Friday, October 14, 2005

Natural Cures: A Case Study in Social Pollution

I just saw Paula Zahn interviewed Kevin trudeau regarding his bestselling book Natural Cures. Why is Natural Cures so popular? I can think of three explanations:

(1) The book fills a big, gaping hole in the market for health information
(2) Trudeau is a tireless self promoter
(3) A lingering popular distrust of big institutions, like medicine, makes people open to the claims of a known scam artist (jail time for credit card fraud, FDA ban on selling healthcare products) with no medical training

You'd think I would favor number 3, being that I'm a sociologist. Actually, a combination of tireless self-promotion and popular mistrust of social institutions is at work here. After all, doctors are, collectively, a pretty powerful group. The drug companies are even more powerful. And we just know that the executives of drug companies care nothing for people or morals, or anything but profit. We are right to be suspicious of drug companies and their lackeys in the white coats.

You just read a great example of social pollution: The idea that business people, are generally amoral is simply not supported by any evidence. Even if they feel mo moral imperative to do anything for the unwashed masses, laws, regulations, and their legal departments mostly keep them in line. Are the leaders in government, education, the military, religion, and science also well bahaved, for the most part? The correct answer is obvious.

The counterfactual and illogical idea that the people at the top of our major social insitutions are generally crooked in some sense is nothing but social pollution. Kevin Trudeau's book is a sign of that social pollution, like a persistent cough that indicates you may be breathing unhealthy air.


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