28 March 2010

Smoking Guns and Suspension of Disbelief

Remember how the nation was lied to about what was really going on in Vietnam? Okay, you say, it's true that through history populations are manipulated by governments--or simply ignored because they had no power--why would we expect ours to be better? Well, one reason is that this idea of "better" comes as a necessary corollary to the narrative we spin around our system of government. Our "democracy" is a paragon of freedom and liberty--and you just can't beat that! Ours is the fabled city on a hill--a beacon to all.

Okay, so Vietnam tells us the truth and Watergate does too--explicitly, I mean it's right there for all of us to see and listen to. Done--even our government is manipulative and dare I say it, evil, at times.

So now we have doubts about everything right? But at the same time we still have FERVENT believers in the "goodness" of our "just intentions". I believe this is a kind of Nationalist psychology. I mean who believes Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Powell, and etc.? People DO!!! Hell, Obama continues the same disgraceful policies. People "trust" him though they would never trust Bush/Cheney. (Does Biden even count or is his role now back to what we always thought the VP's role should be pre-Cheney?) So, these are psychological issues of belief (suspension thereof) even in the face of smoking guns.

Now what I really wanted to get to: Remember when the Tobacco industry took a hit because in the course of a lawsuit about the health effects of tobacco it was discovered that the very people in charge of the corporations--those responsible for the effects of their product--not only KNEW how harmful smoking is, but suppressed it and commissioned "favorable" "scientific" studies. See, it's not wrong that they manufacture death in a little white stick; it's wrong that they defrauded you about it! That's why it's not wrong for gun manufacturers to make deadly products--they're not claiming they're not deadly--ie, they don't defraud you about the benignity of using them.

Okay, so corporations lie (another surprise, right?). So what? Well, hmm...here's the next thing. Chemistry and Medicine colluded (ah capitalism and markets) with Tobacco. Now why should you trust any of these "institutions"--one might argue one should have more faith in institutions than people (groups of people making up institutions might have more rigorous shared morality--arguable I suppose--but at the least maybe more rules of behavior that are specific to the institution's behavior)?

I'd say this is another "issue"--we don't trust anyone due to markets (ah, now we see where this is going). Kenneth Arrow (Nobel winning economist) in a seminal paper on Medical Care and uncertainty (1963) says "The very word, 'profit,' is a signal that denies the trust relations," and so, "the physician cannot act, or at least appear to act, as if he is maximizing his income at every moment of time." Sadly, the key phrase there is "at least appear to act"--ie, s/he must hide the profit motive. I would argue that the industry itself in the form of insurance has discovered a way to "hide" the naked relation of product and profit.

But really, this wasn't where I wanted to go with this post today: this is it...I believe that the Food Industry IS the tobacco industry. I believe the chemists and doctors and nutritionists and so on KNOW they have been poisoning us. I believe the US has created a global market fraud via our Food Industry.

So there.

Update: this piece on Common Dreams addresses similar themes.

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