The Illusion of Choice

Thanks to Tristan for the link:

See the chart at full size.

Before I Deconverted: I Saw My First “Secular Humanist” On TV
Comparing Humanism and Religion and Exploring Their Relationships to Each Other
Drunken Mall Santa
Alix Jules On Being An African American Humanist
About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • beth

    Why should the choice between Clamato and Snapple be considered an illusion just because the profits go to the same parent company?

    Incidently, I clicked on this expecting a post about freewill, not corporate profits.

    • Alverant

      If you’re boycotting one or more companies you have the choice of whether or not to buy their products. So with one corporation owning so many other companies, you don’t really have a choice in what products you can/can’t buy. Say you’re mad at P&G but you use Crest toothpaste, well guess what, you’re supporting P&G and not even realizing it. That’s the illusion.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Why should the choice between Clamato and Snapple be considered an illusion just because the profits go to the same parent company?

      You’re right, the title should have been “the illusion of corporate competition”.

  • Alverant

    The Del-Monte box doesn’t connect to anyone. But it’s closest to Kraft so I assume they’re the owners.

  • One Brow

    The Purina box is depicted as going to the Wonka subdivision, while the Wonka-brand products do not.

    Outside of that, about the only part I didn’t know was the existence of Unilever. Helman’s has been my favorite mayonaise, I’m glad it’s part of a group large enought to stay competitive.

  • Cuttlefish

    My old favorite, A&W, appears to be owned by both Kraft and Pepsico.

    • One Brow

      The Digital Cuttlefish,

      The A&W soft drink line is owned by Dr.Pepper-Snapple, after Snapple was spun off from Kraft.

      The A&W restaurant chain is owned by PepsiCo.

      I’m not sure if your old vaorite is the drink or the restauants.

  • reasonbeing

    I’m hungry now…and have that damn narwhal song still stuck in my head from PZ’s blog… is killing me today!

  • Lou Doench

    My wife has a very nice job with one of those companies, think soap, a really nice company for the most part.

  • John Morales


    Huh. When I read the title, I thought “oh no, not free will again!”.

    (Thank goodness)

    • Daniel Fincke

      But you still clicked through (or read on) anyway. I appreciate that. :)

  • freebird

    Unilever, J&J, and P&G are pharmaceuticals – they have their fingers in a lot more products than this chart shows. One area that these conglomerates dominate is the dietary supplement arena, which is kind of ironic, since alt med/dietary supplement consumers typically think big pharma and the drugs they produce are evil.

  • Nomad

    This post made me think of this picture.

    • Daniel Fincke

      That functions on a confusion between the difference between autonomy and lack of all moral accountability. This is not to say that Christian notions of free will and morality or the Christian God’s justice are at all coherent or valuable. But it is perfectly consistent to posit a being that creates beings with freedoms of choice and yet still requires them morally to restrain their freedom for morally justifiable reasons.

  • Art

    For another example walk to the toothpaste isle in a big-box store. You see perhaps seventy different toothpastes. With the rare exception all are made by one of three or four major corporations. Even a mom-and-pop sounding name like Bert’s Bees is owned by a major corporation, Clorox. They bought the company for just this side of one billion dollars. Not to say that they are bad products, It is just that, as with so many other things, we generally have far less of a meaningful choice than might be assumed.

    • Brandon

      In the case of toothepaste, I’d say the lack of a meaningful choice isn’t about what company I’m buying it from, it’s that there’s only about three or four different formulations of active ingredients in all these endless choices. Still, they have different flavors and textures, which leaves the possibility that you might enjoy one over the other.

      I’m sure a few people care what company they’re buying things from, but aren’t most people primarily concerned with whether they like the product?

  • BecomingJulie

    How it Works: You have a choice, and the choice is between shit and shite. If you don’t like the shit, then it’s your own fault for not choosing the shite. And vice versa.

    One thing that really galls me is the sign you see on every bus and train: “Thank you for travelling with $FOOCORP.” Since the operators carved up the customer base, all but the most heavily-used segments of routes are served by exactly one operator. The only way I could have travelled with anyone else, would have been to go somewhere else!

    • jay

      When it comes to buses and trains, they are often government created monopolies. Competitors are locked out by licensing regulations.