Choices and Responsibility

For those of you new to this neck of the woods, mithrander and I have been having a discussion about food, poverty and other related subjects. On most of the topics we’ll have to agree to disagree.

There is an aspect that I do want to elaborate upon: responsibility. To do this, I want to create a hypothetical.

Say that you want to buy a car. There are many options available to you, some better than others. Also in you life, there is a person in your life. Not a friend exactly, but someone who you know well enough to let into your house on a regular occaission.

This person, knowing you’re soon to buy a car, tells you that you should purchase a Geo Metro. Every time they see you, they let you know that you should buy a Geo Metro.

They see you at the Bar, it’s “Geo Metro, it’s fantastic!”.

They visit you at you home, and it’s “Geo Metro, it’s the best car out there!”.

When they travel with you to a hotel, yes, again, it’s “Geo Metro, your friends will love you for it!”.

When you finally get to the point where you make a decision for your car, you think to yourself “Y’know, Geo Metro. It’s not a bad car. It’s not great, but it works for me”.

The question is this: did your acquaintance influence your decision? If they did influence your decision, do they need to take responsibility for influencing you? What if the car is less than what your acquaintance has said?

I’m stretching a point here, but I hope the correlation between food choices and advertising is clear.

In legal circles, if someone tells you to commit a crime and you do, the crime of conspiracy will be discussed. They may not be able to make the charge stick, but it will be discussed. So how is it that when we talk about bad diets and responsibility, some people are adamant to exclude the advertising industry that keeps telling us how wonderful it is to eat McDonalds and Potato Chips, and to drink Coca-Cola and Budweiser?

That being said, I agree that the decisions of food ultimately come down to each individual. But advertisers should not be able to walk away without acknowledging their influence on purchasing decisions. It’s not criminal liability, but it is a level of responsibility that many companies are determined not to own up to.

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