ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: Why is whole-wheat bread more expensive than bread made from more thoroughly refined flour? And why is unrefined sugar more expensive than refined sugar? And why is unsalted butter more expensive than salted butter? Shouldn’t the product that requires less labor sell for a smaller price? Please answer quickly, as I am losing my faith in the efficiency of capitalism. —Sincerely, A Nascent Socialist.

Dear Sir or Madam: All these things are readily explained once you know how these commodities are produced.

Butter, for example, is commonly sold with salt added. For those persnickety consumers who desire unsalted butter, vast workshops are filled with mostly immigrant laborers, who painstakingly remove each grain of salt with a very fine pair of tweezers. Even though these poor laborers work for a miserable pittance, they nevertheless must be paid something, and that cost is reflected in the price of the unsalted butter they have prepared. If you have any concern at all for the ethical implications of your purchases, you may wish to avoid unsalted butter in the future.

Whole-wheat flour and unrefined sugar are similar cases. In the processing of wheat flour, the germ, the bran, the chaff, the soil, the small insects and spiders, &c., &c., are all removed. Likewise, the refinement of sugar involves removing much of what is technically termed the rubbish. Consumers who wish to have the insects and spiders added back into their wheat or sugar are understandably in the minority, and must pay for the privilege.

This is the only reasonable explanation for the phenomena you describe, and Dr. Boli is determined to stick with it. The alternative explanation—viz., that the capitalist system is riddled with fundamental absurdities—is simply too horrible to contemplate.

Published in: on August 18, 2010 at 7:59 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As a capitalist of not immoderate ardency, I am forced to disagree, ever so slightly, with the estimable Dr. Boli, and posit that it may be that that American consumers are, in fact, riddled with fundamental absurdities. Should Americans enter a veritable arms race where wheat bread is concerned, desperate to ensure that the level of wheat germ, insect legs, and other rubbish on their bread eclipses that of their friends, the venerable laws of supply and demand take effect, blind (perhaps willfully, as a preservation instinct) to the absurdities toward which they are drawn.

    I, on the other hand, will not get into an arms race for the most tasteless butter. So please, pass the SALT!

  2. As a yootful father, I continually abused our three children by regularly inflicting upon them each errant thought/inspiration/fact/whimsy that occurred to me, in order to fulfill the heavy responsibilities of fatherhood.

    Having only just discovered Dr Boli’s stream of consciousness, I will now have to resume said program, irrespective of their current status as adults, in order to further enhance their IQs with the good doctor’s daily gems.

    Electrons WILL be damaged in the process. FYI.


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