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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
Swindled - Bee Wilson Wilson has written a comprehensive guide to adulterations, alterations, and substitutions made to our food, ranging from Romans sweetening wine with lead to GMO crops in the modern day. Fascinating! (My status updates contain the examples that most struck me.) Wilson's theory is that there will always be attempts to save money or effort by cheating or changing how food is made. Particularly, swindles like making fake eggs out of chemicals or fake tea by carefully coloring and curling tree leaves will happen when the costs of raw materials are high and human labor is cheap. The most effective ways to prevent these counterfeits are: make people aware of what quality food tastes like, so they are aware of when they're lied to. Someone who knows what real milk tastes like is a lot less likely to pay money for whitened water, for instance. Put regulations in place to protect consumers, as in the medieval guild systems or through the government. Regulators have to test constantly and stay on the forefront of science, and these regulations have to have serious consequences. It seems relatively simple, but Wilson documents how time and time again, just agreeing on regulations is hardly done, and even then, enforcement starts strong and rapidly becomes lax or outmoded.