If there was a better treatment or cure for MS, we would hear about it. The medical research industry is extremely diverse. It is made up of
1. Independent researchers who get research money from charitable foundations, like the Cancer Society and MS fundraisers and cancer Fundraisers, ever hear of Jerry's kids?;
2. Researchers who get funding from colleges;
3. Researchers who get money from the Government;
4. Various socialist countries around the world in a dozen different governments perform limited research;
5. There are also researchers who get money from pharmaceutical companies.
The Phds who perform all this medical research are on the whole an independent fortune and fame seeking group. They are looking for a breakthrough and if they suspect they have a breakthrough everyone hears all about it.
There are a dozen or more things in the pipeline for potential improvements in the treatment of MS. There are a dozen or so research groups looking into myelin regeneration.
I want the continued medical progress. These new drugs are imperfect, but they are the best we can do at this time.
Yes, that's what I said.
The problem is not that our society is governed by pursuit of profit, but by pursuit of profit unbridled by conscience. Notice I said conscience, not government.
The pharmaceutical industry does not have a lock on us or anyone else. There is no hidden agenda, the reason that pharmaceutical companies get profit is because they are the best game in town.
Often true, not always true. Once they have to please shareholders, and compete with marketers for other companies, other things besides efficacy (such as ROGI hurdle) come into effect. Read this as: if the government makes you jump through *too many* human clinical trials to prevent another thalidomide, you pretty much have to either
a) go for blockbuster drugs to recoup your costs
b) go for "off-label" uses of the drugs
c) scavenge from other drugs coming off of patent
d) move clinical studies etc. to the third world to shave costs
In the meantime, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" : and there isn't anything *THAT* lucrative about actually going ahead and eating the way your grandmother nagged you to; and it isn't sexy enough to fund a lot of new research either.
There are what have been called "safety net" programs, but they have become behemoths of waste, and society as a whole would be better off without nanny government.
Now is a good time to remember the wise words of Ronald Reagan: "If you want to discourage something, tax it. If you want to encourage something, subsidize it." And another along the lines of: "If it moves, tax it. If it doesn't move, subsidize it. If it moves fast, regulate it."
You have to realize that, well-meaning as you may be, your "incentives" are merely subsidies for your own personal prejudices based on your personal experience. While I happen to agree with your findings, that doesn't warrant the government subsidizing our theories, and that is why you will catch flack for this part of your musings. Only liberals believe government should underwrite their idea of do-goodism.
Until people start (gasp!) taking responsibility for themselves and their families (as long as they believe "it takes a village"), government should not be in the do-good business. Every incremental loss of personal freedom is a surrender to the socialist nanny state.
The thinking in this post is so full of generalizations and oversimplifications that it borders on conspiracy theorizing. It just happens to fall into a convenient prejudice of the left that corporations are somehow bad. Do some reearch and discover what a small part the evil big multinational corps actually play in our economy. Then relax and plant a garden or join a health club, if you want. but please stop generalizing about everyone in America and pretending to tend to our health.
Don't know how to answer tactfully, as I think you are misunderstanding me. I agree with you about the fears of the nanny state: which is explicitly why I introduced it in terms of *economic* incentives, in order to bring market principles behind it. In Phoenix, many surrounding communities subsidize carpools or alternative transportation to work, to improve congestion and air quality. I was picking up $2.00 / day by bicylcing to work 12 miles each way at one point. Many other folks carpooled or rode motorcycles. This was not government coercion, but placing an explicit economic price on a desired activity.
As far as "personal prejudices" that is simply untrue. My wife works in the "back end" of the health care industry, as do I: we both get to see the *monetary* costs of illlnesses which are the results of lifestyle choices (smoking, sedentary lifestyle, too many snack foods). It is an objective physical fact that these elements within a lifestyle end up making people very sick over time. And sick people require large expenditures on their health.
As for me, I consider taking care of my health *mandatory*. Similar to charitable giving, I'm going to do it whether the government encourages it or not. But not everybody feels that way -- "it's too inconvenient" -- and this proposal is aimed at reaching them.
What I *am* concerned about is any number of people I see on the street who believe that having *chocolate* milk with their supersize fries and Big Mac constitutes "healthy eating." Yes, for them, it might be a step in the right direction -- (one small step for me, but everyone else thought it was an earthquake) -- but not enough. And after 20 or 30 years of that lifestyle, when they develop chronic diseases, *they* won't be troubled to pay for it, because, "why, it's an infringement on their freedom." Never mind that it is an infringement on MY freedom to tax me to shield them from the consequences of their actions.
And the "hearts and minds" approach the government uses--some poorly produced, miserably acted commercial "Now parents, it's ok to tell your kids not to smoke..." doesn't work. As humor columnist Dave Barry said, it's enough to make you want to rush out and inhale an entire carton of unfiltered Camels just for spite. So if public health is a compelling government goal, we need to find another way to do it.
NOW: A liberal (Hildebeast; Chicago and foie gras; New York and Trans-Fats) would remedy this in a way that LIMITS personal choice, and INCREASES government power, by MANDATING certain behaviours. I am *utterly* opposed to that. If the government has a compelling interest in people's health, it can do so (at the margin, and without curtailing FREEDOM !) by *paying for it*. In that way, people who otherwise would not be doing some healthy things might start doing it for the money; and some of them may find "hey, I like it" and keep the healthy habits. By analogy to letting people invest their own social security money, every penny saved now reaps compound interest by reducing the number of folks who will need massive government intervention later--intervention which the statists will be only too happy to provide.
It is also the best inoculation against Hillarycare that I can think of. If people are healthy, they won't *need* as many doctors, and the health industry won't be such a tempting target for the bureaucrats to continue muscling into.
I think she's talking to you 'generalizing about everyone in America')... AND me ('80year old grannie'). ?
I am speechless. I went out of my way to say that corporations are NOT bad; and that the solution to these problems was by the hidden hand of the market. Please, re-read the last paragraph, again.
The problem is that when corporations get beyond a certain size, their own existence and profit margins take precedence over their customers.
When that happens, smaller, more nimble companies step in to meed the needs which are going unmet.
How does that = "corporations are bad"??
I know, for a fact, that most of the propaganda that comes out of the government, including the food pyramid, is influenced by lobbies from different ag states. Eat lots of grains and benefit the corn belt.
This vanity was Part III. If you read Part II, you'll see that I was saying essentially the same thing. A lot of the corporations were taking advantage of government prounouncements (ill-founded ones, too) in order to push sales of foods which could be produced cheaply and had a long shelf life. I even compared it to the "military-industrial complex."
My proposal was to re-look at which foods and which supplements really are good for you, instead of just buying into whatever government pronouncement was playing on Dr. Phil that day.
Just promise me you won't wear black socks with your Birkenstocks.
One example should refute your idea that big corporations are not sensitive to customers: New Coke, remember that one? You have never run a small company if you think they are not sensitive to profit margins. Whereas large corps have cash reserves, small companies can easily be undone by small changes and a few unprofitable weeks.
LOL! You owe me a new keyboard!
...that's pretty rare when Photoshop isn't involved, too.
There are unrecognized forces at work in the modern world. You need something only found in an exotic place. Pay us $100/mo for the secret to eternal youth.
...oh, that's what you meant about MLM. Well, then, make up your mind. First you complain about lobbyists pressing us to eat 10 servings of grain a day to enrich the corn belt, then you attack me for being anti-capitalist for suggesting alternatives?
As I pointed out in the vanity, if you don't grow it yourself, you have to buy it from *somebody*. And most likely it will be either a big company *or* a small company.
The most exotic thing I recommended is fish oil supplements, which you can even pick up at Costco nowadays. As for the rest, what is so "exotic" about loading up on leafy green vegetables (now that the spinach scare is over, that is) and drinking water instead of soft drinks full of high fructose corn syrup?
I'm not trying for eternal youth, I just would rather approach old age looking more fit than the Michelin Man. :-)
One example should refute your idea that big corporations are not sensitive to customers: New Coke, remember that one?
If they'd done any decent market research, they wouldn't have *launched* New Coke. :-)
I didn't mean to imply ignoring customers was universal, even among big companies. But small companies (as you so rightly point out) pretty much *need* each and every customer.
Too late! (Hey, my Nerd Score is 94, what do you expect?)
(see my Freeper home page near the bottom...)
Try building your argument based on what you really know and believe in. In reality, corporate profits have nothing to do with the benefits of fish oil and leafy vegs. Use fact and logic instead of fear of bogeymen.
OK, here's my premise, and the article, boiled down.
Please note that I intended this to be "light reading" with a bit of thought provoking, or spurring people to thoughts, thrown in: and to let other crunchy cons know that they weren't the only ones out there on Free Republic. I wasn't trying to emulate Dr. Barry Sears, as it would drive away my intended audience--those who are not already "gung ho" over all this nutrition / fitness stuff...
I think my premise is that I am a crunchy conservative, meaning, I am interested in keeping my health and promoting that of others, in a way that preserves freedom without relying on coercive powers of government. 1. I think that many people eat diets rich in junk food, or failing that, do not bother to find out the science behind improved human diets beyond what the government food pyramid is, and what is presented in commercials (fatty foods are advertised as "sugar-free" while sugary foods are "fat free').
2. While the amount and variety of food prevents starvation and makes it easy to prevent malnutrition, much of the diet that is presented, and the foods which are most often advertised, are those which make agribusiness and certain distributors rich, NOT those which will primarily make people healthy.
3. I am concerned with my own health. But since my improved concentration on my own habits has done so much for me, I really don't want other people to miss out: even if it means considering foodstuffs or sources, or exercises which have typically been the domain of liberals. (That's the "crunchy" part.)
4. But I don't want the nanny state TELLING people what to do or forcing them to do it. Instead, I would prefer a solution which involves people's free choice, and the market. As far as the supply of food, that is happening due to smaller companies seeing the market segment which has for so long been neglected. As far as some nutritional supplements and / or exercise, the government could get involved by *paying for* or *offering tax cuts* to encourage that behaviour. (The free market and tax cuts stuff is the conservative part.)
5. If people do this, it will lower tax rates and the need for government intervention later on, as people in general will be much healthier, much longer. Ergo, we cut the knees out from under Hillarycare.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.