The intolerant minority


From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

I'm feeling hopeful again about the state of the food system. Earlier this month, I wrote a post about the corruption in the Federal government regarding purposely hiding information from you about what you eat.

tl;dr: The feds are preempting state and local laws that may in the future require GMO and other labels.

With corruption at this high of a level, how can I suddenly feel more hopeful? It's because of a term I read about last week: the intolerant minority.

The intolerant minority is a small group of the population that cannot choose one option that the rest of the population doesn't care about. For example, the eggs I buy at the supermarket have this U symbol.

That symbol means that they're kosher. Once you start looking for it, you'll see it everywhere. Buy why? Folks who eat kosher are a small percentage of the population, why spend all that manufacturing effort to satisfy a small population? It's because that those who eat kosher foods will only eat kosher foods, but those who don't eat kosher foods don't care and will eat anything.

If a minority population is sufficiently spread out geographically and the marginal cost of complying with the minority is sufficiently small, it's simply easier for the manufacturers to satisfy the minority than it is to keep two separate things in stock. The proliferation of organic and gluten-free foods also shows how the intolerant minority can affect the choices you see at the grocery store.

The same effect goes for manual transmissions going extinct. People who can only drive automatics (at one time) were an intolerant minority - they couldn't drive manuals. So rather than complicating the supply chain, most car manufacturers chose to make only automatics - because anyone can drive them.

It turns out that for geographically diverse populations, if 3% or so are the intolerant minority (you have to wait for Taleb's new book to come out for a real reference), then that minority can determine the available selections for the entire population.

So why am I hopeful? Even if the Federal government preempts state laws to prevent GMO and other labeling laws, the intolerant minority can still drive change. If you refuse to eat anything that is not labeled (all we need is 3% of the population) then the market will adjust and start labeling. It will be a more useful label too! No government agency is demanding U's in a circle, the market is!

So I'm asking everyone who reads this to make a conscious effort to eat only the best quality food that you can verify is the best. Because if we get enough people to only choose good foods, we can change the quality of the food for everyone!

Michael Deskevich