Cleaned by Capitalism VII

by Don Boudreaux on August 31, 2009

in Cleaned by Capitalism, Complexity & Emergence, Environment, Everyday Life, Food and Drink

One of the most unheralded anti-pollutants brought to you by capitalism is the metal can.  By significantly retarding the multiplication of bacteria in the foods sealed within them, cans make our foods cleaner — less polluted — and safer.

And by preserving foods, our food supply is more secure.  Malnutrion is reduced – which, in turn, increases our bodies’ ability to fight off many diseases that would otherwise severely incapacity or even kill us.

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Paul August 31, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Interesting that the link you provide places the origin of canning with a competition sponsored by the French government, and the can itself in a patent granted by royalty.

Seth August 31, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I think it was more interesting that the government didn’t develop the idea. Perhaps, back then they better understood what Hayek wrote about later, that bottoms up experimentation produces better results. The government needed something to nourish their troops. They solved it through free market, not edict.

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 8:30 am

So what you’re basically saying is that products that are government sponsored but developed by a non-government actor can now safely be called “brought to you by capitalism.” These definitions are getting more flexible every day…

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Prize offered, no guidelines, no oversight, no restrictions, and competition open to all. Private experimentation, private development, private success, and finally the reward.

Sounds like capitalism to me.

That the reward and request came from a government is immaterial to the process.

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

As long as we agree that tax payers’ money can be put to good use through this process, I have no qualms with the procedure. For a moment I thought I was on the blog of a principled libertarian, but if this is acceptable, I think I have a healthcare system to sell you, where a government subsidized insurance co-op (stress: *not* ‘government owned’ or ‘government run’!) insures citizens’ health care, while private medical practitioners can continue to compete for patients and the subsidies are paid for by taxes. I’m glad we all came together on this issue, finally. ;-)

GregL September 1, 2009 at 5:22 pm

So, capitalism exists independendly of free markets?

Carl Pham August 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Actually, the significance of the can is not that it preserves food. There are many other and older ways of doing so, typically drying and salting. The marvel of the can is that it can preserve food without drying — which ruins the texture of many things, and is expensive and wasteful to boot, and salting, which not every food can stand, tastewise, and which contributes to stomach cancer and other obnoxiousness.

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 6:06 pm

I am not sure I understand the thinking here.

If I decide I have a specific need, a need that can not be fulfilled by any market that I know of, I advertise my need and promise to buy the product that fulfills my need and even state an attractive reward to the supplier; and, an enterprising trader scours the world and finds what I desired, he brings it to me and I give him the promised payment; Is the enterprising trader then obligated to adopt my ideology, my character, and is he obligated to ask me where I got the funds with which to reward him?

That one side of a simple market transaction is government in no way reduces the free market actions and spirit of the other side of the transaction.

Anonymous September 3, 2009 at 12:09 am

Quote: “That one side of a simple market transaction is government in no way reduces the free market actions and spirit of the other side of the transaction.”

I think we are not in disagreement here.

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