Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States

Technology And The Fast Food Nation 391

Posted by JonKatz
from the -morality-and-fries-in-the-Corporate-Republic- dept.
If the history of the twentieth century was marked by bloody struggles against totalitarian political power, then the history of the Twenty-first will likely be marked by efforts to curtail the excessive corporate power that grips the United States and is spreading throughout the world. This conflict between morality and prosperity isn't only about the survival of individualism. It's about the soul of technology, which created the Fast Food Nation. It could soon be the story of computing too. (Read more.)

Technology, as futurists like George Orwell and Arthur Clarke have been predicting for decades, will be the battleground on which the fight against corporatism is played out.

The United States has become a corporate republic, with the takeover of cyberspace one of that republic's primary goals. Corporate domination of the real world no longer seems possible unless companies like Microsoft and AOL/Time-Warner bring the virtual one under control. From sweetheart regulatory legislation for media companies and telcoms to the Children's Internet Protection Act to Carnivore and the DMCA, they're working on it. Small entrepeneurs are falling like flies, just as little diners, family eateries, and small farms and meatpackers have fallen before McDonald's and Burger King.

In fact, technology and fast food, profoundly intertwined, serve as useful metaphors for the unintended consequences that accompany scientific advances.

Fast food is, in many ways, the story of contemporary America -- its work and health, its homogenization. Fast food is central to urban and suburban sprawl and to the rise of malls as retailing forces. Fast food has created a generation of new, mostly lousy jobs, cemented the divisions between rich and poor, triggered an epidemic of obesity, and sparked resentment of America's so-called cultural imperialism abroad. It's the stepchild of post-war progress in farming, slaughtering and packing, refrigeration and transportation.

For a preview of the unintended ways in which technology shapes the new world -- ways nobody wants to think or talk much about -- the fast food industry is a good (and sobering) case study. Fast food practices are already shaping tech industries, too, from computing to software to bio-tech.

A case study is exactly what Eric Schlosser provides in his new book Fast Food Nation. In the 1970s, he reminds us, political activists were already warning about the McDonaldization of America in much the same way that hackers, programmers and open source advocates are sounding the alarm about the Microsoft-ing of the Net. Those activists sensed that the emerging fast food business threatened independent companies and presaged a food economy dominated by giant corporations.

Beyond that, fast food franchises obliterated a sense of geographical and cultural differences among different regions of the United States. The appeal of fast food -- that people would know just what to expect no matter where they bought their Whoppers or Taco Bell burritos -- was also one of its most devastating consequences.

And there were plenty of others. The industry was one of the first to use technology -- especially advances in genetics -- to set the ground rules for the corporate republic, whose media, culture and economy are increasingly dominated by McDonaldesque notions about uniformity, scale and work. The fast food biz re-conceived the high-tech, manual-labor factory; it has always relied on poorly-paid workers doing regimented, robot-like work.

It has, naturally, attracted a disproportionate number of immigrant, poor and minority workers who have little real chance of advancement, and whose work is so rote and mechanized they have no need for high wages, further training or the opportunities to acquire meaningful new skills. This corporatized industry has, with the help of an equally corporatized media, portrayed itself as a great boon to the underclass, hiring people nobody else would employ.

The fast food industry also perfected, even nationalized, the notion of false courtesy -- those forced mumbled greetings and thanks delivered with all of the sincerity of a telemarketer -- that echoes to this day throughout the tech support and customer service universe.

The burger, pizza and burrito chains' vast purchasing power, writes Schlosser, and their demand for an uncompromisingly uniform product, have triggered fundamental changes in farming and how cattle are raised, slaughtered and processed into burgers. These changes have made meatpacking -- once a highly skilled, well-paid trade -- into the most dangerous job in the U.S., performed by legions of poor, transient immigrants whose rapidly rising rate of injuries attract little publicity or government attention. The same meat industry practices, reports Schlosser, have facilitated the introduction of deadly pathogens, such as E. col 0157:H7, into America's hamburgers, one of the foods most aggressively marketed to kids.

Schlosser describes how the "natural flavor" of most fast foods -- what consumers crave when they order their burgers and fries -- are liquids manufactured in flavor companies along the New Jersey Turnpike and in the Rust Belt.

The American "flavor industry" now has annual revenues of about $1.4 billion, reports Schlosser. Until the l950s, flavor additives were used mainly in baked goods, candies and sodas. But the invention of gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers -- technologies that could detect volatile gases at low levels -- radically increased the number of flavors that could be synthesized. Within a decade, the American flavor industry was creating the taste of products from Hamburger Helper to Pop Tarts.

The evolution of the fast food industry shows us not only how powerful and ill-considered technology is as a force in American life, but offers some chilling previews of where the Net, the Web, the computing industry and tech culture may be headed. The lessons of fast food have been learned all too well, and deployed enthusiastically in the so-called new global economy (computer chips are also made in far-away factories. These jobs pay more than average wages in some countries, but are still lousy jobs generally making pennies. Assembly and packaging jobs pay even less.)

Like the people who established burger chains, the Net's founders arose from a ferociously individualistic culture, advances in technology generally provided by diverse and idiosyncratic subcultures from hackers and geeks to researchers and entrepeneurs.

But an industry launched by iconoclasts with bad haircuts in garages and basements has become a global one based on rooting out individual creativity and promoting uniformity.

The Net is already being overwhelmed by mass-marketed sex, entertainment and retailing entities. And the tech industry is already notorious for creating thousands of low-paying, unrewarding dead-end jobs. It's promoting American notions of culture all over the world -- just wait until the ethos that brought you natural flavor and McDonald's gets hold of AI research and the Human Genome project and starts marketing perfect, sweet-tempered babies to an unsuspecting world.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein warned about the unthinking application of technology all the way back in 1803. Technology made the fast food industry possible, and without any real national discussion and consideration, retailing, health, work and the ability of individuals to operate farms or small businesses was altered for good. As Eric Schlosser thoughtfully points out in his book, there was nothing pre-ordained about the corporatization of food and culture.

From the airline industry to computer companies, American corporations have always worked to survive under the Darwinian laws of the marketplace by eliminating or absorbing their rivals -- the heart of the Microsoft strategy, in fact.

Some tend to see this corporatization as something apart from civics or public policy, but it isn't. These companies ought to be accountable -- taxpayers helped create them. Some of the strongest growth areas of the American economy -- the computer, software, aerospace and satellite industries -- have been inspired by or subsidized by the federal government. The Net, the heart of the so-called new economy, began of course as the ARPANET, the military communications network funded by Congress in the late l970s.

Free markets are good for economies, and in many cases, for the people who work in them. They can promote creativity, innovation, prosperity, choice and individualism, more than other political and economic systems. But there has to be a balance between the prosperity of the market and the morality of the market -- a balance already tilting off center in almost the entire range of tech industries, and on the Net and Web.

The relentless corporatization of retailing, farming, publishing and entertainment, to name only a few, have swung the balance much too far, at least in the United States. Corporations are now the primary contributors to the American election system. They fund the overwhelming majority of lobbyists who prey on Washington. They block regulation that would promote competition, offer the public more choices in areas like Internet access, and fend off governmental and other supervision. They promote conformity and uniformity. Since corporations have acquired virtually all of the popular media, they are rarely criticized or challenged.

Writes Schlosser: "An economic system promising freedom has too often become a means of denying it, and the narrow dictates of the market gain precedence over more important democratic values."

This ought to sound familiar. This same economic system -- promising security, morality, freedom, protection for artists and the owners of intellectual property -- is using technology to transform the Net with the same zeal that hamburger chains used to decimate family restaurants. The story of fast food is turning out to be our story too.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Technology and the Fast Food Nation

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The McDonald's City Improvement. Increases your relationships with all other civilizations who've built this improvement in at least one of their cities by 100%.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:48AM (#190934)
    The Real Problem... from L on Sun Jan 28 11:44:38 2001 Now, let's not kid ourselves here. I work at McDonald's, and yes, it is not a career choice. I'm still in high school, and (surprise surprise) McD's is the only place around that accepts part-time young people in my small town. I'm a shift manager there. I will NOT be working there past high school. McDonald's does NOT care about people, their health, the environment, or their workers. They care about making money. Our franchise supervisor is proof to that. The only thing that comes out of her mouth is any and everything about profit. "We need more... Why aren't sales up... Why aren't you cutting hours..." etc. Yeah, sometimes she'll feed in a line of crap about making the customer have a good experience, but it all relates back to money. The more money the restaurant makes, the higher her paycheck is. But what the hell, right? That's her job. She's doing what she needs to make money. Just like I do, and just like the workers do. McDonald's is a bad presence... health wise, environmentally, ethically, and for the fact that it crushes smaller food industries with its huge corporate assets. Now the real problem here in the good old U.S. of A is how stupid Americans are. It's to be expected that in a capitalist society that corporations try to grow, to dominate the market place, and to make money at virtually any cost. So how is this fixed? It should be fixed through the public. Though, in this fat-loving society, I doubt it will happen. My personal experiences at our restaurant speak for themselves. Now you have to understand that if a McDonald's (even in a small town) is near a major highway, it is always busy, there are always customers, etc. On a good lunch hour (12-1) you can pull in $1500 or more. That may not seem like a lot, but when you're operating on minimal staff and with average transactions amounting about $6 per, it's a lot. The point I'm driving at is that Americans are DISGUSTING. The obviousness of it comes in the customer complaints. A customer will complain about sitting in a drive-thru line for three minutes.... 3 MINUTES! Now think about how short three minutes really is. I've had people scream and yell about waiting that long. And the kicker is, they don't even realize why they're waiting. Now, logically, if you see a line of cars through a drive-thru line, numbering about 10 cars, and another 5 before the speaker, you should probably realize that you're not getting "fast food" You're waiting for the 15 people ahead of you (half of which are vans full of screaming kids) to get their five value meals and six happy meals super-sized. Do customers realize this? No. And then, expecting to get superfast service from overworked, underpaid, underappreciated employees, they want a flawless meal. Now when you're pushing 200 transactions an hour with only three people taking orders and three in the kitchen, you're not getting a five star meal, no matter which way you slice it. Expect to get a cheeseburger where there is grease on the wrapper, the cheese isn't exactly on the bun, and the meat is saturated with fat because the employee doesn't have the time to clean off the grill between cooking because as soo n as you make the fat families 12 99 cent doublecheeseburgers, you have to put cook more meat to make the impatient lawyer's double quarter pounder with cheese. One thing McDonald's is good for is letting its employees see the true nature of America today. I've come, through my employment at McDonald's, to see people in general as a big line of cows nudging their way to the trough. "Mooo..." is what I here when lunch hits and overweight, heart attack risk, slobbering patrons herd to our restaurant. McDonald's only succeeds (and especially in the U.S.) because of the publics willingness and revolting eagerness to stuff their faces with red meat and processed french fries... throw in anything that's on sale because they don't want to pass up some extra fat for a lower price. Strangly enough, it was after I got a job at McD's, that I decided to never eat the food again... not because our food is stored wrong, undercooked, old, etc. (If I wanted something fresh, I could just make it myself), but because the astronomical business that McDonald's gets is a testament to the huge health flaw in the United States... Americans need to revert to old times when it comes to eating habits. For God's sake people... go home, cook a meal for your kids, eat a balanced dinner, bring a damn lunch from home with a piece of fruit, and have some milk instead of a 42 ounce Coke. WHO NEEDS THAT MUCH SODA?!?! I'm not supporting McDonald's, far from it. One thing I can say for the corporation, though, is that it is smarter than the public as a whole. At least they're making money from the population's junkfood craze... the public is wasting it... and their health as well.
  • by BOredAtWork (36) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:24AM (#190935)
    My god! Murder and violent crime rates rise in the summer... and so does the sale of ice cream... a sure sign that ice cream leads to murder!


    At least, that's the conclusion one could draw from your logic. McDonalds leads to world peace? Horseshit.

    --

  • I don't have a solution, of course, just some ideas.

    I don't either. But I think that about sums it up: the truth is, capitalism is exploitative, cold, heartless, emotionless, unhuman, selfish, greedy, uncaring, often harmful, all of the above! Unfortunately it's also a damn sight better than anything else anyone's come up with.

    People want to control other people. Capitalists do this by giving people what they want. Evil capitalists do this by telling people what they want and then giving it to them. Bad capitalists find out what people want and then suggest their product has that when it actually doesn't.

    But very few capitalists force people to accept exactly what they don't want (at least in terms of products and services).

    I suggest we prosecute the bad capitalists and let the evil capitalists go. Because the most evil of evil capitalists is a walk in the park compared to the most evil of evil politicians.

  • No no- a representative republic is NOT majority rule. It tries to force a synthesis of ideas and is especially crafted to resist the evils of faction. Read Federalist Paper #10, okay? Democracy is a nice word but it's not what we in the USA do, in theory or in practice: that's because it's been done throughout history and it always crashes- 'bread and circuses', get it?
  • Watch out for network effects. Network effects means, "In the absense of any outside influence, the biggest options will squish the smallest options and make the total situation blatantly sub-optimal." Applies to a lot of things, but it sure as hell applies to Wal-Mart and McDonalds. It's necessary to hobble the giants a bit, they can well afford it- and otherwise you're just intentionally settling for an inferior competitive situation. And who wants to settle for an inferior competitive situation? Do you not _like_ competition?
  • It was a troll because it's just another libertarian arguing that the way to make corporations behave better is to remove all conceivable restrictions on them: namely, government restrictions.

    Troll is a fairly strong term for it- I guess someone was having a bad day and got more annoyed than usual at the foolishness :) really, in 2001 that's a very odd opinion to hold. Maybe if we get rid of Congress too and let the RIAA and MPAA write laws directly, and get rid of the police and let the RIAA and MPAA furnish their own cops, our liberties will be improved ;) ya think?

  • If you think the loss of rainforest land to cattlefarming is "fear-mongering" rather than reality, you have a much better imagination than any "eco-profiteer" I've read.

    The bottom line is that concentration of power is potentially bad, whether it's corporate or governmental. I'd like to see as little concentration of power as possible. Given a choice between assigning power to an elected, representative government that can be held accountable by its citizens and assigning power to an unelected corporation with no accountability beyond its shareholders and no obligation to consider the interests of those its actions may effect, the government is clearly the lesser of two evils.

    At least, that's clear to me--but I'm a crazy bleeding-heart liberal, I guess.

  • "The future is dynamic" is great on a bumper sticker, but you're effectively claiming that what we do in our present doesn't affect the future. Tonight's homework assignment: "The Dust Bowl." Extra credit points: why is the Southwestern United States chiefly desert? (Hint: buffalo and cattle graze differently, something European settlers didn't know in their present.)

    From an engineering standpoint, this is simple: what happens if we listen to "the crazy greens" and they're wrong? A lot of industries lose money in the short term, while countries and corporations are forced to learn better farming and conservation practices. If we listen to the sane, rational corporations and they're wrong, the world gets a lot less livable.

    Maybe convenience is worth both the risk and the lack of long-term progress in your eyes, but not in mine.

    And last but not least, if I represent "the orthodoxy," I guess that explains why there are so many more Honda Insights on the road than SUVs, and why our new proposed national energy plan focuses so much on alternative energy sources and wildlife preservation. :-)

  • It may be what _people_ want, but it's definitely not what _I_ want.

    Of course, thanks to the wonders of capitalism, what _I_ want isn't important if it goes against what _people_ want.

    It doesn't matter that _I_ still frequent that mom & pop grocer with the great meat. It doesn't matter that _I_ buy quality tools that will last a lifetime. If _people_ don't do these things, _I_ lose out.

    Things swing towards mediocrity. Because it's good enough for your neighbors, it's good enough for you. That's the lesson here. It doesn't matter what the individual wants or desires - it's what the MASSES want that wins.

    A person can be smart, polite, and well informed. People are dumb, rude, and pretty much stupid.

    Since _people_ are the driving force here, not the individual, we get what dumb, rude, stupid people want.

    And it's harder and harder to find alternatives. Money isn't given out to start business that are doomed to fail. Businesses that cater to a minority have a higher chance of failure than those that cater to the majority. Want to start a business similar to the mom & pop grocer's with the great meat? Good luck finding capital. Good luck attracting customers. Good luck keeping a profit when you're forced to charge higher prices because your margins aren't as large as those of the national supermarket down the street.

    ::sigh::

    Are things different outside of the US? How about Europe?

  • I think it stems slightly less from the food we eat and slightly more from the fact that we're so spread out and sub-urbanized that no one walks or rides a bike any more. We sit and drive EVERYWHERE because we have to. I'll wager there's less obeisity in cities then there is in the 'burbs, but that's unsubstantiated spec'lation at this point.

  • Because there are those out there that think that taxing the middle and upper class is a more acceptable way to feed the poor than actually letting them work.

    That said, I think that government should stop McDonald's from placing consumers and potential employees at gunpoint, forcing them to eat (or work) there. Oh wait, that's not right...


    - Jeff A. Campbell
  • There are a number of us who would rather not have these kind of military interventions either. The amount we spend on policing the world is only matched by the amount we spend bribing it with 'relief'. Both are at taxpayer expense.

    If we could have friendly trade with our neighbors, but largely kept our noses out of other countries' business, things would be much better.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
  • I don't know why more people don't get annoyed at that kind of paternalistic garbage.

    This kind of attitude 'keeps people down' far more than offering minimum wage jobs ever has. If you keep telling someone that they have no chance to advance, to succeed, and that they'll never get anywhere without handouts, they'll start believing it.

    - Jeff A. Campbell
  • The Falklands War almost broke the observation,
    but McDonalds didn't come to Argentina until
    shortly after the war.

    Serbia, however, did have a McD's in Belgrade.
    It was looted on day 2 of the US air campaign.
  • Two bucks for a Big Mac, Fries and Coke? I don't believe it.

    'round here (BC, Canada), I'm pretty sure you'd be looking more at six bucks. I'm guessing, because I haven't actually eaten McDonald's hamburgers since I got past the kiddy stage of life.

    Anyway, six bucks seems to be the going rate for a Wendy's chicken thing with fries and soft drink.

    Which means I could also:
    * get a couple slices of Uncle Dave's pizza. Real cheese, real meat, real dough. Good stuff.
    * get a pasta meal at a pub, beer would be extra.
    * get a good sushi meal.
    * buy a TV dinner that's surely better than fast food. (I don't think I've ever eaten a TV dinner!)
    * buy a salad-in-a-bag, some roasted chicken, and a bottle of water at the local Safeway.

    All of which are better than McDonalds, by a very long shot...

    --
  • I don't think Katz really understands that the problems with corporations are really problems with capitalism. It's cold, emotionless, unhuman nature. In thoery it should work great, just like Marxist Communism. When implemented, however, the selfishness, greed, and other human shortcomings really end up harming society.

    While you make some good points, I don't believe that the tension between capitalism's ideal and implementation is of the same nature as the dissonance between communism's ideal and its implementation.

    Bear in mind, Communism as Marx conceived it was a utopia by concensus, where everyone agrees a priori to play by the rule of "from each according to ability, to each according to need". As long as those who play the game are willing to cheat that rule (or take advantage of it), Marxism is unrealizable, and must be replaced with some sort of imposed rationing and distribution scheme.

    Capitalism, on the other hand, is by its nature adaptable to what rules the players are and are not willing to abide by. Greed and selfishness are allowed to be part of the equation only to the extent that they are compatible with profitability - if the consumer side will not tolerate a supplier that does not act with goodwill towards community and customer, and this distaste is strong enough for said consumer to either seek alternatives or forego a product entirely (deferred or vetoed gratification is essential to making a capitalist system work, thus a "consumerist" mentality may be its achilles heel), then there is no viable position for the greedy supplier, and likewise for a supplier doing business with greedy consumers (the net includes some good examples of this - "how much stuff do we need to give away to keep a customer coming back?")

    An argument could be made that regulations placed upon suppliers (or consumers) according to the will of the people (or the consent of the people in the case of a Republic) is totally consistent with this model - provided people understand that by enshrining certain requirements in law, they may destroy the ability of providers or consumers to function profitably, and they must then be willing to abide by the consequences (see, for example, the California power crisis).

    The "free" market of capitalism is perhaps the most sustainable component of of a "liberal" (liberty) society, precisely because it includes at least the potential for a self-corrective force; free speech isn't truly free unless it allows for trolls, but to succeed in the marketplace you need to find people willing to pay for the wares you're peddling. (Freedom of the press falls somewhere in between; the 1st amendment does not, for example, guarantee affordable access to a printing press!)

  • Just in case you haven't noticed, you can almost exactly correlate countries that start wars with countries that are poor and desperate. Iraq is an excellent example; they saw easy pickings in Kuwait and figured invading would solve their economic problems in one stroke. North Korea is always threatening the South with similar things. Being interested in war nowadays is a sign of weakness, not strength.

    The question to ask about McDonald's is what they replaced: Often something much worse, such as the restaurant selling Mystery Food where they don't clean the grill. McDonald's created minimum standards more effective than any government fiat.

    With so many better options available nowadays, even in fast food, I'm really not sure why McDonald's is still in business. My ex girlfriend offers a clue: She hates the company, loves their fries - and insisted I pick some up when she had fry cravings.

    So I guess there is some merit to the place, despite its status as a cultural whipping boy.

    Of course I can't stand the food personally, but, well, that's why we have a free market.

    D

    ----
  • Curious; let me know your results.

    Oddly enough, the ex is a vegetarian, gets faintly nauseous when any form of meat is mentioned, but still goes gaga over the fries - even though she knows about the beef essence part.

    D

    ----
  • OK, so I followed your link and I see that "corporatism" is politics made and enforced by business. Isn't that what we're seeing, though? Take the DMCA. Who enacted this crap? Business. They caried it through our political system, so it's not a *direct* corporatism, but the law was still enacted by businesses for the benefit of businesses the way that I see it. If it sounds like a duck...

    Seriously, I think Katz is correct to use the term "corporatism".

  • I am so turned off when I think of steak and hamburgers now, that I can barely order and wolf down a Big Mac or prime rib any more.

    Then why don't you become a vegetarian? It's easier than you think and it gets easier every day. And vegetarians do eat more than just salads. You can find veggie-friendly food at practically any restaurant. VegSource.com [vegsource.com] is a good resource for beginning vegetarians.
  • No one is forced to read Jon Katz's columns, think about it, consider an alternate pov *gasp*, but he's somehow super oppressive and evil.

    No, he's just a hypocrite and a bigoted columnist who rambles on endlessly in a forum that frankly cares nothing for him.

  • by WNight (23683) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @10:58AM (#190974) Homepage
    I beg to differ...

    Hitler was elected. Milosevic was Elected. All US presidents have been elected. Democracies do go to was, at least the sham political systems that we call democracies.

    In the last election I votes in, the party I voted for got 12% of the popular vote and 0% of the elected officials. The next party got 30% of the popular vote and 4% of the elected officials, the remaining party got 55% of the popular vote and 96% of the elected officials.

    Even if you fixed that, it's still a party system where you can't get an independant into power, and if you did, they wouldn't have any responsibilities or power.

    And then, it's a "representative democracy", meaning that I have to hope someone runs who represents my views. If not, I could end up completely unrepresented even if the person I voted for got in.

    Then top this off with the fact that in a vote to declare war, it's not just the politicians who actually risk being sent off to fight who get to vote.

    Democracies are anything but, and a populace intolerant of war doesn't stop any politician from voting for the draft and sending the completely unprepresented classes off to war.

    If we say that 'democracies don't go to war' it's because we conveniently only look at rich countries, without realizing that the real reason they didn't go to war is because they don't think anyone else has anything worth taking. (When they do, like the US going to protect the oil supply) they're more than willing to spend low-class soldiers securing their financial future.
  • of course teens are getting greedy. How else can they pay for the DVDs, CDs, Cell phones, everquest, and dammit, all that McDonald's they eat!?!
  • JonKatz gets a lot of criticism for his articles, but I think this is a very good one.

    However, I see one difference in the metaphor between the restaurant industry and the Internet. In the restaurant world, it takes a lot of money and an incredible amount of hard work to start and maintain a restaurant, and even then, most restaurants fail. With the advent of megacorporations, individual stores could even operate at a loss in order to more effectively shut out competition. I don't know if this actually happens, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    In any event, on the Internet, I still think there is more of any opportunity for the little guy to succeed. Maybe you won't see a couple of college kids becoming overnight billionaires anymore, but unlike the restaurant world, where real estate and customers are finite, on the Internet, real estate is essentially infinite and "customers" can come from literally all over the world. Now I won't minimize the homogenization of online content, much like what's happened to commercial radio in the last 20 years, but it's still easy to create an online community dedicated to anything you could possibly want, and freed from geographic restrictions, any interest, no matter how obscure, can attract a community of like-minded individuals to share their common interest. I don't think the Walmart-ization of the Internet will ever squeeze those communities out, even if they are never exposed to vast masses who are force-fed a diet of ads for britneyspears.com or whatever.

    So, while there are many parallels between the brick-and-mortar world and the online-world, we need to remember that the parallels are never perfect and I still think the 'net will adapt and grow in ways we haven't even thought of yet.

  • by Scotter (27775) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:30AM (#190977) Homepage
    Schlosser's Fast Food Nation is a well written, well organized journey into an industry which reflects and has partially determined our current society.

    The book shows capitalism at its best--with the rise of individuals with revolutionary ideas on food service--and corporate culture at its worst--with the companies formed by these individuals growing into huge conglomerates which care little for their customers or employees and disregard regulation and legislation by essentially buying government access.

    It's not all bad news, and some of it is a bit alarmist, but the overall impact of the book shouldn't be forgotten. The investigation could easily have been of technology industries, clothing and apparal, the health industry, or a number of other industries. (There are parallels between the fast food industry and the Tobacco industry of The Insider)

    Fast Food Nation is highly recommended for anybody interested in turn-of-the century corporate America, and anybody who is concerned with what they are eating.

    Katz' commentary is essentially a book review, but doesn't do the book justice. (If this is a review, why does he bury first mention of the book in the seventh graph? Note to Katz: work with an editor.)

  • I've heard a few times about this corporate domination subject... here's a summary of some of the issues [theatlantic.com]. Oh, yeah, that's from 1881; there have been some more recent events.
  • I don't think that's necessarily true -- for example, I'm doing three things in parallel: full-time school, 20 hrs of part-time work, and about 15 hours of fencing training a week. Then I go home and start homework, projects, etc.

    Which means that I'm driving a heck of a lot.

    I'm well aware of the money I can save (or at least, quality I can get for the same money) by cooking, but my time is a much more important commodity than the money I would save -- since going home and preparing food would mean that I am late to [practice|work|class].

    Whereas the fast food is on my path and can be greedily consumed en route. I bet that logic applies to many people....
  • Nobody drives to McDonald's. You swing through on your way home from work. So subtract the gas and most of that time.

    Also, a steak cooked in a toaster-oven!? That would taste about as shitty as a McDonald's burger! What a terrible waste of a good cut of meat!

    Another point, an ungarnished potato can be good when you are in the mood for it, but McDonald's fries are seasoned with yummy beef essence and grease.

    Finally, even if we accept your numbers ($2 plus $1 of "gas and time" vs. $4 of food which must have gotten to your house by magic), you should be aware that $4 minus $3 is $1, not fifty cents.

    You forgot about his $.50 can of Coke. And a steak prepared in a toaster oven can be quite tasty indeed - it's really not so different from an oven.

  • Free markets are good for economies, and in many cases, for the people who work in them. They can promote creativity, innovation, prosperity, choice and individualism, more than other political and economic systems. But there has to be a balance between the prosperity of the market and the morality of the market -- a balance already tilting off center in almost the entire range of tech industries, and on the Net and Web

    The morality of the market? I assume that's Morality According to Katz. Because, of course, WE are only the masses. Who are WE to freely decide on anything? Katz knows best, just ask him.

    This is EXACTLY the same as when the evil supervillian Jesse Helms says something is immoral and needs to be stopped. You're either free or you're a subject. Only the tyrant changes.

    (Of course, the supervilliany of Jesse Helms is largely an invention of the press, but that's beside the point.)

    I wonder if Jon Katz ever gets tired of himself?

  • The short-term "benefits" of these megacorps often hide long-term effects that we will pay for long after this crop of shareholders cashes in on their stock dividends. An example is the loss of rainforest land and subsequent reduction in biodiversity due to slash and burn cattle ranching.

    Here's the problem with this: The short term benefits are real. The long-term effects you mention are largely imaginary and based on a fear-mongering campaign [foxnews.com] by the eco-profiteers.

    And BTW, I don't really like McDonalds or big corporations. But they're being falsely used as bogeymen by people who want you to sign away your freedom in exchange for "protection".

  • Where are the alternatives? ... Of course you can find smaller, non-viral-corporate-homogeneous restaurants, but not at the same level of convenience...

    If they opened the perfect restaurant -- not too big, but not too small either -- quirky enough, but not too quirky -- and the food was all cheap, but expensive enough so you know you're getting good food -- and if they were convient everywhere I travel, but not _everywhere_ -- and if everything else was just right, I'd eat there.

    But, see, this is a fantasy. No restaurant will ever meet the standard. McDonalds is the _compromise_ we ended up with. It is a reality, with all the normal daily disappointment. Sad, but not tragic. And not evil.

    I can't believe this got modded up to a five.

    Neither can I :)

  • Loss of rainforest land is real. The effects of DDT and organophosphates is real. Of course, we're safe from those effect (for a time) since it's only poor foreigners who have to deal with them.

    Hey, I know it's part of the orthodoxy to believe this stuff. But there are 2 sides to the story.

    I know the loss of rainforest land is real. But is it a real problem? From whose perspective?

    What if I don't believe in the orthodox-green notion of a fragile world teetering on the edge of destruction? Then what's the problem?

    What if I don't believe in the estimates that the rain forest will all be gone in 6 months (or 2 years, or 5 years, or 18 years, or whatever the newest scare is supposed to be)? Those estimates are wrong, and fundamentally silly because the future is dynamic.

    What if I don't believe in the supposed silver-bullet cure-for-all diseases drug that's about to be trampled by a nasty bulldozer (driven by an evil man who wants to feed his family)?

    What if the real situation is that some (a lot, but not too much) forested land is being cut to produce food for people? What's the problem then? Isn't this at least a little more likely than the eco-doomsday scenarios we've all heard about?

    Anyway, there are too many unanswered questions for a dispassionate observer to conclude McDonalds is evil. Now if I already hated them, or if I thought I'd get into the Elite Compassion Club, or if there was money in it for me, those questions might matter a little less.

  • Hey, thanks for the summary. If you could post sooner on Katz topics, everyone could save a lot of time.

    Hope you get modded up.

  • Did that. You said the deforestation was real. I said sure, at least some of it is probably real, but not enough to definitely conclude there's a problem.

    I don't believe there is a problem from any reasonable perspective. So the conclusion is that the deforestation concern is not a concern after all. Better?

    Sorry about the format. Orthodoxy must be challenged delicately in order to be effective in persuasion.

  • I would rather my Bush tax cut go towards funding renewable energy sources, education, and other worthy conservation causes

    You're probably getting a $300 check. Send it to them.

  • 3 quick things:

    "The future is dynamic" is great on a bumper sticker, but you're effectively claiming that what we do in our present doesn't affect the future.

    Actually, I was saying exactly the opposite. The future can't be projected on a linear curve because things that happen in the future affect things that happen later in the future.

    Example: We can never "run out" of fossil fuels because, as they become more scarce, their cost increases, leading to slower and slower usage, and ultimately to near zero usage with fossil fuels still in the ground.

    From an engineering standpoint, this is simple: what happens if we listen to "the crazy greens" and they're wrong?

    To even start, you'd have to eliminate many, many freedoms and subject citizens to the control of an elite class. This is a harm that cannot be repaired.

    And last but not least, if I represent "the orthodoxy," I guess that explains why there are so many more Honda Insights on the road than SUVs

    You misunderstand. Being part of the orthodox-green movement is about thinking and believing what you're supposed to, regardless of the actual truth. You're supposed to venerate the environmental leaders, decry the environmental bogeymen, and fear the apocalyptic prophesies. Actual "actions" are rare, and tend towards the symbolic.

  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:28AM (#190993)
    Taking shots at McDonalds and "evil corporations". How original.

    No one is forced to eat there, do business there, or work there, but they're somehow super oppressive and evil.

    And we envy their money and we want to get the government or lawyers to steal it and give it to us.

    And we envy their "power" and we want them to be hurt so they have less power.

    And we want the government to be super-powerful to protect us from the corporate evil, but it'll never occur to us that the government's power might be used against us. Maybe if we give it more power, that will stop.

    Gee, what a smart, happy bunch we are.

  • Technology made the fast food industry possible, and without any real national discussion and consideration, retailing, health, work and the ability of individuals to operate farms or small businesses was altered for good.

    Let's veer off topic a bit here. I don't think a "national discussion" on the topic would've been realistic. As long as products are produced in a way that isn't illegal, there is no obligation for a company to consider sociological consequences.

    My question is: what are the ethical responsibilities of those creating the technologies? I'd wager that a big chunk of the Slashdot population is in the business of creating technology in some sense, whether they're software developers or engineers or what have you. What responsibility do we have for the impact of the technology we create? I'm not talking about immediate health risks that exposure to radiation or things like that. I'm talking about long-term sociological effects.

    I'm not blaming the guy who developed the McDonalds french fry machine for the McDonaldization of society. But I am suggesting that somebody's got to consider these consequences.

    Should we technologists bear responsibility for our actions? We cannot use the scientist's excuse of "science for science's sake". Technology is purely utilitarian. What responsibilities do we have in developping technologies to ensure that we don't do harm to society by the development?

  • "Corporations can try and take our rights away, but we have the courts to fight them. "

    We lost in MPAA v. Corley.

    "When the government takes our rights away we can't even beat them in the courts as they have guns to back them up. "

    We won in Tinker v. Des Moines.

    Any questions?
  • Read this [slashdot.org], and the comments, and then look at this article and its comments. The privacy article is, in some ways, a subset of the arguments in this one.
  • "is inevitably the path that every society will eventually take."

    That galls me. Why are you so sure of this? Just because the west has gone down this road means that this is the direction all civilization must inevitably take? What hubris. Is this the inevitable path that farmers in South America or India, and fisherman in Southeast Asia need to take? I don't get it. Through amazing and complex coincidences and circumstances we have come to where we are...I don't see how this is necessarily the One True Way. What short collective memories we have.
  • "Third World nations that have adopted Communism grossly underperform those that are capitalist"

    People who don't play by the rules of the game that those in control of the game have invented don't do as well. What is your definition of "underperform"? If USSR won the cold war, we might just be saying that "capitalist economies grossly underperform those that are communist".
  • Or how about a geeky analogy: Microsoft claims that Linux isn't ready for the desktop, it doesn't have the applications or compatibility with Microsoft formats, and Slashdotters complain that that is because Microsoft has a monopoly and network effect which it can use to put the burden of compatibility on the underdog. What if Linux came out before Windows? We might all be saying "Microsoft isn't ready for the desktop".
  • Um, so. Didn't your mother tell you that too much of *anything* is a bad thing? VA Linux is hardly even a blip on the radar or corporate significance. What matters are the giant media conglomerations that decide what information is the most marketable. What matters are giant biotechnology, chemical, agribusiness corporations whose every move shows up in the food we eat, and the environment around us. What matters is giant pharmaceutical companies who hold patents on the genomes of entire ethnicities, and can control whether millions of people live or die each day. Perhaps you are comfortable living in a world where everything you see, eat, touch, and think is colored or even dictated by a handful of extremely powerful faceless corporations, but I'm not. Corporate power (like any other power) needs to be in check. Just because you can cite "good" examples of corporations doesn't mitigate this fact, and just because it turns out people have to *work* for corporations to put bread on their table doesn't make them hypocrites.
  • So then, you're defining performance as human rights? That is somewhat ironic seeing as we just got kicked off the UN human rights commission and we're fuming like a petulant little boy. We too have a bit of dirty history that we don't talk much about in the history books.

    Those who win the wars write history and define the rules of the game for others. We won, so the rules are capitalistic rules...which of course are making it very difficult for non-capitalist countries to compete in the global economy (whether or not they violate human rights). Capitalism may be the "best system yet" simply because we've economically outcompeted everything else. I'm not convinced that what makes the most wealth is necessarily equal to what's best. There have been plenty of damn fine civilizations in history based on systems other than capitalism and democracy.
  • "So in some ways, I agree that "corporate power" or as I would say, "the free market" must be checked."

    Due to economies of scale businesses in free markets inevitably migrate towards monopolies and exploitation of the consumer. There was a quote to the fact by one of the founding fathers, that I haven't been able to dig up again, but whatever. Free markets aren't "gratis" and can't be simply left alone to work their magic like some libertarians would have you believe.

    "Therefore, we must regulate the market as best as we can to limit the failings of human perception."

    And I would hope that would include limiting the power of any given corporation over media outlets, and over government itself. Things become a lot more messy in this wonderful free market, when entities in the market itself have power over political policy and the very channels through which we poor feeble-minded humans perceive them. The free market breaks down in this case because consumers *can't* make informed decisions. We can't choose the best sandwich - they're all crap with a different marketing spin. Taken to the extreme, you tack on a housing complex to Walmart, and Walmart becomes its own country with its own command economy, etc.

    "Ah, but Katz is a hypocrit because as it turns out people don't HAVE to work for corporations in a free market. They can work for whomever they choose."

    That might be true in theory but not so much in practice. In reality it is *very* hard not to somehow support the organizations I've talked about in one manner or another. Sure you can try to find a job somewhere totally unrelated. But who grew the grain that is in your sandwich bread?
    Who provides the fuel for vehicle you drive to work? Who generates the very electricity that goes into your house? It is not practical to say you can avoid somehow impplicitly supporting these organizations. You can't opt out in this society (or at least it is very very difficult, and when you do you are labeled a fruity communist hippie). I try my best, but everyone is a hyprocrite in some manner or other. I suppose to prove I *really* wasn't a hypocrite I'd have to move to some remote jungle in Asia...but even *there* globalization is encroaching.

    "However, we must avoid cramping down too much otherwise the market will no longer be free, and we'll be subject to one person or groups perception."

    However, as you (hopefully) agree, to keep the market free, we must regulate so that the very same doesn't happen from within the market - corporations conglomerating and enforcing their agendas on other entities in the market.

    "Hmmm, sort of like the media empires we've had since there was a media."

    Yup, the network channels were originally radio.

    "Strange, what empire is /. a part of that I missed? Is /. deciding everything for me?"

    No it's not. Thankfully the net provides at least a temporary refuge for independent media and journalism. But even as we speak the number of independent sites on the net are dropping like flies, taken over by outgrowths of the major TV, and newspaper media networks (can we say AOL/TimeWarner?).

    "Strange, would you rather have chemicals from a small company? What does the size of the company have to do with it?"

    Most definately. Size is a pretty good indication of power. I'd presume a smaller company would be less likely to manipulate public policy, cover up any potential misdeeds, gouge consumers, etc.

    "Hmm, as opposed to farmers making decisions for us? What is the difference?"

    Same as above. If MegaCo. puts GMO XYZ in a food product I may never know, or if I do I can't do much about it. Mr. Farmer running a family farm is 1) more environmentally sound 2) has much smaller distribution channel, and area of impact 3) can be held accountable much more easily.

    "but do they really control whether millions of people live or die or does the market?"

    And here it is all tied up in patent law, etc., which big corporations have weedled and badgered the government into allowing all sorts of ridiculous things. In my opinion "promote the progress of science and useful arts" does not extend to allowing millions to die of AIDs for instance, simply because you do not want to allow another company in some foreign country on the other side of the world to reproduce your magical patented chemical with their own labor.

    "If you ditched patent rights on genetic research, how many pharamcutical companies will do it? Guess. How about zero."

    Patents have a place of course, but in current practice patent law has been manipulated to inordinately favor the holder at the expense of society. Patent scope and duration needs to be tied to the rate of development of the industry it is in, and the significance to society, instead of being blindly handed out like party favors.

    "This sounds like classic accademic, liberal banter lacking in any viable alternative or suggestion and unleashed from the ivory tower of contempt known as the University."

    Strange, we've already agreed on a lot. I can't be blind to the overreaching effects of big corporations (or big *anything*) on government, and media. If you really believe that we need regulation to safeguard the free market, I would say that we are currently being way too lax in enforcing those regulations. In my opinion the first big step would be to get as much corporate influence out of politics in general...then I think the other problems will probably resolve themselves without any drastic measures. We need to get the free market off steroids and accountable to the people again.
  • My, aren't we a bit techy?

    #1) http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/05/03/us.human/
    And go find whatever other links you want. There are several reasons why we were kicked off, including our position on land mines and AIDS drugs.

    #2) Lessee...um, Mayan, Incan, most any indigenous American civilization (oh no, the Aztecs sacrificed people, cringe, cringe), Chinese, most indigineous civilizations accross the globe, um, Persia, some of the European civilizations like the Celts. India did have a pretty amazing civilization, but you're right, the caste system was a shame, so that probably bars it. Each had their share of bad points, but it's not as if modern countries don't also.

    #3) Oops sorry, I guess all my arguments are invalid because I didn't use the jargon you wanted me too. How about: "I'm not convinced that what allows the most accumulation of wealth is necessarily equal to what's best".
  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:46AM (#191006)
    Situationist [everything2.com]
    Adbusters [adbusters.org]
    CorpWatch [corpwatch.org]
    AllYourBrand [allyourbrand.org]

    etc.:
    Independent Media Center [indymedia.org]
    Metropolitic.net [metropolitic.net]
    You May Be An Anarchist And Not Even Know It [utne.com] (I too thought the "anarchy movement" was a load of crap from bored aggressive adolescents (they really spoil it for everybody don't they?) until reading this and realizing there really is a legitimate coherent philosophy behind it)
    Mother Jones [motherjones.com]
    In These Times [inthesetimes.com]
    Poliglut [poliglut.com]
    Protest.net [protest.net] (yes, sometimes there are actually legitimate reasons to protest)
    PigDog journal [pigdog.org]
    Unabomer Manifesto [panix.com] (he may have been labeled a wacko, but read it - he's not stupid and he does sorta have a point.)


  • > And a steak prepared in a toaster oven can be quite tasty indeed - it's really not so different from an oven.

    Thanks for backing me up - I figured a lot of grilling purists would rake me over the coals for that - hell, I felt a little queasy (as in "this is wrong, God will smite me for my heresy") when I first tried it, but I was in an apartment, which made grilling not-an-option.

    Take yer steak, and spend another minute rubbing it down with pepper, salt, and some sage. The layer of spices on the outside of the steak seems to help hold the moisture. You can also brush lightly with olive oil before applying the rub. (An investment of $10.00 in a hand-operated pepper grinder can really pay off here - IMHO the generic stuff in your pepper shaker is pretty flavorless compared to any equally-generic "look at the pretty colors" multi-peppercorn blend).

    All that said, I still prefer steak grilled the way God intended. But the toaster-oven method (broil, yes, but don't overcook it!) works well enough in a pinch. Then again, I like my steaks medium-rare to medium, so I'm not sure if it would work as well if you like it brown-all-the-way-through. And I'm lucky in that I can get a nice thick (1.5" to 2") cut of steak, so drying-out isn't really a problem.

    On to the more interesting (and in many cases, valid) objections:

    • A baked potato ain't McD's fries. Well, yeah. But neither is a steak a Big Mac. I invoke poetic licence here, because I also happen to like McD's fries every now and then. And as someone correctly pointed out, the cost to duplicate those at home would be astronomical :)
    • Cost of time spent in cleanup after cooking. Good point. I'll wimp out here and suggest you cook the potato on a paper plate, on which you can also eat the steak. Time for cleaning the grilling rack, from experience, is about 30 seconds of scrubbing, and can be reduced to zero if you get creative with aluminum foil (as long as your "creative" remains within the oven manufacturer's recommendations, but when I tried it, I found I spent more time fiddling with the foil than I would have cleaning the broiling rack...)
    • Energy costs of cooking the steak. If I assume my oven eats 5kW (wild-ass-guess), then a 15-minute session is a little over a kWh, or $0.20-30. Nowhere near the $2.00 that someone suggested.
    • Your time is worth money. Yeah, but how much useful work can you get done driving to McD's? At least I can read /. while my steak cooks. On the other hand, if McD's is en-route between my $RESIDENCE (I guess $HOME would be wrong here!) and my $WORKPLACE, there's a convenience factor. And you'd likely draw some serious stares if you tried to do this at work, as opposed to just popping in some generic frozen food into the microwave, or hitting McD's with the cow orkers.
    • E. Coli. Not really mentioned in this thread, but I figured I'd mention it since I said I like medium-rare steaks. Your E. Coli risk with a steak is minimal - one cut of meat from one animal, with a very low surface area per pound of meat. Hamburger doesn't work like that - maximal surface area per pound, and multiple animals ground together. Although I'd recommend against either option, I'd rather eat a whole steak raw than an ounce of raw hamburger. (And I'd point out that good cooking practices can reduce the risk of E.Coli contamination in burgers to nil as well. Just cook it 'till it's well-done.)
    • Fine if you know how to cook. Not brought up, but worthy of mention. You learn cooking the same way you learn hacking - goof around, see what works, see what doesn't. I'd recommend anyone try it. If you don't like it, there's always restaurants who'll do it for you. But if you do find you enjoy it, you'll get good at it, pretty fast.
    • That $0.50 can of Coke to make my numbers add up. Guilty as charged. All I was really trying to do was show that the costs in time and money were comparable. Of course, my worst crime here was in cutting that 16-oz strip loin in half to get the cost of the steak portion down to $3.50, but hey, it's not like you got half a pound of actual meat on that Big Mac, is it? ;-)

    Soneone else said:
    > That said both McDonalds and Microsoft make a product that works as advertised and actually is capable of fulfilling most of peoples expectations. The product just does the job and so people will buy it because they don't want to deal with it on thier own. I don't think McDonalds breeds stupid and uncaring people, I think that stupid and uncaring people bread McDonalds and they are free to do that.

    I think this poster put it better than I did. There's nothing wrong with McD's, it's just that there are alternatives if you look around. If it weren't for people willing to forego these potentially-superior alternatives for the sake of perceived convenience (which applies just as well for MSFT vs. Linux), neither organization would stay in business.

    But my mind still boggles when I hear people say that they go to McDonald's because they can't afford a steak dinner...

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:54AM (#191010)
    > But people like the convenience, the low price and the fact that they know what they are getting.

    And that's the depressing part. Because if you really look at it, fast food is neither convenient nor cheap.

    Big Mac, Fries, and a Coke. About $2.00. Plus maybe a 10-minute drive each way - call it $1.00 for gas and time. And the joy of standing in line waiting for your order, sitting in an annoying fast-food-restaurant seat, etc.

    Potato: $0.25, and that's a huge potato. New York Strip: $7.00 a pound at my local butcher. Take one and cut it in half. Coke: $0.50/can, bought in bulk.

    Total cost: $4.00 for an 8-oz NY Strip loin, baked potato, and Coke.

    Total time: 5 minutes to defrost the steak in the microwave, then 15 minutes on the baking/grill-rack in a toaster oven at 350-400F, while the potato gets nuked in parallel for 10 minutes.

    For fifty cents more, you can have a goddamn steak in the same time it takes to go to McDonald's.

    McDonald's stays in business for the same reason Microsoft does: Market presence and a[n ad campaign designed to ensure the continued existence of a] customer base that's wholly-ignorant of the existence of alternatives.

  • by phutureboy (70690) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:09AM (#191018) Homepage
    Most corporations seem to have figured out that so long as they have the appropriate politicians in their pockets [...]

    Indeed. It's a sad state of affairs when a company's success hinges not on providing a better product or service, but on whether the company is effective at influencing lawmakers and regulators to tilt the playing field in their favor. Realistically though, many companies would be foolish to not have a lobbying presence, given the power that politicians and regulators have to make or break entire industries.

    My opinion is that all this makes a strong case for reducing the power that politicians have over the economy. If they don't have the ability to hand out favors that give one industry an advantage over another, there won't be companies and industry groups lining up at the feeding trough.

    --
  • JonKatz's latest collectivist essay brings up the usual plethora of half-truths, hidden assumptions and pleasant sounding nonsense.

    Some questions for Mr. Katz per his latest dissertation:

    1. You write: Technology, as futurists like George Orwell ... will be the battleground on which the fight against corporatism is played out.

    Where did Orwell write of the evils of corporatism? Much of his work associated the primary evil with the state, which is your proposed savior your writings. Doesn't Orwell instead argue the opposite perspective?

    2. The United States has become a corporate republic...

    Really? With a federal government that is at the largest percentage of GNP ever? Or did you mean to write that the US was founded to support individuals and corporate entities but is no longer?

    with the takeover of cyberspace one of that republic's primary goals

    As defined and substantiated where? By the former liberal administration (who is the doer of no wrong in your writings) giving the green light to NSI and Verisign dominance? Ever look at whose Senate re-elections and presidential runs SAIC significantly funded?

    3. Fast food is central to urban and suburban sprawl and to the rise of malls as retailing forces...

    Cart before the horse problem. Your model would indicate that McDonalds and other fast food entities moved to empty fields, and by their presence, created housing developments around them per this inaccurate sprawl model.

    Better (and significantly substantiated) models show sprawl directly corrolated with white urban flight and a perceived ethic system clash between work ethic-focused european whites and welfare-system nonwhites (e.g. fleeing crime and perceived value difference with a counter ethic model propped up by liberal dependency programs).

    Interestingly, McDonalds and other fast food entities have numerous outlets in urban locations. Shouldn't this encourage sprawl too? The theory sounds nice, but is fundamentally flawed.

    4. Fast food has created a generation of new, mostly lousy jobs

    Fast food has created a generation of ENTRY LEVEL jobs, employing large amounts of unskilled labor. While it'd be nice to pretend that every unskilled high school kid could be paid $150,000 a year at Katz's law firm, I'd seriously doubt the firm would hire them.

    Katz, where do you wish unskilled kids to be employed in your imaginary system? Will you hire them at attorney living wages? Why not?

    5. cemented the divisions between rich and poor

    How? Absent substantiation (typical), where is this found? I visit a suburban McDonalds and see rich and poor alike. Same with small town McDonalds. Same with urban McDonalds. What it has cemented is a collection of consumers who wish to find consistant food of known experiential quanties.

    Look at the explosion of catagory killers - essentially the "Super Sizing" of the McDonalds model. Why has Walmart, Best Buy, Chilis, Barnes & Nobel, Lowes, Home Depots, etc, dominated? Because consumers can identify the brand regardless of location and associate it with a certain expection of quality and performance.

    This obviously works both ways - have a crummy experience at one Kmart and you'll probably avoid all Kmarts.

    6. It's the stepchild of post-war progress in farming, slaughtering and packing, refrigeration and transportation.

    There's the comment of a preppy snot who's never been to the country. Want to know why family farms have died and everything from hogs to soybeans have scaled to such large extremes? Look at commodity prices. The only way you can survive now is on scale. Your government created this monster through subsidies, combined with the unnatural centralization of economic power in cities (again, due in many parts to collectivist redistribution of money from the taxpayer base to the wards of the welfare state).

    (Side note: There's a reason what you people call flyover space is now known as "red space" - i.e. voting in many cases over 80-90% for Bush. People who grow crops know that all the wishes and intents in the world don't make the crop grow. Hard work, actions, and man's reason puts food on the table.)

    Granted, centralization of production in urban areas during the industrial era had its toll too.

    7. political activists were already warning about the McDonaldization of America in much the same way that hackers, programmers and open source advocates are sounding the alarm about the Microsoft-ing of the Net. Those activists sensed that the emerging fast food business threatened independent companies and presaged a food economy dominated by giant corporations

    And all of this was accomplished through the choices made by individual consumers. Unless you can point to a federal directive ordering consumers to buy Microsoft products and ban competitors, there's no conspiracy other than individual preference.

    The same goes for McDonalds and any other chain or category killer.

    The fundamental assumption you make but fail to explain is that your solution must require removing this individual choice.

    In order to deny people from choosing McDonalds, someone (i.e. the government) must prevent individual determination. How do you wish to go about this in a democratic society, Mr. Katz? (Obviously, you don't, but somehow can't find the courage to clearly explain your support of tyranny).

    8. The industry was one of the first to use technology -- especially advances in genetics --

    I'll strongly agree that GMO experimentation is troublesome and worrisome. Interestingly, much of this experimentation was initiated under federal research funding (e.g. USDA). Absent standards for what is and isn't acceptable (i.e. the normal role of government), and with tacit government support for GMO, are you surprised that individual interest has evolved along these lines?

    9. attracted a disproportionate number of immigrant, poor and minority workers...

    Spoken like a true class warrior, who'd rather see unemployed and starving immigrants rather than working and upward bound ones. After all, who's handing out the goods to the unemployed, vs. who's working and discovering how much social security, taxes and such steal from their paycheck?

    who have little real chance of advancement

    Why is it an employer's job to advance a worker absent a change in qualifications? If I've hired you to flip burgers because you have the qualifications (have pulse, bathe, show up for work on time, follow instructions), then why should I make you a manager absent any other changes in your qualifications?

    Again, Katz, you're slopping over some serious assumptions. If promotion is independent of a worker's qualification for the position, let's quit wasting time and hire everyone as six-figure trial attorneys. (Actually, most uneducated immigrants would probably do better than your run of the mill trial attorney, due to their possession of morals and ethics).

    10. The fast food industry also perfected, even nationalized, the notion of false courtesy --

    And the alternative is.... ?

    "Yea, this is Burger King. What the hell did you expect, asshole. You gonna order today? No, you can't have it your way!"

    Let's see that operation last a week. Katz, as odd as it seems that you'd be surprised by this (and be hunting for corporate conspiracies as to why McDonalds is nice to its customers), what else to you suggest?

    OVERALL
    - You don't want individuals to have the freedom to choose McDonalds. WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?

    - You don't want McDonalds being nice to its patrons. WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?

    - You don't want product innovation, consistant and identifiable quality. WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?

    Why is it I see a line at an unnamed Soviet store where rude government workers yell at me to take what they're selling today or leave?

    Thankfully, the success of fast food, category killers and such are living proof that people like you are parasites living on borrowed time. The net and the rise of intelligent individualism marks the end of your kind.

    *scoove*
    Produce or die.

  • Exactly what do you think the Nato countries were doing with all their bombers and attack choppers and ground troops?

    That wasn't a war. It was a peace action, brought to you in part by the fine folks at NATO.

    Anyway, wars aren't cool anymore (unless they've been filmed by Disney). Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, etc.

    Maybe that's why the "no warring nations with McDonalds" model holds true? :-)

    *scoove*
  • Nice points, except you missed two:

    - labor: how much do you cost an hour? Take your average IT professional in the midwest making $40K to $60K annually. Factor a half hour of cooking and post-eating cleanup (not including the time you walked thru the grocery, drove there and back, etc. to get the stuff - I'll figure you did that with the other groceries and have no cost additional), and you've added anywhere between $10 and $15 to your cost.

    Now, if you /like/ cooking (as I do), that's an entirerly different matter.

    - convenience: Do you run home to the kitchen for lunch, or swing by the McDonalds near the office? More time savings and the food is ready within the one-hour lunch break timeframe most of us have. Plus, how many friends want to go to your house and eat stuff out of your fridge? Mine trust McDonalds more:-)

    I agree tho that if you don't mind the hassel, eating home is a much better deal.

    *scoove*
  • Fair criticism.

    Salon and other publications have talked about the rise in libertarianism in recent years. In spite of the Limbaugh complaints about rotten schools (yea, he's interesting sometimes but he's of a definite different branch in the tree), literacy in the US continues to improve, college attendence, though possibly dropping off a bit right now, is much higher than ever before.

    You can argue that any and all of these have no corrolation with intelligence or individualism. But looking at individual expression as a barometer - regardless of the accuracy or 'correctness' of that expression - would indicate that we're in a stage of self-expression and individualism never before seen.

    Acceptance of broader sexual preferences, body art, etc. all seem to corrolate with increased individualism. Increased intelligence...? Hard to match, other than referencing literacy and other factors.

    In fact, there may be an argument that individualism is slightly out of whack due to a near total disregard in the urban areas for community ethics. Ask someone in my neighborhood to turn down a house-shaking subwoofer-to-the-max car stereo and you'll be taking your life into your own hands (from personal experience).

    Fair call - hope that might provide some substance!

    *scoove*
  • by scoove (71173) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @11:15AM (#191023)
    how about using some of that new-fangled hypertext

    Sounds fair! Here are some solutions that would work, unlike the destruction of individual choice approach Katz advocates:

    - Eat Locally [discover.com] - Make a goal for yourself. 10%? 25%? more? Try it for a month and see if you can hack it. It's not easy, but certainly worthwhile.

    - Promote natural genetic diversity and redundancy in your garden [seedsavers.org] - Centralized buying from major wholesalers like Lamb-Weston promotes at most two or three genetic varieties in potatos, one in soybeans, etc. Garden with the varieties that have been forgotten.

    - Buy local foods [ialocalfood.org] - visit the local weekly farmer's market. Find area local foods organizations. Get better produce, picked ripe by family farms in your area.

    - Consume simplier, healthier beverages [homearts.com] - Know how much waste water and byproduct is created through double-stage fermentation (i.e. making beer)? Drink a better beverage - locally produced hard cider! (An added advantage is that most locally produced cider uses a major variety of apples - mostly kinds you'd never find at the supermarket - and promotes additional natural genetic diversity).

    Unlike Katz's Soviet vision, the above can and does work, as long as you're not too stupid or lazy.

    *scoove*
  • I dispute the claim that we live in a world dictated by a "handful of extremely powerful faceless corporations." We live in a world dictated by many factors, and probably mostly by sex and fear. Fortunetly, in the better parts of the world, like in America, the free market has a great deal of influence on resource allocation, policy, and individual choice. I dispute the implied claim that the free market is dictated by a "handfull of extremely powerful faceless corporations." Corporations are subjects of their share holders and therefore subject to the free markets. Now, the system is not perfect, however, in practice it works extremely well and time over time again has proven to be more effective than the alternatives. A free market (making it free is the trick I grant you) is dictated by the consumer. The consumer thrives on productivity never waste (you don't buy a crappy sandwich when their is a better one at the same price). As long as the markets are free, productivity and the creation of wealth by moving assets from lower values to higher values will thrive. Markets are driven however by perception (you bought the other sandwich because you perceived it to be better, it might not have been). This is their inefficeincy (hence the erratic behavioir of the price of corn or the NASDAQ). However, it is not an inefficiency of the market, but of humans. We openly admit this when we try and limit frivolous political adds because they might influence the simple minded (majority). Therefore, we must regulate the market as best as we can to limit the failings of human perception. However, we must avoid cramping down too much otherwise the market will no longer be free, and we'll be subject to one person or groups perception. So in some ways, I agree that "corporate power" or as I would say, "the free market" must be checked. Ah, but Katz is a hypocrit because as it turns out people don't HAVE to work for corporations in a free market. They can work for whomever they choose. They in fact are a part of the free market, and make demands on the market and the market makes demands in turn on them. The giant media conglomerations. Hmmm, sort of like the media empires we've had since there was a media. Strange, what empire is /. a part of that I missed? Is /. deciding everything for me? Giant biotechnology, chemical and agribusiness. Wow those do sound scary. Strange, would you rather have chemicals from a small company? What does the size of the company have to do with it? Biotechnology making decisions for us? Hmm, as opposed to farmers making decisions for us? What is the difference? Giant Pharmaceutical companys that hold patents on genomes. Sure there is some abuse here, but do they really control whether millions of people live or die or does the market? If you ditched patent rights on genetic research, how many pharamcutical companies will do it? Guess. How about zero. Do you think an asshole like Edison would have worked for free? I don't work for free either. This sounds like classic accademic, liberal banter lacking in any viable alternative or suggestion and unleashed from the ivory tower of contempt known as the University.
  • When will you guys give up? The commies will outlive the sun, I swear it. Ok Nader Boy, #1 the US was booted off the human rights commission because of the countries that are on it like Sudan (thriving slave trade), Cuba (totalitarian dictatorship), and China (have more that one kid you either pay a fine or get an abortion). These guys are sick of the UN passing human rights resolutions that interfere with their closed market regiems. #2 Nader Boy, please enlighten us with your examples of "damn fine" civilizations that were based on systems other than capitalism and democracy. Would that be Imperial Rome (1/3rd population slaves), or ancient egypt (not bad if you are pharoe), or maybe medivial India (you are born into your caste and 1/5th of the population are untouchable). #3 Nader Boy, Wealth is the moving of an asset from a lower value to a higher one. You are confusing the accumulation of wealth with weath itself. I suggest you read some economics 101 before you run off to your Green gatherings.
  • Don't even bother with this idiot; his personal page [slashdot.org] quotes Che Guevero and Ralph Nader for God's sake.
  • Captialism is going to kick my ass if I dont get some more work done today, but what the heck.

    #1. Ted Turner and CNN aren't the best source for information on this matter given his ties to the UN. Anyway, if land mines, AIDS drugs and the death penalty are criteria for getting booted off, do you find it strange that a sanctioned slave trade (sudan), 20 year manditory inprisonment for cooperating with any foreign press agency (Cuba), and forced abortions (china) are are criteria for being on the commission?

    #2 Are you suggesting that we model our economy after the economies of these civillizations many of whom are fuedal and hereditary.

    #3. Ah Ok. I agree with you. Accumulation of wealth is not nessessarily important. The creation of wealth is paramount. Wealth is civilization. I can program because wealth makes it possible for me not to have to hunt. Wealth is specialization. The creation of wealth is not a zero-sum game.
  • I want to comment on the McD's reference.

    I went to two McD's and one KFC. Both were packed. I asked an employee how much she made and if working for McD's was considered a good job, and she said enthusiastically YES.

    Most waitresses in China (i was in beijing) are so poor that they need to rent a room above the restaurant or a cot on the floor of the restaurant to live. Call it indentured servitude to a restaurant.

    A job at McD's is hard to come by because it pays well, is clean, and the managers are well trained and won't abuse you. Suprisingly, for a waitress, a job at McD's or any other american fast food place is considered a good job.
  • Upfront: Serving up the McDictionary [lasvegasweekly.com] -- "McDonalds has restaurants in 120 different countries and serves a whopping 29 million people a day. But here's something you may not have known: They also own 131 different words and phrases--including such surprises as 'Black History Makers of tomorrow' and 'Healthy Growing Up.' They've trademarked them so no one else can use them."
  • Free markets are good for economies, and in many cases, for the people who work in them. They can promote creativity, innovation, prosperity, choice and individualism, more than other political and economic systems. But there has to be a balance between the prosperity of the market and the morality of the market -- a balance already tilting off center in almost the entire range of tech industries, and on the Net and Web.

    I don't think there is conclusive evidence that free markets make the world better. Certainly by themselves they don't. They're just an abstract. In the current world order, they just open up poorer nations to extreme exploitation. This is what the protesters in Seattle were against.

    I don't think Katz really understands that the problems with corporations are really problems with capitalism. It's cold, emotionless, unhuman nature. In thoery it should work great, just like Marxist Communism. When implemented, however, the selfishness, greed, and other human shortcomings really end up harming society.

    With capitalism we take away our own destiny and put it in the hands of an abstract notion of economic growth. I don't have a solution, of course, just some ideas. There seems to be a large number of people starting to agree with me. Not on this level for most, but more like the things they don't like about their daily life. Maybe just the fact that their local ballpark was renamed MegaCorp field.

    Katz also overrates the importance of the internet. It really is just a tool. MegaCorp can supress the majority of the population the way it does in every other media form: if the majority of the population doesn't know where to find "the truth", nothing will change. Sure the internet is basically impossible to censor, which gives me hope, but look at all the copyright control ideas being thrown around. It brings us closer to centralized control, which is what the government and your local MegaCorp would love.
  • There is a huge amount of information on the net about the increasing corporatization of America. From the WTO protests [aclu-wa.org] (and presidential primary demonstrations), to activism around Biotechnology [biotechcentury.org], copyright extensions [asu.edu], trademark and trade secrets [eff.org] litigation, patents on software [freepatents.org], and on DNA [prospect.org].

    I think that this will be the predominant political issue in the coming decade or two (and I think John McCain's showing in the republican presidential primary was in large part an effect of his stance on campaign finance reform, which is closely tied to all of these issues.)

  • And what do you have against hypocrisy, pray tell? :)

    Seriously though, just because you see them as incompatible doesn't mean that they are. Of course to be compatible you have to be able to make a value judgement, which I know is terribly out of vogue these days. These days we send out doctors [dwb.org] to heal the wounded in war torn regions and end up giving aid and comfort to the militia, thereby allowing them to prolong their reign of terror... because we don't want to seem hypocritical.

    Bullshit.

  • wow, that was MUCH better than katz's lame post. maybe this kid should be slashdot's USA topic editor... =)
  • Yes, there is a McDonald's in Yugoslavia, so this is no longer true.
  • But there has to be a balance between the prosperity of the market and the morality of the market...

    Sure, but all sorts of folks are trying to bring morality to the Internet, and usually Katz writes stuff ripping on them.
  • "This is a nice sound bite but that's all it is. Censorship of ideas is bad. Regulating the markets for material things is unrelated. The only connection is that the free market for large Telecomms has resulted in a limited number of pro-corporate ideas being presented. More regulation of large corporations could result in a freer market of ideas, completely consistent goals."

    Censorship *is* a form of regulating a free market.

    Are you folks so hopelessly naive that you think you can give all of this power to the state to do things like go after fast food and Wal Mart without it inevitably devolving to censorship?'

    This is the problem with Katz. He sits there and thinks "I want the world to be this way, and the government should have the power to make it so." Of course it is the hallmark of all censors and control freaks that they only want to go after the "really bad" stuff. It's only [pornography, McDonald's, insert subject to be demonized here] that nice people like Katz and Focus on the Family want to contol (only our evil enemies would want to control and limit people's access to that other good stuff we like).
  • "mandating filters" is NOT democracy. It IS an abuse of individual rights

    Mandating filter is most certanily democratic. Large numbers of democratically elected politicians voted for it. In fact a majority of politicians regularly vote for the most noxious and anti-freedom issues.

    Your error is assuming that democracy=individual rights. Democracy is merely a method of choosing political leaders and has very little to do with the defense of individual rights.

    All Katz wants to do is give even more power to those who want mandatory filters. In fact Katz is one of those people, he just wants them to censor and control *other* things than the Internet. Classic hypocrisy among censors. Your copy of Hustler is pornography, but my Bible is not. The government should keep its hands off of ISPs, but it should go after McDonald's.

    Complete hypocrisy.
  • This doesn't demonstrate *my* democratic views, and I'm sure if you held it up to a national vote where both sides clearly educated the populace, these measures would go down. "Democratic" means the people speak.

    We don't have national referendums in the United States, so this is a pointless aside. And what is "clearly educated"? I assume you mean little more than "until they agreed with me."

    Actually, large majorities of Americans favor any number of restrictions on speech. Just look at the huge support for an amendment banning flag burning. I suspect a law mandating filters would easily survive a national referendum if one were held.
  • by briancarnell (94247) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:23AM (#191044) Homepage
    The really annoying thing about Katz is his rank hypocrisy.

    On the one hand, Katz constanly whines about corporations and advocates this very communitarian-oriented "we have to subject technology to democratic control" nonsense.

    But on the other hand, the second anyone actually exerts such democratic control -- say by mandating filters for public library and school access -- he's suddenly *shocked* at this blatant abuse of individual rights.

    You can't have it both ways, Jon. You can't rail against an out of control market and then turn around and complain when somebody follows through on your suggestions and attempts to get the market under control.
  • Well capitalism is a white European invention and it is poised to disappear as non-European nations become dominant.


    China is poised to become the 21st century super power and they are communist, not capitalist. Communism is a third world philosophy, not a western one.


    This made absolutely no sense. Nazi Germany was a non-capitalist world power as was Imperial Japan. Third World nations that have adopted Communism grossly underperform those that are capitalist (where would you want to live -- South Korea or North Korea?)

  • McDonalds tried to squash some Green Peace protesters in London about 10 years ago by harasing them for libel in the British courts. The only problem for McD's was despite their battery of highly paid lawyers, the protestors proved McDonalds "promote an unhealthy diet, ruin the environment, hostile to trade unions and exploited children and workers." http://archive.nandotimes.com/newsroom/ntn/world/0 61597/world1_27636.html
  • This is a better link, than above http://www.mcspotlight.org/case/trial/story.html It covers the whole saga. Including the unhand way McD's PI worked (sleeping with the enemy, agent provocotors, breaking and entering)
  • This is exactly the same thing that people have been talking about for the past century or two. During the modern era and into the post-modern, pundits lamented the loss of simple pleasures such as killing one's own cow to make a hamburger.

    The truth is, though, a "Fast Food Society" is the path of least resistance, and is inevitably the path that every society will eventually take. We talk about innovation, invention, and utility, but then when we receive it we long for the Good Old Days when we hand to start our computers with hand-cranks.

    Rubbish.

  • The rise of fast food and all the things that go with it (and it works for your metaphor as well) is not the root of the problem. The problem is that Americans and most of western culture want instant gratification. The rise of fast food and the way that corporations handle media, over the Internet or radio or TV is a direct result of it. Americans don't care where their media or food comes from as long as they can have it yesterday they are satisfied. Until our culture rediscovers the value of time and doesn't try to live so quickly we will have people and corporations and fast food resturants there to give it to them.

    On a side note I would like to say that America and its culture is not a badly off as the far left (jon katz) and the far right would have us all believe. I dare anyone who thinks it is to move to Africa and live with the people there (not the tourist traps, the people) and then complain about how bad America is.


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • I think your right now that I think about it :) thanks
  • This is true :) I fancy myself as a techno musician and have a very expensive "project studio."

    However, I own every piece of gear in that studio outright. Yeah, occassionally (sp?) I've made some purchases on credit -- when a rare synth was for sale most recently ... BUT i'm carying no CC debt, no car payments (because I drive a crappy 90 honda I bought outright:) and my monthly expenses are only housing / gasoline / food / cell phone (needed for work).

    What I mean to say by all this is that, living beyond ones means is a recipe for poverty.

  • by OmegaDan (101255) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:23AM (#191058) Homepage
    My god is this true ... every last one of my friends who didn't go to college -- work menial job after menial job (read: guitar center, Wherehouse, CompUSA etc.) to buy pot, their videogames, and make payments on outrageously expensive vehicles.

    I live in a well to do part of a small town in california -- I drive past the "title 9" (goverment subsidised) housing all the time, and I see *BETTER CARS* parked outside the title 9 then I do in my own neighborhood (sp?) where the lowest household income is well over 100g/y.

    I think we need to institute financial education in all 3 elementary, grade school and highschool -- and I also think theres forces out there that *DON'T WANT* consumers to understand financing (Banks, Credit Card Companies, auto-dealerships ... you can walk into best buy any day of the week and get 5000$ credit on a best buy card)

  • So most Americans who read Slashdot can understand Katz's theme that corporations now dominate most US institutions and appear to be on their way to extending this dominance for the forseeable future. Many, if not most, American Slashdotters also agree with this theme.

    Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, Slashdot's readership is not a very big portion of the American public. A few hundred thousand readers (I don't know the actual figures, this is a seat-of-my-pants guess) out of 281 million Americans is, by itself, not enough to change the way the US works. Continuing to bitch and moan amongst ourselves isn't going to dent the "Corporate Republic." What we need to do is find some way of educating the public at-large about our concerns. Until we can get "soccer moms," AOL users, and other larger segments of the American public to understand our concerns, the Corporate Republic will continue to grow since thats the way most Americans want things to be. They don't mind driving 20 miles to a 250,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart since Wal-Mart offers prices that no one on Main Street can dream of offering. If people didn't like companies like Wal-Mart, then there would be no way that Wal-Mart could have taken in $200 billion last year. If the mainstream public were convinced of the dangers of having a few huge corporations running around unchecked by the federal goverment, then maybe people would think twice about supporting them.

    All the time new articles appear about privacy breaches, new "features" Microsoft is including in Windows XP to extract every possible penny from the American public, and other such horror stories. Most of them are pointless because they are directed at an audience already aware of the situation. I think there needs to be some discussion about how can we make other people aware of these problems. When I talk to many people about Microsoft's antitrust problems, the uneducated ones often say "What's wrong with that? I've never had any problem with Windows." I really don't know how to convince my family and non-geek friends that issues like the "Corporate Republic" need to be taken seriously by the entire population. Once they are understood by the public at-large, Congress will take notice. Finally the issue of privacy seems to be taken seriously on Capitol Hill, as many Americans have started to understand the issues involved in restricting the spread of information about themselves. Whether useful legislation will result is unclear, but at least it's a start in regards to understanding privacy. If the majority of people stood up to Congress and said "We want competition in the telecom sector" and "Here's where you can stick UCITA", Congress will at least strongly consider these issues if not passing legislation to address them.

    Until we can get the public to say these things to Congress and to stop giving money to the corporations that we geeks don't like, then we're out of luck. There aren't going to be any easy solutions to this problem, but I think it's time we started discussing it.
  • by NearlyHeadless (110901) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:40AM (#191067)
    As usual, Katz is railing, but it's never exactly clear about what. There must be some problem, but he can never state clearly what it is or any possible solution to it except that we must stop "corporatism," whatever that is.

    Examples:

    Beyond that, fast food franchises obliterated a sense of geographical and cultural differences among different regions of the United StatesThe appeal of fast food -- that people would know just what to expect no matter where they bought their Whoppers or Taco Bell burritos -- was also one of its most devastating consequences.
    This is a devastating consequence? The fact that you can get McDonald's everywhere? Shudder! The blood's running in the street. What exactly does this have to do with "corporatism," anyway? I can get Chinese food everywhere, despite the notable absence of any national Chinese food chains.

    Seriously, Katz, are you saying we need laws to preserve regional cuisine? Is that what you want?

    The industry was one of the first to use technology -- especially advances in genetics -- to set the ground rules for the corporate republic, whose media, culture and economy are increasingly dominated by McDonaldesque notions about uniformity, scale and work. The fast food biz re-conceived the high-tech, manual-labor factory; it has always relied on poorly-paid workers doing regimented, robot-like work.
    Ummm...no. Katz seems to have skipped all those history classes. McDonald's was the first to try to do this in the service industry, but manufacturing and agriculture had been doing this for more than a century before McDonald's.

    It has, naturally, attracted a disproportionate number of immigrant, poor and minority workers who have little real chance of advancement, and whose work is so rote and mechanized they have no need for high wages, further training or the opportunities to acquire meaningful new skills.
    So people who work for McDonald's do so for life? Sorry, not in my experience. Again, Katz, what exactly is the problem you're trying to identify, and what solution do you propose? Do you want to ban the timers on the fry machines so workers will need more skill?
    These changes have made meatpacking -- once a highly skilled, well-paid trade -- into the most dangerous job in the U.S., performed by legions of poor, transient immigrants whose rapidly rising rate of injuries attract little publicity or government attention. The same meat industry practices, reports Schlosser, have facilitated the introduction of deadly pathogens, such as E. col 0157:H7, into America's hamburgers, one of the foods most aggressively marketed to kids.
    Gee, meat packing is dangerous. Let's see, we learned that back in 1906, when Upton Sinclair published "The Jungle." Has it become more dangerous lately? No. Are there more germs in meat now? No, it's safer than ever. Which is the safest place to eat: (1) a random home kitchen, (2) a small mom-and-pop restaurant, or (3) a restaraunt run by a large corporation? Which has the lowest incidence of food poisoning, Katz? Do you dare tell the truth?
  • by DeepDarkSky (111382) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:42PM (#191069)
    It's ok, don't need the Karma. Already at max. :)

    Some of the people do have some point, and as it is with everything, it's always a double-edged sword. What is often the best thing about something is also probably the worst. Expecting the homogeneity that McDonald's offers worldwide to bring familiarity and feeling of "home" for Americans is great for Americans who want that - and to some degree, I do find comfort in that. However, it is also scary how far and deep McDonald's reach is. Nothing against the McDonald's people - I'm sure they all mean well - but in the quest to increase the bottom-line for shareholder value, McDonald's must do everything it can to maintain it's popularity and stranglehold on the fast food consumerism - and they do it at the same level that Disney does - they start with the kids. It's at the same time comforting and insidious. They do everything they could to make their image kid-friendly. But they have also raised generation after generation of loyal McDonald's and Disney adherents, who expect to see their corporate iconic parent's influence everywhere. The corporations become the "security blanket" of generation after generation of kids. If not for the wake-up calls of people who challenge the popular view, we'd be, as one of the +5 posters say, in the age of the puppet kings.

    This is not to say that McDonald's people or Disney's people are evil - the corporate entity is the one in question - and the corporate entity's consciouness is driven by an economic ego (or was that superego? Damn! I could never remember) to fulfill its economic desires that is expressed by the shareholder collective.

    I think that the book merely brings up a good manifestation of corporatism and the reactions of many of the Slashdot reader shows that to a large degree, they have succeeded in their mass brain-washing of generations of kids.

    That said, I still like going to McDonalds, even if I know that their foods are completely flavored by chemical factories in New Jersey and their french fries contain beef tallow extracts - sometimes, you just can't help it - their fries ARE good.

  • by legLess (127550) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:26AM (#191088) Journal
    Katz sezs: These changes have made meatpacking -- once a highly skilled, well-paid trade -- into the most dangerous job in the U.S. ...

    Ever heard of a little book called The Jungle [gutenberg.org]?

    You know, I don't want to jump on any anti-Katz bandwagon, but this illustrates his worst propensities: grandiose generalizations with no backup. Look, if your column is only available on the web, dammit, how about using some of that new-fangled hypertext to provide us with a link or two? There are two differences between journalism and unsupported opinion: the first relies on facts, and the second is worthless.

    question: is control controlled by its need to control?
    answer: yes
  • Its politicians we should still be wary of.

    You said it.

    I'm not into this anti-corporate nonsense like a lot of the crowd here, but maybe we're all very lucky that not all of the corporations are lobbying for the same stuff. I mean, there are still opposing interests among the corporate world, right? Be thankful those corporate nasties aren't all fighting for the same thing!

    -bluebomber

  • I am sure you are not implying that McDonald's fosters peace, but it may be true that a certain degree of homogeneity among nations correlates well to both a lessening of tensions and corporate development along the same lines, i.e., toward the pinnacle of fast food, Mickey D's.

    There is much to be said about the growth of a middle class who are averse to conflict, and it is not in a corporations' interest to have its motherland go to war, unless that corp is, say, Lockheed - Martin.

    The plain fact of the matter is (and this has been touched on in arguments about why and why not the GPL is communist), we are experiencing continued growth of the Capitalist Manifesto, which has tendencies of which we are all only too familiar. It is my opinion, after reading Das Kapital, that it is the excesses of capitalism of the turn of the century during the early Industrial Revolution that is responsible for the proper climate for the rise of Marxism as an economic model. Concomitant to that rising in Eastern Europe, government here put strong controls on a growing national scourge; outlawing child labor, workhouses, Monopolies such as Standard Oil, and allowing for the creation of the AFL - CIO and similar Labor Unions. The result of all this is the ascendancy of the middle class, which is the one thing that Communists did not count on.

    But now that the government is becoming secured for the interests of capitalists (who follow an inherently evil code, that of greed) once again, witness the ascendancy of corporations once again, to the detriment of the Human Spirit.

    Capitalists are not Nationalist, nor are they Humanist. They have but one creed, and are willing to rationalize whatever behaviour they engage in to improve profits. This rationalization destroys all else. The lesson of Frankenstein was the arrogance of a man who, in the pursuit of his single-minded purpose, forgot about God as he became engrossed in his Godly powers.

    But we only learn this lesson through our mistakes, apparently, since we are doomed to repeat history unless some of the greedy (i.e., the lawmakers and protectors of our Liberties) wake up. Capitalists should never be trusted to manage themselves, but that is what is happening today. And there is nothing the average citizen can trust, except perhaps God himself.
  • Is it just me, or are other people slightly sickened when they think about what all happens to red meat [vegan.com]?

    I am so turned off when I think of steak and hamburgers now, that I can barely order and wolf down a Big Mac or prime rib any more.

    In other news, E. Coli [cdc.gov]just broke out again, this time in Old Folk's Homes [yahoo.com]. Seems that This strand is a drug-resistant strain!
  • by Golias (176380) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @11:47AM (#191146)
    Well, it does prove that conditions (warm weather) in which ice cream sales thrive are also conditions in which violent crime thrives.

    Likewise, conditions in which McDonald's thrives (prosperity) are also conditions in which peace thrives.

    And that was the point that was being made.

  • by Golias (176380) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @12:16PM (#191147)
    There is a trend that countries with McDonald's restaurants tend not to fight each other.

    That does not mean that McDonald's causes peace, nor does it mean that peace causes McDonald's. If either argument was being made, your criticism would be correct.

    However, the argument here is that nations which are prosperous enough to support a customer base for McDonald's tend to not go to war with one another.

    If this was based on a single incident, (i.e., "we have observed one war, and McDonald's was not in both countries"), then it would indeed be a post hoc fallacy. However, when you observe a trend (i.e., "of the many wars we have observed, a disproportionate number, in fact nearly all of them, were fought between nations where one or both had no McDonald's), you can establish a thesis.

    Nearly all human knowledge, including pretty much everything that Sagan taught about, came from observing trends and drawing conclusions based on those trends. It's how we learn stuff.

  • by Alien54 (180860) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:16AM (#191151) Journal
    Corporate domination of the real world no longer seems possible unless companies like Microsoft and AOL/Time-Warner bring the virtual one under control.

    Most corporations seem to have figured out that so long as they have the appropriate politicians in their pockets, that being king or president or prime minister is not where it is at. For one thing, you have all of those pesky people demanding something from you. There is no rest for the wicked in the world of politics.

    so they stay out of politics, and enter it only to protect themselves. Then they get to have their fancy cars and jets and boats, and minions groveling at their feet. This only works well for the really big companies, but for them that is Good Enough(tm)

    You worry about you favorite pet peeve, distro war, or whatever.

    While all around you the age of the puppet kings is approaching. Some say it is here already.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by tenzig_112 (213387) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:32AM (#191189) Homepage
    A relatively impressionable public wants what they are told to want. And so we have millions of people working unsatisfying jobs just to "get by" [read: Cable, Playstation, etc.].

    We wage serfs know this well. Pay the same corporations for whom you work for the lifestyle stuff, and you're in the same mess as miners in the 1920's- working harder and keeping less. With mega mergers everywhere, the world itself is becoming a company town.

    But does the problem lie in corporate behavior or our own willingness to buy the lifestyle they sell?

    [That's an honest question, folks- not a rhetorical one]

    (

    In other news: Jerry Bruckheimer's Next Epic [ridiculopathy.com])

  • by Rudeboy777 (214749) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @08:24AM (#191191)
    OK, obviously suggesting Americanization == peace gets a troll flag, but do these nations also suffer from
    • Rising cases of obesity
    • Increased gun-related crime
    • Lower education standards
    • Greater apathy among citizens
    • Ever-growing divide between upper and lower classes
    If you're going to plug Americanization, you'd better damn well take the bad with the good.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:13AM (#191200) Homepage Journal
    Back in '92 I travelled to Prague, Czech Republic (Beautiful city, don't waste your time in Paris!) I saw a huge McDonalds poster announcing, their opening of 4 locations in this ancient and scenic city, not far from the Charles Bridge. Some local had defaced it, but tearing much of it off the centuries old stone-block wall it obscured, and had written "Yankee Go Home" across it. I had finally understood fully the meaning of "Solidarity." I couldn't have agreed more.

    --
    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by Essron (231281) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:13AM (#191211)
    I bumped into a copy of this book last night. It looked excellent, although it seemed to focus more on the actual disgusting reality behind the counter of fast food joints rather than the social and cultural concerns

    I highly recommend "The McDonaldization of America" and "Expressing America: The Credit Card Society," both by George Ritzer.

    Also, "The Electronic Sweatshop: How Computers Are Transforming the Office of the Future into the Factory of the Past" by Barbara Garson (1988, Simon and Schuster) has an *excellent* chapter on what it is like to work at McDonalds and brings these concepts to take on office situations and electronic surveillance. Dated, but good.
  • Its politicians we should still be wary of. Corporations can try and take our rights away, but we have the courts to fight them. When the government takes our rights away we can't even beat them in the courts as they have guns to back them up.

    Corporations are as manipulated by politicians as politicians are by corporations. By and far, its politicians who are the worst of the two. Corporations don't take your money at gunpoint and spend it where you could care less. They can take your money and give it to some schmoe who doesn't want to work because he doesn't have to. A corporation can't do that.
  • by yoha (249396) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @12:12PM (#191227)
    the idea is credited to Thomas Friedman, a columnist of the NYT and author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree. [amazon.com] He addresses both exceptions to the rule, one being the civil war in Yugoslavia.

    He discusses the main reason why this occurs and that is you wouldn't kill your business partner.

    It's actually a really good book about the globalization of corporations and what he sees as a counter-force of the globalization of individuals and activism. Globalization puts General Motors in Mexico as well as environmental and work standards. Nike has China make it shoes, but universities won't buy slave labor made equipment. The same forces that drive McDonalds to Japan, puts Thai food in your town.

  • by bahtama (252146) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:27AM (#191236) Homepage
    Here is a quote from http://www.urban75.com/Mag/prague1.html [urban75.com]

    There are now 10 branches of McDonalds in Prague and one strategically placed on every major road going into the city. There are plans for 40 KFC outlets in the Czech Republic by the end of the year and Coca Cola and Pepsi signs are everywhere. It is impossible to evade their presence.

    Would they be put there if the first 4 locations failed? No. McDonalds is not the whole problem, although I will admit it is mostly to blame. But you have to remember that the only reason McDoanlds continues to grow is because of consumers. If people don't buy McDonalds food, there would be no McDonalds. But people like the convenience, the low price and the fact that they know what they are getting. They know exactly what is on a hamburger, what the chicken nuggets will taste like and what kind of sauce they can get.

    This is the same thing as a picture I saw of the WTO protests. When you protest in Nikes and Gap clothes, or when you protest McDonalds by only eating there once a week, the problem isn't going to go away. By boycotting a product, you can affect the corporation. But since most people don't care, this is very unlikely to happen..

    =-=-=-=-=

  • by regexp (302904) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:19AM (#191257)
    Katz apparently thinks he has coined this term "corporatism" to refer to rampant pro-business policies. However, the word "corporatism" is already used widely to mean something very different. [xrefer.com] Katz, I implore you, come up with a new word, to avoid confusion. It's as if I decided suddenly to start using the word "socialism" to refer to the social hierarchy that makes some people popular and others unpopular.
  • by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:08AM (#191283) Journal

    So, fast food may be used by some as a metaphor for what is wrong with western civilization. However, a few years ago I read an interesting fact:

    No two nations with McDonalds on their territory have ever gone to war with each other.

    This may be a coincidence (and it may no longer be true ... is there a McDonalds in Yugoslavia?), but there were analysts in the article I read who suggested that the presence of a McDonalds in a nation indicated a certain level of national development, democracy, and sophistication, with an educated middle class, who patronize the McDonalds, and who are intolerant of war.

    An interesting thought. International trade has its problems, but frequently it brings peace.

"Our vision is to speed up time, eventually eliminating it." -- Alex Schure

Working...