Greed Is Not Good, Part II: Divest From Coke

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  1. Avatar Kimmi
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    says:

    Ha. Ha. Ha.
    “Soda companies routinely use a compound, caffeine, that is widely understood to be addictive”

    Um, yeah. but the thing is, decaf coffee is often More addictive than standard caffeinated stuff. (partially because people drink more, mind.)Report

  2. Avatar Kimmi
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    says:

    So, we’re going after “addictive” foods? Not clearly harmful carcinogenic ones?
    … sigh. “it’s bad because you’re gonna get fat!” not “it’s going to KILL you!”Report

  3. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Why just Coke? Why not Pepsi? Mentioning just one company often sounds like the speaker is trying to make then a unique villain.

    I know i used the nicotine analogy in the other thread, which i stand by, but its only a fair to middling analogy depending on the food stuffs involved. Caffeine is addictive, no doubt about that. But it can also be used safely and without harming someones health. Same thing with most types of food, it is the amount that creates the problem although certainly the reasonable serving size of veggies is different from chocolate covered cream filled yummy foods. But the addiction analogy breaks down when you get farther away from caffeine and sugar and fat. Even then it’s still not completely accurate.

    The key problem i think you are facing is that if people choose to consume “bad” foods we can’t stop them. It can be made harder or more expensive but people will still choose them. And people should be able to choose to shove a fistful of Ho-Ho’s in their pie hole if they want to. If people want to eat a lot of fatty foods they will no matter what anyone thinks. Education is the best answer, give people the tools to make their own decisions. Hopefully those are generally healthy decisions but that is their deal.

    In “the good old days” plenty of people at lots of fatty, unhealthy foods that were not bought from Big Food. Somewhere right now a person is digging into a giant chicken fried fatty steak with locally sourced fries covered in Momma’s own ranch dressing/sour cream mix.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley
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    Why aren’t we going after Folger’s first?

    I suspect it’s because symbols are more important than substance.Report

  5. Avatar North
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    As far as I can see the most logical outcome of your litigations would be the inclusion of a label on the cans/bottles/menus that reads “Please note: excessive consumption of high sugar beverages like these without commensurate physical activity can lead to long term damage to your health like diabetes, obesity etc etc… Please drink responsibly!”. If those labels were included would there be much to any grounds for a lawsuit anymore?

    I applaud you recognizing that regulation would be difficult though I’d suggest that you should be more clear on it. If regulation could be possible what kind of regulation would you envision? What policies would you advocate? How would you measure the beneficial outcomes of such regulation versus the logically necessary restrictions on food consumers freedoms? Major Zedd has contributed a fantasy scenario ad absurdum recently on the subject, what would you consider the rejoinder?Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to North
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      I think Major Zedd’s post is a better warning against powerful centralized government than against what I’m calling for in my posts.

      I think regulations often have unintended effects, and given how government is structured, and how easy it is for special interest groups to pervert even good intentions, I really don’t trust it to do a good job with food regulations. If I had a lobbying budget, I would use it not to pass regulations, but rather to scale back counterproductive government policies. There’s a reason I focused on non-governmental solutions (or governmental solutions that involve necessary elements of government function, like tort law) — I largely agree with the spirit of Major Zedd’s critique, I just don’t think it applies to my project.Report

  6. Avatar LWA
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    As I recall from the anti-tobacco campaigns, oftentimes boycotts and divestment schemes didn’t have any real impacts by themselves, but served to height awareness, isolate the offender, and induce public shaming.
    I mean, look at how the phrase “tobacco company executive” has become an opprobrium.

    These things usually need multiple fronts; There isn’t any silver bullet that makes things happen. Divestment, isolation, shaming, litigation, legislation. These are all good tools.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to LWA
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      says:

      That possible. I’m skeptical (deeply) that executives of food companies can easily be pilloried like tobacco execs are. Tobacco execs are peddling poison; only a very small fringe of foodies can say the same about food company execs with a straight face. The problem, I think, is “excess” as in the products are harmful only when consumed excessively. That’s quite different from tobacco.Report

  7. Avatar zic
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    says:

    There’s definitely a meme of soda addiction, but a quick scan of the search results suggests it’s diet soda, without HFCS; though they’re often considered together, as the first WebMD link handles it.

    I’ve had a couple of people tell me lately that soda is worse than cigarettes. I hate that defining of public enemy #1 instead of considering each form of damnation for its own merits or lack of.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to zic
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      says:

      Yes, that’s part of why food is so complex; Almost all foods are beneficial, in the right proportion.
      And almost all are harmful, when not.

      Which is why I keep harping on culture; our bodies evolved to cope with shortages we no longer have, and our culture celebrates infinite consumption and instant gratification.
      We’re lacking an “off”switch; I actually agree with the conservatives and libertarians that government- by itself- can solve this.

      At some point, we need to develop an embrace of modesty, abstinence, and sobriety. And I’m not talking about sex or drugs here.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA
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        edit- I agree that government can NOT….Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LWA
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        At some point we need to embrace a cultural norm of restraint with food, drink, etc., because government on its own cannot effectively regulate these consumptive behaviors, you say? Oh, if only we had a model for what such a culture would look like, an idea of how such cultural norms can juxtapose on a free society of individuals empowered to make their own decisions!

        If only there was such a place, perhaps we’d call it something like “Europe.”Report

      • Avatar Saul DeGraw in reply to LWA
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        says:

        @burt-likko

        I’ve seen plenty of overweight Europeans. They tend to be old men with an inexplicable love for Speedos. 🙂

        Leeesq, in another thread, showed how French eating habits were the product of a turn of the century government health campaign to reduce infant deaths. European countries also have cultural norms and/or laws which reduce working hours and increase leisure time from siesta to universal healthcare to mandatory vacations and I suspect they also do tax processed foods more but would need to do research. They certainly don’t have access to the cheap meat that Americans have access to.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
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        @burt-likko

        In my opinion, one of the best aspects of CrossFit, controversies about the training protocols aside, is the emphasis on diet. People that join the boxes and get into it do change their eating habits and it makes a tremendous difference on body composition.

        If you want to argue that the health, fitness and weight loss communities have their own subcultures (to some extent, I think they do), then those cultures most definitely focus on diet, restraint, exercise and anything else to help keep people on a path of proper health and nutrition. It’s out there. It needs to get out there more.Report

      • Avatar Michael M. in reply to LWA
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        Switzerland is facing a vexing problem where cultural norms around food come into conflict.

        The article notes what happened with a similar effort in 1993: “In the end, Swiss politicians decided it was a something that should come down to the “ethical sensibility” of each individual.”

        It’s hard to imagine what such a ban would accomplish — would people who violate the ban be arrested? Fined? Given that there don’t seem to be any commercial interests promoting or profiting off the practice, at least not directly, is the effort simply symbolic — a signal that the nation doesn’t approve of the practice? Isn’t that already clear?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to LWA
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        says:

        Dave,
        what are their rates on osteoporosis?
        Diets in general can have long term effects on people’s health, often deleterious.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
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        says:

        @kimmi

        When I speak of diet, I speak of general food intake. I have never considered myself on a diet. I consider myself someone that eats properly most of the time.

        Diets as they’re understood by most people are too restrictive in a number of ways, and that’s why most of them don’t work for people.Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    Going completely against pleasurable eating is going to be just as effective as prohibiting alcohol. It’ll be a colossal failure. People like pleasure and sweet foods and booze are a source of joy to many. People do it too much sweet and fatty food but we need better tactics than Prohibition.Report

  9. Avatar j r
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    says:

    Now that it’s hopefully been agreed that we need to change our food environment, the natural question is how we could do it. The most obvious way to deal with unhealthy processed foods is to regulate them: soda taxes, bans on trans fats, etc….

    Processed-food companies have made a few people very rich, and are tightly integrated into our economy. But at some point, we need to assert our values for the health of our fellow citizens over short-term prospects for economic gain. It’s long past time to divest from Coke.

    Those are quite the bookends. You start asserting a consensus that does not exist and you end by calling for some ill-defined “us” to assert common values that just aren’t all that common. Here is one of my values: leaving people the heck alone. It is pretty important to me. And yet, it does not appear to figure in your thinking much at all.

    The idea that its corporations that thwart the efforts of the nanny state overlooks the significant number of individuals that resist those efforts as well. I could take your arguments more seriously if you would more seriously incorporate the preferences of individuals into your analysis. Of course, if you did that, it would weaken your argument that food companies are manipulating us by subverting our rational faculties.

    It is a nice neat argument, but it is almost wholly circular.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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      says:

      Dangit! Will someone please close that blockquote after “Coke?”Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to j r
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      a we need to assert our values for…our fellow citizens

      And be damned to their values for themselves.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley In all fairness, you’ve argued this exact point you’re being snarky about from the other side — about food, no less.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        Not being coy, but please refresh me. It seems so unlike me to argue for imposing values on others. Trying to persuade them, yes, but “asserting” them over others?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley Valuing the health of your fellow-citizens is not mutually exclusive with letting them exercise their own values. And given that I haven’t called for regulation on this matter, instead preferring bottom-up or merely individually-defensive solutions, I’m not really sure why you feel a need to immediately resort to this kind of demagoguery.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Excuse me while I let my inner @jaybird out, but…

        A while back I did a post on why it didn’t matter that I believed the science that says GMO food was safe, because for a lot of people what they put in to their bodies is a matter of values, health, religious, political, personal and otherwise — especially where it pertains to GMO foods. My whole post was about how dangerous was path that led to, “well, I know better than those silly people what is and isn’t good for them, so I think they don’t have a right to know if their food is GMO or not.”

        Correct me if I’m remembering wrong, but I thought you (and for that matter, everyone else arguing against Robert right now) was arguing that exact point to me back then — yes?

        What’s the difference, exactly? Is it just “this positive is backed by liberals so I’m against it, but this negative is also backed by liberals so I’m against it as well?”Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley
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        If you want to avoid a fight, never discuss religion, politics or carbohydrates with other people, especially the last one.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        Tod–I wouldn’t stand in the way of GMO labeling. Good markets rely on accurate information. If people want to have values that I think are wholly ridiculous, I wouldn’t deny them the information they need to make what I see as silly choices. I may have said something that gave a different impression in that thread, but I don’t remember all I said.

        Robert–the phrase “assert our values for…our fellow citizens” was yours. For me, that’s got a rather ominous tone. If you’d said “we need to try to persuade our fellow citizens,” that’d be one thing. But “assert our values for others” has a pretty domineering ring to it.”

        Seriously, what is your proposal if others say “we don’t like your values, we want our big gulps, and we’re going to protest against the uni divesting from such a profitable organization as Coke because the revenues do such a fine job of funding our scholarships”?

        Folks like you are making your claims regularly. There’s lots of literature out there on these issues, blogs, etc., that your fellow citizens can readily access. The book you referenced (by an investigative journalist, for god’s sake, not a scientist) was a frickin’ bestseller! But apparently this isn’t what “assert[ing] our values for…our fellow citizens” means because you say “at some point” you need to start doing this asserting. So what is this “asserting,” then, that is by the logic of your own words something more than just making public arguments to persuade?

        Or did you not actually think that through, so you don’t really know what you meant by it?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Oops, my bad. I just went and reviewed that thread, and you were not even part of the conversation. (With over 200 comments?! How was that possible?)

        Never mind.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Hardly seems plausible, Tod. I demand a recount.

        More seriously, I was in a tete a tete with Robert over GMOs not that long ago, and I won’t swear without looking at the record that I didn’t say something that could plausibly be interpreted along the lines of what you were thinking. So it’s possible you were thinking of something from that discussion and got the two mixed in your memory.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley
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        “I wouldn’t stand in the way of GMO labeling. Good markets rely on accurate information. ”

        Prove that the food item you’re about to eat doesn’t have GMO in it.

        Keep in mind that if you’re a food provider, you can be sued if you’re wrong.

        Note also that if you put on a label saying “may contain GMO” then you can’t be sued–and you don’t have to test, either.

        And this is why everything in California has a Prop 65 label on it.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        And we had a big thread about this last time, which we don’t need to have again, but my point is that “GMO labeling benefits the consumer” is one of those lovely bellyfeel statements that’s actually not going to accomplish what you imagine ought to be done.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
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        Excuse me while I let my inner Jaybird out, but…

        Let it flow through you.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley What am I advocating in the context of that statement, James? Divestment and a change in the public discourse — nothing domineering about it, just people voting with their feet. Your repeated misrepresentations of my positions are getting really tiresome.

        And James, I think you’ve earned a couple lumps for mocking people who were merely advocating for labeling of GMO foods, because you thought you were right enough about GMOs that other people didn’t even need to know what was in their food. It’s not the end of the world — you’re a tough guy, you can take them.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Jim Heffman,

        Keep in mind that if you’re a food provider, you can be sued if you’re wrong.

        Then the safe thing to do is say those foods *may* contain GMOs. How is that a problem?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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        I won’t lump James into the group, but there back when we argued this stuff a couple-few years ago, there were all sorts of folks who thought that if the labeling wasn’t justified by science, then it effectively constituted a negative marketing campaign against GMOs. Which negatively effected the market. Which in turn negatively effected food supplies. Which turning on the turn negatively effected poor people. ANd how could liberals be so callous as to advocate policies that harm the poor??!!??

        I could pull up those threads, if need be.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        @robert-greer

        And given that I haven’t called for regulation on this matter, instead preferring bottom-up or merely individually-defensive solutions,….

        To me, your chief solution, tort actions and other civil actions through the courts, counts as regulation in most of the ways that matter, including the bad ways.

        First, there’s the opportunity for something like to-the-letter compliance that makes the action legal but doesn’t accomplish what’s set out. As someone above (North?) suggested, some companies could probably avoid liability by putting on a disclaimer that no one will read.

        Second, there’s something like regulatory capture, where the large firms with the resources to hire large and expensive legal teams to stymie successful lawsuits for years, even decades, with the end result that they’ll maybe pay a hafty amount, but one they can afford, and then stay in business. Meanwhile, smaller specialty soda companies now have lawsuits to worry about even if they try to comply with the spirit of the new regulations. Even big, but not very big ones, like RC will feel a pinch that Pepsi and Coke probably won’t. Maybe it’ll even happen that a neighborhood gadfly will sue the mom and pop store that makes italian sodas for not complying with restrictions on sugar quantities. Maybe that’ last example stretches what actually could happen, but it’s not altogether impossible.

        My point is, short of an outright ban with vigorous enforcement, a la prohibition 3.0, the large soda giants will win out by surviving.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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        GC,

        To me, your chief solution, tort actions and other civil actions through the courts, counts as regulation in most of the ways that matter, including the bad ways.

        This can’t be right, can it? Regulation = court decisions? That’s a pretty broad concept of regulation, no? One which libertarians might be inclined to accept, but semantisicians… 🙂Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        I do admit that it probably goes beyond the common sense of what counts as “regulation,” where regulation is usually conceived as the government empowers an agency to create rules that tell people what they can and cannot do. But I don’t really think my conception is all that broad. In fact, the idea of the courts as regulators is a pretty common one in political history and business history. To say it’s common doesn’t mean it’s indisputable and enshrined for all time with no possibility of challenge. But as an idea, it’s not particularly novel or considered beyond the pale.

        And I did try to explain what I meant, namely, that the problems with regulation can be similar to the problems with using civil suits.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley
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        @jim-heffman

        And we had a big thread about this last time, which we don’t need to have again, but my point is that “GMO labeling benefits the consumer” is one of those lovely bellyfeel statements that’s actually not going to accomplish what you imagine ought to be done.

        It’s worse than bellyfeel. It’s pandering to a bunch of people that have no scientific evidence backing their claims.

        The contents on a nutrition label now benefit a consumer more than a GMO designation ever will. That reason alone is why I oppose mandatory GMO labeling. Food labeling should serve a valid public health purpose the way disclosing macronutrient and vitamin content do. If companies want to label their products accordingly so be it.

        The funny thing about all of this is that some time ago, I read that the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s is pushing for mandatory labeling. That’s funny. A guy that sells food loaded to the hilt with sugar and ridiculously easy to overeat is more worried about the health concerns of something that is not a threat to health, unlike the shitty ice cream. Talk about misplaced priorities. Profits baby!!!Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        Your repeated misrepresentations of my positions are getting really tiresome.

        Oh, I’m still not persuaded I’m misrepresenting you. You said folks need to start asserting their values at some point in time. Seems to me you’re already asserting your values. So the at some point in time business means doing something different.

        You say we need to divest from Coke. Go ahead–I don’t think anybody’s going to object if you do. But when you talk about, say, a university doing so, then we run smack into the question of who the “we” that are asserting “our” values are. As J R notes, you’re assuming a consensus. But what if that doesn’t come to pass? What if your “we” remain stuck in the minority and the majority reject their values? Does the university still need to divest? If your “we” can’t assert their values through getting the university to divest, then how do they assert their values?

        And if you could achieve something like that consensus, wouldn’t everyone already not be buying Coke? Wouldn’t encouraging the university to divest be a moot issue because it would already be shifting to more profitable companies?

        The problem here, as I see it, is that if your consensus comes to pass, your “assertion of our values” is automatic through the marketplace, and you won’t need much more. But if your consensus doesn’t come to pass, your approach can’t happen without the minority imposing its will on the majority.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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        Hi @gabriel-conroy , I think I nodded to a few of those concerns when I mentioned that Big Soda is well-heeled and has lots of intellectual mercenaries at its disposal. I was trying to distinguish overarching regulation from tort litigation, which inherently looks at individual cases, and often involves juries of laypersons rather than enforcement agencies that are more prone to regulatory capture. There is admittedly the issue of punitive damages, which can function very similarly to regulation in that it’s intended to function as a deterrent, but even these are generally capped at some certain multiple of the damage actually proven in the individual case.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley
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        First of all, anyone who thinks the notion of GMO labeling is liberal has not been reading Rod Dreher. The funny thing I get from reading his food columns is that he (and the folk who comment there) think it’s a conservative thing, and something liberals know nothing about.

        Dirty hippies all.

        Second, this particular liberal is not upset that the GMO’s are making us sick. Not the least little bit. But I do think that the reason the genetic’s are modified matter. Golden rice is awesome. But and in the case of allowing application of glyphosate, I’ve got some issues. Some serious, well researched issues. No matter how much you tell me GMO’s are safe, I do not think this particular broad-leaf herbicide/pesticide is safe used in the quantities that it’s used in; particularly when used at the end of the growing season to hasten ripening. So I don’t want GMO labelling for it’s own sake, and I’d be happy to see glyphosate labelled instead.

        Because you may not have issues, but I do. I have concerns about pollinators, about autism, and about my own nervous system.

        But this whole business of not letting the customer know, when the customer wants to know, because it might lead the customer to make other choices is trash talk. If genetically modified foods are the next wave of agriculture, and better than hybridized food and cloned food, great. Folks were skeptical of purchasing hybrid seeds, too, once upon a time.

        I also have an issue with the way Monsanto goes after small farmers for patent violations when it’s the work of pollinators and wind. I don’t like the way those genes, once they enter a field, will potentially cause an organic farmer to lose that certification. Genes, in a plant grown outdoors, can’t be contained. So it’s not only a question of what those genes might do in the wild, it’s a question of what traditions they might disrupt. They, not the heirloom seeds, are the new kid on the block, and they deserve to wear the scarlet letter.

        We’ve been at this a long, long time. Garlic can’t reproduce without the aid of humans. If nobody threw some garlic into the ground, we’d very quickly run out of garlic. I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        Food labeling should serve a valid public health purpose

        I’m sympathetic to that point, @dave. And on the one hand, if the public really demands pointless information, presumably the market will start to provide it. On the other hand, we do have a democratic system that’s supposed to be responsive to the public’s whims, so if people politically demand a rule that producers give them information that they subjectively value, I don’t see that as a big problem.

        That is, as long as we do ensure that Heff’s legitimate concern is accounted for. And I think Stillwater’s suggestion works. Just label every goddam food item with “may contain GMOs” and let the Greers of the world go nuts trying to figure out which ones actually don’t.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
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        I’ve always said that let the food corps choose what they put on the label but hold them highly accountable for accuracy. Like, potentially criminally so under fraud statutes.

        So, if you simply shrink wrap a hot dog and write “Hot Dog” on it and people are cool buying your mystery tube of meat, so be it. But if you put anything on that label that is demonstrably inaccurate… calorie counts, ingredient lists, sourcing, etc… you’re fucked.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
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        @kazzy Hmmm…

        How would you deal with companies who simply ran ads and put labels on processed foods that said, “HEALTHY,” or “A Part of Your Kid’s Healthy Diet,” “All-Natural,” or something else like that and left out a list of ingredients that a consumer could see was patently unhealthy? Most dubious claims made by food manufacturers are made using wording that devised to intentionally mislead, on the basis that they can later state their claims were subjective and/or relative.

        I tend to be a big consumer rights guy (which is different from an anti-corporate guy), and I just don’t see the reason why manufacturers should have the right to hide, mislead and/or obfuscate what they’re asking you to put into your bodies. “Have a bite and see what happens if you want to know if there are nuts” seems… well, nuts. I don’t know why anyone would advocate for that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley
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        @tod-kelly

        Perhaps this is an area where I put too much trust in “the market”. Odds are the guy with the “HOT DOG” bag isn’t going to sell very many of them.

        Then again, people still buy Dorito-flavored Mountain Dew… so what do I know.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        Tod,

        “‘Have a bite and see what happens if you want to know if there are nuts’ seems… well, nuts. I don’t know why anyone would advocate for that.”

        That seems to be different from manufacturers pasting a “healthy” label on everything. I’d be open actually to requiring manufacturers to disclose if there may be nuts in their foodstuffs. That is theoretically verifiable. “Healthy” is subjective to a large degree and hard to prove or disprove. (And for people who aren’t allergic to nuts, nuts often count as “healthy” by a lot of standards.)Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
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        Dave,
        ” It’s pandering to a bunch of people that have no scientific evidence backing their claims.”

        How much science do you need? At least one anti-GMO group is being run simply to harass Monsanto, under the well-founded risk analysis that harassing the GMO people will probably delay the “nearly-intentional” destruction of our food supply. [You mean they could engineer viruses that would only harm their competition? In Theory? Gee, that sounds like a Grand Idea!]

        I’d rather folks didn’t have to resort to such trickery, but when I look at what even relatively innocuous industrial research is like… Messing with our food supply is bad news.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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        Hi @james-hanley ,

        I disagree that there’s no value to talk of divestment aside from the immediately apparent effects of individual market behavior. Signaling is very important. If I take my money out of Coke, it could be because I think their new CEO isn’t expanding into new markets aggressively enough. If I take my money out of Coke as part of a divestment campaign, the intention becomes a lot more clear, and the educational component of the campaign works much better.

        Also,I didn’t say anything about universities, but if people want to divest there too, that’s great. And I don’t think there’s anything untoward about grassroots movements to get institutions with which you’re affiliated to stop doing something bad. Instead of trying to point me toward benign, economically-intelligent actions someone who thinks Coke is toxic could take, your main motivation appears to be in foreclosing any kind of action at all. So I’d ask you, assuming Coke is toxic, what should people in my position do?

        You seem to have this funny habit of characterizing any action you don’t like, no matter how devoid of force it may be, as an impermissible imposition against someone else’s freedom. I think you would benefit from taking a few deep breaths and asking yourself how you might avoid this kind of problem in the future. If you can figure it out, you’ll be a much better economist.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        @kimmi , I never got a satisfactory response from James or anyone about this article, written by biologists who are concerned about GMOs: http://responsibletechnology.org/GMO-Myths-and-Truths-edition2.pdfReport

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        http://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2014/10/22/University-of-Pittsburgh-study-finds-links-between-childhood-autism-and-air-toxics-during-pregnancy/stories/201410220161

        Idiots continue to be idiots even when they’ve got scientific background. Next question?

        (yes, this was by looking at the root of your stupid website, and seeing that they want to call autism a GMO thing. It’s not. When you have people trying to say that everything and a bag of chips is related to GMOs, I start saying you’re an idiot.)Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi, there’s precisely one mention of autism in my link, and that’s to another study that merely posits a potential link between autism and RoundUp, predicated on the mechanism that RoundUp may interfere with gut bacteria, disorders of which are currently believed to be the prime suspect in autism. This is not the vaccines = autism woo you think it is — it’s a peer-reviewed article in an established journal that has dozens of citations despite being barely a year old. The autism link posited by the authors is a theorized problem that is consonant with the state of the art of medicine. And even if it weren’t, does it really make sense to dismiss 100 pages of reasoned analysis of the relevant genetics literature by genetics Ph.D.s because of a passing reference to another peer-reviewed study you disagree with? I think that’s pretty irresponsible.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        I question your sources. If you have a different website, one that isn’t quite so obsessed with finding links from GMO to every goddamn thing on the planet, please cite it (no, I don’t mind if you’re citing the same pdf. I want to see that it’s on someone sane’s website)

        Am I being irresponsible? No, you are.

        If I was to cite a source that said that Benjamin Franklin was the first governor of Pennsylvania, you’d be right to start asking a few questions about historical accuracy.

        The only reason that I cite ExxonSecrets, is because I know someone I trust who can vouch for the damn accuracy of the research (as he did it.)

        Hell, I cite shadowstats with a bit of a grain of salt, and I know one of the people who worked on that too.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi, are you familiar with the logical fallacy of poisoning the well? Because you’re definitely committing that right now. What difference does it make what website a pdf is posted on? Your requirements are downright bizarre, but I can’t say that I’m surprised given how far you’ve run with the autism red herring. You’ve yet to explain how the reference to autism is actually problematic beyond “I’ve heard some kooky people talk about autism, so all people who talk about autism are kooky!” That’s, well, kooky.Report

  10. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist
    Ignored
    says:

    Sigh, again with getting it wrong.

    Processed sugar has similar effects on human liver metabolism as alcohol, and so the mechanism for sugar addiction for people with diabetes is nearly identical to the mechanism for alcohol addiction.

    Fructose has a similar effect on the liver (see that, that is a link to actual research, which again you failed to include in your claim), not processed sugar (which is often a blend of glucose, sucrose, & fructose). High Fructose Corn Syrup is the term you want to use.

    Now why does soda use HFCS? Primarily because the government restricts sugar imports, especially from markets like Cuba, and because it subsidizes corn production. Also because it’s a liquid & thus easy to transport through a bottling plant, but that is just a nice side effect. People generally prefer the taste of soda made with common sugar, which is why soda from other markets, such as Mexico, are very popular with many people.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Pretty much any processed sugar has lots of fructose in it. Cane sugar, your apparent preferred alternative, has about the same amount of fructose as HFCS. The idea that cane sugar or other “natural”-sounding sugars are appreciably better for you than HFCS is, ironically, a common misconception often peddled by crunchy types.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      @mad-rocket-scientist

      I don’t want to (largely because I can’t) weigh in on this particular point of debate between you and Robert, but I do want to ask you this:

      Does a taste preference (such as the preference many, myself included, have for soda with ‘real’ sugar) necessarily equate to a stronger physical craving?

      My own personal experiences tell me that there are foods which I feel are much tastier than others, but nonetheless I crave the less tastier ones in a different way.

      Is it possible that soda made with sugar tastes better but that soda made with HFCS interacts with our body in such a way that it makes us want/crave/need/whathaveyou more?Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Not to mention:

      – HFCS is high in fructose relative to regular corn syrup, (which has no fructose, only glucose). It’s not necessarily high in fructose relative to other sugarsr.

      The most common type of HFCS, specifically that used in soda, is HFCS55: 55% fructose, 45% glucose. Sucrose (from cane, beets, or other sources) breaks down to 50% fructose and 50% glucose – about the same as HFCS55. Honey is more variable, but has about the same fructose/glucose ratio as HFCS55, and agave nectar is like 90% fructose. (So if it’s the fructose you fear, you should stay away from the expensive, “healthy” hippy sweeteners – I figure any health benefits of using those is just because they cost so much you use them sparingly).

      – The flip side to the liver processing fructose similarly to alcohol, is that its glycemic index is much lower. For people with diabetes, sweeteners higher in fructose are safer than those with a lot of glucose, at the cost of added work for the liver.

      The reason HFCS is contributing to diabetes is actually because of the glucose in it, and because it’s cheap, so it gets used all over the place. If sucrose were cheaper than HFCS, it would be the bigger contributor to glucose in our diets, and hence to diabetes, but it’s not.Report

    • As in @robert-greer ‘s previous post, I continue to wonder at the demonization of “processing.” The health issue seems to be overconsumption, not the industrialized manipulation of the food. Appropriate amounts of sugar won’t hurt you. Lots of sugar will. “Processing” sugar isn’t the problem. Overconsumption is. If a product encourages overconsumption by its nature, the solution is to educate consumers about what a good choice is, not to ban, regulate, or litigate it out of existence.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
      Ignored
      says:

      Robert is kinda right, and I am kinda wrong.

      Wikipedia link.

      Here is the basics, all sugars either are, or reduce to, three main sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose).

      Our body can use glucose directly, fructose & galactose have to take a trip through the liver before they can be used.

      Fructose & glucose exist in plants in varying amounts, depending on what part of the plant you are eating (photosynthesis produces glucose, plants often convert it to fructose for storage in the fruit). Galactose is only found as part of the lactose molecule in dairy products. In short, if you want to live on this planet, you need to ingest large amounts of glucose & fructose.

      While fructose can have similar effects with the liver with regard to alcohol metabolism, it is also BETTER for diabetics than glucose because it is sweeter & triggers less insulin response. Sugar (sucrose) is 50% glucose, 50% fructose. HFCS (HFCS 55) is typically 55% fructose, 45% glucose.

      Back to the original point – sugar addiction is a misnomer. We are all, every one of us, “addicted” to sugar, and if we fail to get it, we will die. If you want me to believe that there is some greater level of addiction to sugar that is out there that is purely a physiological response, I’d love to hear it. Because most people I know who are “addicted” to some kind of food stuff (soda, oreos, cheetos, what have you) have a psychological trigger that drives it. I don’t occasionally enjoy a Mello Yello because of the sweetness, but because it is tied to happy memories. That taste is so tied to those memories, that if the taste is off, I can little, if any, enjoyment from it.

      As I child, my parents did not keep fruit juice in the house. The only time I got fruit juice was the rare occasion when I got to go out for breakfast with someone. This meant that the fruit juice is forever tied in me to the happy memories of going out for breakfast. Ergo, if I am feeling blue, fruit juice does more than just give me a sugar hit, it also bolsters happy memories, which I would be craving much more than the juice.

      You want to find out why a person is over-indulging in something, you need to dig a bit into their psychology. All the education in the world won’t curb an eating habit tied to a psychological trigger.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
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        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist Thanks for manning up, MRS — it isn’t easy for me either. But I still think you’re mistaken that all fructoses and all sucroses are the same. Fructose in fruit is not metabolically problematic, which is why endocrinologists (good ones, anyway) don’t counsel diabetics to drop fruit. But they do tell them to drop processed sugars. The reason is that because the processing of those sugars separates the sugar from surrounding fiber, which means that the sugar all presents to the liver at once, making it dangerous.

        http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/774.fullReport

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @robert-greer

        I always admit when I’m wrong, especially when it is pointed out by others, since it provides me a great opportunity to refresh my memory on a topic or learn something new (sugar chemistry was last reviewed over a decade ago).

        So, yeah, I mucked it up.

        you’re mistaken that all fructoses and all sucroses are the same

        No, I’m not. Fructose & sucrose are very specific molecules, they are all chemically the same.

        The reason is that because the processing of those sugars separates the sugar from surrounding fiber, which means that the sugar all presents to the liver at once, making it dangerous.

        This, however, is correct. Digestion works on the whole mess we give it, not the individual components. Feed it straight glucose, and the system has to do no work, just absorb & use. The whole fruit, or even the whole fruit just blended (instead of juiced) is better than just the juice because the acid & enzymes have to untangle the whole mess. So as molecules are released from the mess, they are absorbed & processed. Think of it as dumping out the box of cables & wires that builds up in every household. You need to work to untangle the mess, and as each cable comes free, you hand it off to someone to use.

        Now (hoping someone else hasn’t done this already), let’s look at three presentations of an orange: whole fruit, blended fruit, juiced fruit (with varying levels of pulp):

        Whole fruit: Good for you, and quite enjoyable (I like the whole family of oranges), but a bit of a pain to to eat (gotta peel it, dispose of the peel, possibly deal with seeds, and the random squirter of OJ,and then your hands smell like orange zest for the rest of the day (or until you can hit a washroom with a good soap), which can be quite annoying, and the taste can be inconsistent (some oranges just taste off – blech!).

        Blended fruit: Still good for you & quite enjoyable, if you don’t have trouble drinking a blended fruit; fiber is still intact, even when blended. Still gotta peel it & maybe de-seed it, but a bit easier to deal with if you have a Nutri-Bullet or the like. Also still have the taste issue (I really hate fruit with that off taste, just ruins the whole meal).

        Juiced fruit: Fresh squeezed is only marginally better than industrial processed; the more pulp included, the better, but still fruit flavored sugar water. The benefit (& this is a really big benefit for consumer choice) of industrial processed fruit juice is the ability to blend large amounts of fruit together to control the flavor. I know, to a very high degree of certainty, that a glass of Minute Maid OJ from the supermarket is going to taste exactly the same as the glass of OJ from my favorite breakfast dive. Consistency of texture/flavor is what drives so much of the processed food market.

        Now when thinking about that consistency, we also have to take into account personal time & decision fatigue. Lots of people do their food shopping after work, when they are kinda tired, and probably quite mentally fatigued. They usually have quite a bit of decision fatigue, and are low on time, so the choices they make will reflect that. They will go with what is known & what is easy to choose & make, with analysis about nutrition taking a back seat. This is something else the food industry works with. When I was growing up, this was reflected in TV dinners, which were so freaking gross, but I got to eat them while watching TV, so I didn’t care (real easy to choke down nasty slices of turkey log & gravy while focused on Glen Larson’s BattleStar Galactica). Nowadays it’s stuff like Hot Pockets (which to me is the actual proof that the food industry has stopped trying to create food & is actively fucking with us in an attempt to see just how nasty of a product they can make and still have it sell well).

        If we were to ban all pre-made foods tomorrow*, and only allow the sale of whole fruits & veggies, flours, and raw meats & sausage (and the like), people would starve & suffer acute malnutrition. Not because there would not be enough food, but because lots of people have no clue how to prepare food, and even people with the knowledge have no time to prepare food because they have a job, and kids, and all sorts of other modern time commitments. A frozen pizza means dinner takes 30 minutes to make & eat, same with a box of pasta & a jar of sauce – no kitchen skill required!

        Of course, this is more pronounced among the lower income brackets, since they have even less time, usually have more stress & decision fatigue, and often do not have the education or personal discipline that allows them to use system 2 to program system 1.

        My wife & I will take the time, & do the research on food items in stores to figure out which brands offer what we want, and then we will make the conscious decision to only buy those brands & items. We can do this because we are both educated professionals with enough income that the price differential between organic*, free-range chicken & Tyson is acceptable to us. For the low income family, organic chicken may be better, they may KNOW it is better, but they have a coupon for the Tyson, and it’s double coupon day, and that dollar off is critical. Similarly for the choice between real butter & I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, when the latter is on sale.

        The reality of the food industry, whatever their sins, is that in large part they have made it possible to feed 300+ M people, especially where a large percentage of those folks are concentrated in urban areas with little to no access to farms or really fresh foods (urban farmers markets are nice, but they are there for a limited demographic). We can, & most certainly should, demand they do better in certain areas**, but let’s not kid ourselves on what they make possible, or think that we can do without that industry.

        *I’m sure others have said this, but to re-iterate – organic farming & food production is not really up to the task of feeding the nation. I know there is research that suggests it is possible, that the techniques used could do it, but AFAIK, to date no one has demonstrated that such techniques can consistently scale up to the point we could all be fed, at least not without opening up more arable land or massively increasing prices.

        **I wonder how much the food industry practices LEAN manufacturing when it comes to Just-In-Time production? If they aren’t actively harvesting store stocks and product velocity data, they should be, and using that information to inform the production process.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist Actually, the available data shows that blended fruit is appreciably worse for metabolic status than whole fruit, though not as bad as fruit juice. This finding is consistent with the mechanism we’ve been talking about: By blending the fruit, the fiber is still present, but it no longer wraps up the sugar nearly as tightly.

        http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(77)90494-9/abstract

        I’m actually not really into organics. I don’t think the government does a very good job of identifying which farming practices are actually sustainable, and I haven’t seen convincing data the organics (as defined by the USDA) are appreciably better for the environment or human health than conventional foods.

        However, I think there are certain crops that produce less of an environmental footprint than others. Meat is obviously hugely problematic, not just because of livestock farms, but because of the huge fields of corn and soy used to feed them. I prefer to eat tree fruit and nuts, because you can be sure their fields are not regularly tilled (which kicks up a lot of carbon and exacerbates erosion). And I think eating locally and seasonally should be a much higher priority than eating organic.

        I also think you’re mistaken that processed eating has made feeding everyone easier. Part of the reason some places overconsume calories is that processing interferes with satiety signals, leading some people to overeat. This in turn screws up secondary markets for foodstuffs. What’s more, even the highly-manipulated cereal crops that supposedly produce high yields are actually pretty paltry compared to fairly “unimproved” fruit crops. Yeah, you can grow 7 tons of GMO corn on an acre, but you can grow 20 tons of non-GMO watermelon or 10 tons of mandarins on the same land. (You end up getting similar amounts of calories, but because of the processing/overconsumption issue I mentioned earlier can be problematic in the corn context, and because fruit has more vitamins and minerals anyway, it’s reasonable to say that you get strictly more nutrition for your land with fruit, generally speaking.)

        The ironic thing is that whole foods are even quicker than processed meals. You don’t have to boil water or work a microwave or usually even have a refrigerator to eat fruit and nuts. (Incidentally, if you find oranges are a pain in the ass — and I do — try eating their wilder counterparts: Mandarins are much easier to peel and better for you anyway — and I’ve found you’re even less likely to get a bum fruit when you’re buying in-season). And if you’re looking for cooked meals (hey, winter has its demands), there are a ton of recipes that take less than a half-hour of prep. You don’t have to go all molecular gastronomy just to eat healthy foods.

        I also disagree that urban farmers markets are solely or even primarily for a limited demographic. Here in NYC, there are lots of (pretty cheap) fruit stands that often feature local fruit, and you can buy stuff at farmer’s markets with food stamps. Some cities even double your food stamp value through a kind of subsidization system, which I think is great. Sure, some farmers’ markets purposefully cater to upscale crowds, but I’ve seen just as many farmers’ markets offer stuff at totally reasonable prices. Throughout the growing season, my girlfriend and I routinely make delicious (in my opinion), healthy meals featuring local produce for about 20 minutes of effort and $3-5 a serving. Even now that produce is not as abundant, we do pretty well: I happened upon a Whole Foods the other day, and even there they had local butternut squash for $.50/lb. Throw in some nuts or grains and a simple sauce with some herbs and spices, and you’ve got a delicious, healthy, seasonal meal with about 20 minutes of preparation (not including the roast time for the squash, but you can do other things while it’s in there) and probably about $2 per serving. Granted, it takes practice to cook like this, but for all but the very busiest people, it’s well-worth the effort.Report

  11. Avatar Damon
    Ignored
    says:

    “against even relatively unintrusive Nudge-s like Bloomberg’s large soda ban”

    Oh dear god, you call that a Nudge? That aint no nudge.Report

  12. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    “But these are often politically unworkable: Witness the immense power of the soda lobby against even relatively unintrusive Nudge-s like Bloomberg’s large soda ban.”

    Though the soda ban would have had little-to-no-effect on me personally (I don’t spend nearly as much time in the city as I would like and even when I do, I rarely, RARELY, drink soda), I still objected to the ban — at least as it was proposed* — and it had nothing to do with the soda lobby. That isn’t to say that the soda lobby was uninvolved in getting the law itself overturned, but that much of the on-the-ground outrage was pretty legitimate.

    * Not only was the ban as proposed very likely to be ineffective — people could still get as much soda as they wanted just through slightly altered delivery mechanisms — but there were some real classist elements to it: Starbucks and like vendors could continue to sell high calorie, sugar laden beverages in all sizes but were given an exemption because something something milk something something healthy and not because Starbucks are frequented by wealthy white folks; and if we presume (as I do) that people were more likely to adjust the delivery mechanism than the actual amount consumed, the ban could serve as a regressive quasi-“tax” as buying two medium sodas instead of one large soda is more expensive. And while this last point I’m about to make is actually an argument in favor of your broader perspective here, the reality is that many poor folks rely on soda and other like beverages as a cheap, readily available source of calories. Making it more expensive is unlikely to affect consumption behavior but IS likely to take ever so much more money out of those people’s pockets.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      You’re missing the purpose of the ban. I’m not saying I agree with it, but here’s the rationale:

      If you buy a half-gallon bottle of soda, you can drink it it your own pace. It’s still bad for you, but there’s no incentive to chug it. On the other hand, if you buy a 64-ounce cup of soda, it’s going to go flat before too long. If you have the normal human desire not to waste something you’ve paid for, you’re going to finish it while it’s still drinkable. And having done this (for the sake of argument without vomiting it all up) it’s going to be a behavior that’s been added to your repertoire. The very existence of a 64-ounce cup of soda leads to the horrific act of drinking 64 ounces of soda at a clip.

      Now, assume the ban. It’s still possible to buy 2 32-ouncers, but few people would do that because,

      1. 32 ounces is probably all anyone really wants, and
      2. There’s nothing that shouts “64 ounces is a normal portion size!”

      In fact, if you buy two of the largest size of soda, your friends are probably going to make fun of you, just like if you order two meals at a restaurant. So the incentive is to drink “only” 32 ounces of it.

      Confession: when they’re available, I will sometimes buy a 64-ounce unsweetened iced tea. But that will last literally for days, just needing a bit of ice added occasionally.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I can’t tell from that description whether the bundled ones are sealed bottles/cans or cups. I’m presuming the former because multiple cups seems very weird. If so it doesn’t really lead to the conclusion that more soda is being consumed, just that more is being bought at one time. (If I buy two bottles now, drink one, and save one for later, it might be that I was going to buy another later anyway.)Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Frankly I see far too much pointless cost of enforcement and useless distortion and not enough concrete positive outcomes to ever support such a policy. It seems not only wasteful and pointless but also virtually custom designed to foster a hatred of the entire genre of state regulation in general including those regulations that are unambiguously helpful.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I imagine that most of us understand “the point” of Prohibition or The War On Drugs.

        Many of us might even agree with “the point” of such things.

        The problem comes when we think about the government trying to achieve “the point” of such things.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Mike’s description is correct as far as it goes? But the fundamental issue is the debate about how much social control is legitimate. On the one hand supporters of Bloombergianism will point out that we’re just talking about soda, for pete’s sake, it’s not like we’re trying to regulate a major aspect of people’s lives here. On the other hand, opponents will point out that the regulators are reaching out even into the small private aspects of our lives, not even leaving us the little decisions to make on our own.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Like I said, I’m not saying the ban was a good idea, just that “But they could still buy 8 16-ounce cups!” isn’t a proof that it was pointless.

        The one that really bothers me is that the government gets to approve what kind of containers I can pump gasoline into. If I want to use a styrofoam cooler, it’s no one’s business but mine until the fire starts.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I think the point of Mike’s comment suggests that calling Bloomers stupid plan prohibition is seriously overwrought.

        It also gets away from talking about specifics of what is appropriate gov intervention and what isn’t. Big Gulps: no. Trans Fats: yes, Lead: yes and so on.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        I wasn’t criticizing Mike.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Mike,
        the government is doing that so the gas stations don’t have to have someone watch you.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      This wasn’t Prohibition, it was more like making beer and wine licenses easier to obtain than liquor licenses.Report

  13. Avatar Gabriel Conroy
    Ignored
    says:

    Salt also generally makes people thirsty, which may lead people to consume even more of the dangerous product.

    I still need to read the rest of the OP and all of the comments so far, but I just wanted to jump in and talk about this. Speaking only for myself, one reason I drink very little soda is because it makes me feel thirsty. So–again, speaking just for myself–the strategy you describe seems to work differently on me.Report

  14. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    Is it time to bring out my favorite Orwell quote? It is time to bring out my favorite Orwell quote:

    “Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.”-The Road to Wigan Pier, Chapter 6Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      It’s a brilliant book and deserves to be much better known.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        I’d say the same about the rest of his nonfiction, too.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @mike-schilling @gabriel-conroy

        My favorites are Homage to Catalonia and the Road to Wigan Pier.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Down and Out in Paris and London was excellent also.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I’m willing to take my lumps for the jerky claim. (Though I’ll note that you didn’t press me on the tortilla chips or the pretzels.)

        You’re mistaken about cuspids and binocular vision. Gorillas have both and they’re nearly wholly folivorous. Same goes for chimps and frugivory (though they eat more leaves and meat too). Binocular vision is necessary for arboreal mammals because if you misjudge the distance to the nearest branch, you could fall to your death. Canines in other primates primarily serve dominance and display functions (and human canines are much smaller than even our nearly-vegetarian extant cousins).

        Please note that I am not accusing you of peddling “woo” despite having your readily-apparent misconceptions about science. Try being nicer to me in the future — it’s good for your blood pressure.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Robert,

        You’re mistaken about cuspids and binocular vision. Gorillas have both and they’re nearly wholly folivorous. Same goes for chimps and frugivory (though they eat more leaves and meat too)

        Please read more carefully. I said explicitly, and with great intention, that it’s a general rule, not an absolute one.

        Humans, however, are not arboreal, having arisen in a savannah environment. Chimps are partially arboreal, but they also hunt, as do bonobos. There is evidence of gorillas consuming monkey DNA, so it’s possible they hunt as well, although that’s not yet known.

        The key point of all this is that there can be no serious doubt that humans have been cooking food and eating meat as long as homo sapiens as a species has existed.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Schilling
        Ignored
        says:

        Try being nicer to me in the future — it’s good for your blood pressure.

        Funny thing is, my blood pressure always runs a bit low. Apparently being mean to you is good for my health, and I ought to keep doing so.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      That millionaire had better be careful with that breakfast — the orange juice, unless fresh-squeezed, is a diabetes bomb and those Ryvita biscuits sound like there’s quietly a whole lot of salt and addictive carbohydrates in them.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        If he’s a millionaire, it probably is fresh-squeezed, and if he’s British, it’s probably served (ugh) warm.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        And likewise, a daily aspirin and copious tea probably do more to prolong life than any of the other foods mentioned there.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        From the way Orwell describes tea-drinking I have the impression it was a luxury good at the time, so more tea meant less nutrition.

        Since I’d prefer brown bread and raw carrots to white and cooked, I can’t empathize with the details. But the idea that food is cheap entertainment, so people without means overspend on food that’s fun but not particularly good for them rings true.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @burt-likko @christopher-carr

        The point is largely what Mike made. I also like Brown bread and raw carrots but I feel a big issue with a lot of nutrition advocates is that they tend to be economically secure whether they feel so or not. They don’t know how to get to the root of the problem which involves raising people from economic insecurity and poverty.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Saul,

        The quote is right on, and lurking within it is not only the class issue, but the classic moralism of those who are better looking down upon their inferiors and sneering at their habits. Robert’s primary target is big business, and he morally condemns them for manipulating and harming us, but when it’s pointed out that consumers actually do make choices, he’s in something of a tight spot.

        He, himself, somehow resists this manipulation, so there must be some consumer sovereignty at play, but then how to analyze these other consumers who are making such self-harming choices? And there it’s hard to avoid the moralism, and class-based moralism, as we have a U. Chicago educated New York lawyer telling Big Gulp drinkers how they should live.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I agree. I also have a fondness for Coke Zero with Lime and Cherry Coke. It is one of my surprising vices (at least according to people).

        I think that there are good arguments to encourage healthy eating but they don’t really get to the root of the problem which is a lack of time and a lack of wages. I suspect that if people had more time and somewhat higher wages, they would just naturally go towards healthier eating. Asceticism is only attractive when it is a choice. And most of the people I know who label themselves anti-consumerist are from pretty well-to-do backgrounds usually.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Hi @james-hanley , I actually grew up on food stamps and school lunches in one of the most overweight areas of the country. You’ve chosen class-based demagoguery, and it doesn’t even have factual foundation. My unsolicited advice to you is to use this as an occasion to reflect upon how you treat people online, and to try to second-guess your prejudices before browbeating other people.

        The reason I’m so interested in this issue is that lots of people close to me are overweight, in part because food companies have no compunction about profiting off of their ill health. Of course their own actions are part of the problem, but it seems grotesque to me to blame them for these problems when the food companies are continually manipulating the public discourse or even outright lying to them about what kind of food is actually healthy.

        I was motivated to post this article because people in my family are at high risk of developing diabetes, and because I myself struggled with obesity growing up because it was really, really difficult for someone in my position to wade through the food companies’ disinformation campaigns. If you want to theorize about my zeal on this matter, you don’t have to look any further than that.

        The other irony here is that you’re accusing me of sneering class-based moralism, when you’re the one blaming (mostly poor) people for their lot (wait, a libertarian doing this? shocking!), and I’m the one who’s trying to show it’s actually the more privileged participants in the exchange who are to blame. For you to turn that around and say that I’m the one being an elitist is really pretty disgusting.

        If I were you, I’d be strongly considering some kind of serious apology.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @robert-greer

        “The reason I’m so interested in this issue is that lots of people close to me are overweight, in part because food companies have no compunction about profiting off of their ill health. Of course their own actions are part of the problem, but it seems grotesque to me to blame them for these problems when the food companies are continually manipulating the public discourse or even outright lying to them about what kind of food is actually healthy.

        I was motivated to post this article because people in my family are at high risk of developing diabetes, and because I myself struggled with obesity growing up because it was really, really difficult for someone in my position to wade through the food companies’ disinformation campaigns. If you want to theorize about my zeal on this matter, you don’t have to look any further than that.”

        This.

        I used to think extreme legislative actions such as bans on soda were stupid until I discovered that the vast majority of obese and diabetic patients came from backgrounds and had very similar experiences to those you describe above.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        you’re the one blaming (mostly poor) people for their lot

        Blaming? That would imply I’m criticizing their choices. Lmi criticism, no blame.

        If I were you, I’d be strongly considering some kind of serious apology.

        Preach it, Brother Greer! Hold your breath real tight for as long as you can, and maybe you’ll get your wish.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        With all due respect, while I may not agree with the approach Robert has taken, being someone that has taken care of my own weight issue by dropping 30 lbs and being able to successfully keep it off for two years, my heart kind of grows 3x the size for people that either have successfully dealt with weight issues or are fighting to do so. I guess it’s because of the things I’ve picked up over the last couple of years from the fitness and weight loss communities that triggers it. I can’t say for certain that I can get in @robert-greer’s head and feel what he’s feeling but I’m pretty damn sure I’ve felt something like it and both of these posts have triggered a lot of feelings and thoughts inside of me, sometimes making me angry enough to want to throw my laptop out the window. It’s nothing personal to anyone of course, but it’s just how I feel about this subject.

        Whether or not you want to agree with anyone on substantive points but let’s try to keep the personal sniping out of it. The same applies to everyone else. @robert-greer didn’t deserve the “hold my breath” comment. That was the kind of personal information that a lot of people don’t like to divulge, especially in a society that puts slim and fit on a pedestal and treats people with weight issues like they don’t matter.

        Let’s all try to be better than that.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Dave,

        I’m about 40 pounds overweight due to some health problems that are now under control (sleep apnea), and due in part to lifestyle choices. At 5’9″ and small-boned I now am just over 200 lbs. I wanted to get down to below 200 before Thanksgiving. I didn’t make it. I really need to drop a considerable amount before taking students to Belize in 3 months. My history doesn’t suggest I’ll make it. It’s my fault if I don’t, nobody else’s–there’s plenty of healthy food for sale in my grocery.

        And like Robert I grew up pretty poor (cheers for government cheese!).

        As to the breath comment, I find it amusing when people say “if I was you, I’d apologize to me.” No, if you were me you’d do what I do.

        Look, I don’t disagree, and haven’t disagreed, that a lot of modern food is bad for us. But Robert gave us a tremendous load of pseudo-science, bullshit galore. Posts here should, of course, represent a variety of views, but I’d hate to see this blog become a purveyor of woo. Maybe next we can feature an article by a creationist arguing that science proves Noah had dinosaurs on the arc. And I’ll be just as disdainful about their BS as about Robert’s. I’m sorry if this is bad form, but I hate science liars with a passion.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I’m not really seeing any woo in this thread at all. Can you cite some specific examples?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @christopher-carr I believe the problem is that James is using a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of the word “woo”, viz. “anything James Hanley has never heard of”.

        @james-hanley The idea that oranges are better for you than processed sugar is not woo, but is rather the conclusion of virtually every educated dietitian in the world. Ironically, you’re the one taking an unreasonable stance against the great weight of scientific evidence and learned opinion. I admit that my connection between ear health and natural foods is a little tenuous (though not at all unreasonable given what we know about the connections between whole foods and jaw/teeth health, and the connections between jaw health and ear health), but the connection between unprocessed foods and dental health is pretty well-established in that field, as evinced by my link to Kimmi in the other thread: http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4568&context=etd

        “Woo” doesn’t just mean “stuff James Hanley doesn’t understand”.Report

      • Avatar The DHS in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Christopher,

        In his first post. Anyone who argues that Europeans are ci-evolved with oranges but not cooked food can’t be taken seriously. Anyone who argues, sans any actual evidence, that chewing beef jerky is the wrong type of chewing motion to prevent malocclusion, while chewing raw vegetables is the right type is bullshitting. Anyone who argues that a vegetable based diet is the key to preventing malocclusions, then links to an article that argues that the shift from hunter-gatherer life to agriculture is the root cause if malocclusions in humans, either can’t read for comprehension, didn’t bother to read, or is hoping others won’t read or won’t comprehend. His bullshit is so thick and deep that it doesn’t matter that there’s an actual factual basis at the root if his argument; the pervasive falsity can’t be ignored.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,
        problem is, I’m pretty sure you don’t understand your own damn fucking citations.
        MEAT is considered something really hard — and as this is from IOWA, that damn well means cooked.

        You tried to take a somewhat simple argument “fiber is good for you and helps you not die” and make it into “processed things are bad!” despite bread and cooked meats having occurred in our diet for ages. Worse, you tried to say “unnatural things are Bound To Cause Problems”… and when we started citing cows milk, you dropped the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @the-dhs There’s absolutely no evidence that humans ate beef jerky during the time period our dentition and jaw structured. Anyone with a working jawbone can tell that chewing on beef jerky presents different forces to the human teeth and jaw than the forces presented by stuff that was actually in our diet at the time. I admitted this part was on the speculative side, but I was using established knowledge as a base from which to reason about other things that are also probably true, which is pretty much the definition of how you do science. If you disagree, you should point out the flaws in my reasoning instead of jumping to call me a woomeister.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,
        zic’s cited sources below show that eating beef jerky (or other jerked meats, moose and deer more commonly) are common in folks with good dental health.

        This whole “we didn’t grind food, so grinding food must be bad for us” is silly, and you should stop it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Folks,
        The DHS is me, from an old joke comment. Keeps popping back up on the IPhone.

        Robert, that the chewing motions are different in an important way is a testable hypothesis, but you’re treating it as fact. That’s pure speculation in your part, and in keeping with your general abuse of the concept of science. And Kimm’s right-it’s clear you’re not reading your own links with any care.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @Kimmi First off, your credibility will be improved when you adopt a more temperate tone.

        Second, I didn’t “drop” anything when you mentioned cow’s milk — I was busy with a lot of conversations here, and frankly your acerbic style of conversation wasn’t my favorite. But if you really want to know what I think about cow’s milk, here goes:

        Nearly all humans drink milk at some part of their lives. It’s arguably unnatural that adult humans drink milk, because adult mammals generally lack enzymes to process lactose. However, certain human populations have genetic adaptations to specifically break down lactose as adults, and they can drink cow’s milk as adults. Cow’s milk is very similar to human’s milk in certain respects (which is why milk-based baby formula is better for kids than soy-based), which makes sense because had a common ancestor who made milk, after all. It isn’t even a question of convergent evolution hitting upon something similar, which would probably still be preferable to artificial stuff because the convergent solution evolution hit upon would have been embodied in a pretty similar biological environment.

        Personally, I don’t drink cow’s milk because I don’t really like it, but while I think it’s not nutritionally ideal, it’s probably much better for people than processed fats and sugars. You and James keep trying to force me into some “all-or-nothing” approach where if eat anything other than wild nuts and berries I’m a hypocrite, but this whole time I’ve really only been advocating for relatively incremental changes. In accordance with my food philosophy, I prefer oranges to orange juice, and mandarins to oranges. Just because there aren’t wild mandarins around doesn’t mean I should just say “fuck it” and pound orange juice all day.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,
        and the reason why europeans (and not chinese) have the gene to digest lactose as adults is because they died if they didn’t have it. We didn’t develop milk drinking millenia ago, just as we didn’t eat oranges, or carrots, or even broccoli.

        Yeah, you were quite a bit too intemperate in your discussions, and zic’s links to the actual anthropology below have you hoist on your own petard.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @kimmi I’m searching zic’s site for “jerky” and “jerked,” but not coming up with anything. Can you point out the specific passage to me, please? Thank you.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        http://nevadaculture.org/dmdocuments/Indian_foods.pdf (Particularly pemmican — but see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_(cooking) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dried_foods, see the list of dried meats/fish. plenty of First Peoples on that list)
        See her citations on native americans having good teeth.
        Particularly the northern tribes who didn’t have much but meat…
        they cooked nearly everything they ate.

        Perhaps the issue is sugar, not simply cooking your damn food.

        Again, your cited sources classify cooked meat as one of the hardest foods in the Iowa study.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @kimmi Fair enough — maybe meat isn’t so bad for your teeth after all. But that still fits in with my general thesis, because meat (even cooked meat) has been in the diets of humans and their relatives for quite a while, so it makes sense that we’d have some adaptations for it.

        Of course, this doesn’t mean that meat doesn’t have other problems. The link between cooked meat and cancer, for instance, is still pretty strong even when you control for processed meats. And our digestive system is generally better-“designed” for eating plants than eating meat — our gut looks a lot more like a frugivore’s than a carnivore’s.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        and the cite for “cancer and cooked meats” is where?
        Seriously, show me the blasted citation for that.
        Because if you’re talking stomach cancer, we um, fixed that.
        You know, with refrigeration.
        If you’re talking carcinogens from smoke, that’s not cooked meats, that’s specifically smoked meats.
        And, we um, fixed that too. (use of blackbier dramatically cuts the carcinogenic properties).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        our gut does indeed resemble a frugivore’s. we’re not terribly well designed for eating plants, though, just fruit. A cow is well designed for eating plants (deer? not so much. if they eat the wrong thing they explode and die).Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @kimmi Here ya go: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22351741

        And if you think we’ve solved the problem of carcinogens in meat, consider the effects of meat on heart disease, which appear independent of any cooking. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-study-links-l-carnitine-in-red-meat-to-heart-disease-201304176083Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,
        Rates of gastric cancer have plummetted since we got refrigeration. LIke, down by 75% at least.

        “Dr. Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist, studies the health effects of dietary habits and other lifestyle factors in large populations. His team has previously pooled the findings of the best studies available on red meat and health and found that people who eat unprocessed red meat regularly have, at worst, only a slightly higher risk of developing heart disease. Unprocessed red meat includes virtually all fresh cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and the like.”

        “If you look at people who eat unprocessed red meat, there is a relatively weak association with heart disease,” Dr. Mozaffarian says. “It’s not protective—and healthier dietary choices exist—but major harms are also not seen.”

        This is from your own article. Please learn to read your articles before posting about nascent ideas that come out of one study. Besides, I’ve read a bit more about that particular study — the issue comes in eating red meat… constantly. Having a bit a few times a week isn’t too bad.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @kimmi “If you look at people who eat unprocessed red meat, there is a relatively weak association with heart disease” seems to prove my point, no? I guess you could argue that I said “strong” link, but all I meant by that was that the connection was strong enough to find a consistent link.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,
        “The possible magnitude of such overestimation can be challenging to quantify. In such circumstances, use of a “negative control” is informative: i.e., the evaluation of a separate health outcome for which the exposure of interest has little plausible biologic mechanism or expectation for a meaningful causal effect. One recent report provides useful data in this regard [15]. This large prospective cohort study reported positive associations for both total (processed and unprocessed) red meat and processed meat consumption and risk of cancer and CVD mortality (separate associations for unprocessed red meats were not published and could not be obtained by direct contact with the authors). Notably, this report also evaluated other causes of mortality, including a category of “all other deaths” that would predominantly be from chronic pulmonary diseases, pneumonia, diabetes, and chronic liver disease [53, 54]. Except for diabetes, there is little plausible biologic mechanism for a large effect of meat intake on these other types of deaths, and certainly none expected to be as great as effects on cancer or cardiovascular death. However, in this analysis, the observed associations of total red meat and processed meat consumption with these “other deaths” was actually considerably stronger than for cancer or cardiovascular deaths. One could hypothesize that meat consumption did have some very powerful, heretofore unrecognized causal effects on deaths from chronic pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and chronic liver disease. More plausibly, participants consuming more meats had other important lifestyle behaviors affecting mortality that were not fully accounted for in the analysis. Plausible confounders included major risk factors that were assessed but measured with imprecision, such as education, physical activity, smoking, alcohol use, adiposity, and fruit and vegetable consumption; and other potential confounders not included in the model at all, such as income, second-hand smoke, air pollution, alcohol patterns (e.g., binge drinking), and consumption of starches, refined carbohydrates, sugars, trans fat, dietary fiber, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes [54]. Overall, the findings in this study for “all other deaths” suggest that meaningful residual confounding and bias are present, causing overestimation of harms of meat consumption in this cohort.”

        … yeah, his data’s bunk (which, again, means you still publish. you just write stuff like this in your paper). Correlation != causation.

        The finding that’s interesting and useful (same paper) is about processed meats, only, and probably relates to salt intake (not nitrates).Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @Kimmi , it’s not that the data’s bunk, it’s that it’s hard to prove things with epidemiological analysis like this. You and I could argue about confounding factors until the cows come home (and get slaughtered) — and I could point out that consumption of unprocessed meats is probably associated with beneficial factors like income or consumption of unprocessed plants, so even if these studies didn’t show connection between unprocessed meats and ill health doesn’t mean it’s not there.

        Salt actually isn’t all that bad for you — the issue is potassium/sodium ratio, which for the standard American diet is very low because of the low plant intake relative to meats. But I’m willing to stipulate that processed meat is much less healthy than unprocessed meats.

        Incidentally, from the article: “One could hypothesize that meat consumption did have some very powerful, heretofore unrecognized causal effects on deaths from chronic pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and chronic liver disease.” I don’t see why this would be so outlandish. Chronic liver disease is not much different from diabetes, which the author thinks is an at-least plausible connection to meat intake. Some chronic pulmonary diseases have a lot to do with heart health and thus also potentially could be connected to diet.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,

        Just because there aren’t wild mandarins around doesn’t mean I should just say “fuck it” and pound orange juice all day.

        But nobody’s saying that, Robert. Nobody here is telling you what you ought or ought not eat. What we’re critiquing is you basing your claims on false empirical claims.

        Fair enough — maybe meat isn’t so bad for your teeth after all. …Of course, this doesn’t mean that meat doesn’t have other problems.

        And nobody’s arguing that meat is ideal. We’re just critiquing you for making claims about meat that aren’t supported by the actual scientific evidence–about you just making up pseudo-scientific claims for your positions.

        But that still fits in with my general thesis, because meat (even cooked meat) has been in the diets of humans and their relatives for quite a while, so it makes sense that we’d have some adaptations for it.

        Now you agree, but make it sound like you’re the one making this argument to us, instead of us having made the argument to you previously. And it’s not just “some” adaptations. Why do you think you have cuspids? And check out where your eyes are located, then compare that to carnivorous animals and herbivorous ones. As a general–not absolute–rule, herbivores’ eyes tend to be on the sides of their heads, for wide angle vision to protect from predators, while carnivorous animals–particularly predatory ones–tend to have them on the front of the head, for binocular vision.

        Most properly speaking, humans are omnivores, like bears and dogs. We eat damn near anything, which is part of the reason we’ve adapted so well to just about every environment on earth.

        That doesn’t have any normative implications, of course. It doesn’t mean we ought or need to eat meat. But your previous arguments against meat, against dried meat, against cooked foods, all are contradicted by the evidence.

        You can eat whatever you want. And you can, of course, try to persuade others that there are good reasons for eating the way you do. There are significant environmental, as well as health, advantages to drastically reducing meat consumption. But you ought (there’s my normative claim) to base your arguments on facts, not empirical falsities.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Robert,

        Some sources supporting meat as an important portion of our ancestors’ diets. Note that I’m not saying we’re specialized for meat, but that we are ominivores, who can live without meat but who have regularly incorporated it as a significant part of our diet.

        “Meat in the Human Diet,” Nutrition and Diatetics/

        – Anthropological evidence from cranio-dental features and fossil stable isotope analysis indicates a growing reliance on meat consumption during human evolution.

        – Study of hunter-gatherer societies in recent times shows an extreme reliance on hunted and fished animal foods for survival.

        – Optimal foraging theory shows that wild plant foods in general give an inadequate energy return for survival, whereas the top-ranking food items for energy return are large hunted animals.

        – Numerous evolutionary adaptations in humans indicate high reliance on meat consumption, including poor taurine production, lack of ability to chain elongate plant fatty acids and the co-evolution of parasites related to dietary meat.

        “Dietary Lean Red Meat and Human Evolution,” European Journal of Nutrition

        A study of human and pre-human diet history shows that for a period of at least 2 million years the human ancestral line had been consuming increasing quantities of meat. During that time, evolutionary selection was in action, adapting our genetic make up and hence our physiological features to a diet high in lean meat. This meat was wild game meat, low in total and saturated fat and relatively rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The evidence presented in this review looks at various lines of study which indicate the reliance on meat intake as a major energy source by pre-agricultural humans. The distinct fields briefly reviewed include: fossil isotope studies, human gut morphology, human encephalisation and energy requirements, optimal foraging theory, insulin resistance and studies on hunter-gatherer societies. In conclusion, lean meat is a healthy and beneficial component of any well-balanced diet as long as it is fat trimmed and consumed as part of a varied diet.

        “The human adaptations to meat eating: a reappraisal” Human Evolution

        Gut measurements of primate species do not support the contention that human digestive tract is specialized for meat-eating, especially when taking into account allometric factors and their variations between folivores, frugivores and meat-eaters. The dietary status of the human species is that of an unspecialised frugivore, having a flexible diet that includes seeds and meat (omnivorous diet). Throughout the various time periods, our human ancestors could have mostly consumed either vegetable, or large amounts of animal matter (with fat and/or carbohydrates as a supplement), depending on the availability and nutrient content of food resources.

        “The Critical Role Played by Animal Source Foods in Human (Homo) Evolution” The Journal of Nutrition

        Wild primates take most of the daily diet from plant sources, eating moderate to small amounts of animal source foods (ASF). Plant materials make up from 87% to >99% of the annual diet of great apes, the closest living relatives of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens). Reflecting their close genetic relationship, gut form and nutrient requirements of apes and humans (Hominoidea) are very similar, as is their pattern of digestive kinetics—one predicated on a relatively slow turnover of ingesta. In plant-eating mammals, in contrast to carnivorous mammals, greater body size is associated with lower dietary quality. Turning to ASF as a routine rather than occasional dietary component would have permitted the evolving human lineage to evade the nutritional constraints placed on body size increases in apes. Without routine access to ASF, it is highly unlikely that evolving humans could have achieved their unusually large and complex brain while simultaneously continuing their evolutionary trajectory as large, active and highly social primates. As human evolution progressed, young children in particular, with their rapidly expanding large brain and high metabolic and nutritional demands relative to adults would have benefited from volumetrically concentrated, high quality foods such as meat.

        To emphasize, so hopefully I do not create misunderstanding, these are empirical facts, and they have no intrinsic normative meaning. That our ancestral evolution revolved in significant part around meat consumption does not mean we “ought” to eat meat today, and its perfectly fine to be vegetarian (of any variety from moderate to strict). My only issue is with how much you’ve relied on bad science in making your arguments.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @james-hanley I’m not denying that humans can eat meat, or even that it isn’t healthier than processed plants. Taking your points individually:

        “Meat in the Human Diet,” Nutrition and Diatetics/

        “- Study of hunter-gatherer societies in recent times shows an extreme reliance on hunted and fished animal foods for survival.” Modern hunter-gatherers are invariably crowded-in by agriculturalists and otherwise ecologically marginalized. Not the most useful stand-in for our ancestors.

        “- Optimal foraging theory shows that wild plant foods in general give an inadequate energy return for survival, whereas the top-ranking food items for energy return are large hunted animals.” This depends on the bioregion you’re in. Grasslands and steppes? Sure, maybe animals are a good way to go. Forests? No way – fruits and nuts are fantastic sources of energy. And while it’s true that our ancestors left the western African equatorial landscape a couple million years ago for the savannah, maybe we should have never headed East of Eden in the first place — our morphology has hardly changed at all (as your last source essentially admits), and is still much more herbivorous than even bears’, who get 70% or so of their calories from plants. Despite a couple evolutionarily recent change-ups, our physiology, including our gut, still indicates an arboreal, fruit-eating existence.

        “- Numerous evolutionary adaptations in humans indicate high reliance on meat consumption, including poor taurine production, lack of ability to chain elongate plant fatty acids and the co-evolution of parasites related to dietary meat.” 1. Poor taurine production compared to what? Humans produce as much taurine as we need. 2. We don’t need to chain elongate plant fatty acids in part because we’ve long had a lot of nuts in our diet — squirrels can’t chain elongate fatty acids either. 3. I’m not sure how the fact that we get parasites from eating meat is a real point in its favor.

        Human encephalization and energy intake requirements don’t militate in favor of meat-eating, as nuts are strictly more calorically-dense than meat. The idea that nuts can replace meat as a hypothesis for human brain evolution is independently supported by the fact that nut consumption is associated with tool use and a greater required memory for what kinds are poisonous.

        But again, I’m not saying humans can’t eat meat, just that there appear to be some nutritional drawbacks closely associated with it. If you’re trying to lose weight for your trip, I’d recommend eating more fruit in place of processed carbs (we still have that sweet tooth, might as well satisfy it with something healthy), and nuts in place of meat (calorie-dense, but very satiating).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        Show me a 1,500 pound nut on the hoof, Robert, and I might take you seriously. Absent that, some actual references to peer reviewed literature supporting your position would be good.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        robert,
        gotta agree with James here. Olives and acorns aren’t exactly easy to get at the food value for.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley A couple of walnut trees have as much nutritional benefit as a 1500-pound animal, and their produce is a lot more portable, longer-lasting, and helluva lot less dangerous to procure.

        I don’t really feel like going back and finding sources for each of my points, as I feel like anyone with a decent background in human nutrition should know them. But pick out the ones you think are suspect and I’ll have a go.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Greer,

        You do understand I’m talking about what humans actually did, not just what they could have done, right?

        And if you can’t be bothered to provide sources, I can’t be bothered to believe anything you say, because you’ve been a very unreliable narrator so far. You’ve made things up (jerky) and had to backtrack, and you’ve provided links that don’t support your claims (causes of malocclusion–oh, look, it was the shift away from HG to ag).

        These errors undermine your credibility. If you now shifted to showing support for your claims, that’d be one thing, but instead you’re disdaining the need to support them. Go ahead and say what you want now, but I’ll waste no more time dealing with your falsehoods.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley The sources you’ve posted really just speculate that humans needed a lot of animal foods because hey, how else would they get all those calories? To combat that conclusion, all I have to do is posit another plausible story. I think I’ve done that with the nut thing — if you feel that’s impossible (or even unlikely) you’re free to explain why.

        Also kind of ironic that your source points out that human physiology is essentially unchanged from our (fairly strictly-) plant-eating days.

        Anyway, I hope you can use your knowledge of human nutrition to the benefit of your own health. If you find that you need any help from someone who’s lost 40 pounds and kept it off pretty easily, you have my e-mail.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        For those who have ears to hear.

        “Why Hunters Gather: Optimal Foraging and the Ache of Eastern Paraguay.” Hawkes, Hill and O’Connell, American Ethnologist, 1982.

        The question raised initially was why hunter- gatherers take the set of resources they do from among the available array. Our answer is that such choices are determined largely by cost/benefit considerations as expressed in optimal foraging theory. We have supported this argument by showing that Ache foraging behavior is consistent with predictions derived from the optimal diet and patch choice models. The result has important implications. We suspect that game animals, especially large game animals, will often be high ranked in optimal diet terms and because of this will frequently be identified by hunter-gatherers as preferred foods, regardless of their local abundance or quantitative contribution to the total diet. Conversely, plant foods, especially those that require extensive processing (e.g., roasting, grinding, or leaching), will often be relatively low ranked.
        Indeed, they may move in and out of local diets depending on the abundance of higher-ranked foods relative to the number of potential consumers but regardless of their own abundance or nutritional quality. We do not mean to imply here that all animals are high ranked and all plants are low ranked. Still, the available data indicate that many large and medium-sized mammals are high ranked and many seeds and nuts are low ranked (Keene 1981; Earle and Christenson 1980; Winterhalder and Smith 1981; K. T. Jones 1981; Simms 1981).

        Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Cordain, et. al, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000.

        Conclusions

        Whenever and wherever it was ecologically possible, hunter-gatherers would have consumed high amounts (45–65% of total energy) of animal food. Most (73%) hunter-gatherer societies worldwide derived >50% (?56–65%) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 13.5% of these societies derived more than half (?56–65%) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods.

        Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley That “some” nuts and seeds are ranked low is not really surprising — some nuts and seeds are poisonous and require a lot of hard work to not make poisonous. But that’s not the case for all nuts — a lot of nuts are a god-damn dietary bonanza, and that’s perfectly consistent with all the sources you’ve cited.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        all I have to do is posit another plausible story

        I link to multiple peer-reviewed articles, Robert Greer says, “hey, all I have to do to refute that is to make stuff up.”Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley The nice thing about peer-reviewed articles is that when they speculate, they tell you, so you can determine for yourself whether they’re right instead of, say, using them to make dunderheaded appeals to authority.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        Borrerro and Franco, “Early Patagonian Hunter-Gatherers: Subsistence and Technology.” Journal of Anthropological Research

        The process of the initial human exploration and colonization of Fuego-Patagonia was probability one of a slow filling in of empty spaces. The available information, coming mostly from caves and rockshelters, is sufficient to generate a discussion on the subsistence and technology of the early Patagonian hunter-gatherers. All the evidence points toward a generalized diet. Opportunistic use of Pleistocene mammals, together with a more systematic use of guanaco, is indicated. A redundant pattern of association of artifacts with ground sloth, horse and guanaco is evident.

        Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        James Hanley,
        “Show me a 1,500 pound nut on the hoof”

        Just look in the mirror!

        (bah-DOOMP)Report

    • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      Saul,

      Thanks for quoting that.Report

    • Avatar LWA in reply to Saul Degraw
      Ignored
      says:

      But of course, while respecting the choices of the working class, would it be acceptable to respect the OTHER desires of the working class?
      Such as higher wages and health care?
      Or do we simply respect some choices while ignoring others?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @lwa

        Orwell described himself as a Democratic Socialist and I consider myself to be a Social Democrat. I support universal healthcare and higher wages and I suspect Orwell would as well.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m going to semi-agree with Hanley here, in that there is a lot of patronizing within both liberal and conservative circles regarding the working class;
        That is, everyone wants to invoke the proletariat (aka Real Murkins) but only insofar as they conform to our notions of what they should be.
        Which is not always a bad thing.
        Assuming that the spontaneous order that arises from the millions of individual decisions is somehow the correct or best order is an error. The People make stupid decisions as often as they make good ones.
        Ultimately, there isn’t some bright shining line to separate good paternalism from bad, or good spontaneous order from bad.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        “But of course, while respecting the choices of the working class, would it be acceptable to respect the OTHER desires of the working class?
        Such as higher wages and health care?
        Or do we simply respect some choices while ignoring others?”

        It’s not that simple, LWA. To be a true libertarian, you have to not only respect some choices while ignoring others, you have to selectively respect the choices that happen to make rich people richer.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @robert-greer

        I am not a libertarian. I just think that the real issue is giving people more time and more income and healthier choices will come naturally. It is very hard to get in exercise and proper eating when you have several jobs and need to take care of the kids and get them to and from school.

        It seems that a lot of upper-middle class liberals ignore this external issues because they are harder to deal with (you need law and regulation and there is a lot of resistance to that kind of law and regulation).Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        Ah, lectures about what constitutes a true libertarian in a Food Symposium.

        Let me wash that shit down with a half gallon of Coke.

        Ho ho hoReport

      • Avatar LWA in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        I am happy to own liberal paternalism, and acknowledge it as a flawed approach, while still advocating it.
        Its gets back to the discussion we have had many times here about how we can discover legitimacy, and enforce it.
        Just because we label Thing X as a Right, and Thing Y as a sacred shibboleth, seems arbitrary.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @dave

        I’m drinking coke right now!Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        And I’m drinking iced tea poured from a gallon jug I got at Trader Joe’s.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw @mike-schilling

        Water for me. I gave up sugary beverages two years ago and as much as I enjoy Coke Zero, I cut my caffeine intake down to next to nothing about six weeks ago (I was drinking obscene amounts of caffeine). The occasional decaf coffee with a bit of Splenda and flavor-enhanced water is about as far as I go these days.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @Dave @saul-degraw I’m just taking potshots at people who call themselves “libertarians” but whose core ideologies actually seem to be perpetuation of unearned privilege. If you’re not in that category, don’t worry about it.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw I think another problem is that pro-income-growth policies tend to end up being pro-industrialization policies. Part of the reason average income is higher these days is because companies like Coke have been able to externalize a lot of the costs of their doing business, either in a way that’s reflected in GDP (at least theoretically) because it’s offloaded onto the current government or consumers, or in a way that’s totally off the balance sheet because the really bad health and fiscal problems don’t even show up until 30 years later.

        One thing that bothers me about a lot of leftist income inequality rhetoric is that it seems to accept the foundational conceits of capitalism: harms are more or less fungible and can theoretically be compensated with income transfers, etc. I think a better move would be to more thoroughly interrogate the legitimacy of certain forms of property — rather than allow capitalist accumulation at the extremes that we do and have the government skim a little off the top to redistribute, instead we could dial back the government’s protection of the most alienating property relationships and treat accession claims much more seriously. I think this would even preserve the most common understandings of ownership.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LWA
        Ignored
        says:

        @robert-greer

        I am a liberal and social democrat/welfare stater. Not a revolutionary and anti-Capitalist firebrand. I think a certain amount of desire for trade is innate to humanity. Same with the desire for owning private property in terms of real estate and possessions. Communitarians are a very small fringe who think their ideas have more holding power than they really do. And I’ve said before (probably in Part I), I think going back to a pre-Industrial society is kind of a silly and dangerous desire and can’t be done without a lot of misery and starvation.

        My critiques of capital come more against Taylorism.Report

  15. Avatar Christopher Carr
    Ignored
    says:

    This was the topic of one of my medical ethics seminars a few weeks ago. The gloves actually came off for that one, and it was a very contentious debate that never really developed any sort of consensus. Nevertheless, here is how I feel on this topic:

    – Ever since chemicals have existed we’ve regulated their use. Even the most extreme possible action of banning soda and other sugary beverages outright would not be out of line with anything ours or any other government has done in the past. See lead, bleach, cocaine, etc. There is no slippery slope here.

    – The association between consumption of sugary beverages and debilitating disease later in life is class I evidence, far more robust than, for example, the association between asbestos and cancer, or the association between BPA and developmental delays. Yet, we heavily regulate asbestos and BPA. What is to stop us from regulating sugar and trans fats? Is there a cultural component? Does cancer scare us enough to take legislative action against something but heart disease does not? Would we be having this debate if sugar and trans fats were shown to cause cancer instead of heart disease and diabetes?

    – Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, and one-sixth of all health care dollars go towards it. Stroke is the number one cause of disability and shares many of the same risk factors as heart disease. Add diabetes to the picture and it just gets grimmer. Many medical doctors now believe that diabetes carries a greater disease burden on the individual than AIDS.

    – The current legislative structure actually creates or exacerbates these problems through subsides and taxes bought by lobbying. Ending corn subsidies would be one step we could take towards equilibrium. Taxing things like added sugars that cost our society billions of dollars in medical costs per year would be another step in the right direction. There is no reason whatsoever why trans fats should be allowed to continue existing.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      @christopher-carr

      1) The gaping hole in your analysis is that you are neglecting the pleasure people might receive from consuming sugary foods. This is a problem I often see when medical types debate food and drug policy. Doctors tend to treat humans as nutrient-burning engines, rather than as actual people with desires that have nothing to do with being maximally healthy at any cost.

      2) You can’t use past interventions as a justification for future interventions and then deny that there’s a slippery slope. If every intervention makes the case stronger for future interventions then there is a slippery slope.

      3) Simply noting that governments have done things in the past doesn’t prove those actions were wise or proportionate.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        3) Simply noting that governments have done things in the past doesn’t prove those actions were wise or proportionate.

        This is something that I as a Bayesian have been having some trouble with. Suppose lots of governments intervene in a given context and most people who live in those societies think that such intervention is permissible or even obligatory. Suppose further that lots of people I think are very smart and share many of my priors are among those people who believe that such intervention is permissible. There seems to be a presumption at least in favour of believing that it is true. It seems, that the reasons I would have to bring to bear to support the idea that such interventions are impermissible would have to be very strong in order to overcome the presumption.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        “1) The gaping hole in your analysis is that you are neglecting the pleasure people might receive from consuming sugary foods.”

        I’m definitely not neglecting it. I just don’t think it’s as important as death. We also allow food companies in the United States at least to manipulate and lie to consumers about the contents of their products. Children certainly are not making informed decisions about their own food consumption. And right now, policy actively encourages the ramping up of unhealthy food consumption.

        “This is a problem I often see when medical types debate food and drug policy. Doctors tend to treat humans as nutrient-burning engines, rather than as actual people with desires that have nothing to do with being maximally healthy at any cost.”

        This is a straw man and untrue.

        “2) You can’t use past interventions as a justification for future interventions and then deny that there’s a slippery slope. If every intervention makes the case stronger for future interventions then there is a slippery slope.”

        See Murali’s point below. I will fully admit that I am guilty of violating the inductive fallacy here. Even if thousands of regulations in the past have not put us all in death camps there is the possibility that the next one will.

        “3) Simply noting that governments have done things in the past doesn’t prove those actions were wise or proportionate”

        I’m not making this argument. However, in the case of trans fats at least, there is an extensive literature that they are just about the most toxic thing imaginable, and they confer no benefits on anything except Big Food’s bottom line.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        for the folks who overeat it

        This is kinda stealing a base. Is there any way to ensure that people who don’t overindulge in Coca-Cola, donuts made with transfats, or full fat ice cream can still buy it on occasion while we make sure that those who abuse these substances can’t get them (or can only get appropriate portions of them)?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird

        There’s a lot of nuance in this arena. Trans fats should be banned. No one gets any special enjoyment from them, and they are easily replaced by real fats that do not kill you with quite the same efficiency.

        The other stuff – for the most part, creating an actual free market for food by eliminating subsidies for bad stuff would go a long way towards ameliorating most of it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s an interesting article here:

        http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/when-trans-fats-were-healthy/281274/

        We’re getting better at this sort of thing all the time, of course. I do kinda wonder what we’re getting 100% wrong right at this moment, though.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Cigarettes used to be “healthy.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        And now we know that banning them is?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Where is it illegal to buy cigarettes?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        On the black market that arose following onerous legislation.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        trans fats…are just about the most toxic thing imaginable

        I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.

        I have no special interest in transfats one way or another, from my understanding they are bad enough for you that avoiding them and getting them out of our foods is all to the good; but hyperbolic statements like this might make some of the people that you are trying to convince want to pour themselves a nice, tall, cold glass of bleach.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph

        Interesting choice.

        Bleach is one of those things we regulate heavily in our food despite its relative benign nature. MacDonald’s soaks their tomatoes in it in order to extend their shelf life and retard spoiling. We use large quantities of it in our daily household cleaning and in swimming pools, tooth-whitening, etc. much of which we inadvertently ingest. Bleach is almost certainly safer than trans fats in terms of health effects from chronic exposure.

        If it sounds like I’m being hyperbolic perhaps you have failed to appreciate the extent to which trans fats are harmful to your health. Thousands of deaths a year have been attributed to trans fats. That the response to my pointing this out on this thread has been to a large degree mockery without addressing any of the substance of my argument is quite disappointing, especially considering the high degree of respect I have for this commentariat.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr – I think you and I may have different definitions of “toxic”. I am fully aware of bleach’s many uses (the poison is in the dose, after all).

        That you don’t think just about the most toxic thing imaginable is in any way hyperbole is…surprising.

        Tell you what: I’ll eat the package of Oreos, you drink the glass of bleach, and I’ll see you at the hospital. The guy on the gurney pays for the guy standing. 🙂Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        There is no single substance in our food supply that we are aware of that is responsible for more preventable deaths than trans fats. That is not hyperbole. That is a statement of fact. 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year are attributed to trans fats, despite a remarkable decline in their use and consumption as both companies and consumers become more knowledgeable. They are responsible for more deaths than 9/11. That, again, is not hyperbole, just a statement of fact. It is a very serious problem.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr -thanks. That’s really all I was talking about; my point was not about trans fats themselves per se, it was about rhetorical excess vs. sober accuracy. The better a case you can make for a substance’s innate toxicity (and to be more specific than that, innate ACUTE toxicity), the better the case for its regulation.

        When hyperbole is utilized and then not clarified/supported (or acknowledged as hyperbole, while still maintaining that there is a there there), people are likely to write off both the messenger and the message.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph

        Understood! Thank you for your qualification. I assumed the dangers of trans fats were well known and that my use of hyperbole would not be taken as a literal expression of my opinion. I see your point that sticking with statements of fact do more to serve my argument, and I will remember this in the future.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        I am inclined to believe you regarding trans fats, but can you link to any recent information regarding what they do that is so bad?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        I do kinda wonder what we’re getting 100% wrong right at this moment, though.

        I’m hoping it’s blueberry cheesecake.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Cheesecake sucks.

        It’s like “stewpie”.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Hey, if anybody sees Zombie Jaybird, tell him he’s dead to me.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        Look, if you want to eat something, just eat it. Don’t make up some sort of “it’s okay, it’s dessert” story. Just take a spoon and eat it up.

        Everyone involved will be much happier.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James K
        Ignored
        says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist Trans fats are widely believed to cause high LDL cholesterol. If I’m remembering the mechanism right, they increase triglycerides in the bloodstream, which are easily deposited in arterial walls, where they can lead to blockages. Medical authorities believe that banning trans fats can lead to a couple ten thousand fewer American deaths from heart disease every year. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/trans-fat/art-20046114Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      Christopher,

      How many people are expressly willing to consciously trade off the risks of consuming lead for the benefits of it?

      The major sources of lead ingestion in our (at least my) lifetime was gasoline fumes/car exhaust and peeling paint gnawed on by little tykes. These are classic externalities. My choice to drink a 128 oz soda is not an externality.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Both the diabetes that you get from drinking the 128 oz soda and the tax dollars that I will pay to fund your medical treatment are also externalities in the most classic sense.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        I keep pointed out that society does not HAVE to fund other people’s medical treatment. You’re stuck in that feedback loop.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        We obviously need to institute urine tests for people who get subsidized health care.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Unfortunately, all currently-available tests are unable to distinguish between urine and Mountain Dew.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @damon

        Society doesn’t have to do anything. We don’t have to have prisons, we don’t have to have welfare, we don’t have to have an army. Are there good reasons to have those things? Yes, just as there are good reasons to rethink our food policy.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph +1 to that.

        I’m not exactly saying here that once upon a time I was an unwise college student. I mean, maybe, we were all young and foolish once. But trust me when I say this: of each of the major varieties of distilled spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila) exactly none of them mix well with Mountain Dew.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        If you liked what the cops turned into after the War on Drugs, you’re going to *LOVE* the War on Chub.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird

        The War on Lead is going pretty well so far.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Since we chose to fight the War on Drugs primarily by using lead, perhaps we can fight the War on Chub primarily by using drugs.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Now we just have to hammer out if the stuff that causes diabetes is more like lead or more like weed.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph

        We are fighting the War on Chub with drugs. That’s one of the reasons it’s currently so expensive.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        And I’d like to shout-out to That Pirate Guy once more.

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2013/03/11/big-gulps-freed-in-big-apple#comment-503617

        I have no patience for the argument that publicly subsidized healthcare justifes law trying to shove people into healthier life-styles.

        If it weren’t for the evidence before my eyes in this very thread I would swear that anyone making the argument was a conservative being a giant concern troll. Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        And there are just as good arguments that we should not have those things.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @damon

        Agreed! Let’s start discussing pros and cons instead of hiding behind ideology.

        @jaybird

        Food policy is going to benefit someone. Right now it benefits big food companies at the expense of the public health. Effectively, our policy has monetized your health and transferred it to a handful of big companies. There is nothing troll-like about saying it should be the opposite, that food policy should be crafted with the public’s health in mind over the financial interests of a few large companies. The general tone in this thread seems to be mockery of Mr. Greer’s argument in a way that makes Ron Swanson seem like the object of caricature instead of the caricature himself. I do not want trans fat in my food, just as I do not want nuclear waste in my drinking water.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Both the diabetes that you get from drinking the 128 oz soda and the tax dollars that I will pay to fund your medical treatment are also externalities in the most classic sense.

        No, Christopher, neither are. You’re abusing the concept.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        I do not want trans fat in my food,

        Are you somehow being prevented from not eating trans fats? Are there no trans fat free food choices available to you?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Both the diabetes that you get from drinking the 128 oz soda and the tax dollars that I will pay to fund your medical treatment are also externalities in the most classic sense.

        No, Christopher, neither are. You’re abusing the concept.

        I agree that the first isn’t an example of an externality, but why isn’t the second? The cost of treating diabetes is largely born by folks who had nothing to do with the agent’s choices, right?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Btw James, I think you’ve decended to the level of sniping at this point in the thread. What’s clear is that you disagree with idea of legislating away the trans far problem. What you haven’t established is that permitting trans fat consumption is good – or even neutral – for the folks who overeat it.

        So the (to use words Jaybird would find conducive) the vectors upon which the arguments are based are categorically different.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        I mean, to go back to the discussion about experts and all, it seems like the evidence from “the experts” is in on this issue. Diabetes is a debilitating and costly disease, no? There’s no dispute about that, from The Experts.

        So why shouldn’t policy reflect *those* folks views, again?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Pick the thread back up here.

        It’s certainly stealing a base. At least, along the line of thought you subscribe to, which is an ideal model completely divorced from reality, history, institutional inertia, and (yes!) human nature. All I’ve done is express the bare fact that the folks who get diabetes have the cost of treatment distributed across all sorts of revenue streams. It’s functionally an externality, whether gummint picks up the tab (via medicaid or medicare) or insurance companies do.

        I just don’t see this as at all controversial given the way our institutions are currently structured.

        That’s not to say I’m in favor of a Congressionally legislated elimination of trans-fat consumption. Just that this is precisely where gummint enters into the equation. Or not. It’s certainly not an issue that can be decided a priori. But (as you know already) I’m particularly irritated by a prioriosity.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Where am I sniping? Christopher doesn’t want to eat transfats. I support his right to that choice. But is that choice actually being blocked? Is there a rule against not buying trans fats? Is there a rule against not selling trans fats? The presence of trans fat foods that others sell and buy is not an impingement on his right to avoid them. Something is available but I don’t want it is no more than a description of a state of affairs, not a legitimate complaint.

        What you haven’t established is that permitting trans fat consumption is good – or even neutral – for the folks who overeat it.

        I don’t need to demonstrate that these foods are beneficial or neutral for those who consume them. I consider it none of my, your, or our business whether someone else’s choices are good, neutral, or bad for them.

        As to externalities, they are uncompensated costs foisted on a person who is not a party to the transaction. When we take upon ourselves a duty to care for others’ outcomes, those outcomes are not externalities because we’ve voluntarily accepted the burden–it hasn’t been forced on us involuntarily.

        That’s where we run into the problem of limits. If we collective decide that we are all financially responsible for everyone else’s health, it’s problematic then to use the cost burden we’ve voluntarily accepted as justification to control others so we can keep that cost burden down.

        I suspect, with no real evidence, that people like to slip the term externality in there because there’s a superficial similarity and because actual externalities are generally considered to justify regulation. But the more loosely the term is applied, the weaker it’s justificatory power becomes.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Stillwater,
        We’re social animals. If you want to, you can define all our actions as having externalities. Then the concept really has no use, unless our goal actually is to have an justification to regulate everything that happens to bother us. My adjunct’s wife had a baby last week, so he missed his once a week class–students lost out on a whole week of learning. Externality-regulate? No? There must be more to the analysts than thin-stretched claims of an externality.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, we’re back to asking the question about the degree to which we, as a society, have a lien against your behavior once we, as a society, establish some kind of social safety net.

        I’m pretty sure we agree that it’d be inappropriate for society to call in their liens with regards to sex acts or drug use while on public assistance. I’m just kind of surprised that we disagree about Pepsi.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        James,

        Really short reply, given that I gotta go be with Fambly an all:

        If the experts agree that processed foods causes debilitating diseases, the costs of which are born by taxpayers or premium payers on balance, then why aren’t those views definitive? I mean, you were one of the folks who championed deference to The Experts’ views on policy decisions, no? Acourse, that was in the domain of economics and all. But there are experts in other disciplines and all, no? Like the biological sciences??

        You’ve made your beliefs known about all this. You donwanna legislate away choice when it comes to eating diabetes inducing foods. Fair enough.

        I guess my response to *that issue* is that if gummint were to prohibit all sorts of processed foods from being sold, folks could get lots of healthy options by simply showing up at their local grocery store, no? Eat better, live longer, that sorta thing. Why is eliminating a *single* choice so important when the negative consequences of that choice are so clear and there are plenny of other options to feed onself? Not much hinges on the decision other than folks ideologically based emotions.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Re: externality:

        An externality is a cost or benefit that affects a party that did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

        What percent of people who have developed type II diabetes from food do you think chose diabetes? What about a variety of agents acting and unintentionally creating a negative result that all must pay for is not akin to the tragedy of the commons? Both are classic externalities.

        Re: trans fats:

        I know what trans fats are. I’ve read the professional literature, and I know how horrible they are. I know what probably doesn’t contain trans fats, so I can cast a very wide net and buy, say green beans at the store instead of Oreo cookies in order to avoid trans fats. There’s also a very nice regulation on the books requiring nutritional information on trans fats to be included on packaging labels that people like me with their crazy anti-freedom ideas got to pass so that people like my father – a very intelligent man who knows nothing about trans fats – can theoretically make an informed decision. Still, I highly doubt people are making informed decisions regarding their trans fat consumption. I imagine if you surveyed your class, asking them questions such as “Do you know what trans fats are?”, “Are trans fats natural?”, “Are trans fats worse for you than asbestos?”, or even other questions that have definite answers, such as: “How much sodium consumption is healthy?”, “What is the single highest risk factor for all-cause mortality in the United States today?” you would get a percentage of correct answers slightly above chance. This to me, seems to strongly violate the perfect information assumption that your argument rests on. Just as I would rather have an agency like the FDA closely monitor what kinds of drugs I can be administered for my own safety, so would I prefer that, when synthesized chemicals decide to describe themselves as food that we at least have some common sense about being willing to use policy.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        I would like to propose a thought experiment:

        A food chemist has created a chemical that extends the shelf life of certain highly-processed foods. This has the result of dramatically enhancing operating margins and the bottom line for a handful of companies specializing in highly-processed foods. Some of these savings are passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced prices for ten or twenty different varieties of popular snacks. No safety studies are run on the chemical before it is introduced to the market.

        It is discovered after the fact through well-designed scientific study by independent researchers and epidemiologists that the chemical in question is highly toxic and directly responsible for the deaths of 50.000 people. None of these people ever had any knowledge of consuming the chemical, nor did they know of its effect. Expert opinion is unanimous that no amount of this chemical is safe. Several other industrialized nations have already banned it outright.

        The chemical has no effect on the taste of a food, and does not change anyone’s preferences for or against that food. There are a wide variety of substitutes for that chemical that range from significantly less harmful to completely benign when consumed in reasonable quantities. What do you believe the appropriate response is to the situation I have described above?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Christopher

        No, externalities are third party effects, not effects experienced by parties to the transaction, even if they did not want them. If I buy a used car and it turns out to have mechanical problems I did not expect, then I did not really choose to incur that cost, but it’s not an externality. If it’s muffler is missing, so that the roar of the engine wakes up my neighbor, that’s an externality.

        I hate to beat a dead horse and piss everyone off again, but, folks, if you’re going to use economic terms, please make the effort to learn them.

        If we’re talking about negative effects on parties to the transaction, we can potentially talk about fraud or something akin to it. But with labeling, that’s a difficult legal hurdle I think.

        And then we have that old question of what unsafe activities we’re going to regulate to protect people from themselves. Regardless of how dangerous transfats are, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that we ought to disallow use of them. If trans fats, why not Robert’s deadly processed sugars? Why not cigarettes? Why not alcohol? Why not unprotected sex? There may be some reasoned logic that tells us where to stop, but that’s what I’d be looking for, as opposed to just a claim that something is really bad for us.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Stillwater,

        You misstate the role of experts. I don’t argue against the experts when they say X is unhealthy. But experts saying X is dangerous does not automatically transfer into “therefore a ban.” Experts can tell us the consequences of our actions, but they cannot tell us how we should value those consequences.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        As I said before, if you support socializing costs, you shouldn’t use socialized costs to dictate others’ behavior. The “health care costs” negative externality here is government-generated.

        It also seems likely to me to be arbitrarily (or at least unevenly) applied. If evenly applied, it would prohibit risky behavior of all sorts. It won’t, if course, because it will only be applied to personal choices we consider invalid.

        Personally, I don’t object to the transfat ban, but socialized cost is a spectacularly bad argument for me.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Today, despite being presented with a bountiful array of fattening foods and rich desserts that would give Mr. Creosote himself pause, I restrained myself and did not overindulge; I plan to do the same throughout the holiday season this and every year, thereby saving you all lots of money, since Future Me won’t become morbidly obese and get diabetes.

        No, no, there’s no need to thank me, really; I would prefer that you simply send 50% of the money (cash or equivalents only, please) that Future Us saved over to me, c/o Ordinary Times.

        I only ask for 50%; that’s a MUCH better deal than if Future Me got diabetes, and we had to pay up then.

        I call this special money-saving offer “Thanksgiving”, because you “thank” me, for “giving” us such a savings, and I in turn “thank” you, for “giving” me some of your hard-earned dosh.

        (It can be two things!)

        You should be happy to do this; after all, there would be no problem forbidding Current Me from eating certain foods, if doing so saves Future Us some bucks.

        Sending me money is certainly much nicer than forbidding me from eating what I want, anyway.

        In fact, it seems like the least y’all could do; some of that food looked DELICIOUS.

        50% off is a serious savings, so please…act now.

        We’re all in this together, you know.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        “I hate to beat a dead horse and piss everyone off again, but, folks, if you’re going to use economic terms, please make the effort to learn them.”

        This is highly patronizing and totally immaterial to the discussion at hand. An externality is, self-evidently, a positive or negative consequence of a market exchange that is not priced into the market or material to the exchange. Here is the OECD definition:

        “Externalities refers to situations when the effect of production or consumption of goods and services imposes costs or benefits on others which are not reflected in the prices charged for the goods and services being provided.”

        Again, totally immaterial to the discussion at hand. Your example of used car salesman fraud is not appropriate, since in the case of trans fats, no one knew the social and public health consequences of their widespread consumption. However, there is actually a fairly decent amount of professional economic literature on the concept of fraud as externality.

        I do remember learning the Prentice Hall definition back in AP economics thirteen years ago, but as externality modeling is actually done there is much more nuance. Throughout the 68 credits worth of courses I took in order to receive a bachelor of science degree in the discipline, I did quite a lot of modeling, in fact, all the way through multivariable calculus and econometrics. Some of it was published in a peer-reviewed journal. Granted, I did tend to focus more on heterodox economic theory and methodology, such as that of Quesnay and the physiocrats, Marx, Keynes, and Kahneman; but I believe I had a fairly decent grasp of the basics, so much so, in fact, that I considered becoming a professional economist and even applied for a Fulbright fellowship in economics. I did not receive it, and a variety of events transpired which led to me pursuing medicine and epidemiology instead.

        Anyways, I know what an externality is, and you know I know what an externality is, and what an externality is or is not may be an interesting discussion in its own right, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not we should ban trans fats. I would like to know, however, why you believe we should not ban trans fats? Is it because they’re not an externality? Because that seems like a silly reason.

        @will-truman

        “The commons” is government-generated.

        Although, like you, I don’t think socialized costs is a very compelling argument. There really is no need to go down the rabbit hole of finding some sort of externality in order to justify legislation. Threats to safety created by asymmetric or imperfect information is usually enough.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Christopher,

        Setting aside the dispute about externalities, you say we don’t need to go there to get to your outcome, but you did. And you agree that the socialized costs argument is weak. But despite undermining-yourself–your two bases for your position, you’re still holding your position.

        I’m not absolutely rejecting an argument for banning trans fats, but what, then, is your actual argument for that position?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James Hanley
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        says:

        Threat to public safety is probably the strongest argument in favor of a ban.

        Legally, at least, the idea of socialized costs creating an externality is fair game. That is, after all, why you’re required to wear seatbelts in a car and a helmet while riding a motorcycle.

        At the end of the day though, I guess it just comes down to values. You can reject bans on dangerous substances in our food supply on libertarian principles. While I tend to fall back on those principles in situations where I don’t have a lot of factual information, I do think they are often trumped by common sense. I can’t think of a more clear-cut example of a substance that confers more harm and less benefit than trans fats.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr @james-hanley The really odd thing here is that none of these bad health outcomes would be possible without James’ favored government regulation. The government has decided that people who make a living off of getting people sick with metabolically-poisonous sugar and spreading misinformation about it deserve to have their gains protected by the violence of the state, but that people who have had this force initiated on them are not permitted to reappropriate these gains for themselves to redress the wrong.

        I’m also curious to hear whether James thinks it was proper to hold tobacco companies to account. If so, what’s the difference between that and soda? And if not, why not allow people to use the order of the legal system — which has to exist, otherwise no market could operate — to hold tobacco companies to account? How can you show us that you’re not just selectively making use of the state for your own ends? Why isn’t it the case that libertarians have just captured the government for their own purposes, by redefining anything they don’t like as not properly the subject of government interference? What makes libertarians not just statists in anarchists’ clothing?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Chris,

        My cell phones dying so I’ll have to cut out soon. Public safety is too vague, but can possibly be filled in.

        Robert,
        Tobacco companies before or after the health affects and addictiveness of tobacco became known? Given that my phone is dying, I’ll just say this–my thoughts on it aren’t sum-uppable on a bumper sticker. Of course as you know, all I really care about is maximizing tobacco profits, and dancing in joyous glee on the graves of dead smokers.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I’m curious to hear your response to this question as well:

        “Don’t you think there’s anything weird about having an absolutist position when it comes to government violence around drug use but having absolutely no problem when the same kind of brutality is used to defend private property, the provenance of which is often highly questionable?”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert.

        At such time as you demonstrate with reliable signals that you are willing to grant others the charitable reading you’re requesting for yourself I might entertain your question.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        “The cost of treating diabetes is largely born by folks who had nothing to do with the agent’s choices, right?”

        I’m a diabetic. I added up my out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures one year, totaling up my premiums and my deductible and the uncovered portions of bills after the deductible. Then I added up all the “coverage”, the parts of the bills after the deductible that the insurance did pay for. And those two numbers matched within a few percent (in fact, I think the insurance company came out ahead on the deal). And that’s for a full year of care for a diabetic.

        So, no, I don’t believe that the cost of treating diabetes is largely born by those who had nothing to do with the agent’s choices.Report

    • “Add diabetes to the picture and it just gets grimmer. Many medical doctors now believe that diabetes carries a greater disease burden on the individual than AIDS.”

      That comparison doesn’t mean much to me from a policy perspective, other than to underscore how severe diabetes might be.* We shouldn’t ban unprotected or risky sex–although we should encourage people to be safe, just like we should encourage people to make healthy food choices.

      *Also, full-blown AIDS as opposed to being HIV positive is probably A LOT worse than diabetes, from what little I know of it. However, I assume those doctors meant “HIV positive that can be managed.”Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        AIDS is defined as a CD4+ t cell count lower than 200. There are people walking around on the street with CD4+ t cell counts lower than 200 without even noticing it. The natural history of AIDS is the eventual opportunistic infection, but nowadays many do not even progress to this point, as AIDS in the United States has become considerably easier to manage than it was during the 1980s and 1990s. The spread of HIV and AIDS has been slowed down because of policies, such as needle exchanges, availability of condoms, required screenings in certain situations, etc. that have been targeted to this very purpose.

        Diabetes is a more difficult disease to manage right now. Its natural history involves internal organ damage, tissue necrosis, and limb amputation. We know what causes it and we know how to prevent it. What is stopping us from taking the same sort of policy actions against diabetes and heart disease as we have against AIDS or influenza?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        “What is stopping us from taking the same sort of policy actions against diabetes and heart disease as we have against AIDS or influenza?”

        Because the sort of “policy decisions” people are talking about regarding diabetes and heart disease, if applied to AIDS to the same degree, would have made sex illegal unless it took place under a doctor’s direct supervision. If applied to influenza, face masks would have been compulsory, with HHS SWAT teams black-bagging you if you appeared in public without one.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        What is stopping us from taking the same sort of policy actions against diabetes and heart disease as we have against AIDS or influenza?

        In addition to what the Duck said, AIDS and influenza are communicable diseases, whereas diabetes and heart diseases aren’t.

        We have a long history of responding to communicable diseases more vigorously than non-communicable ones. Maybe we’ve been doing it wrong all along, but there is a logic to the distinction. I think your case requires more than the rhetorical question you ask; it’s necessary for you to explain why the logic in the distinction between communicable diseases and non-communicable diseases is irrelevant (or if not wholly irrelevant, at least overborne by another logic).Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @densityduck @james-hanley

        Can we agree that the comparison of regulating potentially dangerous substances with SWAT-team-led kidnapping is silly and undeserving of response?

        @james-hanley

        It’s true we’re in new territory here. The reason we have a history of public health interventions against communicable diseases is because communicable diseases were what killed people until those diseases were mostly eradicated by public health initiatives. Now, we’re dealing with a new kind of disease, and just as our scientific response must adjust, so must our public health response.

        To answer your question, indeed I’m not sure how the mechanism of a particular disease – i.e. caused by a pathogen versus caused by an economic product – affects the relative primacy of individual rights versus those of the collective. It seems to me that if the public safety was reason enough to allow somewhat invasive policy then, the public safety is reason enough to allow somewhat invasive policy now.

        If there is something – alive as in the case of a bacterium, not alive as in the cases of trans fats or prions, or questionably alive as in the case of a virus – that exists in the environment that is making unsuspecting people sick, whether this substance is within another organism or whether it is on the shelf of a grocery store is of little significance. Not only does our government have a right to enact legislation that it believes will resolve the problem, but perhaps it has that responsibility as well, provided that the cost in terms of individual freedom lost is actually worth the reward.

        So, the question we should be asking ourselves is: is the cost in terms of individual freedom lost of a proposed public safety policy worth the reward?

        In the case of a trans fats ban, I would argue unequivocally – it is. In the case of taxes on things that are bad for us, I also feel like it’s worth it much of the time, because we are currently actually subsidizing many things that are bad for us. Talk about government overreach – this is part of the reason why lifestyle disorders are far more common in the US than they are in other developed nations with similar levels of education and wealth.

        This is also, to me, an indication that policy may be able to solve the problem. Compared to banning particularly egregious substances with little to no known benefit and undoing pernicious subsidies bought by lobbying, I’m less enthusiastic about outright bans on exceptionally large sugary drinks.

        A great deal of research, however, has shown that initiatives such as those of New York City, which banned extremely large sugary drinks, can make an outsized difference at relatively little cost. This difference, it is believed, will be particularly prominent in children, who passively consume almost everything they eat. Those foods that children do not passively consume, that they drive parents and others to buy for them, often use colorful cartoon characters and exploit ignorance of nutrition to overwhelm good judgment. Finally, in the cases of bans on extremely large soda portions, people who truly believe their freedoms are being impinged upon by not being able to purchase a 32-oz drink can simply purchase a second 16-oz drink.

        My response to such a thing is: Interesting. I’m not sure if it’ll work, but if a democratically-elected local government wants to try it out, let’s all the rest of us watch the proverbial laboratory of democracy in action.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        Christopher,

        Can we agree that the comparison of regulating potentially dangerous substances with SWAT-team-led kidnapping is silly and undeserving of response?

        As I noted above somewhere, some see a soda regulation and say, “they’re just regulating something small, so what’s big deal,” while others say, “if they can regulate the smallest aspects of our life, what can’t they regulate?” I’m kind of stuck seeing both perspectives on that rabbit/duck problem, so I can see why neither side can accept the others’ claims, and that’s why I sau, no, I don’t think both sides can agree on that.

        As to your other argument, two absences are notable to me. First is the absence of any sense of humans as decision-makers with some responsibility for, and anikity to make, their own choices. Second is the focus solely on a ban, instead of educational/informational measures.

        I also don’t think you made a compelling public health argument, but that’s probably an unbridgeable gap between us. I’m disinclined to see a choice to poison oneself as a public health problem. For me, what people do to themselves is nearly always private business, * while what happens to third parties is generally of public concern. I doubt either of us is likely to find arguments that persuade the other on that issue.
        ______
        *Not that I would employ this against public information efforts, as information can help improve markets via improving consumer information.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        but if a democratically-elected local government wants to try it out, let’s all the rest of us watch the proverbial laboratory of democracy in action.

        Does that mean critics have to remain silent? In the case of NYC’s soda-size regulation, I’m not aware that any of us here took any more action than mockery, so I’m not sure who is implicated in obstructing local democracy.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        The primary argument for going after communicable disease is the effect it has on non-participants. Not just that it kills more people, but it’s more likely to kill you even if you do everything within reason quite reasonably.

        What I do find a bit unnerving is the degree of mission creep that enters these conversations.

        We must ban smoking in restaurants because children don’t get to choose where to go.
        We must ban smoking in workplaces because people shouldn’t have to choose between making a living and breaking in poison.
        We must ban smoking in bars because enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time are dangerous.
        We must ban smoking in open are areas because non-smokers shouldn’t be confronted so directly with smoke.
        We must ban smoking in parks and college campuses non-smokers may still have to breathe it.
        We must ban smoking in more places to convince smokers to quit (regardless of who else their habit affects).

        The further down we get, the more each step is justified by previous steps. And the further down the list we get, the more action elsewhere can be justified. There was little reason to be concerned about things-that-are-not-smoking when it was all about second hand smoking, which was peculiar to smoking. But by the time we get to the end, we’ve justified intervention in just about everything.

        Now, as Mike Schilling has said elsewhere and Greginak frequently says, the soda ban has not actually passed and survived. Which is good, though the “junk food as tobacco” arguments are going to be with us a long time, in part because of the field that was given during the tobacco battles (and in other battles elsewhere).Report

      • Avatar Owen in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        “We must ban smoking in more places to convince smokers to quit (regardless of who else their habit affects)”

        It’s a pretty big leap from your other examples to this one, Will. Can you give me an example of a law about smoking that was primarily justified using this rationale? Otherwise I am not seeing the “mission creep” you are referring to.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        Here’s an article about smoking bans as a mechanism to get people to quit for the sake of reducing smoking rates.

        There is also this, which is the danger of people being seen while smoking. I might should have added this as a step in between the last two.Report

      • Avatar Owen in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        I guess I am unpersuaded by the “somebody somewhere said this thing” type of argument, particularly when the internet constantly craves novelty and provocation. Is this view of smoking bans a popular one? Is its popularity growing? Have actual laws been passed or come close to passing?

        There are extremists for any issue. You can probably find some in this comment section. But it is unreasonable to point to them and say that as long as they exist, we cannot take moderate, well-justified actions because we might empower them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        What jumped out at me with regard to the first link is that I thought it was reasonable. I had it flagged not because I wanted proof on this particular matter, or how crazy the anti-tobacco people are, but because I thought it was a good article and agree with the vast majority of it. It’s noteworthy to me here because it mentioned the smoking cessation angle of smoking bans not as a central thesis, but rather matter-of-factly as a part of the ongoing efforts to reduce tobacco use.

        I will admit that I did have the second one flagged because I do consider that “out there.” Well, I did when I flagged it. But the subsequent battle over ecigarettes has demonstrated that “visibility” is indeed considered a harm in its own right, and a reason to be no more lax with ecigarettes than we are with cigarettes. (Which is a slightly different argument than the bottom of my trail, which is why I said that should have been in between the last two.)

        Anyhow, it’s increasingly difficult for me to look at the increasing breadth of anti-smoking regulations and not see a “We want people to quit” as being a motivator. On the other hand, it can be said that regulations have not yet passed solely on that basis. I believe that has more to do with adverse public opinion, though, than its absence as a core motivation. If you’re looking for an argument against slippery slopes, though, tobacco is one of the worst places to look.

        The primary point, that tobacco cessation success has provided a blueprint for non-tobacco products, though, stands. That it has provided arguments currently being used for non-tobacco products is not really disputable. All that can really be said, at this point, is that it has thus far been largely unsuccessful (which I noted in my comment).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        Does that mean critics have to remain silent? In the case of NYC’s soda-size regulation, I’m not aware that any of us here took any more action than mockery, so I’m not sure who is implicated in obstructing local democracy.

        The state of Mississippi did pass a law preventing cities and counties from passing laws in that mold. Most people here, even those who were mocking the Big Gulp, seemed to disagree with that, though.

        Your larger point stands, though: laboratories of democracy do not make cities, counties, and states immune from criticism.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        The state of Mississippi did pass a law preventing cities and counties from passing laws in that mold. Most people here, even those who were mocking the Big Gulp, seemed to disagree with that, though.

        Well, that’s a tricky one. I’m on record as being a polycentrist, thinking decisions should generally be made at the lowest level that includes all the relevant stakeholders, which leads me to generally dislike state laws that tell municipalities that they cannot do something because a majority of state lawmakers dislike it (as opposed to because it is a corrupt practice or imposes costs on non-stakeholders, etc.).

        On the other hand, municipalities have no sovereignty from state control as the states have from federal control, so states have no legal/constitutional duty to allow municipalities any scope of independent action at all, so the law is presumably legitimate (unless it affects a subset of citizens in a way that brings it within the scope of Romer v. Evans, which on the surface seems unlikely).

        Of course I’m in the very back row when it comes to arguments that legitimate = wise, or even appropriate.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        For me, a state should only step in to prevent municipalities when we’re talking about:

        A collective action problem or something that substantially and adversely affects people who don’t live there.

        A matter of civil rights

        Laws which need to be uniform or managed across jurisdictions (holding a Big Gulp might apply here, but not buying one)

        This is probably an incomplete list, but you get the idea.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        I’m right there on the same page with you.

        But in the spirit of our critics saying, “but wouldn’t you admit law X is legitimate?” I have to say that a state law prohibiting a municipality from banning trans fats or limiting soda sizes is also legitimate. As long as they’re willing to likewise agree to equal legitimacy for laws that would directly obstruct their goals, I’m much more respectful of their “but it’s legitimate” arguments.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        James,

        The only thing I’m seeing us disagree on here is the characterization of choice. I don’t think consumers are fully informed of their choices, and, in many cases, I think they’re actively misinformed. We could, in fact, use existing fraud statute to go after food companies. We could use policy. Obviously, increasing awareness of food hazards is the method that you and I agree works best, but I don’t think it should be the only tool in our toolbox, especially when we already use policy to benefit the food companies.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Christopher Carr,
        “Can we agree that the comparison of regulating potentially dangerous substances with SWAT-team-led kidnapping is silly and undeserving of response?”

        I’ll just leave this here.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        I don’t think consumers are fully informed of their choices,

        No doubt, but I don’t think that takes us anywhere definite. Could they be sufficiently informed by their own efforts? Dave says so–says he wasn’t before, but now is. Could public information campaigns help them become sufficiently informed? Seems like nobody doubts the dangers of smoking anymore, so it seems possible.

        and, in many cases, I think they’re actively misinformed.
        So food companies are like every other firm seeking our business and every politicians seeking our vote? I’m not being flippant–everyone misinforms us when they’re trying to sell us on something.

        We could, in fact, use existing fraud statute to go after food companies.

        Yeah, I think Robert suggested that, too, but as Dave, I think, pointed out, it was an assertion that wasn’t backed up with any real evidence or argument. You’re not a lawyer, I’m not a lawyer, and the only lawyer (Robert) who’s commented on it didn’t bother to really make the case. So, given that everybody misinforms us, count me skeptical until I’m given a serious argument on that score. And in all seriousness, I’d like to have a lawyer who’s not an advocate on the issue weigh in on that, too, because as I said, everyone misinforms us when they’re trying to sell us on something.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @densityduck @james-hanley

        A SWAT team mistakenly raiding an organic farm may be an example of government overreach (although of another kind, and I don’t disagree with what you’re implying by linking this here).

        @dave putting in the painstaking work to get in shape is commendable, and I truly congratulate him.

        But these are just anecdotes, and anecdotes do not make arguments.

        Furthermore, just as the existence of the welfare state doesn’t stop someone going from rags to riches, so too the existence of smart food policy would not stop someone like Dave from losing weight and getting fit. Just as the existence of the welfare state has helped many people – including me – get to where they are, so too the existence of smart food policy would help more people like Dave to lose weight and get fit. Just because Dave managed to take personal responsibility and do something that is incredibly difficult to do (most people who are overweight and out-of-shape die overweight and out-of-shape), doesn’t mean that we have to make it as difficult as possible for others to do the same, which is what our current food policy does.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        A SWAT team mistakenly raiding an organic farm

        Christopher, this is the third time on this page you’ve linked me when you’re referencing someone else’s comment. Please don’t do that.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        Thanks for taking the time to respond and for taking the time to enlighten me on some points. I’ve been out of town and out of email for the last few days and so I haven’t been able to engage. I want to point out something from your response to me:

        The spread of HIV and AIDS has been slowed down because of policies, such as needle exchanges, availability of condoms, required screenings in certain situations, etc. that have been targeted to this very purpose.

        Most of those policies either are voluntary or represent increasing the number of options available to people. And I have no problem in principle with them. The one exception is the “required screenings in certain situations.” I’m ignorant of how such screening policies work–what situations are “required”? how is the information used? what are the options for opting out?–but as long as that policy is not too intrusive or too coercive, and as long as a positive screening doesn’t condemn one to multiple rejections from insurance companies (a prospect that I hope Obamacare, if it survives, curtails or obviates altogether), I’m at least open to discussing it.

        Now, after reading this subthread and the discussion between you and @james-hanley (and others), I agree that your differences with James here are probably more about “characterization of choice” and, I would add, about what is legitimate and preferable in the “toolbox” of options “we” (i.e. the state) have to address public health issues:

        Banning large sodas? I don’t think it’s a wise or preferable move. It has less good effect than bad side effects, and it seems to stray too far to the paternalist side of the spectrum for my tastes. However, I do think a municipality has the legitimate authority to ban large soda sizes, provided that by doing so it doesn’t create huge exceptions for favored businesses (but even then, I’m not sure I’d wholly disagree that the action is “not legitimate”). Using fraud statutes? Maybe, provided the fraud is demonstrable. Simply pointing out, as Tod seems to below, that soda companies give the impression that healthy people consume their product, and therefore the product itself produces health, seems shy of what I would consider the type of fraud that ought to be actionable. (Whether it really is legally actionable, I don’t know, not being a lawyer.) Banning or limiting the use of specific substances in foods? Maybe. In some cases, such as trans-fats, it appears to not be such a big problem (although it’s not problem-free) and it appears to do some good.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Didn’t mean to link you to Duck’s comment. Your name came up automatically. I apologize.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I think if you’re willing to accept any kind of regulation of the food supply, you’re willing to adopt a pragmatic stance on the trade-off between personal freedom and public health. Writ large – that’s the point I have been trying to make here. So when do the benefits of a regulation outweigh the costs in personal freedom?Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        “So when do the benefits of a regulation outweigh the costs in personal freedom?”

        Maybe we need some kind of law that protects people from overzealous legislators by requiring a strict test of that question.

        We could call it the Secular Freedom Restoration Act.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        I think if you’re willing to accept any kind of regulation of the food supply, you’re willing to adopt a pragmatic stance on the trade-off between personal freedom and public health. Writ large – that’s the point I have been trying to make here. So when do the benefits of a regulation outweigh the costs in personal freedom?

        That’s a good one. Here are the elements of my (tentative) answer. Instead of stating it as a simple balance test, I’ll state it as a series of weighted presumptions to consider.

        1. My principal presumption is that forbidding others to do something is automatically suspect and requires a demonstration of some benefit.

        2. If the benefit is for the person’s own good, that benefit has to be balanced against #1. That, in my mind, is a hard test to meet and the benefit to the one who is forbidden to do something must be very large. And even then, I’m not sure I can fully sign on to it.

        3. The more a benefit goes to protect third parties from externalities from the free choice of the one who is forbidden to do something, the more the benefit justifies the cost imposed.

        4. The above assumes situations in which the one who chooses to do something, and is then forbidden to do it, has the information available to make an informed choice. Even by that standard, my bar is very low. I think almost any adult in America getting a 44 oz. big gulp knows that the main ingredient is sugar and that the sugar is not good for you, and they balance that against the pleasure they get from drinking it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        I think if you’re willing to accept any kind of regulation of the food supply, you’re willing to adopt a pragmatic stance on the trade-off between personal freedom and public health.

        Does “pragmatic” lead us to one particular policy outcome? Or can we stand glaring across a deep ideological personal freedom/public health divide, each equally persuaded we are being pragmatic?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        No, pragmatism precludes not instinctively casting our tents on opposite sides of an ideological battlefield. It precludes acknowledging that trade-offs exist.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Christopher,

        So if a person acknowledges the tradeoff of not banning trans fats is more deaths, they can still prefer no ban as a pragmatic stance (by your definition)?

        Or is favoring a ban, while recognizing it impinges on individual liberty, the only pragmatic stance?Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Presumably, you could believe that x number of deaths is worth whatever personal liberty y number of individuals would theoretically lose from either being forced to or by being strongly incentivized to purchase two 16 oz sodas instead of one 32 oz soda.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @christopher-carr

        Well, yes, but that was more the premise of the question, rather than an answer to it.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Is that what you believe then?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Christopher,

        I’m not talking about my beliefs. I’m trying to figure out what, from your perspective, “pragmatic” requires, or allows, as the case may be, as an outcome.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Gabriel Conroy
        Ignored
        says:

        Pragmatic emphasizes the practical instead of the ideological.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      @christopher-carr

      Thanks, that was what I was looking for.

      Trans-fats are something I try to avoid as much as possible (history of heart disease in the family, my dad is busy dying of that right now), but it’s tricky at times. It’s annoying that the food companies that avoid using trans-fats are also the same ones that make an effort to produce food that is sold exclusively to organic food co-ops and is made with whatever fad is current in that market. I should not have to suffer through kale flour tortillas with a cardboard flavor in order to avoid trans-fats. What is wrong with just making a plain flour tortilla?Report

  16. Avatar Murali
    Ignored
    says:

    Coke zero doesn’t have sugar, or for that matter any other calorific substance. I believe that either the faculty or the university recently removed three soft drink selling vending machines. Now, I drink coffee (which has actual full cream milk and sugar) for my caffeine fix.Report

  17. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    Weston Price’s book is available on Gutenberg Press.

    So it’s not like we haven’t known the results of the western diet for some time. Within a single generation, he documents older children/younger children and the changes in their physical development, particularly the face and teeth, as their families transitioned from their traditional diet to an American diet, high is sugar and lacking in bran/germ of grains, and switching from traditional fats to processed fats (including, I’d guess trans fats.)

    But Price was just a dentist, who travelled with world with a camera. No need to take his work seriously, right?Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
      Ignored
      says:

      zic,
      Seriously, awesome work (a great read, I recommend to everyone!)! Can you kindly tell Robert Greer that beef jerky counts as one of the “good things” to be eating? That native americans have been eating it for millenia, and that their teeth are quite healthy, when not exposed to the sugar heavy diet of the “white man”?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, I guess I’d say that depends on what the cow, from which the jerky is made, ate.

        This is not scientific, but: my rule of thumb is that you are what you eat ate, both plant and animal. A sick animal, and most of the meat we purchase in the grocery store comes from sick animals, but not be the best thing to consume; we are not crows.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        zic,
        oh, no disagreement on this side.
        James and I are socking Robert for making silly and unsupported claims.

        I’m curious about what the explanation is for why civilized folks have issues with their wisdom teeth. I get the caries (that’s sugar, I understand the mechanism there). Is it just that we aren’t chewing as much?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kimmi
        Ignored
        says:

        The theory is that the dental arch does not grow to its full size due to deficiencies in vitamins A, D, and/or K2. It seems plausible, as sort of a less severe form of rickets, but I don’t know whether it’s true.Report

  18. Avatar Kimmi
    Ignored
    says:

    comment in mod.Report

  19. Avatar Dave
    Ignored
    says:

    @james-hanley

    Down here…Some of my response is going to cut into a post i’m trying to finish for this food symposium (if only I didn’t get involved in these damn discussions). I wrote this quickly so if there are any errors or inconsistencies, I apologize.

    I really need to drop a considerable amount before taking students to Belize in 3 months. My history doesn’t suggest I’ll make it. It’s my fault if I don’t, nobody else’s–there’s plenty of healthy food for sale in my grocery.

    What I find most glaring about this entire discussion is how little individual responsibility has played into this, at least as a remedy to the problems presented.

    I don’t play the “blame the poor” game for a number of reasons, the least of which may be (I say may because poverty is something I haven’t experienced) that their food choices are driven more by economics and other factors than macro or micro-nutritional content. I remember the last time there was a conversation like this someone posted a link to an article written by a poor single mother explaining why she made the food choices she did.

    Still my responses to Robert’s comment:

    Of course their own actions are part of the problem, but it seems grotesque to me to blame them for these problems when the food companies are continually manipulating the public discourse or even outright lying to them about what kind of food is actually healthy…

    Would be

    1) just because I don’t blame them does not mean that people that can not or do not consume a healthy diet (for whatever reason) don’t suffer the negative consequences. Poor people are still going to get sick whether people choose to blame them or not. Something needs to be done about that. Let’s not lose sight of that.

    2) While I’m fully aware that the food companies attempt to manipulate public discourse by selling foods as a part of a wholesome diet (hell, I’ve seen boxes of Franken Berry touting the fact that the food is low fat), the food companies hardly have a monopoly on public discourse, especially in the digital age with the number of websites devoted to health and wellness. If the problem is that people lack access to the information, then helping provide access may go a long way.

    3) I’m having a hard time with the information asymmetry argument if only because I can look at a food product, read the label and it tells me everything I need to know about the product in order to make an informed decision. Again, if the problem comes from people not knowing, then education is the first order of business.

    Speaking of history, two years ago, my history wasn’t good. I see no reason why anyone that doesn’t want to change can’t change. Perhaps some guidance is helpful and if so, I’d be more than happy to give you my approach…just not in here.

    Look, I don’t disagree, and haven’t disagreed, that a lot of modern food is bad for us.

    We all agree on that, at least I hope we do.

    But Robert gave us a tremendous load of pseudo-science, bullshit galore. Posts here should, of course, represent a variety of views, but I’d hate to see this blog become a purveyor of woo.

    I’ve tried to follow along that part of the discussion, and although I’d like to think that I have a pretty good handle on nutrition (and can somewhat demonstrate that if I ever decided to post a pic here – my FB friends know what I look like), I can’t opine on the validity of either side because I’ve never read any of it. Also, I don’t find much of the discussion relevant. Why are we talking about how people chew beef vs. beef jerky when there are far more pressing matters to discuss?

    To the extent I disagree with Robert, it’s based on priorities. An assault on Big Food is going to require government intervention, something that will take forever and a day given the nature of our government as well as the cozy relationship between big government and big business. I have no idea whether or not this is a viable long-term play but blaming our woes on Big Food does NOTHING to help people in the short run. As someone that’s helped myself and someone that would bend over backwards to help someone battle a weight issue, I find that unacceptable.

    Maybe next we can feature an article by a creationist arguing that science proves Noah had dinosaurs on the arc. And I’ll be just as disdainful about their BS as about Robert’s. I’m sorry if this is bad form, but I hate science liars with a passion.

    I’d rather passion not justify bad form, but I can at least understand the position. I think we know what would happen if an anti-vaxxer posted here and tried to kindly suggest that my son’s autism was caused by vaccines. There wouldn’t be enough commenters here to keep me off the SOB.

    That said, I wouldn’t compare Robert to creationists, at least based on what I know, if only because he identifies many of the same problems I do (although I too am suspect of the motivations of the anti-GMO/anti-Monsanto crowd).Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave
      Ignored
      says:

      Something needs to be done about that. Let’s not lose sight of that.

      I have no problems with that. The question is what, and I’m not going to pose as an expert on that.

      Re: Information asymmetry, food labels, etc. I’m largely in agreement with you, I think. I think Christopher’s argument about how much my students know about trans fats is mis-focused. Consumers don’t really need fully expert knowledge–they don’t have to be able to write an accurate essay on the dangers of trans fats. They just need to know “trans fats = bad, so look at the label.” I think anyone who believes consumers can’t handle that is doing a disservice to folks’ intelligence. And if our argument is “poor consumers can’t,” then we’re really running into some class elitism, I think.

      But if the argument is “poor consumers don’t, because they don’t know,” then I think there’s an unspoken “yet” attached to that. I’m all for providing information to consumers. As you say, the big businesses don’t have a monopoly on information dissemination. Heck, the book that Robert referenced somewhere here or on the other post was, according to what I read on Amazon, a best seller.

      I think we know what would happen if an anti-vaxxer posted here
      That’s not far off from how I see Robert’s arguments. I’m just glad nobody’s made the a “natural diet will take care of bipolar disorder and the pharmaceutical firms are just poisoning you with their anti-depressants.” That just might result in me earning the ban hammer.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        James,
        we might eventually discover that bipolar is the result of folks lacking some micronutrient present in the primordial savannah.
        I much prefer the idea that bipolar is evolutionarily adaptive, though, even if it’s not always pleasant. (Mania being a way folks could talk others into illicit sex that our bodies are designed to prefer).Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi , there’s a plausible potential mechanism between food companies and depression/bipolar disorder. Omega-3s are good for people with these diseases, which is why doctors sometimes counsel them to eat more walnuts or flaxseeds. Processed foods and conventionally-farmed meats, on the other hand, have much higher ratios of omega-6/omega-3s.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        totally not what I’m talking about. And the fact that you’re conflating bipolar and depression says enough, thanks kindly. If ignorance is bliss, you must be on cloud nine.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi I wasn’t conflating them, just noting that they are related illnesses with similar causes and (at times) identical symptoms. Are you really denying that bipolar and depression are closely related?

        Also, I’ve noticed that personal attacks tend to increase with the paucity of their utterer’s arguments. Just sayin’.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,
        I owe you an apology. I may have misread your statement to mean bipolar or depression, where you may have meant bipolar, specifically depressive timeperiods.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @Kimmi , I appreciate and accept your apology. I don’t even think you were necessarily wrong to read my post the way you did at first (I admit my writing can be opaque sometimes, especially when I’m writing off-cuff like this). Hopefully we can all take a lesson on being charitable in interpreting others’ posts — Lord knows I’m no angel on that score.

        Looping in @james-hanley for some state-enforced moral education.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dave
      Ignored
      says:

      Why are we talking about how people chew beef vs. beef jerky when there are far more pressing matters to discuss?

      Because it’s an example of his willingness to use pseudo-science to buttress his arguments. If a person’s arguments are based on bullshit, I think it’s important to point out that their arguments shouldn’t be believed because they’re based on bullshit. (By bullshit, I don’t mean “based on values I don’t like,” but “based on empirical claims that aren’t remotely valid.”)Report

  20. Avatar Saul Degraw
    Ignored
    says:

    @james-hanley

    “Show me a 1,500 pound nut on the hoof”

    Well if we combine the weight of most of OT…..Report

  21. Avatar Roger
    Ignored
    says:

    Robert,

    You are choosing to try to frame this as yourself as the expert defending the ignorant masses against nefarious corporate greed.

    As others have pointed out already, you are effectively dismissing hundreds of millions of opinions as expressed by consumers such as myself and others who find massive value in candy, processed food, industrial blending, preservatives and sweet drinks.

    If your point was simply that you think millions of us are wrong, then I say power to you. Feel free to toot that horn as loudly as you would like. Try to convince us. I will add that you are doing a poor job of it.

    But I see you really want to override our decisions. You want to use government coercion (which you seem to dismiss only because it probably won’t work) or nuisance lawsuits or uncivil harassment of the corporate officers fulfilling consumer demands in order to get other people to comply with your paternalistic, intolerant view of what our choices should be.

    I cannot tell you how absolutely destructive I find this kind of attitude and approach. Somewhere I am sure I could find a quote about how the worst kind of harm is always committed by people with good intentions. And no this isn’t an argument against good intentions, it is a plea for an extremely high burden of proof before coercion and harrasment is introduced into a negotiation.

    If you are all for harassing those who disagree with you, are you also ok with us similarly harassing and shaming you? I would hope not.

    I am not sure you really see who the villain is here. I suggest we move forward in a way where nobody is.Report

  22. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    Brother Clive Staples: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      “There will be no more wanton violence; no further suffering, inflicted without reason or explanation. We will hurt you. And we are not sorry. But we do not do it to punish you. We do it to redeem you. Because afterward, you’ll be a better person … and because we love you. One day you’ll thank us for it.”

      “But you don’t understand … that makes it worse.

      That makes it so much worse … ”

      Remiel and one of the damned, in Sandman #28: “Seasons of Mists”Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph @jaybird You guys ever consider that crusading for a very specific form of “freedom” — under which a lot of people deny being free in any meaningful sense — could ever instantiate as a kind of moralizing oppression?

        Think hard before you answer. I wanna see your best work on this one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        When I was an adolescent, I was free in a lot of ways that I am not free as an adult.

        I mean, I didn’t have to buy food, I didn’t have to pay rent, I didn’t have to do much of anything but show up for school and show up for my job.

        Now? I have sooooo many obligations. I’m nowhere near “free”. I have to pay for my house, I have to pay for my groceries, I have to pay for my car, I have to pay for umpteen different kinds of insurance… or so my adolescent self might say.

        From my perspective, I’m being an adult and exercising my adult freedoms. They are of a distinctly different flavor than my adolescent freedoms.

        So I wonder what kind of freedom you’re talking about, there.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I wanna see your best work on this one.

        My irony meter just broke.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird But you still rely on Father State to provide order, right? Still relying on the police and the legal system (and the military to open up new markets) instead of making your own hard decisions about when to use violence or other measures to protect (what you consider to be) your property?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        So because I use roads, therefore the government should be able to limit my caloric intake? In for a penny, in for a pound?

        Does that argument work for telling women they should carry healthy children to term? If not, why not?

        They use roads too, after all.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird Who’s saying the government should be able to limit your caloric intake? Not me. I’m just trying to point out that libertarians are a lot more dependent on centralized authority than they flatter themselves to be.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Feel free to point out that even my health insurance is now dependent on government and stand triumphantly about how dependent libertarians are on Big Daddy Warshington.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks for supplying the quotes, Glyph and Jaybird.

        The logic, Robert, is that there is an asymetry in obligation for
        1) allowing another to choose for themselves and
        2) overriding the other’s choice

        There are strong logical arguments for allowing the person affected to choose which you may wish to familiarize yourself with. I brought some of them up in your original post which you also ignored. I get the sense you’ve already made your mind up about this and now just want to fix the world regardless how much it screws with the rest of us.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @Roger, please identify what coercion and harassment I’m advocating for. I think you’re misreading my posts.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Jaybird But you still rely on … the military to open up new markets)

        You’ve said a few things here about arguing in good faith, Robert. You might want to practice that before you ask it of others.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Absolutism in one direction provokes it in the other.
        The normative argument that we should all do our own thing unless it results in harm to another is an absolutist form of argument; it is based on the demonstrably false notion that we can be disengaged from each other.

        Does the obvious engagement of all of us in the affairs of the others argue for a total erasure of boundaries? Of course not. But it does argue for a flexible set of boundaries. And it also suggests that the setting of those boundaries is a group effort, not a unilateral declaration.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        LWA,

        Yes, but who has the burden of proof for their argument? Is there a default position that has a rebuttable presumption in favor of it?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I don’t think, nor did I say, that Jaybird has advocated for military imposition in opening up markets. But if you look at the history of the capitalism you and he favor, it’s hard to say that military imperialism has nothing to do with its fundamental workings. Nor do I really trust libertarians to refrain from this kind of imperialism in the future: If the working of “the market” is held to be above all other human values, then it makes sense to force markets on countries and peoples that might resist the entreaties of “freedom”-spreading libertarian do-gooders.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        You complain about people defining your views as pro-government, but you have no compunction about defining libertarianism for libertarians, all in the same comments page.

        It’s ok when you do it, but not when others do it…why?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley The difference is that I explicitly disavow big-government directly in my posts, and don’t label myself as anything that could be construed as pro-big-government, while libertarianism (in the American sense) has a fairly standard definition that has certain logical corollaries that its adherents don’t often like to face.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Robert,

        There’s nothing easier than justifying ourselves. Libertarians, of course, tend to be very anti-military. In your terms they “explicitly disavow” it. But you’ll dismiss their explicit disavowal because your interpretation of their beliefs is that militarism is a logical corollary. But if a libertarian dismisses your explicit disavowal because their interpretation of your beliefs is that government regulation is a logical corollary, you think that’s not fair.

        You’re really not doing anything different than what you’re complaining about others doing, despite your justifications. In short, if you’re going to tell libertarians what their beliefs logically entail, you have no standing to object when they tell you what your beliefs logically entail. If you want them to accept your understanding of what your beliefs lead to, then likewise you should accept their understanding of what their beliefs lead to.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Let me see, Robert, there was “regulating”, “suing”, “pressuring” and “treating their top officers as pariahs.” I also note you dismissed regulating — which is using coercion of the state — not for normative reasons but because you didn’t think it would work or be sufficient.

        Let me be clear. You have some interesting and unconventional ideas. That said, I support your right to have them, your right to share them, and I recognize that there is always a remote possibility you just may be right in some areas. The proper course of action is to persuade others of your views. To put it in legal terms, you are trying to persuade on sentencing prior to persuading on the conviction.

        Instead you are ignoring others’ opinions by first dismissing hundreds of millions of individual consumer choices as addiction and by dismissing profit (which reflects fulfilling consumer demand economically) as greed.

        If you can’t persuade us of your views, please be respectful of our choices. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        “suing”, “pressuring” and “treating their top officers as pariahs.”

        These are all perfectly legitimate ways for Robert to try to further his goals, and he has an absolute right to try to persuade others to join him in pursuing them. It’s a strange idea of “liberty” that says otherwise.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @lwa

        “The normative argument that we should all do our own thing unless it results in harm to another is an absolutist form of argument; it is based on the demonstrably false notion that we can be disengaged from each other.”

        Allow me to set the record straight. I am not arguing an absolute argument that we should let everyone do their own thing, nor am I arguing that we should be disengaged from each other.

        My argument is that there are good heuristic reasons to allow the person experiencing the feedback (living with the costs and benefits) to make the decision. It is a good, though imperfect rule of thumb. We can all site “exceptions which prove the rule” but I don’t think it is hard for a college educated adult to get the heuristic value of the convention.

        As an example, I think you probably are a better judge of how to wipe your ass than I am.

        As to the “disengagement” comment, there is a difference between not forcing someone to do something against their will, and being disengaged. For example, persuading someone or cooperating voluntarily with someone are forms of engagement.

        “…the obvious engagement of all of us in the affairs of the others… the setting of those boundaries is a group effort, not a unilateral declaration.”

        Yes. It isn’t Robert’s or your decision. You need to persuade us first. And when we laugh at your arguments and continue to buy candy, soft drinks and processed tomatoes it is an indication that you have a long way to go.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        For the record, I am opposed to the military being used to force people to drink soda pop.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        You lost one in your list, Mike.

        And is it OK to use those same actions against you and Robert to shut you guys up? Why not?

        How about if we start a campaign to treat people on welfare as pariahs? Maybe we can sue them to get our money back and teach them a lesson? Maybe we can pressure universities and employers to treat them as outcasts?

        Let’s do the same with girls who have abortions while we are at it. Let’s shame them into “proper action.” Perhaps we could find the expected economic social contribution of every child they abort and charge them for their selfish (greedy?) action. They do owe us, you know!

        I am being facetious of course. Seems like a very uncivil way forward to me.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Roger, you let the cat outa the bag way up thread, when you said, to Robert, “I am not sure you really see who the villain is here.”

        Not only do you disagree with him and expect him to do the impossible (persuade you), but you’ve effectively admitted that doing so is impossible. From your pov, he’s the villian in this little drama. Not just wrong, but EVIL! (Or ignorant, of course.)Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird What would you do if a state decided that Coke’s business practices were unjustifiable, and declined to protect people’s property if it was earned through the company?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley
        What burden of proof?
        Thats my point- just because I am not persuaded that a blue law against selling alcohol on Sunday is legitimate, doesn’t mean that the law itself lacks legitimacy.
        Coercion is perfectly acceptable, within boundaries and conditions.

        I am not supporting a soda ban- but the idea that it is an illegitimate exercise of government doesn’t seem compelling to me. Or rather, I’m not aware of some basic human right that would be violated.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        After writing the comment on “experts on wiping ass,” I had a strange thought. Somewhere on the Internet there probably is some lunatic group with strong opinions on proper ass wiping. They probably have web sites where they chat about corporate greed and the adverse health effect of industrially processed paper and the need to shame corporate executives to get them in line with “scientificishly” proven toiletry practices.

        I am just afraid to google it in case my wife checks my history.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        What would you do if a state decided that Coke’s business practices were unjustifiable, and declined to protect people’s property if it was earned through the company?

        Probably die of shock. Has this ever happened? Ever?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @jaybird There have been historical analogies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Opium_WarReport

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        The villainy applies to resorting to coercion in the absence of persuasion.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        What would you do if a state decided that Coke’s business practices were unjustifiable, and declined to protect people’s property if it was earned through the company?

        I think most libertarians would respond the same way they would respond to a state declining to protect poorer people’s property. You know, like they responded to the Kelo decision.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I am not supporting a soda ban- but the idea that it is an illegitimate exercise of government doesn’t seem compelling to me. Or rather, I’m not aware of some basic human right that would be violated.

        My problem with prohibition and the war on drugs isn’t the ban on alcohol or the ban on drugs. I’ve got more than my fair share of stories of the damage that alcohol and drugs have done to family members and friends.

        My problem is with what the government starts doing once people ignore the ban. It’s *THOSE* things that are the illegitimate exercises. It’s those things that end up violating basic human rights.

        Since I think that what the government starts doing once people ignore the ban is worse for us, as a society, than what people end up doing to themselves with alcohol and drugs if left to their own devices, I oppose the ban.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Ah, the Opium Wars, libertarians’ favorite moment in history. You can hardly read a Cato or Reason page without stumbling across a paean to it.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @Roger I avoided regulation because I thought it would have bad effects. I was showing my general agreement with the conservative/libertarian view that regulation is problematic. The fact that you’re still clubbing me for even talking about it really just shows what Stillwater pointed out, that you’re patently arguing in bad faith, because you know I could never convince you.

        Other than regulation, which I don’t know how many times I have to say I disfavor before you believe me, there’s nothing I’ve talked about that’s even remotely coercive. All I’ve talked about it either 1) ensuring that soda companies follow existing laws regarding economic behavior and against fraud, or 2) starting a movement for people to vote with their dollars. These are YOUR ideas, and you’re still having a goddamn conniption when I suggest them. That doesn’t present you in the best light.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        And with the comparison of sugary sodas to opium, I see that that comment also answers Robert’s question.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @Roger
        Yes, I specifically omitted that one, since it’s different from the others.

        And you are completely free to sue me (for mental distress, perhaps?), pressure me, or call me a pariah. After all, this is America.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Kelo is a bad analogy to my hypothetical, because that case involved the government actively taking the property, not just abdicating its role as guarantor of property rights. Also the takings in Kelo aren’t related to any problem with how it was obtained, but rather from pretty arbitrary determinations about how its then-current use impacted the local economy.

        I really don’t understand why libertarians aren’t more opposed to big business. Wasn’t it really the developers and local commercial interests who were driving the events in Kelo?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        My problem with prohibition and the war on drugs isn’t the ban on alcohol or the ban on drugs. I’ve got more than my fair share of stories of the damage that alcohol and drugs have done to family members and friends.

        My problem is with what the government starts doing once people ignore the ban. It’s *THOSE* things that are the illegitimate exercises. It’s those things that end up violating basic human rights.

        See, I disagree here. I think if the word “freedom” is to mean anything at all, it has to be applicable to a person’s own mind/bloodstream/waistband. I think trying to legislate and ban things within these narrow borders is, frankly, offensive in the extreme. It gobsmacks me that we ever allowed other people to assume they had the right to poke their noses in there. I am 100% dead serious about this.

        If I am not free in my own skull, nor in my stretchy sweat pants: where exactly am I ever free?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird Don’t you think there’s anything weird about having an absolutist position when it comes to government violence around drug use but having absolutely no problem when the same kind of brutality is used to defend private property, the provenance of which is often highly questionable?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I really don’t understand why libertarians aren’t more opposed to big business.

        If you understood libertarianism, instead of just thinking you do, you’d understand why that’s not a meaningful question.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Well, why don’t you try explaining why it’s not a meaningful question? I think there are more than a few people here who would like to hear it.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @robert-greer

        Let me add,
        I really don’t understand why libertarians aren’t more opposed to big business. Wasn’t it really the developers and local commercial interests who were driving the events in Kelo?

        That you don’t understand the contradiction in your questions here is pretty amusing, given your certainty that you understand what libertarianism is about.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I really don’t understand why libertarians aren’t more opposed to big business. Wasn’t it really the developers and local commercial interests who were driving the events in Kelo?

        Um, it was Pfizer. Big business and government colluded to steal the property of private citizens and they used “the public good” as their justification.

        But go to that land today and tell me how many people that factory employs. Here, let me google it for you:

        http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/kelo-revisited_776021.html#

        It’s an empty lot. (Please, don’t say “Oh, it’s the Weekly Standard!” as I’m not using it as a source for whether the decision was correct or not. Merely as a source for whether there’s anything there but an empty lot. From there, I’m concluding that, despite promises, the property was stolen from those people for something other than the public good.)

        Why aren’t more liberals opposed to big business?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        Why should I bother? You keep pleading for charitable interpretations of your views, but so far have given no indication that you think you’re under the same obligation with regard to libertarians.

        Anyway, it’s been covered here a good number of times. I’m sure any number of non-libertarians here understand the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @Jaybird I’m well aware of the negative consequences of Kelo and related decisions, which is why I oppose that ruling. But none of this explains why libertarians are quick to blame government but you have to probe them repeatedly to get them to admit that big business is driving the problem.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        libertarians are quick to blame government but you have to probe them repeatedly to get them to admit that big business is driving the problem.

        And there we see Robert’s commitment to being as charitable to others as he asks them to be to him.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I’m well aware of the negative consequences of Kelo and related decisions, which is why I oppose that ruling.

        See, I was opposed to Kelo when it was still nothing but promises of a utopian future. Why? Because I don’t trust Big Business when it colludes with the government.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I’m aware of the libertarian talking point that they’re in favor of markets and not necessarily pro-big business, yes — it’s not exactly some sophisticated or abstruse idea. But do you really think I’m the only person who would call bullshit on that? In this very thread, in cases where there are pretty clear market failures, instead of trying to make the market work better and more efficiently allocate benefits and prevent harms, you’ve reflexively rushed to the defense of powerful industries. Why shouldn’t we think that’s pretty peculiar, and maybe evidence that we should look beyond your first-order self-designations?Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird And when big business doesn’t need to rope in government to do shady things, what then?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        Is anymore evidence needed that you’re not about to hold yourself to the standard of charitable reading that you’re asking of others?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird

        If it were a thriving office park/medium-density housing development, would you think Kelo was less of a bad idea? I suspect not, which makes the fact that it was a failure irrelevant. Lots of sports arenas were built with public money and eminent domain, and I personally think that stinks, whether the team it was built for sticks around or not.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        If you understood libertarianism, instead of just thinking you do, you’d understand why that’s not a meaningful question.

        Of course, if he *REALLY* understood libertarianism, he’d be a libertarian!Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        The fact that you’re still clubbing me for even talking about it really just shows what Stillwater pointed out, that you’re patently arguing in bad faith, because you know I could never convince you.

        Yeah, I’m glad you understood my point there, oblique as it was. This comment of sums up any interaction between a liberal and Roger. Lots of clubbing under guise of an invitation to do the impossible: persuade him that he’s wrong.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Stillwater–So you don’t think a person can correctly explain an ideology without sharing it? No, of course you understand that; you just seem to be implying that I don’t understand that.

        Schilling–Libertarians are pretty consistent critics of publicly-funded stadiums.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        No, James, that’s not it at all. Robert has been under attack for – as he said – merely bringing the topic up. And when he lashes in response to being attacked he’s attacked again, all under the guise of a invitation to convince or persuade people who are ideologically or psychologically unpersuadable. You guys disagree with him. That’s really clear at this point. And I don’t know why that’s not enough, actually. But instead the discussion has devolved to personal attacks on his character, or Roger’s not so subtle comment that merely bringing the topic up suffices to show that Robert is a villian. He’s evil.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley That’s some pretty blatant evasion, James. I’d prefer if you just answered my question, but if you don’t have a response, that’s fine too — it means I don’t have to revise my tentative belief that libertarians are just statists in anarchists’ clothing.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        No, James, that’s not it at all. Robert has been under attack for – as he said – merely bringing the topic up. And when he lashes in response to being attacked he’s attacked again, all under the guise of a invitation to convince or persuade people who are ideologically or psychologically unpersuadable. You guys disagree with him. That’s really clear at this point. And I don’t know why that’s not enough, actually. But instead the discussion has devolved to personal attacks on his character, or Roger’s not so subtle comment that merely bringing the topic up suffices to show that Robert is a villian. He’s evil.

        I mean, people are acting like a whole lot hinges on this. Roger thinks Robert is a villian. Jaybird equated (thanks to Mike Schilling) a soda ban with the Gulags. And all because Robert points out that eating shitty food causes diabetes and that maintaining the status quo on this issue is wrong.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Stillwater,

        You seem to be in part referencing Rogers’ comments, but I have nothing to say to them. As for my critique, I think Robert clearly is unwilling to interpret libertarian comments charitably, and while he has every right to do so, coming on the heels of his complaints that others are not being charitable to him, it’s a bit hypocritical.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Of course, and I don’t think I implied otherwise. My point was that Monday-morning quarterbacking shouldn’t be necessary to reach that conclusion.

        I swear, we used to do nuance better.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater Thank you, seriously, for helping a guy avoid feeling like he’s crazy.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        You’re welcome. I’ve gone rounds and rounds with these guys and there’s just no winning unless you play by their rules on their turf. And more often than not a polite (or impolite, as the case may be…) refusal to do so is viewed as confirmation that you’re an ignorant, evil asswipe intent on destroying everything holy.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        And when big business doesn’t need to rope in government to do shady things, what then?

        Well, I’m pretty sure that the answer is *NOT* “well, let’s give the government even more power but make sure that only people like Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer are the ones calling the shots when it comes to what corporations can get away with!”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Technically, I only compared the people suggesting a soda ban with the people who put others in the gulags.

        Personally, if I were to compare the soda ban with anything, I’d compare it to Prohibition and the War On Drugs or trying to limit immigration or the black market in cigarettes in New York City or the smuggling of large capacity toilets from Canada.

        Were I to be berated, let’s berate me for that.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @jaybird What indication do you have that giving the Supreme Court more power is what I’m trying to do? You’re spearing a strawman.

        Do you have a proposed solution to the problem I outlined? Even the outlines of one?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Robert,

        A tip: Jaybird, just as much as Roger, will not meet you anywhere but under the house rules on his own turf. There is no point you, as a liberal, can make that he will concede to you other than complete submission to his views. And even then he *still* might disagree with you: you’re a liberal and he knows (a priori!) that he can’t trust ya!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        A question: who *ARE* you trying to give more power to?

        It certainly doesn’t seem to be the individual.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        “Look at that corner boy, waiting for the soda fiends that need their Big Gulp fix. I feel bad for him.”

        “Because he’s never going to be more than a pawn, and probably going to die young in a beef over territory with some rival gang?”

        “No, because the moron’s standing right in front of a 7-11.”Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @Jaybird , I’m trying to give more power to individuals who are at risk of developing diabetes because powerful companies are lying to them about the health risks of their products. We have existing laws against what these companies are doing — efficient markets even by mainstream libertarian standards couldn’t exist without these laws — so why not just use those to help prevent people from exploiting distortions in the market?

        I notice that instead of answering my pretty straightforward question, you’ve evaded it demanding that I answer questions first. I just want you to know that failing to answer these questions will only keep making you look unreasonable.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Thanks for the advice on unreasonability but I’ve reconciled myself to the whole “I’m not your dad” position when it comes to what other adults do with their spending money and/or free time.

        Though, to be honest, I would have thought that I looked more like someone monumentally insensitive for not caring if you drank Coca-Cola.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        ” I’m trying to give more power to individuals who are at risk of developing diabetes because powerful companies are lying to them about the health risks of their products.”

        Big billboard. “SODA MAKES YOU FAT. IT MAKES YOU GET DIABETES AND THEY CUT OFF YOUR FEET.”

        Done.

        But apparently that’s not good enough for you because those darn silly people just keep making all the wrong choices.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

      Yeah, a soda ban is much worse than the Gulag.

      Seriously, why post something that’s such obvious horseshit?Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      @james-hanley Should I take that to mean you’re not interested in attempting a meaningful response?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Robert Greer
        Ignored
        says:

        Depends on your definition of meaningful, doesn’t it? Personally, I think it’s meaningful to point out that you aren’t holding yourself to the standard you’re requesting of others, so when you request an explanation a person can’t expect expect that you’re sincere in your professed interest in understanding.Report

  23. Avatar Christopher Carr
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m just curious if anyone here thinks we should go back to having thalidomide be available over the counter. For freedom and whatnot.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      Left-handed thalidomide or right-handed?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      So long as it avoids legal liability with a 2-point type warning about possible side effects, what’s the problem?Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      @jaybird

      Either, or, whatever. If companies wanted to save on production costs, they could throw out a racemic mixture and call it a day.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Christopher Carr
      Ignored
      says:

      I realize this is a reductio, but I guess I’d say it depends: IF Thalidomide has other uses, and IF there has been adequate communication of its risks, then…maybe. There are probably things on the fertilizer/pesticide aisle of my local home improvement store that are just as dangerous to developing fetuses, and shouldn’t be handled (or ingested) by pregnant women.

      Put another way: I have no issue with the government putting up warning signs on Dead Man’s Curve, or installing better lighting and guard rails and surfaces, or requiring snow chains or 4-wheel drive on it; but I do have a problem with telling people they simply can’t go that way unless that way is pretty much certain death for everyone who attempts it.

      For some people, it’s the only (or best, or preferred) way to get where they want to go, and if they have been informed of and accept the risks, and the risks are primarily on them, then that’s their choice to make (or should be, if we value the ability to choose for ourselves.)

      In these threads, we’ve had a quote from Orwell, in which he talks about a bit of ice cream or a spot of tea being, essentially, the opiate of the masses; something that palliates and distracts from the pain of this life, if only for a few minutes.

      Even if you believe that junk food is a false pleasure, and the masses would be better off without their junk food opiate (or their religious opiate, or their opiate opiate), taking that option completely away from them by force is, IMO, arrogant; not to mention likely futile, or even counterproductive.

      I’ve long been a proponent of cognitive liberty; looks like I may need to add caloric liberty to that. As I said elsewhere, if I’m not free in my own skull, bloodstream and husky jeans, then I’m not free anywhere, and that’s simply a bizarre notion to me.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I think “it depends” is correct but often left out of these debates. It is far to easy to just prattle on about liberty or freedom without addressing specifics. It depends on the substance or situation or whatever. Some things are bad for us but should be legal, some things are bad for us but probably shouldn’t. Pot is different from Meth. Twinkies are different from lead paint. I guess i’m a Dependist which doesn’t sound all good or more like i’m a long term resident at an old age home.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        In general I agree with your notion of caloric liberty. But I still think the vast majority of people who develop lifestyle diseases in middle age don’t look back and say, “You know what, I truly knew the consequences of my actions, and it was worth it.” I think most of them say something along the lines of, “It must be my genes, because I ate just like all the other people around me.” Many of these people have been lied to by food companies – both in terms of what the nutritional contents actually are of the foods that they eat and in terms of the general health benefits. For instance, just today I saw a drink that contained primarily high-fructose corn syrup and chemicals advertise itself as: “No sodium!”, “Only 13 grams of sugar!”, “Only 50 calories per serving!”, and “100% daily allowance of vitamin C!” Unless you were a nutritionist or a fairly discerning lay person, you might think this drink that so boldly proclaims itself healthy is actually healthy.

        You would fail to realize A: sugary drinks don’t have sodium; B: that 13 grams of sugar is not accompanying anything nutrition that my body can use for anabolic reactions; C: the amount of calories per serving is a meaningless statistic, even if people actually do realize that 50 calories is 1/20 of what an active adult male should be consuming in a day; and D: vitamin C is a cofactor for biochemical reactions, not a reactant; this means that there is only a certain consumption threshold an individual must reach to receive full health benefits. Unless they are a sailor from the 1700s or a homeless alcoholic with malnutrition and liver disease, chances are they have already exceeded their daily required vitamin C intake just with passive consumption.

        This is not to mention that the sugary beverage also contains a variety of chemicals which have never undergone any form of safety testing, although many of them have been linked epidemiologically through independent scholarly research to very horrible things. The food companies’ response to this has been quite similar to that of tobacco’s before them – to call into doubt the validity of the results; since all we are capable of doing once a product is allowed to skip any sort of regulatory testing and enter the market is to conduct animal and well-designed observational studies, this itself has become the main criticism from financially-interested parties. See, for instance, atrazine.

        So to continue your analogy of Dead Man’s Curve, the way food companies advertise their products is like putting up a sign proudly proclaiming the curve quicksand-free and then collecting a toll from all the passers-by. I think there is something seriously wrong with this, and that addressing the problem will likely not essentially curb freedom.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        I think there is something seriously wrong with this, and that addressing the problem will likely not essentially curb freedom.

        I’m probably one of those fairly discerning people that smell the bullshit on food labels when the facts are used to create the impression that there’s nutritional value. Of course, two years ago, I was too stupid to know better. I’m no longer stupid in that way. My freedom wasn’t curtailed. I made myself get smart. More people need to do the same and those of us that know better should help those that don’t know what we know. Problem solved.

        My apologies if I don’t sound overly sympathetic to the argument that the food companies lie to people. Food companies do not have a monopoly on the marketplace of information pertaining to health and nutrition, especially with the number of resources out there. At the very least, even if people don’t have access to online resources, I can only hope that expanded access to healthcare will get people access to doctors that can help inform them.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        I’m sympathetic to where Chris is coming from and might agree with some policy suggestions but i think Dave is more correct here. I’m also someone who dropped a lot of weight, 100 lbs, and got myself back into good shape. I use labels and read a bit on the web. No one could have done that for me. My wife was certainly a huge help but i had to learn new habits and choices and make myself a better eater.

        My FIL was a baryatric medicine doc before he recently retired. His patients were all grossly obese people, we’re not talking 30 lbs overweight, more like 150 lbs or more. So many of his patients wouldn’t and/or couldn’t make the changes they needed to make to lose their weight. Not having trans fats in food is a good thing that likely helped them but food and eating is far to complex a thing to be done for someone. What works for me would not work for all sorts of other people. Our individual tastes, genetics and physiology have huge impacts in how we can eat. Each person needs to find out what works for them since they have to live their own life. I’m all for labeling, i want Uni HC to offer nutritionists, i want loud mouth educated people to have web sites, books and every other darn thing to help people learn.

        To many of the analogies between nicotine and sugar or caffeine are flawed. And i’m someone who will use those analogies and think they do have value, but they still are flawed and easily abused.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @christopher-carr – If you go back to past threads, you’ll find that I am wide-open to communicating nearly-maximal information about foodstuffs – even GMO info, where I am skeptical that much useful information *can* be communicated, given the state of the art and certain realities.

        In 2014, physical label size limitations are no longer an issue – slap a QR code on there that can be scanned by phone and linked to all the nutritional info in the world, and call it a day.

        That said, I was one of the people who took issue with Tod’s thrashing of Vitamin Water – my argument then, as now, was that if a product contains appreciable amounts of both Vitamins, and Water, it should be acceptable to call it “Vitamin Water” without appending “And Also, Hella Sugar”.

        If consumers are too lazy to read and understand the nutritional label and its implications, that’s on them.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        today I saw a drink that contained primarily high-fructose corn syrup and chemicals

        Christopher, I know you know this, so read this as me chiding you a bit rather than condescending to you, but everything is made of chemicals, so telling us a drink is made of chemicals doesn’t, for me at least, send the message you want it to send.

        greginak ,
        Twinkies are different from lead paint.
        Of course the primary reason for banning lead in paint was to protect little tots, who tend to stick paint chips in their mouths. If you want to add some lead to your paint, and decorate your own personal-use plates and cups with it, we might look askance at you and try to personally persuade you otherwise, but I’d object to the law preventing you from doing so. I would say you had a legal duty to warn others whom you invited over to dinner, though.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley You’re being willfully obtuse. It’s pretty obvious what was meant by “chemicals”: man-made chemicals that are not contained in real food, that our bodies haven’t evolved to process very effectively, and that experience shows us tend to have bad health effects.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Robert,

        I have no interest in further discussion with you.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        I’ll echo Robert’s point that I think you’re being willfully obtuse wrt my use of the term chemicals, just as you were earlier by fixating on my use of the concept of an externality. I understand you’re a smart guy, you and I are often in agreement, and I even respect your stubbornness most of the time, but kindly address the substance of my argument.

        Your point about lead paint is interesting, in that, the way toxic chemicals actually get into people should factor into the decision of whether or not and how to regulate them. I’m seeing a similar dynamic for the way things like trans fats and yes, potentially dangerous chemicals, get into children today as lead paint got into people in the 70s. For instance, removing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils from MacDonald’s fryolators will probably not remove any enjoyment some child somewhere gets from eating their MacDonald’s french fries just as removing lead from gasoline did not affect the enjoyment you derived from driving a car.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @will-truman @james-hanley

        Curious how you feel about prion disease wrt mission creep.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Christopher, I know you understand what you were saying, and I understand what you were saying, because 1) I know you know what chemicals are, and 2) I don’t see you as the type to pander to people’s fears.

        But I think you surely also know there’s a lot of misconceptions out there, as expressed in this article someone Facebooked today.

        Scientists are worried about the growing disconnection between the lifestyle view of chemicals and the chemical realities of the world. They are worried not just because people are likely to misunderstand what chemicals are and do, but because of the consequences for decisions about lifestyle choices, family health and social policies.

        In lifestyle commentary, chemicals are presented as something that can be avoided, or eliminated using special socks, soaps or diets, and that cause only harm to health and damage to the environment. The chemical realities of the world, by contrast, are that everything is made of chemicals, that synthetic chemicals are often much safer for human health than so-called “natural” ones, and that unfounded anxiety about chemicals is encouraging people to buy into ideas and “remedies” that make little scientific or medical sense.

        And while I don’t think you were using the word “chemicals” either in ignorance or to fear-monger, your use comes on the heels of Robert’s use of “processed,” which was clearly used either in ignorance or to fear-monger, so it was particularly striking to me.

        In part I’ll admit I’m particularly sensitized to the over-broad use of “chemical” because I work closely with a chemist who regularly rages about people using it in ignorance or as a scare tactic. And again, not that I think you did, either; just that there are so many people out there who are primed to react in fear to the word “chemical” that I think more cautious phrasing is valuable.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        kindly address the substance of my argument.

        So this doesn’t count as substantive response?

        Meanwhile you linked me with two comments I never made, one about comparisons with SWAT teams and the other about “mission creep.” So if you want to have a pissing match about who’s responding properly to whom, let’s make sure all the points are on the scoreboard.

        prion disease

        I know nothing about prion disease. Educate and persuade me.

        Re: Lead, McDonalds, and so on. I made a reference to public information campaigns that you haven’t addressed. Density Duck gave a prospective billboard example. I’d add this one: “Would you cut your children’s feet off for a box of french fries? Then why eat at McDonalds?”

        Corporations have proven very responsive to public shaming when they are reliant on repeat customers. That’s not to say all bans always and everywhere are illegitimate–it’s just to say there’s a fundamental disconnect between folks who think of bans first and those who think of consumer education first, which is why I suspect that in most cases we’re doomed to talk past each other. With prion disease as a possible exception, because I’m not going to pretend to an expertise I don’ have.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        James,

        Let’s put aside the patronizing and the pearl-clutching. Just because you did respond to one of my points with substance does not mean I’m unjustly chiding you when you purposely misrepresent my argument and make personal attacks later on in the thread. Every time you have engaged my argument, I have qualified your points in a manner that has been productive for us both. Let’s continue that kind of discourse.

        Furthermore, you know that I’ve spent the last two years teaching university-level chemistry while completing the pre-requisites for medical school and that I’m currently spending hours each day close-reading detailed synopses of biochemical pathways. I am definitely not peddling the kind of woo your colleague complains about.

        To address your point about prions – prions are proteins that self-replicate within living organisms. They are somewhat controversial, but it is believed that mad cow disease is derived from infection with a prion. Prions are transmitted by consumption of contaminated meat. I’m curious if you think that we should use policy to test for and attempt to eliminate prions from our food supply, or if you think the free market will provide a better solution. I’m curious what Will Truman thinks about this as well. And, of course, anyone else is welcome to chime in.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley Processed food really is worse for you. Your digestive system evolved in tandem with its environment, and introducing processed food-substitutes messes up the works in a lot of well-known ways. You’re trying to thwack me for saying something that’s pretty well understood by the relevant nutrition authorities.

        Having a friend who knows about chemistry is no excuse for being ignorant about biology and nutrition, James.

        http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7947991&fileId=S1368980010003241Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        “We need assistance from the CDC and the FDA to test for prions because the problem is both so subtle and so wide-ranging that a country-wide response is needed” is not the same thing as “ban all meat because prions”.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley You mention that corporations are good at responding to consumer pressure. This is not quite right: Corporations are only good at responding to consumer pressure when there is an easy fix that can preserve their bottom line. The tobacco industry was a very good example of what happens when this is not the case: Corporations can be very good at intentionally misleading the public and using their economic and political power to distort the public discourse when they face existential threats to their money. But I don’t think you’ll have a very good argument for that, so I expect you to stick with your (very convenient) “I’m not talking to you” shtick.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Let’s put aside the patronizing and the pearl-clutching.

        Would that still allow for discussing what soft drinks other people imbibe or would it preclude it?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Robert Greer,

        1. Not all processing is equal. Humans have been processing foods in various ways for thousands of years. You’re using the term too broadly, which means you’re using it in complete ignorance or consciously as a scare tactic.

        You also ignore that humans did not reached a fixed point in evolution, but continue to evolve. Thinking we have to eat only as our ancient ancestors did demonstrates scientific ignorance about evolution as an on-going reality.

        Nearly all the foods we eat are not what our ancestors ate, but have been altered through human selection. By your “only what we evolved to back then” account, these foods should be unacceptable, but without very spurious justification you let them in.

        It sounds like you’re proposing some version of the paleo diet, mostly sans meat. Nothing wrong with being vegetarian, of course (in fact, as far as I know, there’s nothing inherently problematic about your diet at all–I’m not actually criticizing that), but the truth is we don’t really know just what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, other than knowing that it varied by region.

        As reported in Scientific American,

        “Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating ‘bad’ foods that are departures from the natural human diet…This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs,” Leonard wrote. “Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the Earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes.”

        Wine is, of course, a processed product, an ancient one. And we know that drinking moderate amounts of wine is actually good for you.

        Bread is a processed food, and one that is as much as 30,000 years old.

        Fermentation, salting, pickling and smoking are also ancient techniques of processing food for extended shelf life.

        So I stand by my claim that your use of the term “processed” is overbroad, and the unqualified claim that “processed foods are bad for you” is horsepucky. Some type of processed foods are, but it’s what’s in the particular processing that matters, not the mere fact of doing some kind of processing.

        You are also stating only a half-truth about corporate response to bad publicity, based on your ideological predispositions. No one doubts that corporations would like to get away with only pretending to respond to bad publicity, and sometimes they can when the consuming public actually doesn’t care that much. But when consumers care, they can have great effects through publicity. Nike, for example, did make substantive improvements in its contracting with developing world textile firms as a consequence of negative publicity–even a lot of folks who didn’t care much about sweatshops didn’t care to be criticized by their friends, and Nike found its sales threatened.

        There actually is real consumer power. The funny thing is, on the one hand you write as though consumers have no power at all, and on the other, you say you want to work through changing the way people consume rather than through government regulation; but your preferred method is impossible in the absence of actual consumer power.

        I don’t think you’ll have a very good argument for that, so I expect you to stick with your (very convenient) “I’m not talking to you” shtick.

        Classy. If I had chosen not to respond you had preemptively claimed it was because I couldn’t. That’s perfectly in keeping with the persistent dishonesty you’ve shown throughout. You know, like tossing out cites (that you hadn’t read and that didn’t support you), then when I give cites suddenly changing your approach to claim that giving cites was just appeal to authority–apparently only when I did it, but not you!Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley “Processed” can take on different valences, and I’ve never said there isn’t a continuum of harms with modern foods (rather, my posts have been pretty consistent with the idea of such a continuum — see my posts about orange juices, whole oranges, cultivated mandarins, and wild mandarins). I’ve meant “processing” to mean “processing of the industrial kind that food companies do to make their food more profitable”. There’s no disagreement from the experts that that’s unhealthy. I’m willing to say that I overreached on a few related claims to this, but my core point still stands unchallenged: Industrial food processing is bad for people’s health.

        I have never said there is no such thing as consumer power. I have merely bristled at the ridiculous suggestions that food companies’ interference with demand, either through advertising to children or disinformation campaigns about the harmlessness of their products, is somehow not a serious public health problem.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Christopher,

        Thanks for the comment on prions. I will read it and think about it. However the first part of your comment is rather astonishing.

        you purposely misrepresent my argument and make personal attacks later on in the thread. …you know that I’ve spent the last two years teaching university-level chemistry… I am definitely not peddling the kind of woo your colleague complains about.

        As I took pains to explicitly say that I know you know what you’re talking about regarding chemicals, that I know what you meant, and that I didn’t think you were trying to mislead, it is you who have misrepresented my comment, not I yours. I would ask you to read it again.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Robert,
        “Processed” can take on different valences, and I’ve never said there isn’t a continuum of harms with modern foods

        Good, then let’s be specific instead of just using the word processing in the most simplistic way as a stand-in for harm.

        Industrial food processing is bad for people’s health.

        All industrial processing? Are there no industrial processes that are fairly benign?

        Look, in general I’m a tyrant about overbreadth. I like a bit more precision, and I think people who are overbroad are at best careless, and frequently flatly dishonest.

        It’s really no different from right-wingers calling everything “socialism.” Yes, from one perspective the government investing in GM and running it for a while falls within the continuum of socialism, but of course no serious person thinks it’s true government-ownership-of-all-the-means-of-production socialism. You know they’re either idiots or they’re just trying to scare people.

        You think you’re different from them. I don’t.Report

      • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley Lightly-industrially-processed foods are probably pretty benign. An industrial chopper that more or less mimics a guy with a knife? Sure, pretty benign. But it’s still the case that the more heavily-processed a food is, the less healthy it is. And yes, I think people’s intuition that “chemicals” and “industrially-processed foods” are scary is more or less correct. I used broad language in part because, as you point out, there’s a continuum of harm. You’ve used that against me, reading my posts about as uncharitably as a person can, and nitpicking about some of my ancillary claims that were intended to inform the later debate rather than support my original post. If you think you’ve effectively challenged my central points, you’re wrong.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        Lightly-industrially-processed foods are probably pretty benign.

        Thank you for that. I wish it indicated that you understood my criticism of overbroad language, but the remainder of your comment suggests that you still don’t think there’s a problem with it.

        And yes, I think people’s intuition that “chemicals”… are scary is more or less correct.

        I sincerely request that you read this. Being that it is impossible to escape chemicals–that one literally cannot live a chemical free life–and that safety cannot be guaranteed by just avoiding man-made chemicals and sticking to natural chemicals, I think the generalized fear of chemicals is actually quite harmful. I know people who won’t take tested and FDA approved pharmaceuticals because they are “chemicals,” but readily take any herbal supplement handed to them because they think either that it’s not a chemical, or recognize that it is but think that because it’s natural it’s therefore good.

        This is the overbreadth problem again. People need better information, and better information often comes from being more precise. Look, if all trans fats are in fact severely harmful as you claim–a point I haven’t disputed, I want to note–then “trans fats are terribly harmful” is probably good enough information, vague and unspecific as it is.

        But “chemicals are bad” is much too broad. Get people to believe chemicals are bad, period, and you’re going to have them fighting against fluoride in the drinking water, and ranting about arsenic in vaccinations harming our babies. I’ve even heard people assert that they will only buy uniodized salt because iodine is a chemical.

        We’re not doing anybody any good if we lead them down that path. We can actually be harming them by instilling a generalized fear of chemicals.

        Anyway, I’m off to bed now. I eat too much and don’t exercise enough, but at least I can try to get enough sleep, now that I have the sleep apnea under control.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Glyph
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        says:

        @james-hanley

        Ceteris paribus (and yes, I am using that term correctly) it’s pretty clear that processed foods are worse for you than their whole food alternatives. Does that mean you should completely avoid processed foods? No.Report

  24. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    This thread is an all-timer. Too bad it’s on a subject I am just not passionate about.

    Well done, OTers!Report

  25. Avatar Dave
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    says:

    @robert-greer

    I’m trying to give more power to individuals who are at risk of developing diabetes because powerful companies are lying to them about the health risks of their products.

    PepsiCo sells 20 oz bottles of Mountain Dew. On each bottle, there’s a label disclosing the ingredients and the nutritional facts. The label tells me that there’s 290 calories and 77 grams of sugar (the math seems off but that’s what it says). Reading the ingredients, I see high fructose corn syrup listed second right after carbonated water. Those of us that know how to read ingredients labels and understand that 77 grams or carbs through simple sugars is not the ideal way to get our daily caloric intake would know not to touch this with a 50 foot pole except perhaps on occasion and in small quantities (or not – to each their own). The information consumers need is presented on the labels. I don’t see anything hidden here.

    To my knowledge, I am not aware of any instance where the soda companies have tried to sell the nutritional benefits of their product (soda commercials are a lot like beer commercials in that there’s less emphasis on the product and more on the social experiences) through any kind of advertising.** Also, that excess amounts of sugar can wreak holy hell on a person’s health is not the sort of information that the soda companies can suppress because the health, wellness, fitness, weight loss and medical communities, to name a few, are fully aware of this and make an effort to educate as many people as they can about it.

    With the ingredients disclosed and the producers not making any false claims about the health benefits of their products, I don’t understand where the act of lying is taking place here. I don’t think you make a strong case. Consider:

    The most obvious case of food addiction is probably soda. Soda companies routinely use a compound, caffeine, that is widely understood to be addictive, and their highly-sugared products are among the most clearly metabolically toxic.

    Caffeine is an ingredient that is disclosed on the label (although the quantity isn’t, that info can be found elsewhere). Again, because the metabolic effects of processed sugars are known and can be made available to the public, I don’t see how a soda company can lie about this.

    Although caffeine is not understood to be as inherently toxic as nicotine, caffeine is still toxic in large amounts, and soda companies routinely advertise or otherwise encourage consumption of caffeine above the threshold for addiction (about three 12-oz sodas a day).

    “Or otherwise encourage” is too broad a threshold here. All soda companies are trying to sell their products in a competitive marketplace. “Buy our product”, which is the standard type of advertising that I’m familiar with is not the same as “buy our products and make sure you drink 72 oz a day”. I’m sure that the soda companies would love the sales from that, but they aren’t directly selling products to consumers that way. You haven’t defined what “encouraging consumption” means and why it should be a valid legal threshold. If, for example, they encourage consumption by selling 2 liter bottles, I could turn that around and argue that the companies that produce over the counter painkillers should be sued for encouraging consumption by virtue of the fact that they sell bottles with 100 pills.

    Importantly, caffeinated soda routinely contains processed sugar, which evidence shows to be dangerous above a certain threshold of consumption, and has strong addictive qualities even in isolation.

    More importantly, it’s the consumers that are voluntarily over-consuming and I’m far from convinced that addiction is the problem. Bloody hell, I was drinking two to three sodas a day on top of an XL coffee with heavy cream and sugar before I changed my eating habits. I not only kicked the habit’s ass but I NEVER had a problem quitting that level of sugar cold turkey. Perhaps this is why I get pissed reading some of this. It my own choice and my being responsible that led to my being able to quit with no problem yet no one aside from the libertarian crowd that has just about everyone else here annoyed as usual wants to discuss how individual responsibility plays into this equation. This is why I’d rather educate and help people than waste time going after Big Food or looking down upon those that perhaps do drink too much soda.

    Another damning piece of evidence is that soda companies generally add salt to their product, which by balancing the saccharine taste of sugar enables companies to add even more sugar than otherwise would be palatable.

    Soda companies don’t hide this. Sodium content and the exorbitantly high sugar content are disclosed on labels.

    Consumers of full-sugar Coke who purchase in the amounts the company apparently intends should be expected to develop an addiction to the product and thus be well on the road to diseases like diabetes.

    While that argument may have worked against the tobacco companies, nicotine is light years more addictive than sugar. Kicking sugar is easy. Kicking nicotine is not. I know smokers that have done the former but the latter still kicks their asses.

    Unfortunately, despite the strong legal analogies between soda and tobacco, the legal fight against processed foods will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.

    Respectfully, until you can prove that sugar and nicotine have similarly strong addictive qualities, there are no legal analogies. There’s no case. There’s no David and Goliath story where our hero can slay the mighty giant known as Big Food and everyone lives healthier and happier lives freed from the clutches of those that make our food decisions for us.

    In the meantime, I suggest taking your passion and using it to help people make better choices, one person at a time. That’s what I try to do.

    Last point…

    We have existing laws against what these companies are doing — efficient markets even by mainstream libertarian standards couldn’t exist without these laws — so why not just use those to help prevent people from exploiting distortions in the market

    You made a comment to James…The nice thing about peer-reviewed articles is that when they speculate, they tell you, so you can determine for yourself whether they’re right instead of, say, using them to make dunderheaded appeals to authority.

    The nice thing about blog posts, whether written by you, me, James or anyone else, is that even when they don’t explicitly come out and say they speculate, I can tell when they do, like when you say that these companies are breaking their laws although you’ve made no case for it.

    In any event, I’ll decide what I think is right for myself. I admire and respect your passion but I don’t agree with your approach.

    ** As much as I hate the fact that the cereal producers do this and seeing the nutritional “benefits” on a box of Cocoa Puffs makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time, those so-called benefits fall within what the USDA seems to think are beneficial (i.e. ChooseMyPlate or the Food Pyramid)Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Dave
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      says:

      One man’s call for individual responsibility is another man’s victim-blaming.Report

    • Avatar Robert Greer in reply to Dave
      Ignored
      says:

      @Dave , I appreciate your thoughtful and temperate comment, but I think you’re mistaken about a few things.

      1. Soda companies routinely market their products as “hydrating” (i.e., healthy), and that soda can count as fluid intake necessary for a healthy diet. They also commonly commonly claim that their products are not problematic from a health standpoint. These are both false health claims that open companies up to civil fraud claims.

      2. Soda companies, by selling individual-use drinks larger than 30 ounces, are clearly intending their products to be used in such a way as to render them inherently addictive. There’s tons of case law saying that this kind of thing can render a company liable for the resulting harm. Pill-bottle sellers generally have extensive warnings on the side not to take more than a few at a time. This analogy is not as strong as you think.

      3. I am not denying that individual responsibility has a large role to play here. I definitely would not counsel someone not to use common sense when determining how much soda to drink. But the problem is that “common sense” — what “everybody knows” — is being perverted by massive disinformation campaigns by soda companies who are desperately trying to make it seem like there’s nothing wrong with drinking a lot of soda. The purveyors of these lies also have a personal responsibility, and arguably a much stronger personal responsibility than individual consumers, because they have greater knowledge of the problem — as well as greater control over the market because they not only control supply, but spend hundreds of millions of dollars manipulating demand.

      4. Respectfully, I don’t think your anecdotal evidence that “sugar and caffeine aren’t all that addictive” is enough to overcome the scientific literature showing that caffeine and sugar have strong analogs to the addictive properties of illegal drugs. http://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Abstract/2009/03000/Natural_Addiction__A_Behavioral_and_Circuit_Model.5.aspx http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00212836

      5. My project here is not mutually exclusive with educating people on an individual basis, which I commonly do. But lawsuits and divestment campaigns also have an educational component. I chose to focus on divestment, not because I don’t think a case can be made for fraud or toxic torts, which I’ve already done in the article and the comments, but because institutional concerns lead me to believe that a campaign that focuses more on consumer education is the way to go. I was taking your advice before you even gave it to me.

      All that said, I appreciate that you can voice your disagreements without being disagreeable. Thanks very much for generating more light than heat.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @robert-greer –

        Soda companies, by selling individual-use drinks larger than 30 ounces, are clearly intending their products to be used in such a way as to render them inherently addictive

        I have a few issues with this statement.

        1.) If by “individual-use drinks ” we are talking about Big Gulps and the like, it’s not the “soda companies” that are selling these – it’s 7-11 et al. Soda companies simply sell the soda that fills the Big Gulps.

        Now, if we all understand that we are lumping store and restaurant vendors under the umbrella “Big Soda”, I guess that’s OK; but it does seem a distinction worth mentioning.

        I have no doubt that soda companies were thrilled with the invention of the Big Gulp (maybe they even pitched it), but they are not the ones who primarily created or sell the “product” in the manner and dose you are most concerned with. Which may or may not mitigate the actual soda companies’ evil complicity in the corruption corpulence of America’s youth.

        If we are talking about bottled drinks with caps, those are arguably NOT intended for individual use – myself, on the rare occasions I drink Coke, often get two or more servings from the 20 oz bottle, drinking some with a meal or snack, and saving some for later.

        Of course, others drink it all at once; so maybe that just means that I am not an “addict”, which leads me to :

        2.) I have semantic problems with the idea of “rendering” something “inherently addictive”. If something is inherently addictive, then it need not be rendered so, since its addictiveness is innate. Perhaps something can be “rendered…addictive”, but even here I have my doubts. It may take one Vicodin to hook me, or one hundred; but opiates themselves are generally considered an addictive substance either way; they were not “rendered” so by increasing the dose or frequency, though of course *I* may become habituated to them in this manner; which is why it’s best for me to limit my consumption or avoid them altogether.

        3.) I also reiterate my earlier complaint, about the usage of the word “addictive” in such mild contexts; a “chocoholic” is simply a comical figure of speech, and generally bears almost no relation to an “alcoholic” in terms of the damage potentially wrought to life, work, health and family.

        Anyone who has seen a real addiction up close should IMO instinctively recoil from stretching the word’s generally-understood meaning in this way, no matter what superficial parallels may be drawn.

        Doing so strikes me as a rhetorical tactic that, intentionally or not, associates things that do not belong together; a sort of conceptual-Godwinning, in which we take something (drug addiction) that everyone agrees is Just Terrible, and then assert that the thing under discussion is just as bad as that.

        That our brains light up similarly when eating sugar or snorting cocaine is not proof that eating sugar is anywhere near as harmful as snorting cocaine; rather, it is evidence that cocaine happens to light up some of the same brain reward systems that evolved for finding sugars. It does us no analytic favors to get that relationship backwards. Excessive sugar consumption can be bad enough on its own without implying we’re one step away from burning our face off in a moon-pie freebasing accident.

        4.) Leaving aside #2 & #3 as being perhaps a matter of me being, once again, nit-picky about excessive rhetoric and semantics; you believe soda vendors (and consumers) varying the size of the “dose” to be a matter requiring government intervention.

        I wonder where you might draw the line.

        At the pub down the street from you, during Oktoberfest, do you require that they refrain from serving beer in the large steins, since a pint glass (or smaller!) of a demonstrably-addictive substance like alcohol should be sufficient for anyone?

        What about cocktails? Should we mandate that they only have one shot in them, never two (pity about the poor Long Island Iced Tea, or any drink made with more than one liquor)? After all, some percentage of people are prone to alcoholism, and exposing them to larger doses of alcohol can only inevitably lead to a nation of drunks.

        (If it’s not obvious, I disagree with you fairly mightily on this subject, on just about everything except for the idea of ending subsidies – but kudos to you for keeping a cool head and even tone when responding to multiple interlocutors who disagree; I know it’s not easy).Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Robert Greer
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        Anyone who has seen a real addiction up close should IMO instinctively recoil from stretching the word’s generally-understood meaning in this way, no matter what superficial parallels may be drawn.

        My generally understood meaning of the word “addiction” is “anything that a person can’t stop doing,” which is a functional definition that includes shooting heroin to viewing porn to eating chocolate to shopping and gambling….

        I think you mean to emphasize a certain type of very damaging physical addiction with tight causal links. The term covers more than that tho. So I’m not at all sure I agree with you on this point.

        Here’s an interesting article on The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.

        Here’s an interesting story on theReport

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @glyph

        but kudos to you for keeping a cool head and even tone when responding to multiple interlocutors who disagree; I know it’s not easy

        I agree. I’m much more on board with you and the others who disagree with the OP, but I do think @robert-greer has acquitted himself well, which I’m not positive I could do in a 400+ comment thread with people (mostly) pushing back against what I’ve said.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @glyph

        Actually, chronic over-consumption of sugar meets the criteria for addiction in the classical sense. There is a physiological response – namely insulin resistance – that necessitates more of the addictive substance be consumed.

        It’s actually quite analogous to alcohol in that most of us are capable of consuming quantities of sugar that never reach the threshold for positive-feedback. Where that threshold is varies from person to person. Just like alcohol, however, moderate consumption of sugar is even healthy.

        Perhaps the difference lies in the social connotations of the word “addiction”. We tend to think of addictions to drugs or other mind-altering substances with their associated behavioral changes, and this is what we look for when we suspect addictions in friends, colleagues, or other loved ones. Over consumption of sugar probably does not result in the same kinds of behavioral changes as other addictions do, but the physiological changes are certainly real and can be quite debilitating.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Robert Greer
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        says:

        @christopher-carr Perhaps the difference lies in the social connotations of the word “addiction”. We tend to think of addictions to drugs or other mind-altering substances with their associated behavioral changes, and this is what we look for when we suspect addictions in friends, colleagues, or other loved ones. Over consumption of sugar probably does not result in the same kinds of behavioral changes as other addictions do, but the physiological changes are certainly real and can be quite debilitating.

        This is getting at what I am struggling to say. In our society we seemingly often treat drug addicts (really, drug USERS, whether addicted or not) the way other societies treated lepers. They are the Unclean, Untouchable caste; outside the bounds of polite society. I’ve often speculated that our bonkers War On (Some) Drugs is in part the result of some psychological need to have a basic “defilement” taboo fulfilled, and somebody has to be the goat.

        Thus my discomfort with seeing the same sort of, at root, prohibitionist mentality transferring from things like real drugs and alcohol (where, while I disagree with prohibition, I at least understand the impulse to it, having witnessed, as you say, acute behavioral and health effects) to things like sugar, which generally doesn’t have the same severe acute effects (though I understand that the concern here is more chronic, long-term exposure).

        I’ve seen that trying to save peop