Things aren’t always as they seem, or so they say. If you think you buy coffee for the taste or the caffeine, think again. Can you absolutely rule out the influence of politics, image, value - and even good feelings - over your selection? A noted economist says we cannot, and he blames the current financial crisis partially on this paradigm of thought. Kristin Deasy wrote this week about Tomas Sedlacek’s 2009 book on the economics of good and evil which was recently published in English. In it he stated that the content of that coffee, or other product, is “almost incidental”, but that 90% of the price of modern goods is based on ideology. An example is a “free-trade, environmentally conscious ‘Save the Children’ coffee blend”. Our emotions and values are touched by the child-saving and free trade scenario and so we choose it. Are we as likely to select “Plain regular coffee”? Even though the free-trade (aka fair trade) version is pricier, most of us will buy the pricier coffee. "Economics is nothing else than a value system in disguise… every single business decision, every single consumer decision, is a moral decision”, wrote Sedlacek, one of the five hot minds in economics. Because buying a coffee comes under a consumer decision, it serves as a metaphor for a cause of our economic problems. After all, coffee drinkers also buy food, housing, cars, clothes etc., all giving a broader view of the perspective. Even though this book focuses on the economic system and our current debt crises, the theme behind it does bring out some food for thought. If we look on our consumer choices, it’s highly likely most if not all will see many purchases in which something besides the actual item itself led to our choice. If you’re going to buy coffee anyway, why not spend your coffee dollars on the kind that pays the farmer more money….Or the kind that improves the environment? If we buy coffee for the taste and a close flavor is available in an organic variety, will we pay more for the organic? After all, the environment is also important to the economy. Values-driven purchases don’t seem that bad unless we’re buying items we don’t need, especially on the national level. The next time you buy coffee, why not consider the reasons of the selections you make? Brew on, knowingly.
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