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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Economics of Eating Healthy and Going Green

At heart eating a healthy diet is a perfectly fine thing to do. By the same token going green by recycling, driving a hybrid car or having a compost bin in the backyard are equally fine things to engage in. Anyone electing to participate in either of these two things gets my full support. When these activities are coerced then I have issues.

Over the past several years our government has lobbied hard for green energy. Millions if not billions have been “invested” in companies by way of loans to bolster what is touted to be the wave of the energy future. Yet the invisible hand of economics has put the slap down on that idea.

 Just this week several stories were published highlighting at least three green energy technology businesses that have gone under. Solyndra, for example, a green technology company based in California closed after having received over $500 million tax payer dollars to start their company some investment huh?  

In other green economic news Chevrolet reported selling only 302 of its hybrid Volt model in August. The Chevy Cruze on the other hand sold over 21 thousand in the same month.  

It may be the fervent desire of many in our nation and the wish of some in our government to see such clean technologies thrive but until there is a greater demand on the part of the buying public for such things they will remain only marginal in the marketplace. In other words the invisible hand of capitalism may be choking the green industry.

How do hybrid cars and solar panels relate to eating a healthy diet? While both are good ideas they still have to compete in the market place. Try as they might well intentioned people in the health industry and in government have preached the healthy diet and exercise sermon. So often have we heard that we now ignore it so their tactics have intensified.

Recommendations have turned into restrictions and regulations on everything from salt to Trans fat to cup cakes at school parties. Even Happy Meals have been demonized for their supposed unhealthy content. On the subsidy side fruits and vegetables have been pushed for decades with various government nutrition programs. To what end have all these intrusions been effective?

Consider that 99% of that we hear regarding nutrition and health is how bad it is. We are tragically obese, unhealthy and getting worse by the day by many measures. Moreover they insinuate we unable to pull ourselves from the plight of this dietary disaster without their benevolent hand. The truth is that the hand at work is not government but economic.
 Right or wrong, good or bad the reason fast food and junk foods are so popular is because we like them. For a variety of reasons we like them including price and convenience but still we like to eat there. Burger stands and pizza joints are copious in every town in America because those foods are universally accepted and enjoyed. The same is true of fruits and vegetables because every grocery store in the country has a plentiful supply of these goods for sale. If they didn’t sell they wouldn’t be stocked on the shelf. These laws of supply and demand are all simple truths of economics.

Anyway you slice it eating right or minding the environment are laudable notions. Most do these things by choice everyday without being told to. They do these because they have a personal motivation for doing so not because someone has instructed or forced them to do it. When an individual, a family and community or a country develop a passion for an idea their passion for it is greater than if it is coerced it is usually unbreakable.   

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