Why We Have Whoppers

I have a taste for Whoppers, the round, malt ball candy.

A co-worker has a spread of candy that he’s giving away from his children’s Halloween pursuits.  On my way by his desk, I picked up a pack of Whoppers.  The following conversation ensued (or close to it).

“Yuck, Whoppers.  Take all of them.  I don’t even know why they make Whoppers.  Seems like a waste.”

“I like them,” I responded.

“You do?  Really?  I can’t see why.”

“I like the flavor.  I’ve always liked the taste of malt and chocolate,” I said.

“Really?  They taste like chocolate covered chalk to me,” he replied.

“Well, it seems not everyone agrees with you.”

He asks, “Why’s that?”

“Because Whoppers have been around for awhile.  I don’t think they’d continue to make them if someone didn’t like them and buy them.” (Of course, I could be wrong about that. It could be that nobody likes Whoppers, but people buy them for others thinking others like them, but don’t really.  But, he didn’t bring that up.)

“True.”

“That’s the great thing about products in the free market.  Not everyone has to like a product to have it made.  Not even the majority of people need to like it.  Just enough people to make a profit,” I said.

“Ah, that’s true.”

“If Whoppers were in the political market, and we had to make a categorical decision by voting to keep making Whoppers or not, then Whoppers might be in trouble.  Thankfully, we don’t have to make that decision. You can imagine, if we did, all the Whopper lovers arguing, protesting and pleading with the non-Whopper lovers to vote to keep making Whoppers.  Essentially, we’d get exactly what we get with just about everything else that we thrust into the political market – conflict.”

“Very true.  Please take all of the Whoppers.”

“Thank you.”

“No.  Thank you.”  He was thanking for taking most of his Whoppers, not for the conversation.  But, even without trading money here, we engaged in mutually beneficial transaction.

End conversation.  I walked away with a few days supply of Whoppers.

Think of all the other products that you use that are produced in the free market and might not exist if you had to get a majority of people to vote for it.   It would be difficult for any genre of music to survive.  Magazines. Hobbies. Fruits. Vegetables. Snack bars.  Shampoo. Movies. TV shows. Coffee. Cell phones.

If any of these required a majority vote, it’s likely the products that suit your specific preferences would not be available.  It’s easy to see that what would be available, in most cases, would blah versions that might not include the features you value.

Instead of the minty, whitening, cavity fighting toothpaste, in a stand up squeeze pouch and no-mess cap, we might just have flavorless, non-whitening, toothpaste with the traditional, messy lids.  Not a major setback by any means, but definitely a minor one for those of us who valued the other kind.

But I can well imagine the fights for votes.  Urban, young professionals would push their whitening agenda.  Others might support a main platform of no-mess lid, softly support whitening and multiple flavors, but think that the cavity-protection chemicals could damage our brains.   Still others really want the no-mess lids, but not the travel size and they think mint flavoring is the evil work of an ancient order that has controlled our lives behind the scenes for centuries.  Others note studies that show that mint flavoring results in more consistent brushing, fewer cavities, better teeth and fewer dental bills.

Though, if toothpaste had always been in the political arena, all the different versions of toothpaste would not have evolved because we wouldn’t have the market experimentation and trial-and-error, we may never have known that these options were possible and we simply wouldn’t know what we were missing.  Free market supporters would try to explain to us that we don’t know what we’re missing, but we wouldn’t get it.

Thank you free market for making Whoppers.