The American revolutionaries gave their lives for a future in which each man would have the freedom to make his own choices. That dream has come true in the form of supermarket aisles that contain 50 different cereals with the word "oat" in their name, five marshmallow based cereals with a monster theme and 12 different varieties of Cheerios alone.
God Bless America.
What would you say if I told you that dream was a lie? That all these brands you think you're picking and choosing between are all sock puppets on the many tentacles of a few, lesser known companies?
I don't know what you would say, but we're about to find out.
#6. Luxottica Makes All Your Sunglasses
Remember back when you watched The Matrix for the first time and ran down to the store to buy sunglasses and a trench coat? There were so many sunglass brands to choose from: Oakley, Ray-Ban, Revo, Vogue, DKNY, and if you must have only the best, $500 designer glasses from Prada and BVLGARI (which has that V-instead-of-a-U thing, so you know it's classy like ancient Rome).
Which was famous for its sunglasses.
The thing is, all of those are made by one manufacturer -- Luxottica. Starting off as a tiny Italian glasses company, Luxottica caught the 1980s fever (see Wall Street) and started buying every glasses-related company it could get its hands on, as well as talking pretty much every fashion designer into letting them make their sunglasses line.
Well, at least you get to pick between stores, right? If the people at the LensCrafters are being dicks while selling you different glasses all made by Luxottica, you can show them what you think of that by taking your business across the mall to the Pearle Vision. Or maybe the Sears or Target optical departments. Except that they are also all owned by Luxottica. Just for the sake of argument let's say that you're not a squinty-eyed nerd, so you pass by the prescription shops and go right to the Sunglass Hut. You guessed it. Luxottica.
That has got to be really heavy.
This is of course why they can charge you $200 for a piece of plastic with two hinges -- because most of the "competition" isn't actually competing with them. They are them. It also means that if anyone came up with a mind control chip you could put into glasses, they could have the whole world enslaved within months.
Keep Earth free! Get your glasses from Costco!
#5. Menu Foods: The Shadow Behind Your Cat Food
If you are a cat or dog, you will remember the infamous pet food recall of 2007, where thousands of your kind died due to melamine contamination. For a time it seemed like no brand was safe. Word spread through the cat community to turn up their noses at food even more than usual.
How could so many brands (about 150) happen to get contaminated at the same time? Well, because most of them were made by the same company. If you buy wet pet food labeled Eukanuba, Iams, Nutro, Hy-Vee, Triumph or Priority, it all comes from the same factory. One Canadian company, Menu Foods, makes all those brands. They just slap different labels on it because they know that we as a breed like the illusion of choice. When they're tapped out of weird syllable combinations to slap on the outside of the food, they presumably send the rest off to be turned into fast food and school lunch.
Look at that and tell me I'm exaggerating.
Even worse, Menu Foods and other companies, like Purina, all get one particular pet food ingredient (wheat gluten) from the same place -- a tiny Nevada company called Chemnutra or as they're known to neighbors, some white guy and his Chinese wife. This couple shipped in 800 tons of suspiciously cheap wheat gluten from China and doled it out to every big pet food maker you've ever heard of. They didn't bother to check whether it was poisonous or not, figuring they'd find out sooner or later when, you know, someone's cat ate it and died. Or a few hundred cats.
"It's so cold ..."
So that's how one sloppily run mom-and-pop importer managed to put poisoned pet food into every supermarket in America. But don't worry, at least Menu Foods isn't around anymore. They were bought out by Simmons Pet Food, another huge behind-the-scenes pet food maker, a couple months ago, creating an even bigger company making food for an even larger portion of the pet food section at your local grocery store. That means more product passing through the same factory, and less competition, which means less of a reason for them to care if one of the ingredients that gets used in all of their products happens to be made out of poison.
And ChemNutra? They paid a $35K fine, saw no jail time and changed their name to EOS Direct which continues to import nutritional ingredients, including stuff that gets put in energy drinks. If Red Bull starts to literally give you wings, you'll know who to blame.
#4. When You Eat Corn, You Are Eating Monsanto (TM)
Like an omnipresent starchy deity, corn is everywhere. Savvy consumers know that it doesn't just stop at corn on the cob. Word has gotten out that corn syrup turns up in almost every candy and soda, and is as addictive as crack. But how about Febreze? Hand sanitizers? Ethanol car fuel? That's all corn, too. Making rubber tires? You'll need corn starch. Spark plugs? Corn. Drywall? Corn. You can't build a car or a house without corn.
Whoever controls the corn controls ... maybe not the universe, but a lot of money. And the king of American corn is Monsanto, a biotech company. Unlike evil movie biotech companies -- with their dubious business models of inventing mutants or viruses that kill everyone -- Monsanto built their empire on a pretty boring one two punch: weed killer and seeds.
Bit higher profit margin than clones.
The weed killer, Roundup, is the biggest selling herbicide in the world. The seeds are genetically engineered corn seeds that are immune to Roundup. If you want to grow corn and kill weeds that hurt the corn, Monsanto has the best product on the market by a mile. That's why 80 percent of all corn planted in the U.S. goes into the ground with Monsanto's trademark on it.
Yes, we live in a world where people release Corn 2.
But plants will be plants, and make more seeds, so the farmers don't have to keep buying Monsanto seeds year after year, right? Don't be silly. Monsanto's not going to let their money run away like that. Their first plan was to incorporate something called a "Terminator" (otherwise known as the "let's just stop pretending we're not evil") gene that automatically sterilizes the plant so it can't make any more seeds. Then farmers have to buy new seeds every time they plant, just like nature intended.
People objected to this quite a bit for some reason, forcing Monsanto to back down and instead just make farmers sign a contract saying that they won't use the seeds the plants make ... or else. So instead of screwing farmers with a terminator gene, they're just asking the farmers to agree to screw themselves.
So the next time you're deciding between a Coke or a Pepsi (or between a Firestone or a Goodyear), know that whichever way you go, you're buying Monsanto. You're welcome!