Antifragile Quote 48 – pharmaceutical companies don’t gain if you avoid sugar

The problem of the commercial world is that it only works by addition (via positiva), not subtraction (via negativa): pharmaceutical companies don’t gain if you avoid sugar; the manufacturer of health club machines doesn’t benefit from your deciding to lift stones and walk on rocks (without a cell phone); your stockbroker doesn’t gain from your decision to limit your investments to what you see with your own eyes, say your cousin’s restaurant or an apartment building in your neighborhood;

Further, anything that requires marketing appears to carry such side effects. You certainly need an advertising apparatus to convince people that Coke brings them “happiness”—and it works.

Anything one needs to market heavily is necessarily either an inferior product or an evil one.

We accept that people who boast are boastful and turn people off. How about companies? Why aren’t we turned off by companies that advertise how great they are? We have three layers of violations: First layer, the mild violation: companies are shamelessly self-promotional, like the man on the British Air flight, and it only harms them. Second layer, the more serious violation: companies trying to represent themselves in the most favorable light possible, hiding the defects of their products—still harmless, as we tend to expect it and rely on the opinion of users. Third layer, the even more serious violation: companies trying to misrepresent the product they sell by playing with our cognitive biases, our unconscious associations, and that’s sneaky. The latter is done by, say, showing a poetic picture of a sunset with a cowboy smoking and forcing an association between great romantic moments and some given product that, logically, has no possible connection to it. You seek a romantic moment and what you get is cancer. It seems that the corporate system pushes companies progressively into the third layer.

corporations are so fragile, long-term, that they eventually collapse under the weight of the agency problem, while managers milk them for bonuses and ditch the bones to taxpayers. They would collapse sooner if not for the lobby machines: they start hijacking the state to help them inject sugary drinks into your esophagus. In the United States large corporations control some members of Congress. All this does is delay the corporation’s funeral at our expense.


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