Junk science >>> junk food

saltsugarfatThis is an un-American heresy: In business, competition is often a bad thing. In the health insurance industry insurers trip over one another to restrict access to health care because serving their clients well puts them at a disadvantage. Competition in basic health care creates perverse incentives, and has made customers the enemies of insurers.

Another example I recently stumbled upon: I read a book by New York Times journalist Michael Moss called Salt Sugar Fat. It’s not a very good book in terms of information, but is so loaded with interesting anecdotes that it was really fun to read. Skipping all of the basics of nutrition, where Moss is not strong, he does a great job demonstrating how a few voices in the processed food industry have taken our obesity and diabetes epidemics to heart and tried to convince their bosses to make better food. But in so doing, the companies lost market share, Wall Street objected, people got fired, and business went on as usual.

Companies fall back on the tobacco rationalization: people are responsible for their own tastes and habits. That would be true if we lived in a full-information environment. But we don’t. Information is shrouded in fake science and bogus food pyramids while companies strive to find the “bliss” and “mouthfeel” optimum. When we eat an Oreo, it creates a craving for another Oreo. When we eat a whole Snickers bar, we feel guilty, so they make tiny Snicker bars and put them in large bags, knowing we’ll eat as much, but without the damned guilt.

They are abusing our children. In a rational society, advertising to kids would be illegal. But they are abusing adults too, since we do not know the basics of nutrition. Scientists, funded by industry, will not soon make any new discoveries (of long-known basic science) in that field. But they will understand to the finest details what it takes to get us to drink 64 ounces of soda rather than eight ounces of water.

Competition is necessary in so many ways – athletics, academic achievement, [not at all certain on that matter], picnic games, cards and horseshoes. But in business it drives companies to antisocial behaviors. If left unregulated, as they largely are (regulatory capture having long ago succeeded), they’ll abuse us for their bottom line because they have no other choice. The market demands it.

Competition is bad. As Dwayne Andreas put it so many years ago: Competitors are our friends. Customers are our enemy. Succinctly true.

About Mark Tokarski

Just a man who likes to read, argue, and occasionally be surprised.
This entry was posted in Junk science, Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Junk science >>> junk food

  1. steve kelly says:

    Once reduced to “consumer” we will be served anything — years ago they tried sawdust as “non-nutritive fiber.” We eat with our eyes. Marketing is expensed as a cost of goods sold. What could distort markets more than government picking up the tab for marketing expense? The most marketing wins.


  2. steve kelly says:

    Now who’s the communists (socialists really)?


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