In the wake of the horrifying shooting in Orlando last week, a story about candy control had me thinking about its broader applications. The American gun lobby has fought tooth and nail to protect the rights of citizens to buy as many guns as they possibly can, regardless of the cost to society. They’ve redefined the second amendment as their constitutionally enshrined right to unfettered capitalism with grave consequences.
At the same time, Mars Incorporated recently announced they’d look to remove their products from other sugary treats. No more M&Ms on ice cream sundaes or Snickers in pie form. You could call it “candy control.” It’s a move that could hurt them, at least in the short term, as they’re basically leaving product sales on the table in favor of what’s perceived as the public good.
Why have these two industry heavyweights approached mass consumption in the modern world so differently? It’s part regulation, part moderation.
A Chicken in Every Pot, a Bullet in Every Chamber
Few things are as American as semiautomatic shotguns, am I right? Responsible gun ownership is fundamental to who we are as a country; it’s been that way for centuries. The problem is the lack of emphasis on “responsible” in favor of promoting as much gun ownership as possible.
The entire business model of the gun lobby is predicated on overkill (terrible pun alert). Everyone in America should be a customer, as per the Constitution. Furthermore, the more guns they sell, and the more violence there is perceived to be, the more demand they create. If everyone has a gun, everyone needs a gun. It’s an odd situation where they benefit financially from a more dangerous world.
Because of that, what’s in the best interest of the gun manufacturers isn’t necessarily in the best interest of most people. I might be making a controversial statement but I prefer living in a world that’s safer, with less chance of dying from a random act of violence or a stray bullet. This emphasis on sales over safety is bringing with it heavy scrutiny, though.
For years it seems, lawmakers have tried to reign in the gun industry. We’ve tried background checks. We’ve tried to close loopholes. Every attempt has been met with fierce opposition. The gun manufacturers have doubled down on their strategy to ensure everyone in the country owns a gun. As more and more high-profile shootings happen and more and more people call for action, it’s a strategy that’s sure to fail.
Candy Control Comes for Your Chocolate Bars
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the decision by Mars. Everyone likes sweets. In theory, everyone should buy sweets. They could go the route of the firearms industry and advocate for more sales in the interest of consumer choice. But they haven’t.
Mars, the smart company that they are, knows that at some point, you reach diminishing returns. You can only sell so many candy treats before you become the target of regulators. You’re seeing it in the junk food industry with soda taxes and other consumption taxes in other countries. Therefore, Mars needs to walk the fine line between maximum profits and minimum scrutiny.
It’s a razor’s edge to be sure. Beer manufacturers know it. Casinos know it. Everything in moderation. By self-regulating to some extent, you minimize the impact of external laws that could have a huge impact on profits down the line. You also acknowledge that there’s a limit to how much one person should consume, which in turn makes you look like you have a conscience, not just profit goals that need to be met. I hear this is especially relevant to Millennials.
The Consequences of the Free Market
Unfettered capitalism doesn’t always have the answers. The market doesn’t always self correct. There’s way too much incentive out there for some people and businesses to continue to make the world a terrible place. Sometimes, you need initiatives like the candy control being put into place by Mars to keep the market in check. Sacrifice a little for the good of society and you could end up doing better in the long run.
Which brings me back to Orlando. Right now, there are families grieving because of senseless violence. Wherever you stand on this issue (and I’d love to hear it in the comments), do what you can to help the survivors. Give blood. Donate funds to families. Plenty of companies are doing their part to assist those in need right now. We need to be the corrective force in the market of social good to overcome this tragedy.