Friday, June 18, 2010

A Candy Bowl as an Analog for Political Economy

Free-form Friday

One of the amenities in the salt mine where I labor is a candy bowl on the receptionist's desk. Each morning she fills it with an assortment of confections. And each evening the bowl is nearly empty.

After passing that candy bowl at various times during the day for the past several months, I've noticed a pattern: first the items wrapped in gold disappear, then the ones wrapped in silver, until we're left at the end of the day with cellophane-wrapped hard candy.

My first theory, perhaps because I trained as a historian, was that the folks in the office were subconsciously recapitulating the ancient theory that history was a process of devolution where society, which began in a golden age, had descended through ages of silver, brass, and iron to the present.

Then I realized there was a simpler explanation: my co-workers have simply internalized capitalist values. Like good little exploiters, they appropriate the highest value items first. (That, and the chocolate is wrapped in gold and silver.)

The theory was borne out when the receptionist added a canister of red vines next to the candy bowl. The communist influence of the pseudo licorice affected a redistribution of wealth (i.e., some of the chocolate actually survived until the end of the day.)

There are always amazing things to be found in the world, but I never expected to learn about political economics from sugary nibbles.

Image: Photography by BJWOK /
Chocolate bars by CycloneBill