The Pizza Principle: Linking Fast Food With The Economy
  • Fast food consumption can be used as an index to measure consumer behaviour and market changes.
  • The Pizza Principle, first noticed in New York City in the 80s, revealed that the cost of a subway ride and a slice of pizza remained the same for two decades.
  • How much a Big Mac from Mcdonalds (or a similar offering from KFC) costs around the world can measure how the same product costs in different countries. If the product price is the same, the countries have a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP).
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Financial experts and economists use popular food items like the Mars chocolate bars, popcorn, and baked beans as an index to measure the cost of living and to determine the health of the economy.

The Odeon Popcorn index(2009), for instance, showed that higher sales of popcorn, a cheap snack consumed by families, correlated with the economic recovery in the United Kingdom after the financial crisis of 2008.

Sales of french fries and the export of main raw materials (potatoes and oil) is an economic indicator of the trade between the US and Asia.

The length of the menu at various cheap snack joints like Waffle House are an indicator of the condition of food supplies, electricity and other variables that provide key information on the country’s economic health.

The Face On The Banknote

Money is one of the tangible symbols of a nation's identity and history. Banknotes and coins evolve over time just as a nation evolves, and currency notes feature portraits of people who have made an impact on generations.

Each banknote has a story behind its creation and is a window to its past struggles and accomplishments.

Currency History: United States

In April 1866, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting currency notes to have a portrait or likeness of any living person, due to some members not agreeing with the five-cent note having the portrait of Spencer Clark.

Till now, U.S. law prohibits any portrait of likeness on its notes of people who are still alive, with even commemorative coins honoring past presidents being issued only after two years of the president's death.

The banknotes of Bosnia and Herzegovina have images of famous writers, in a bid to avoid controversy by putting a polarizing person’s face.

The notes are issued in two different versions to reflect the different cultural identities of both its states after the civil war: The Serb Republic and Croat-Bosniak Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The country never got to decide on which political leader to put on its banknote, due to new disagreements and debates, eventually opting for putting the portrait of writers, like novelist Meša Selimović and the Nobel Prize-winning writer Ivo Andric.

The currency notes of New Zealand reflect its roots, with the first notes having both British and local motifs, highlighting the British dominion. The Queen featured prominently in all its notes, until the late 20th century when right after gaining full legal independence from Britain, the country replaced the Queen with portraits of New Zealanders.

Prominent likenesses featured on the banknotes include Mt Everest Climber Edmund Hillary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Rutherford.

The colonial history of South Africa is highlighted in its banknotes, which even after its independence from Britain had a portrait of Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck who once founded the modern Cape Town.

In the 90s, the banknotes replaced colonial figures with that of animals, which were ironically more acceptable to South Africans.

In 2012, the late anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela debuted in the newly minted banknotes and continues to be the face of its currency till now.

Genghis Khan, the 13th-century conqueror and ruler of Mongolia, is the face of its currency, apart from Damdin Sükhbaatarm, a revolutionary hero who fought Chinese occupiers to victory in 1921.

The portrait of Sükhbaatar debuted on Mongolian currency in 1939, and occupies smaller denominations, with Genghis Khan having a stranglehold over the higher denominations.

Dictator Rafael Trujillo ruled over the Dominican Republic in the 1930s and used to kill, torture and murder anyone who resisted his brutal regime or spoke against him. Three rebellious sisters, known as the Mirabal sisters, were murdered by him for starting a resistance movement in the 50s.

In 2007, the Mirabal sisters graced the 200-peso note. The UN has designated the date of their assassination, 25th November, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Protecting Intellectual Property

The idea of property protection has been around since the early 500 BCE in Greece. Their chefs were granted year-long exclusive rights for creating specific cuisines.

Now, the goal of intellectual property protection has stayed the same, which is to prevent the unlawful copying of ideas and encourage creation of new products which will benefit the public and strive for more free-market competition.

  • Copyrights cover the protection of new artistic and literary works such as books, plays, movies, and even the photo you took for your social media profile;
  • Copyrights are automatically created the moment you produce something, however it is recommended to formally register for a copyright because during the possibility of an infringement case, you are allowed to collect statutory damages;
  • It usually lasts for the lifetime of an author plus 70 years.
  • Patents focus on protecting scientific items such as drugs, inventions, and technologies;
  • Patents go through a rigorous application and filing process where they need to submit a precise description of the item and be examined by an expert patent examiner that will determine whether the item meets their standards;
  • Patents last for 20 years from the date they're filed.
  • Trademarks do not protect artistic or technological works but instead the companies that create them such as Coca-Cola, Play-Doh, and NBC;
  • Trademarks are born out of use in commerce and can range from logos, brand names, smells, designs, and even sounds;
  • They can last indefinitely as long as they are in active use. Registering for a trademark grants you exclusive nationwide usage and it helps you sort through the different product offerings in a competitive market.
Terrified Of Retirement

Many people get identified with their work to such an extent that retirement feels like a big question mark on what will happen to them once they are ‘released’ from what they did their whole life.

One has to see if working beyond the retirement age is an option, as many do keep working well into their 70s, comforted by the psychological security, social acceptance and financial independence that work provides.

One can start to adjust to retirement and the psychological/emotional aspects of it by planning for this.

Make two lists:

  1. There are many aspects of a job that we would miss after we retire. One has to make a list of those aspects which are meaningful to us, or from which we derive maximum fulfilment.
  2. Secondly, one can make a list of the minor roles that one liked doing, and would like to expand upon, like gardening, or mentoring juniors.

Big life changes always come with uncertainty, but one has to understand that change is a part of life, which is always in a state of flux.

One can ease the transition to retirement by visualizing a day when one is free from the job and has the time to do the enjoyable stuff one cannot do right now.

The slow increase of consumerism

The idea of people as consumers took shape before WWI, but it became more common in America in the 1920s.

People have always consumed the basics of life - food, clothing, shelter. They had to work to get them, but there was little economic motive for increased consumption among the masses. Attempts to promote new fashions and boost sales slowly increased as the pursuit of wealth extended beyond the very rich.

In the late 19th-Century Britain, a variety of food became accessible to people who previously lived on bread and potatoes.

The improvement in food variety did not extend durable items to the people. The stores mainly served the urban middle-class, but the display of tempting products was greatly expanded.

Through the 1890s, existing shops were extended, mail-order shopping increased, and massive department stores covered acres of selling space.

Retail was already moving from small shopkeepers to corporate giants. The objective of making products for the self-evident usefulness shifted to the goal of profit and enticement as a means of achieving happiness.

In 1920, US production was more than 12 times greater than in 1860, while the population increased by a factor of three. The additional wealth provided basic security to the great majority of the people.

In these circumstances, it was feasible to reduce work hours and release workers for the spiritual and pleasurable activities of free time with families and communities, and creative or education pursuits. Shorter hours appealed to workers, suggesting that they still found life in their communities more attractive than consumer goods.

In 1927 Victor Cutter, president of the United Fruit Company wrote that the greatest economic problem of the day was the lack of consuming power in relation to the powers of production.

But a consumer solution was emerging. Business learned the importance of the ultimate consumer. The consumer had to be persuaded to buy and buy lavishly. But business could not wait for the public to ask for its product. The demand for the product had to be maintained through advertising and propaganda.

Economist Edwar Cowdrick advised corporations about the new economic gospel of consumption, where workers could be educated in the new "skills of consumption."

New needs would be created, with advertising to advance the process. People would be encouraged to value goods over free time and cause people to envy those just above oneself in the social order to incite consumption and promote economic growth.

In a 1929 article called "Keep the Consumer Dissatisfied," the general director of General Motors Research Laboratories stated that there is no place anyone can sit and rest in the road of progress. "It is a question of change, change all the time."

Progress was about the endless replacement of old needs with new. The idea of meeting everyone's needs with an adequate level of production was not encouraged.

Electrification was vital for the consumption of the new types of durable items—US households with electricity connected nearly doubled between 1921 and 1929. Radios, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators followed. Motor car registration increased to more than 28 million by 1929. Payment arrangements facilitated the extension of buying further.

Banks engaged in reckless lending, with debt over 200% of the GDP of that time, causing the first wave of consumerism to collapse suddenly.

After WWII, the consumer culture took off again throughout the developed world.

In 1921, the radio was seen as a vital tool in debt-financed consumption. But with the advent of television, advertisers exploited image and symbol and magnified their potential impact. Many of the products advertised have, in the past, been the luxuries of the upper classes. The game was to make them the necessities of all classes.

In 1955, retail analyst Victor Lebow remarked, "We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate."

A huge effort was devoted to persuading people to buy things they did not really need. Similarly, manufacturers began to design inferior items, known as "planned obsolescence", to "become obsolete in the mind of the consumer, ever sooner that the components used to make them will fail."

The commodification of reality and the creation of demand have profound implications. Philosopher Herbert Marcuse state, "people recognise themselves in their commodities".

The capitalist system is dependent on a neverending growth. It would not do if people were content because they felt they had enough. Capitalism preserves its momentum by shaping the ordinary person into a consumer with a neverending thirst for its delightful stuff.

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