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Skip the tuna melt

If I were going to Quizno's for lunch and trying to order healthy, I might pick up a large tuna melt. Bad move: With 1,520 calories and 101 grams of fat, it's actually worse than eating a stick of butter. And Applebee's New England Fish and Chips? That's the equivalent of a pound of cheddar cheese. A pound. So maybe I'll head over to the Cheesecake Factory and order some pasta carbonara. After all, I'd think nothing of consuming five cups of straight cream.

A lot of people don't know this, but the health-care law included a provision forcing chain restaurants to post calorie information next to the items on their menus (and on their menu boards, and on their drive-in-menus). I don't know that it'll make America any thinner. It's possible that people will actually try and choose the highest-calorie items, thinking that's the best value for their money. But at least people will know what they're ordering.

By Ezra Klein  | September 21, 2010; 11:06 AM ET
Categories:  Food  
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Comments

Can someone please tell me when this is supposed to take effect? I've been looking forward to it but haven't seen a single restaurant doing it yet.

Thanks!

Posted by: tracy2 | September 21, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Ah, never mind. Read down a couple more posts and found it on the Kaiser site. March 2011, in case anyone else is wondering.

Posted by: tracy2 | September 21, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

There's a lot more to healthy eating than counting calories. I'm afraid that what this will do is promote the use of fake food that contains less calories, while also reducing the nutrition content. For example, I'd rather eat real cheese than some low-calorie substitute. In ten years we'll be wondering why after all that time counting calories people are still obese and dieing early.

Posted by: AuthorEditor | September 21, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"There's a lot more to healthy eating than counting calories. I'm afraid that what this will do is promote the use of fake food that contains less calories, while also reducing the nutrition content. For example, I'd rather eat real cheese than some low-calorie substitute. In ten years we'll be wondering why after all that time counting calories people are still obese and dieing early."

File this one under "unintended consequences".

Posted by: justin84 | September 21, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse


I know my daughter will order a salad entree when we do lunch. She'll usually order it with chicken included.

She loves salads and we always perceived my entree had a higher caloric content.

Not so.

I have read a few articles on the salads at famous restaurants that we have visited and turns out her salad entrees had a higher calorie count than mine.

Good thing she didn't partake in those salads to lose weight.

Although I haven't calculated her Body Mass index.

Actually, she has calculated it and her index is great.

She wanted to calculate my index and I told her "No way, but now that I know those salads are fattening, I think I'll have one, too!"

Posted by: janet8 | September 21, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

"It's possible that people will actually try and choose the highest-calorie items, thinking that's the best value for their money. But at least people will know what they're ordering."

That's just about the most cynical thing I've ever seen you write.

"There's a lot more to healthy eating than counting calories. I'm afraid that what this will do is promote the use of fake food that contains less calories, while also reducing the nutrition content. For example, I'd rather eat real cheese than some low-calorie substitute. In ten years we'll be wondering why after all that time counting calories people are still obese and dieing early."

It's a start, not a finish, but seriously, come on, a *1000 calorie* tuna melt? That is ridiculous. And the three examples Ezra listed are just a small sampling of how many egregious food items there are out there. This will get the ball rolling, and yes, there needs to be follow-up, but it's a much bigger step than anyplace other than New York has taken.

Posted by: putnamp | September 21, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

--"[A]t least people will know what they're ordering."--

Will they, really, Klein? Which people? The ones smart enough that they could readily figure it out on their own without a stupid, costly government law? Or the ones so stupid or indifferent that they wouldn't pay attention to a government minder nanny yelling at them in the drive-thru?

Funny, too, isn't it (from the article at the top link)...

"[Professional busybody] Jacobson also expressed surprise that restaurants haven't started to alter their menus in advance of a new law that will require chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts to diners."

and

"All of the nutritional information below comes from the restaurants' Web sites, except for the Cheesecake Factory's, which is courtesy of CSPI's Xtreme Eating awards."

The law is a farce. Restaurants already deliver the sorts of foods that the market will bear. Nutritional information is already available to anyone who cares to find it.

Furthermore, how stupid do you have to be not to know that large portions of items containing mayonnaise or cheese, or that are fried, or slathered in dressing are high in fats and/or calories? Food *isn't* that complicated. There really aren't so many different possible ingredients and so many different cooking methods that the basic health assessment of any particular item (especially in the mass restaurant world) is like making orbital mechanics calculations. Dairy, fat, starch. You can add them up in your head.

And that's why the stupid calorie law isn't going to make one iota's difference.

But, certainly, let's all thank Klein for so selflessly pushing a national law that will make food just a little more expensive, so that he and his pals can satisfy some little curiosity about things, while "giving" something nebulous to the little people, out of other people's pockets.

Posted by: msoja | September 21, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

...what's wrong with eating a pound of cheddar cheese?

Posted by: gtownelle | September 21, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen any evidence that this will change behavior across society, but it's good information to have, and it will be useful for some people.

Posted by: MosBen | September 21, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

...what's wrong with eating a pound of cheddar?

Posted by: gtownelle | September 21, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

There are surprises and zingers out there, of course, but anyone who thinks a "tuna melt" is a healthy option deserves what they get. The "melt" part is kind of the giveaway there. I have a bit more sympathy for people who are surprised by the calories in "tuna salad." Not a lot, but a bit.

Quizno's is a pretty ghastly place, anyway. I'm told you can get healthy food there, but you really have to fight them. Their core vision is to serve you seven kinds of hot, bubbling fat on just barely enough bread to hold it all together.

Posted by: ckbryant | September 21, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Quizno's is delicious. Not healthy, but delicious.

Posted by: MosBen | September 21, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

The nay-sayers on this are all wet.

Unintended or otherwise, I'm more than happy to accept the consequences of my choices, as should be any other adult.

What this law does is guarantee informed choice. Contrary to Msoja, there's nothing "stupid" (his/her favorite word, which gives away his/her maturity, if not age) about not knowing that a tuna melt is 1,520 calories. I can understand mistaking it for an 800-calorie sandwich when it's wiser to eat something in the 350-500 range. But disclosure reveals the true egregious nature of the product.

One of the side benefits of this rule will be the new avenues of competition it will introduce for restaurants. By putting everyone's previously proprietary information on a level playing field, one restaurant can compete against another on the basis of price, service, convenience, flavor AND lower calories and fat, or higher nutrient content.

Now who wants to tell me that greater competition is a bad thing in a capitalist society?

Posted by: Rick00 | September 21, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

--"[W]ho wants to tell me that greater competition is a bad thing in a capitalist society?"--

It isn't "competition" when its forced by law. Government's intrusion into the food sector limits competition, limits choices, and coerces people and businesses into politically defined constraints and holds them there. It's anti-freedom and anti-personal responsibility. It's petty despotism and it's a symptom of larger moral failings.

Restaurants have always been able to compete on healthfulness, and many do. People have always been able to find and choose the more healthful choices, and many do. Without government coercion.

It's only a big deal to people caught up with minding everyone else's business, convinced of their own pure intentions and deep insight into human character. Does anyone honestly believe that Klein was thinking of heading to Quizno's for a large tuna melt, and that he would have been shocked, SHOCKED, to find the thing was packed with fat? No, Klein is a propagandist, and writes to pretend that without government coercion of the food industry, he might have been duped into ordering the tuna melt, and might not have been able to stop himself from eating the whole thing, instead of throwing half away, or saving it for another meal. Klein's real intention is to suggest that we are all victims of a voracious capitalist food industry, save for a few stalwarts like himself, working selflessly, sacrificing mightily with other people's time and money, to bring order to one more corner of the collectivist utopia.

The people most interested in the current nonsense are exactly the people smart enough to know that the large tuna melt isn't the right choice, but are of the opinion that the idiot in line next to them isn't likewise as smart or he wouldn't be ordering that fat filled thing. The other people, the stupid people, the indifferent people, the people that the Klein's of the world want to nag and nanny all day long for being too stupid or indifferent aren't going to care. They want the Big Mac and fries. It's their money, their life, and what if they do?

You, go mind your own business. Look up "Big Mac fries calories" on the web, memorize the number, and guess what? Armed with that knowledge, you can walk into any fast food establishment on the planet and be able to draw comparisons. And once you've done it, you can actually look at some of the plasticized pictures on the wall and be able to tell healthy from fatty. Ooo, I know, it's scary, but you can do it.

Meanwhile, business are wasting time and money complying with stupid government laws the output of which most people will glance at once and then forget. And the money wasted and the time wasted and all the freedom lost come right out of gains in other areas that you will now never get to imagine because you had to force your values onto the citizenry and businesses of the entire country to save yourself a one time calorie counting exercise.

Posted by: msoja | September 21, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

God, I hate the comments section at the Washington Post. Full of conservative trolls with nothing better to do with their time than whine ceaselessly about everything.

Professional nutritionists have been unable to figure out which meals on chain restaurant menus are the most calorie-heavy. It is nearly impossible to tell without the calorie counts. Salads, of all things, are often the least healthy. Fish has sometimes been the worst option and the burgers the best. It is impossible to tell from a menu description what a dish was cooked in, what extra ingredients were larded in, etc. Chain restaurants have teams of people who research and study exactly what makes people crave and enjoy a food, and stuff their recipes full of those things regardless of how many calories they add to the meal. And that's fine! No one is telling them not to!

But to say you can tell the healthy option on the menu by looking at it is to say you're ignorant about the way restaurant food is designed. And that's also fine -- you don't have to read the calorie count! By all means, continue to live in bliss and enjoy that 2,000 calorie fish sandwich.

But those of us who want to eat out on occasion without ending up weighing 500 pounds would like to know how many calories are in the things they order. I swear, only a Fox News watcher would complain about being given information.

Oh, and no one says this was some kind of fix-all for nutrition and dieting, for those complaining that people will just watch calories and not bother to eat nutritious foods. It's a tool. It's better to have tools than to lack them. A bike won't cure all the ills of a bad diet, either, but that doesn't mean you're better off sitting on the couch.

Posted by: tracy2 | September 21, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

"What this law does is guarantee informed choice. Contrary to Msoja, there's nothing "stupid" (his/her favorite word, which gives away his/her maturity, if not age) about not knowing that a tuna melt is 1,520 calories."

Have you seen a large Quiznos sub before? They are gigantic. Ordering a gigantic sandwich with dressing and cheese and the like is not going to be a low calorie choice. I concur with msoja that anyone ordering a large anything at Quiznos and expecting a low calorie meal is a bit slow, especially if it has 'melt' in the description.

Furthermore, Quiznos already provides an 'under 500' label to sandwiches under 500 calories - no coercion necessary! Lots of restaurants already identify several healthy and/or low calorie choices for their customers.

In Quiznos' case, anyone who cares to do the math while standing in line can figure out that if the small sub doesn't get the 500 and under calorie label and the large sub is ~3x the size of the small, then the large sub is >1,500 calories.

The Chipotle burrito with chips is another obvious case. No one in their right mind thinks that larding a burrito the size of one's head with sour cream and cheese and throwing in chips to boot is likely to be a low calorie meal.

Applebees? They identify their low calorie choices on their menu.

Chili's? Well, if you order something named "Big Mouth Bites" and expect a low calorie meal, you might be, for lack of a better word, stupid.

I did appreciate the fiber warning from the article on the bread bowl pasta, but I don't think posting fiber content is required by the new rules. Anyway, I think one would figure out after one bread bowl whether ordering another would be a good idea.

"By putting everyone's previously proprietary information on a level playing field, one restaurant can compete against another on the basis of price, service, convenience, flavor AND lower calories and fat, or higher nutrient content."

Or they could, you know, compete on maximizing calories per dollar. Chili's customers are already ordering things labeled "Big Mouth Bites". Not sure if they are the calorie counting types.

Or they could compete in the lower calorie realm by using food substitutes (lower calories/lower nutritional value) per AuthorEditor's concerns.

And what happens if we find ourselves in 2020, as fat and as unhealthy as ever? Will we then be informed that consumer choice doesn't work, and watch the tasty (but unhealthy) choices simply be outlawed?

"Now who wants to tell me that greater competition is a bad thing in a capitalist society?"

The government telling a person how to run his own business is a bad thing in a free society. To add insult to injury, there is no evidence that the proposed intrusion will have the desired beneficial effect (and might make the alleged problem worse).

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2009/11/could_menu_labeling_make_ameri.html

Posted by: justin84 | September 21, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the government telling someone how they can run their business is *always* a bad thing in a free society. That's why conservatives are marching in the streets in opposition to health codes for restaurants, OSHA, child labor laws, anti-collusion laws, and patent enforcement. Hey, if I want to release a series of cartoons starring Mackey Mouse, what right does the government have to tell me how I can run my business?!

There are seriously so few things that are as stupid as monolithic conservative statements about how government should always stay out of business. Either they don't really believe it, or they're not being totally honest, or they're way out of the mainstream.

Posted by: MosBen | September 21, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, your post is a perfect illustration of why you either should stay out of writing about nutrition or learn the basic facts before you put your foot in your mouth. So what's the problem this time? You imply that consuming 101 grams of fat or a stick of butter is somehow unhealthy. You also lump all fat together without distinguishing type. If you're talking about 101 grams of trans fats or polyunsaturated, then you are correct, but there's nothing wrong or dangerous about 101 grams of saturated or monounsaturated fat. Since you were talking about tuna, it's unlikely that trans fats of PUFAs are being discussed. If you think differently, then please cite a source. Science is not on your side. As for butter, again, nothing wrong with it, it's primarily saturated fats. Try it with your eggs (from free range pastured chickens--make sure the yolks are dark orange) in the morning, it's delicious. And along with eggs and butter, why don't you try a glass of heavy cream and maybe some bacon or sausage with your eggs. And don't worry about the cholesterol from the eggs, that's another lie from big pharma and friends. And what's wrong with a good raw milk cheddar?

Posted by: johnsonr1 | September 21, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Responding to a few comments above about the possibility of eaters being able to figure out what is healthy based on a menu description, a field poll from back in April 2007 found that it is really difficult. I wouldn't expect the results to be much different today. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the poll:

"The poll asked 523 registered voters to answer four seemingly simple questions: Pick out the dishes with the most calories, the fewest calories, the least salt and the most fat from among menu items from Denny's, Chili's, Romano's Macaroni Grill and McDonald's. (To take the quiz, and find out about that Caesar salad, see graphic.) Just as on the menus, the only information given was the name of the dish.

"By any measure, the respondents flunked. Two-thirds answered all four questions wrong. And no one -- not one single person -- got all four right. The results were the same regardless of age, income, education or political party, according to the poll.

...

"For the record, only three of 13 Chronicle Food section staffers who took the quiz answered two questions right; seven got one correct answer; and three earned zeroes. No one answered even three of the four questions correctly."

Link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/18/MNGOUPAJ7V1.DTL

Posted by: meander510 | September 21, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

--"[O]nly a Fox News watcher would complain about being given information."--

It's not being "given". It's being compelled under threat of government action, threats which include, incarceration, impoverishment, the taking away of one's business, and, if one really puts up a fight, death.

Do you have any idea what this is going to cost American restaurants? Does anyone know how many establishments this is going to affect? And every little menu change, in all those restaurants, someone is going to have to refigure things, send it off to the printer, etc. Does the law make exceptions for Daily Specials? Will people be allowed to order things that aren't on the menu? Will chefs be able to improvise without risking fines or closures? Any idea?

Posted by: msoja | September 21, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

--"Salads, of all things, are often the least healthy."--

So, what? Nothing you've said there is any different about restaurant food than it is about food cooked at home. Once you know those basic things, you're set for life.

But now that we have this wonderful national law, how about we go a step further? Every time Klein eats out, now, I want a law mandating that he have the calorie card shoved under his busybody nose, and that someone stand there and make sure he reads it. No matter how many times he goes to the same restaurant, no matter how many times he intends to order the thing he ordered the last time. For the rest of his life.

Posted by: msoja | September 21, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Yes, requiring that people have easy access to information is exactly the same as constantly invading a regular customer's personal space. It's exactly the same. Except that it obviously isn't. If you're concerned about implementation (things like daily specials, etc.), that's a relatively simple, but separate, conversation. A general principle of disclosure is not upset by fine details or the necessity of exceptions. For instance, I'm almost 100% sure that this rule only applies to restaurants with more than a certain number of locations. So your artistic chef improvising in his kitchen probably isn't going to be affected, nor will his daily specials. But, "Holy crap! I can think of a situation where this could potentially, maybe, be annoying to someone!" does not undermine the general principle.

Johnsonr1, your health information may be correct. I don't know, I'm not an expert in these matters. I don't think it's really the point of Ezra's post though. Even if butter is better for people than most of us think, it would probably surprise people that the Tuna melt has similarities to eating a stick of butter. Yeah, the fat may be of different worth, but that's another conversation. What we're talking about here is that people aren't necessarily experts at decyphering the nutritional information of food based on pictures on the menu. More information is good, even if it's not everything.

Posted by: MosBen | September 21, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

meander510,

I wonder if a poll commissioned by "public health advocates backing a bill in the state Legislature that would require chain restaurants to post nutritional information on menu boards and menus" would have any bias in it?

Yup, a huge source of bias.

It is asking participants to pick the particular item on the menu with the most or least calories, or the most salt. Can you see the bias?

I can show people seven jars of gumballs, with 192, 193, 194, 412, 677, 679 and 681 gumballs, respectively. That many people might be unable to guess both the jar with the most and the jar with the fewest gumballs does not mean they cannot identify the 3 jars with relatively few gumballs, or the 3 jars with a lot of gumballs.

Most restaurants have pretty sizable menus. I'll bet the average joe can identify five items likely to be high calorie and/or high fat, and five items likely to be low calorie or low fat. But I'd agree it's really hard to tell which of those items have the absolute lowest or highest amount of calories or the most fat content.

On completely blind odds, the odds of picking the highest calorie item out of a set of 5 is just 20%. Picking the lowest calorie item out of a second set of 5 on top of that is just 4%. Doing the same thing for two additional sets of 5 is 0.16% (1/625).

This type of poll covers up the fact that people who care to know can generally figure out which items on the menu are high calorie / high fat and which might be much lower. At McDonalds, the BigMac or the 1/3lb Angus Burger probably have more calories than a regular hamburger. Get a small fry rather than the large. Get a water instead of a large Coke. The salad with the dressing is a wild card, but the dressing is served on the side, so hey, let's go easy. Maybe the parfait might be a decent option instead of fries. The guy with a BigMac, a 6 piece nugget, a large fry and a large Coke is not under the illusion he is having a healthy low calorie meal. He has not been bamboozled by McDonalds to believe he is taking in fewer calories than he would by having a hamburger, a water and a small fry.

Posted by: justin84 | September 21, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

--"Yes, requiring that people have easy access to information is exactly the same as constantly invading a regular customer's personal space."--

How clever of you to miss the point. I recommended that Klein's personal space suffer to draw a parallel with the invasion of the business owner's personal space, which apparently matters not a jot to you.

I also made the point that though Klein badly wanted this law, and is overjoyed that its implementation is not far off, he's likely to waste all of four nanoseconds of his own life consulting the fine print of sundry menus, since he already eats like a good girl should. Instead he wants the law for the *other* schlubs he's sure will be oh so interested in knowing (finally!) what's going into their maws. And most of the schlubs who *are* interested in seeing the tote boards, are going to be interested for about ten nanoseconds, until they realize that, yup, the yummy tuna melt is still 1500 calories, or (more likely), the yummy tuna melt is now 1200 calories, but is thirty percent smaller and costs a quarter more, so they better order two of them.

Meanwhile, the restaurant owners still have to weigh every change to their menus or recipes with all the various factors of compliance under the new laws, forever.

And in the longer run, people will still overwhelmingly eat what tastes good to them. And the obesity epidemic will roll on, because the obesity epidemic has nothing to do with a lack of caloric info beside every menu item, but everything to do with people sitting on their duffs all day and night, waiting for their politicians to come and save them from drowning in their own ignominy.

Posted by: msoja | September 21, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a fantastic rule.

I am a big fan of Chipotle (South Park episodes notwithstanding) and when I moved to Atlanta, to NYC (which already has this rule in place, apparently) the first thing I did was start ordering the naked burrito (without the tortilla) as opposed to the regular one, based simply on the ~3-400 calories difference that was posted on the menu.

Posted by: varunreg | September 21, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

--"[T]he first thing I did was start ordering the naked burrito (without the tortilla) as opposed to the regular one, based simply on the ~3-400 calories difference that was posted on the menu."--

I'm not sure if you realize, but if you eliminate the bread from your sandwiches, the buns from your burgers, etc., you can reduce your caloric intake across the board.

It shouldn't take a national law to have that light bulb go off over the citizenry's heads.

Should it?????

And if it *should*, then we live in a nation of freaking IDIOTS, and there are deeper questions that need to be addressed, beyond calorie counting.

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

--"[T]he first thing I did was start ordering the naked burrito (without the tortilla) as opposed to the regular one, based simply on the ~3-400 calories difference that was posted on the menu."--

And that was *before* the national law (which hasn't taken effect, yet) took effect.

Yet, now, Chipotle (which I sorely miss in central Tennessee), will be *required*, under penalty of law, forever and forever, to keep reminding our dear varunreg of his caloric choices, even though he ticked to one of the essential factors absent government coercion, and will likely never have to refer to the mandated stupid fine print again.

But, oh, yeah, he still favors the *law* so that every time he considers his menu choices he can continue to be reaffirmed that starch is still starch.

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 12:15 AM | Report abuse

"Nutritional information is already available to anyone who cares to find it."

Yes, but no. Unless you want to be a crappy dinner date and google everything on your iPhone once at the restaurant you just randomly chose, finding that information is quite impractical.

Remember, the grand econ proofs that show the awesomeness of free market capitalism rest on a number of assumptions, one being perfect information (all consumers know all things, about all products, at all times, and therefore always make the best decision regarding purchase). This law is bringing us one step closer towards the idealized version of econ's "perfect competition," not further away from it.

More information about the product your buying is good for the consumer and only strengthens the "consumer sovereignty" love so much (in theory). In practice, they seem to support quite the opposite.

Posted by: Nylund154 | September 22, 2010 3:10 AM | Report abuse

--"This law is bringing us one step closer towards the idealized version of econ's 'perfect competition,' not further away from it."--

Doubtful. Or rather: Only if you uncritically believe the coerced calorie count soon to be appearing on your local menus. The new law will wind up creating whole new generations of ignoramuses who will know even less about the components of their food than the current generation of ignoramuses (which includes Klein, who thinks it's OKAY to marshal his fellows around with the big government gun.) And many people will be lulled into thinking that lower numbers means more nutritious, when it may really mean bereft of everything. Also, the new regimen gives food the ersatz government stamp of approval, a quality of approval that wise people should not take for granted.

But, go on, continue to try to pretend that coercion is free competition. You're creating new enclaves of politicized corruption. And you're stifling innovation and new business. The entrenched McDonalds can absorb the costs of sundry government mandates and know that their smaller competitors will have a harder time of it. It's another layer of BS and cost for a startup. But it ought to be a boon to the courts and, of course, the demagogues in D.C.

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

--"Unless you want to be a crappy dinner date and google everything on your iPhone once at the restaurant you just randomly chose, finding that information is quite impractical."--

Ah, yes, you don't want that special prospective someone to find out what a putz you are right off the bat, do you?

It used to be you hoped your date didn't order the lobster so that you'd have to order the chopped steak. Now, it's, "Please don't let her find out I can't tell the difference between steamed broccoli and a basket of fries with gravy and cheese."

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"Remember, the grand econ proofs that show the awesomeness of free market capitalism rest on a number of assumptions, one being perfect information (all consumers know all things, about all products, at all times, and therefore always make the best decision regarding purchase)."

The awesomeness of free market capitalism is not derived from the fact that in perfectly competitive markets price equals marginal cost, which is what you are referring to here. By the way, having perfect information in all markets would do little to change the fact that there are few real life examples of perfectly competitive markets. Most markets face monopolistic competition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopolistic_competition

The awesomeness of free market capitalism is due to the ability of free market capitalism to best satisfy our various wants and needs in a peaceful cooperative fashion, especially relative to the alternatives.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html

http://mises.org/daily/1973

Posted by: justin84 | September 22, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

*note that while Monopolistic Competition is also described as having 'perfect information' as a feature, I think this is more a feature of the model for analytical purposes than a real world claim.

Posted by: justin84 | September 22, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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