User:Woozle/debate/2013-03-10

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The formatting is still ugly, but at least you can leave other branches closed while you "follow" a thread from point to point.

I have split off several sub-threads that were tangential to the issue of Whole Foods.

{{#tree:

  • Whole Foods debate starting with an announcement that they would begin labeling GMO foods in 2018 (G+ thread)
    • (Woozle) Wasn't this the same company that just made a deal with several others to go against any requirement to label GMO foods? Have they reversed that stance?
      • (Noel) There's a difference between the state telling them (and the rest of the industry) what to do, how to do it, and when and them doing it themselves.
        • (Woozle) Indeed. In one case they have an external agent to make sure they don't lie about it.
          • (Noel) organic labeling has external agents helping to ensure they don't lie about things.
            • (Woozle) Yes -- the government. And we want a similar system for GMO.
            • (Woozle) Note that "Organic" is a selling-point, so stores have an incentive to use it; the government oversight is only needed to prevent them from using it when it's not true. GMO, conversely, is a sales liability, so we have to create some kind of artificial incentive for them to use it.
          • (Noel) it was when the USDA stepped in that the organic labeling got influenced by lobbyists.
            • (Woozle) The lobbyists will try to influence whoever has the decisionmaking power. A small organization is easier to influence than the federal government.
            • (Noel) The [certification] labels have the incentive of having a good reputation; otherwise, they are worthless.
              • (Woozle) They can also succeed by peddling influence.
              • (Noel) Higher education has the same incentive; Ivy League schools can accept everyone (all they'd need is to hire more teachers and buy more classroom space) but they don't because they know there's more money to be had if they maintain a good reputation.
                • (Woozle) Higher education can be vulnerable to the same influences -- witness Bob Jones University and Liberty University, both of which are indoctrination centers for religious fundamentalism. Long-established institutions have considerable mass and inertia to protect them, but they are hardly immune; given current trends, it is only a matter of time before they become tools of the plutonomy (there are many who would argue that they already are).
      • (Noel) Whole Foods has always been a leader in labeling (for those who have never stepped foot in one of them, they label the origins of the food they sell). GMO labeling is something I had been expecting them to start at some point. Their customers want such labeling so its in their interests to have such labeling.
        • (Woozle) If they believe it is beneficial, why oppose laws which would bring this benefit to everyone? Just saying it's their "stance" (to want to do it themselves rather than be required to) isn't an argument.
          • (Noel) Watch the praxgirl videos. In short, it's because different people value different things at different times. If a grocer thought (even rationally if they have numbers to back it up) that spending effort doing something else will lead to more affordable food for their customers and larger profits, why should they be forced to label their foods? IOW, labeling would increase their chances of going out of business until they're able to take care of other things first. !bookstop!
          • (Noel) I've noticed in my area, many grocers have taken WF's lead and started labeling.
      • (Noel) WRT Obamacare, it's the exact same stance. AFAIK, Whole Foods provides very good healthcare benefits.
        • (Woozle) The healthcare provided by Whole Foods to its employees is largely irrelevant; the point is that their chairman opposed healthcare for the rest of us -- on dishonest grounds -- and suggested many steps which would have made the problem worse. (CEO's letter in WSJ)
          • (Noel) it is relevant. Again, it's consistent with Mackey's stance that they choose how and when things are done rather than the state. IOW, they didn't reverse their decision about providing good healthcare to employees.
            • (Woozle) yes, it is, and it is that stance which I object to.
              • (Noel) It's perfectly fine to object to another's stance. How shall we decide what to do? Considering he's the one who grew the company from a very small business (and thereby started providing jobs to lots of people), shouldn't he get to decide, especially since he has shown he's able to achieve lots of things, how to run his business? And if you decided to run your own business, you can decide how that's done. Or do you want the state overseeing and regulating InstaGov?
              • (Woozle) The co-op [where we shop now instead of WF] isn't exactly non-evil, either; their management has apparently used some serious strong-arm tactics to keep in power a cabal that seems to have ways of funneling money to themselves, to the detriment of the business.
                • (Noel) If you want WF not to be 'evil', write them an email stating what you mean by 'evil' and asking them to stop.
                  • (Woozle) We probably should have mailed a copy of this to WF HQ, instead of just to the store we used to frequent. If you think it might be worth trying to re-open the dialogue at this late date (considering that Mackey continues to dig in and repeat long-debunked claims), I'm willing to give it a try.
                    • (Noel) What are the long-debunked claims that Mackey espouses?
                      • (Woozle) Here are the ones I had time to address:
                        • (Woozle) 1. "Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs)."
                        • (Woozle) 2. "Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits."
                        • (Woozle) 3. "Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines."
                    • (Noel) The author of the letter thinks it ought to be fixed by taking from those who have more than they...
                      • (Woozle) The best intelligence on Obamacare, at the time of writing, is that it would be deficit-neutral. It would not be taking from anyone.
                    • (Noel) ...while I and others think it ought to be fixed by removing frictions in the market...
                      • (Woozle) "Removing frictions in the market" does nothing to improve the quality of service when the easiest way to make a profit is to not provide the service. This is the case for any kind of insurance.
                      • (Noel) i.e. that it's state involvement that is making it broken.
                        • (Woozle) If that's the case, then why does state-run healthcare generally do a better job than privately-run?
                • (Noel) What sort of strong-arm tactics has WF used? Or is it conjectural as opposed to the known tactics of your co-op?
                  • (Woozle) Not entirely conjectural, but I can't quickly put my hands on any specific evidence.
                    • (Noel) Until you find such evidence, do you agree to drop this belief?
                      • (Woozle) The question is moot; challenged, I have found some of the evidence I remember seeing:
                        • (Woozle) "National sponsors like Organic Valley and Nature's Path have been threatened by Whole Foods and United Natural Foods that if they continue to support the Organic Consumers Association they will suffer repercussions in the marketplace..." (source)
                        • (Woozle) buying up the competition and closing them down (source)
                        • (Woozle) firing workers who attempt to form unions, while paying low wages; gagging shareholders (collection of sources)
            • (Woozle) Just saying that it's their "stance" doesn't justify it.
    • (laura watkins) Actually the Whole Foods guy is infamous for deliberately forcing out (and buying up) of other companies providing similar services. Mostly older, community-based ones, basically the people who established and defined the organic food movement. It's the Walmart model of corporate behavior. .. So, yes, he "provides jobs," but so did all the places that are now gone. .. And they were primarily local, which feeds money back into the community, instead of sending it off to - is it Dallas?
      • (Noel) yes, you're right that the feelings of the community aren't taken into account when a local grocer sells to Whole Foods. If they don't like it, they can open their own grocery or boycott Whole Foods.
        • (Woozle) Well, that's what we're doing. So we're in agreement that this is an appropriate action?
          • (Noel) yes, I may not agree with their opinions, but I agree with such actions stemming from those opinions.
      • (Woozle) That's what happened here -- Whole Foods bought out a locally-founded chain called Wellspring Grocery. I'm told they haven't been the same since (I don't have much direct experience with Wellspring; the buyout was before I discovered sustainability).
        • (Noel) if small shops don't want to sell, they don't have to. [meaning that e.g. Wellspring didn't have to sell out to Whole Foods]
          • (Woozle) We don't know the circumstances of the sale. Also, whether or not it benefited the owners doesn't say anything regarding how the community felt about it.
        • (Noel) If you think you can sell Whole Foods type products at lower cost, by all means, go for it.
          • (Woozle) Do not use that argument, as you know very well that the advantage goes to the larger and earlier players.
            • (Noel) you mean the way Google couldn't gain marketshare because Yahoo! was larger and had a lead and the way Netflix couldn't gain marketshare because Blockbuster was larger and had a lead?
              • (Woozle) Yes, other stores can get into the same business, and survive -- but they will be overshadowed by those that are better funded. Netflix and Google played the Wall Street game, did they not?
                • (Noel) In what way did Netflix and Google play the Wall St game? Take a look at NFLX; it's extremely volatile. I would say, though, that Netflix gains from IP regulation. It has also gained from state-funded broadband in the Nordics.
                  • (Woozle) Netflix and Google play the Wall Street game by dint of the fact that they are on the stock market.
            • (laura watkins) Actually, I am fortunate enough to live in an area with two strong independent organic grocers. And, their prices are much lower.
              • (Noel) It's great you live in such an area. Competition is a good thing.
      • (Noel) people working at Whole Foods are from the community. I'm sure you don't mean that people fly in from Dallas to work at a Whole Foods.
        • (laura watkins) No, but the profits from the store go there, instead of staying in the community. This is pretty basic stuff.
          • (Noel) WF buys products from local farms. That means that they profit, too.
            • (laura watkins) The locally-owned company thing is a big deal. It doesn't matter where they buy their goods, or that they pay local employees. What matters is that the profits of the business are pulled out of the community. The deal is, support small and local, even if the megacorporation in question wraps itself in a green flag and acts hip.
      • (Noel) WF is able to expand because it generates more wealth.
        • (Woozle) WF is able to expand because it gathers more wealth. "Generates wealth" implies that the community benefits from this wealth; I'm not sure how you would determine that.
          • (Noel) the way to determine whether or not the community gains wealth is through their actions (again watch the praxgirl videos). If WF customers didn't expect to gain from the transaction, they wouldn't enter into one. !bookstop!
            • (Woozle) you are arguing that consumers are motivated overwhelmingly by rational consideration of objective evidence regarding the relative merits of the shopping decisions they make?
              • (Noel) Rationality has nothing to do with it.
                • (Noel) I think this stuff is covered somewhere in episodes five through nine.
                • (Noel) By definition, they shop at WF because they prefer doing so over some other action (including boycotting).
                  • (Noel) You might think such an action is irrational just as I might think boycotting is irrational, but that's neither here nor there because it's their actual action that counts.
                    • (Woozle) So, you're arguing that we can determine that a community is gaining wealth from WF simply because they shop there, even if they are doing so for irrational reasons?
                      • (Noel) I'm saying that the fact that people in the community shop at WF is rational by (their) definition.
                        • (Noel) Praxeology - Episode 5 - The Rationality of Action covers this -- it's less than three minutes long so please watch it. !bookstop!
                          • (Woozle) The first words in that episode are "Human action is necessarily always rational." So yes, you are claiming this, and it is false.
                          • (Woozle) The video is clearly attempting an Orwellian redefinition of the words necessary to have this conversation, especially "rational".
                        • (Woozle) How is that relevant?
    • (laura watkins) WF's prices are a scandal - if you are lucky enough to live in a place with viable alternatives you get to see how badly they jack things up. *** (laura watkins) And they aren't even that good a source of organic stuff, since you have to seek it out from among the equally-pricy glossy non-organic stuff.
      • (laura watkins) Which is all to say, I have no liking or trust for the guy - just another Texas corporate creep.
        • (laura watkins) Read up on the Whole Foods attack on Wild Oats. It is just typical corporate shark behavior. Nothing special here.
          • (Noel) Please provide a link to an article about the WF attack on Wild Oats.
      • (Noel) how is Whole Foods forcing the sale if their prices are so high?
        • (Woozle) I don't follow your logic.
          • (Noel) the argument with Walmart is that their competitive low prices drive out those businesses that can't compete. Surely that doesn't apply to WF with their high prices, yes?
            • (Woozle) Their high prices may help the competition survive, yes [but] "high prices" was never one of our complaints about WF; I don't recall thinking that their prices were especially high. Prices at the Co-op are often higher than I remember WF prices being... and certainly higher than the same products at Kroger, when we can find them there. In my experience, larger companies are generally able to offer lower prices.
              • (Noel) yes, absolutely larger companies are able to offer lower prices. This very service we're using for this discussion is an example of that.
                • (Noel) Are you complaining about lower prices?
                  • (Woozle) I'm complaining about abuse of power -- of which Google is as guilty as anyone.
                  • (Noel) [asks the following questions about IPOs:]
                    • (Noel) OK, so a public company is on the stock market. What are the steps that lead to their gaining marketshare? Is it: 1. IPO 2. ??? 3. Profit!
                    • (Noel) So many companies have IPO'd and haven't accomplished what Netflix and Google have done.
                      • (Noel) Why not?
                      • (Noel) Weren't Blockbuster and Yahoo! public at the time Netflix and Google started competing against them?
                    • (Woozle) I'm not sure what your point about IPOs is. My point is that companies which play the whole "investment" game -- ceding control to the profit-hungry -- have a much better chance of becoming all-consuming behemoths like Google or Microsoft than companies which focus on providing value and maintaining community control.
                      • (Woozle) When essential resources are scarce, money is coercion.
                        • (Noel) If money is coercion and you yourself don't coerce others, I suppose you don't use money?
                          • (Woozle) You're doing the straw-man thing again.
                            • (Noel) in what way am I doing the straw man thing?
                              • (Woozle) I hadn't correctly parsed the second part of the paragraph; objection dropped.
                          • (Noel) Oh, only when essential resources are scarce. Why only essential resources?
                            • (Woozle) Because if they're nonessential, then I don't feel compelled to earn money in order to obtain them; I can say "ennh" and walk away.
                              • (Noel) So you weren't compelled to earn money to buy your computer? Or do you consider a computer to be essential?
                                • (Woozle) If a computer weren't essential to me for earning money, then I would consider it to be recreational in nature, and I wouldn't feel compelled to earn money just in order to buy or maintain it.
                                • (Noel) If so, again, computers have been made affordable to a broad population (and becoming even more affordable still) due to free markets driving prices lower through greater efficiency.
                                  • (Woozle) To the extent that owning a computer can move or keep people out of poverty, it is meaningful to say that lower prices for computers have been helpful against poverty. However, I dispute the notion that this progress has been driven by "free markets", since that phrase is ambiguous. Are we talking about (a) a lack of regulation? (b) a lack of central planning? (c) a market in which anyone has the freedom to compete?
                                    • (Woozle) To the extent that "free market" is the opposite of "government-run market or enterprise", keep in mind that the internet -- which is a large portion of what makes it possible to earn a living with a computer -- was largely a creation of the government.
                          • (Noel) if 'essential' includes food, that means that the vast majority of farmers are coercive since money is used in food trade. It would also mean that in order not to be coercive, farmers would have to barter. Since money makes trade much more efficient (eg a carrot farmer need not look for someone willing to accept 100 carrots for, say, a computer), that would mean far fewer people in the world would be fed. Note that humanity has been able to feed far more people today than it has in its entire history, otherwise population wouldn't continue to grow.
                      • (Noel) You said a company is publicly traded therefore it's playing the stock market. A company that's publicly traded must IPO.
                        • (Noel) Yes, the reason a company that's publicly traded has a larger chance of growing larger is due to the state. Once a company is large enough, it is forced to IPO. IOW, the sample is necessarily biased.
                        • (Noel) What makes an IPO something that allows corporations to tackle their competitors. Moreover, why didn't such a thing help Blockbuster and Yahoo! compete against competitors that, at the time, weren't publicly traded?
                    • (Noel) In what way are WF and Google abusing power? Why not boycott Google the way you're boycotting WF?
                • (Noel) Note that lower prices [are] what's allowing Amazon to provide PaaS to small businesses (something that those businesses didn't have previously). Note also that lower prices is what allowed automobiles, computers, cell phones, etc to be affordable to a wider population.
                • (Noel) Perhaps I misunderstand your goals. What are your goals? What would your Utopia look like?
  • (Woozle) Praxeology is basically the idea that we can make conclusions about economics without testing them in the real world, is it not?
    • no, it is not. Watch the praxgirl videos. Episode one summarizes what praxeology is. How about using the scientific method here? Make a hypothesis then make observations to test that hypothesis rather than jumping to conclusions and being purposefully blind. !bookstop!
      • (Woozle) "Unlike chemistry or physics, praxeology has to rely on a method of acquiring knowledge that does not rely on observation but on discursive reasoning." Which episode(s) should I watch in order to find out how we acquire knowledge without relying on observation while nonetheless testing that knowledge through observation?
        • (Noel) what I meant was that you had a hypothesis about what praxeology was about. Test that hypothesis against your observations of the videos. Now that you've watched at least one of the videos, how did that hypothesis hold?
          • (Noel) one episode mentions all the wealth around the world. [...] Such wealth accumulation happens because of cooperation. People can specialize in something then trade. By doing so, in aggregate, they're able to produce more than if they did everything themselves. Such specialization can be seen in lots of industries (eg Data Engineer, Configuration Manager, Software Engineer in Test, etc in the software industry; there's even specialization by product (eg Perforce experts, Oracle experts, etc)). [This constitutes two observations] predicted by praxeology theory: wealth accumulation and specialization.
            • (Woozle) Nope; that's a post-hoc explanation for a pre-existing phenomenon. In order to test a hypothesis, you have to (a) suggest the consequences of an action, (b) take the action or find instances where the action is taking place, and (c) observe the results
              • (Noel) Are you now arguing, opposite to your argument before, that hard sciences require reproducibility?
                • (Woozle) No, I am maintaining my stance that it does.
              • (Noel) In order for Praxeology to be a post-hoc explanation, the creators would have had to start from pre-existing phenomenon and work their way backwards to basic axioms.
                • (Woozle) Isn't that exactly what they do? "praxeology [uses] a method of acquiring knowledge that does not rely on observation but on discursive reasoning."
              • (Noel) Also, praxeology was started in 1882, long before the massive specialization we see today and certainly long before automobiles, computers, and cell phones were affordable to a broad population. .. So, we've seen instances of wealth being created and of specialization happening after praxeology was created and we can observe the results.
                • (Woozle) This is highly bogus reasoning. The existence of praxeology at a certain time does not imply that later events were due to its application.
          • (Noel) [T]hink about the General Theory of Relativity. That arose from conclusions logically derived from a set of axioms. And now we're able to make observations that confirm that theory (and other observations not predicted by that theory).
            • (Woozle) "Confirm that theory" is the key. The numbers match the predictions to the limits of precision. What predictions does Praxeology make?
              • (Noel) The observations that confirm relativity match its predictions extremely well. The observations that haven't been predicted by relativity are way off from its predictions.
                • (Woozle) There are no observations which imply that relativity is less accurate than simple Newtonian mechanics. There are, to the best of my knowledge, no observations which are "way off" from the predictions of relativity.
              • (Noel) Praxeology doesn't make predictions with numbers.
                • (Woozle) That's fine; I'm not asking for numbers. I'm asking what predictions it makes, and how/if they have been tested.
              • (Noel) How accurate are climate model predictions (and delve deep into this including what they mean by 'confidence interval' and how broad those 'confidence intervals' are)?
                • (Woozle) I don't know, but their predictions have clearly provided more utility than any opposing hypotheses.
          • (Woozle) My hypothesis has been validated, given the evidence I have absorbed so far. If you can suggest where I might find evidence that might invalidate it, please feel free to offer it.
            • (Noel) your hypothesis was "Praxeology is basically the idea that we can make conclusions about economics without testing them in the real world". Praxeology is separate from economics so, no, your hypothesis wasn't validated.
              • (Woozle) Praxeology is an extension of economics into the field of human psychology (with regard to purposeful action). Hypothesis stands.
                • (Noel) Praxeology started out in economics and became its own study. It's also separate from psychology -- one of the early videos goes over the differences (ie psychology tries to explain the 'why' of the action whereas praxeology just accepts the action as-is). Hypothesis invalidated.
                  • (Woozle) If praxeology isn't about economics, then why do you keep raising it in contexts having to do with economics? If it started out in economics, how is it no longer about economics?
                    • (Noel) praxeology is about human action. Human action is important to economics, but it's important in other areas as well.
  • (David Whitlock) the problem is that the regulations suffer from inconsistent enforcement.
    • (David Whitlock) When synthetic fertilizer was added to "organic" fertilizer and sold (and used) as "organic" fertilizer, yes the person who committed the fraud was fined and went to jail, but the land that had the synthetic fertilizer put on it was still considered "organic", and didn't need the usual multi-year waiting period before it could be used for "organic" production.
      • (Noel) there are a few organic labels. Did all of them continue to label produce from that farm as 'organic'? Can you point me to an article about that incident?
        • (David Whitlock) it is mentioned here.
          • (Noel) thanks for the article. It mentions only the USDA Organic label but not other organic labels. IIRC, USDA Organic is one of the least trustworthy Organic labels.
          • (Noel) FWIW, I think those farmers swindled by the fraudster ought to go through the three year conversion process again. Perhaps better, though, would be information indicating how long the land of an organic farmer has been using organic fertilizers, etc.
            • (Woozle) I agree with this. Maybe something like a QR code [W] with a unique product identifier, which the shopper could then use to look up the information on their choice of reference sites.
  • (Noel) I'm not anti-GMO, but I do prefer buying organic. I would prefer if 'organic' and 'GMO' were treated separately rather than 'organic' implying non-GMO.
    • (Woozle) I'm fine with "organic" and "GMO" being separate, as long as both labels actually mean something -- with transparency and consumer input into what that is.
      • (Woozle) "Organic" has largely fallen. It should have been "sustainable" in the first place, instead of "organic", anyway.
        • (Noel) 'sustainable' and 'organic' are two different things. I wouldn't mind another label for 'sustainable'.
          • (Woozle) "Organic" is only a good thing because it is more sustainable than the conventional methodologies; otherwise I wouldn't give a fig about it.
            • (Noel) different people want different things. This is the same with organic. For me, it has nothing to do with sustainability [...] I prefer organic due to the quality of the food and the health I think it brings to me; the taste of the food is better, too.
              • (Noel) I might even say that organic is less sustainable than modern agriculture considering the output.
                • (Woozle) Organic yields are as high or higher than conventional agriculture, over the long run.
                  • (Noel) Can you point to evidence supporting this especially evidence supporting the hypothesis that we can feed the current population on organic food?
                    • (Woozle) The evidence I've seen is that conventional leads to long-term degradation of the soil (which is bad if the population is dense enough that you need every spare acre to grow food) and doesn't reliably produce higher yields -- though in some circumstances it may be necessary as a transitional measure, largely for economic reasons:
                    • (Noel) Or do you mean that sustainability includes a decreased population?
                      • (Woozle) It does, but that point neither supports nor contradicts my argument.
              • (Woozle) Health is a sustainability factor, as is taste.
        • (Noel) it has just come to my attention that the label was diluted due to the USDA and the influence lobbyists have over it.
          • (Woozle) Indeed.
  • (Noel) Is it rational for you to continue asking me questions that are already answered in the videos or questions that are senseless if one had a better understanding of praxeology??

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