Don't quit your day job
Posted by aogTuesday, 08 July 2003 at 21:25 TrackBack Ping URL

While cruising the web looking for a food contamination regulation link, I happened on this aptly titled bit of idiocy. The author is clearly trying to mock food producers and capitalists but makes a poor satirist because of his complete lack of understanding. To truly mock something you must understand it deeply.

The conceit is that the author should manufacturer “food contaminators”:
[…] Any food maker whose contamination levels are under those of its competitors is at a clear economic disadvantage. After all, if the legal amount of freely produced mouse poo is not in the peanut butter you’re selling, the missing portion must be - valuable peanut butter. Meanwhile, your competitors are padding their product with the legal mouse poo maximum.

My idea is to introduce a manufacturing process which would measure the food’s contamination level, then add as many rat hairs, weevils, or what have you, as are needed. […]

I singled this out because it struck me as archetypical. There is no consideration of how one would do the detection or what the costs involved would be. The author is sadly mistaken in the first place in the idea that the contents of most food products constitutes most of the value. You’d think that Sam Walton’s success would have announced the benefits of logistics over material but that would require believing that Walton produced value for society rather than being a rampaging Force of Evil™.

But the deeper mistake that this ignorance of real costs (such as building and maintaing the monitoring equipment that detects the level of contamination — heck, if you could build that cheaply you’d make plenty of money just selling that) leads is “magical thinking” whereby the only reason that the Evil Capitalists™ don’t do things like prevent all food contamination is because they just don’t care, not because it might be hard or too expensive for the consumers (since ultimately all business costs are borne by those who buy the products). I mean, he was able to design this clever system so why can’t the Evil Capitalists™ design one that does the opposite?