"Everything is Bullshit" Book Writeup

July 23, 2014

What’s the point?
Some things in this world are suspicious. Some are lies told by expert marketers. Some are just bullshit.

If you’ve ever seen the wonderful — and similarly named — television show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, you’ll know how this works. Take a seemly innocuous concept (animal shelters, diamond rings, recycling) and then proceed to pull back the curtain, start tracing the money, and soon you will absolutely loathe these institutions.

This book is a collection of articles from the Priceonomics blog, with some new material. But sadly, without everyone’s favorite comedian-magicians.

How was it?
Some of the stories I’d read about before (wine tasting, “free” credit reports, McDonald’s Monopoly game), but I was pleasantly surprised to discover a new found hatred of the seal clubbing lobby, Chilean sea bass, and academic journals!

Obviously, most of the material covered in the book are not true scams — in the criminal sense — but I always enjoy discovering the hidden stories and weird policies behind everyday things.

The section I most enjoyed was on the Food Industrial Complex.

I was surprised to learn that Schwan (the frozen food delivery company) spends the most money on Congressional lobbying in support of industrial farming. Apparently, school lunch contracts are worth spending millions convincing the government to classify pizza as vegetable!

The fact that Honeycrisp apples are my favorite is probably not due to my great palate, but rather their specific design for maximum crunch. This crunch allows them to sell for 3x the price of other apples, incentivizing farmers to market the high margin fruit.

Who should read it?
Not much practical advice in this one (aside from the reminder that large corporations control everything and sometimes “lying” is good for business), but enjoyable nonetheless. Definitely some good anecdotes to start interesting dinner party conversations (or to ensure you’re never invited back).

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