Why are so many consumers and bloggers totally convinced that food companies and consumer products retailers are evil, greedy, and exist solely to exploit their customers?
Look, if you hold a simplistic, generalized world view like this, you are committing an act of disempowerment. You may not know it, but you are willingly giving your power away to these companies.
Now, this isn't to say that some companies aren't greedy. They can be. Nor is it to say that consumers aren't at times cheated, taken advantage of, or unfairly separated from their money. But it is the height of enfeebled hypocrisy to whine and complain about "greedy companies" when they merely make and sell the very products we consent to buy.
I will not allow my readers to hand their power over to companies like that. No way.
The truth is this: big business (or Big Food, or Big Retail, or Big Pharma, or Big Oil--go ahead and take your pick) has absolutely no power over us unless we willingly choose to be disempowered first. There have never been more companies competing for our consumer dollars, and there have never been more consumption choices available to us--including the easy-to-forget option not to consume at all.
Just walk into any standard supermarket, and you'll find at least 50,000 products--three times what you'd find 30 years ago--all helpfully arranged throughout the store in the hopes that you'll make a purchase. Sure, among those 50,000 products there are lots of unhealthy foods. But an unbiased walk through any grocery store will reveal an extremely wide array of healthy, laughably cheap foods too.
If you decide to eat unhealthy foods in the face of all of those options, you make that choice. No snivelling marketing executive from Big Food grabbed you and forced a bag of Doritos down your throat. (PS: If this actually happens to you, let me know and I'll gladly re-evaluate every single one of my views on consumer empowerment. Uh, and call 911. )
Sure, some food company may have made those chips hyperpalatably salty and tantalizingly delicious. But you picked the bag off the shelf, you carried it to the counter, you paid for it with your money, and you took the bag home, opened it and consumed the contents.
If you consider it reasonable to blame Big Food for that sequence of events, then you're beyond help. You've already given away all of your power.
Readers, what are your thoughts?
A version of this post appeared last year at one of my very favorite blogs, Cheap Healthy Good.
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