Sunday, May 27, 2012

Organic Food

Organic food appears more likely to make some people jerks.  Or, even bigger jerks.

Reacting to this news, PJ O'Rourke had a good line on "Wait! Wait!  Don't Tell Me..." yesterday:  "So!  THAT'S where Democrats come from!"

But this does raise two interesting questions for Euvoluntaryists.

1.  This is the 1 billionth and 57th proof that the idea of "preferences" is pretty much ridiculous.  The reactions we have to things depends strongly on priming and other short term psychological considerations.  That means, as my Duke colleague Dan Ariely has pointed, that we are "predictably irrational."  Businesses and government can manipulate our responses, though the changes may not be permanent.

2.  Entirely separately, it also means that we may be subject to EXTERNAL "force," in the form of social disapproval.

"Why are you buying that organic tomato?  It costs an extra buck, and you can't tell the difference."

"My boy(girl)friend really likes organic stuff, and I'm trying to get busy tonight."

Okay, that's fine, it's the kind of cost people, especially men, have always paid for getting busy.

But social pressures like this may make us do irrational things we actually know to be irrational.  Like recycling.  Not ALL recycling, not even close.  But stuff like this.

We have always been susceptible to social pressures.  Toqueville wrote about it, and how social pressures increase the power of the majority, in effect making choices coerced.

And so not voluntary.


  1. Not only does social pressure make us do irrational things that we already know to be irrational, but it's also the way we value things.

    Value may change as you accrue more money or as time change, value changes. We value things differently than the next person besides us; subjective theory of value. Each and every day we have an action of exchange, in this scenario with the organic food, the boy/girlfriend decides to give up an extra dollar for the organic tomato because he wants to achieve his means of "getting busy".

    So therefore, in the end, not only that we have always been susceptible to social pressures, but we also do things because of the way we value them.

  2. This all relates back to subjective value theory. People value different things at different levels for different reasons. Those reasons range from background, family morals, or social pressures among many others. In this example social pressure is used to sway the values of people. The person who bought the organic food responded to the other's question with an answer that would seem socially acceptable. He may, in fact, be trying to "get busy" or he simply values the nutritional value. In this case it would seem he also values the opinion of the person who asked "why" at a level lower than the purpose of the organic food. It is a shame that people are influenced by social pressures to make "irrational decisions," although these decisions seem rational at the time.

  3. Today people are more aware about being healthy. Different healthcare organizations and media put a lot of pressure on individuals about eating healthy. Today in a typical grocery store, you can find hundreds of products under the label “Organic”. Roughly 20 years ago, there wasn’t such a big demand on organic food, like it is today. What is it? New trend, increased willingness to be healthier or social pressure? I would say: everything. Highly marketed organic products taste and look exactly the same as the regular one but cost much higher. Organic food makes people being irrational at some extent.

  4. People are becoming more aware of eating healthy now days. Eating organic or not is a choice. Social pressure on eating healthy is more now. Organic food is better for your system because of its many quality such as no chemical toxins ,more nutrients, and etc. I don't see this as a negative thing. The only negative thing about organic food is the cost being higher than regular food. Just because it looks the same, doesn't mean it is the same food.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?