The Mysteries of the Food You Eat

pretzel

“you’ve probably noticed that there’s something deeply wrong with the way much of our food is produced and processed”

If you’re an amateur cook like me, or just enjoy wholesome food, you’ve probably noticed that there’s something deeply wrong with the way much of our food is produced and processed.

In today’s mass consumer market, it’s easy to feel like a number when you ask simple questions about your food. The fact is that basic information such as where a product comes from, how it is made, and where the raw materials were sourced are mysteries not just to the consumer, but even to the general managers of many retail stores or restaurants.

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Why is this happening?

One factor is a growing abyss between producer and customer resulting from a frenetic drive to maximize profits. Another factor is a lack of moral responsibility. In today’s global market, mass standardized products are rarely suited to one’s individuality and the consumer is being increasingly forced to accept fewer options although packaging may be varied. And it’s no different in the food industry.

In his just released book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society, author John Horvat explains that this frenetic drive is the result of an increasing desire in society to throw off all restraint, and to gratify disordered passions. He calls this phenomenon frenetic intemperance and demonstrates the myriad ways this vice affects society and throws our economy out of balance. And, although this approach to business can build huge fortunes it also has the capacity to bulldoze values and people which stand in its path.

I recently felt this frenetic bulldozing drive to maximize profits on my own skin.

While it may not be surprising to know that a SUBWAY sandwich could contain a combination of meats from several different countries, all sorts of chemicals,1 and that those “fresh” meats have been sitting in storage for many weeks,2 it should be surprising that high-end restaurant franchises are also progressively becoming outlets where it’s impossible to get answers about their food.

I experienced this with a colleague at a recent visit to The Cheese Cake Factory.

After having a $22 farmed-fish dish, I was curious about how and where their cheese cakes were made. As a well-dressed man walked by I asked him, “Do you work here?” “Yes,” was the answer. He was actually the general manager. I then asked him whether his cheese cakes were baked in a bain-marie (water bath).

“No,” he replied, “our cheese cakes are made in a factory, either in South Carolina or California and are shipped frozen.

“I understand sir,” I answered, “but a bain-marie is actually a water bath which makes what’s baked have a creamier texture.”

“No, they’re baked in an oven,” he said.

“Of course they are,” I rejoined. “A bain-marie alone cannot bake a cake, but if you use a bain-marie while baking the cheese cake, its texture becomes creamier.”

“Ah OK, I didn’t know,” was his reply. “I’m not sure but I don’t think so.”

Just fifty years ago, this would have been an unlikely exchange with the general manager of any restaurant. Worse yet, I had this same conversation with a different manager five minutes later. And, although he had heard of a bain-marie, he did not know the method employed to make his cheese cakes.

Upon arriving home, I was determined to get an answer to my question. But, nowhere could I find anything on The Cheese Cake Factory’s web site about how their cheese cakes are made.

What I did find, however, was even more surprising: They claim to make their menu items fresh from scratch daily – the opposite from what the general manager claimed.

The website reads: “We prepare our menu items from scratch daily at our restaurants using high quality, fresh ingredients.” And cheese cake is the signature item on the menu – of course.

So I decided to write a letter explaining my experience and asking for answers. But, not before running into another road block.

Before allowing anyone to leave a simple comment The Cheese Cake Factory requires all customers to submit:

1.Full name
2. Complete residential address
3. E-mail address
4. Phone number
5. Date of visit
6. Time of visit
7. Location visited

It’s now been weeks and I’ve heard nothing in response.*

This experience was my eureka moment confirming just one of Mr. Horvat’s theses in his groundbreaking work Return to Order.

In a real consumer-driven market, the consumers’ needs are of primary concern. On the contrary, in a market possessed by frenetic intemperance the drive to maximize profits issues forth a feverish war to expand production and profits, thereby making mass standardization a necessity. If the customer wants to know something beyond the producer’s standardized straitjacket formulae, he may find himself bulldozed under.

* Below is my letter to The Cheese Cake Factory:
Dear Sir/Maam:

I asked both your managers (Arlington, Va.) whether you bake your cheese cakes in a bain-marie (water bath). Neither knew how to answer this elementary question, the general manager not even knowing what a bain-marie was (forcing me to ask the question three times).

They strongly believed the cheese cakes were not made with a bain-marie, but what they did know is that they are made in a factory off site in another state altogether. I found nothing on your web site about how the cakes are baked but I did find this:

“We prepare our menu items from scratch daily at our restaurants using high quality, fresh ingredients.” Perhaps a little disingenuous?

This contradiction is a profound expression of the growing separation of the producer from the consumer; nay, the growing separation of the producer from even the producer. Your managers didn’t even know what process was used to bake your banner product: cheese cake.

The rule of money over the rule of honor? I’m quite sure I know the answer to what your managers didn’t know. I just don’t know why you would say “your menu items are prepared from scratch daily” when it’s not true.

The floor is yours…

1 http://www.subway.com/Nutrition/Files/usProdIngredients.pdf

2 (Thailand, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Holland, Denmark or the UK) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/7386214/Fast-food-chicken-arrives-frozen-on-the-slow-boat.html

Praise for Return to Order — Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon USA (Ret.)

Lt_Gen_Benjamin_R_Mixon_as_USAPACCOM_CO copy“This is a timely and important book as our nation faces one of the most critical challenges in its history. Overcoming the economic disaster America is facing cannot be solved simply through economic policy. Americans and their leaders must put in place policy that will restore values, work ethics, and, as the author points out so well, honor. As a career military officer, honor was the most important attribute to me and my fellow soldiers. Restoring honor to our economic landscape will put the nation on the path to recovery.”

—  Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon USA (Ret.)
Former Commanding General, United States Army Pacific

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Praise for Return to Order – Joseph Scheidler

Joseph M. Scheidler“The depth of knowledge and originality of Horvat’s analysis, plus the scope and inspiration of his vision for a true solution to our current economic crisis, make Return to Order worthy of becoming the bedside book for those who believe America is worth fighting for.”

Joseph M. Scheidler
National Director, Pro-Life Action League

 

What Happens When Money Becomes the Primary Concern

When Money Becomes the Primary ConcernWhen money becomes the primary concern, it creates a dynamism of its own by empowering banks and other financial institutions to expand the money supply.1 This rule encourages many financial institutions to develop complex new financial products, credit innovations, and speculative instruments that enable them to profit from a tense climate of boom or bust. A central bank, as lender of last resort, can reinforce such risk-taking since it is often left to pick up the pieces by bailing out overextended institutions popularly deemed “too big or important to fail.”

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The creation of easy money leads to a situation where the money supply no longer corresponds to that which is needed for the normal exchange of goods and services that should characterize a sound economy. Instead, it leads to enormous amounts of money being used for speculation, leveraging risks, and investment bubbles that make frenetic intemperance possible, if not inevitable.

Such a system invites crises. As Mervyn King, then-governor of the Bank of England, noted in 2010: “Banking crises are endemic to the market economy that has evolved since the Industrial Revolution. The words ‘banking’ and ‘crises’ are natural bedfellows.”2


“Although many now-advanced economies have graduated from a history of serial default on sovereign debt or very high inflation,” write Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, “so far graduation from banking crises has proven elusive. In effect, for the advanced economies during 1800-2008, the picture that emerges is one of serial banking crises.”3

Excerpt from Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Societyfree subscription —Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here and Where We Need to Go by John Horvat II

1 One way this is done is through fractional reserve banking, where banks give loans with only a fraction of cash reserves to back them up.

2 Mervyn King, “Banking—from Bagehot to Basel, and back again,” BIS Review 140 (2010): 1.

3 Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009), 141.

Ten Misconceptions About an Organic Christian Society

Ten Misconceptions About an Organic Christian SocietyIn the book, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go, we propose an organic Christian society as a remedy to the present economic crisis.

The words “organic” and “Christian” have been misused to such an extent that it would be good to clarify what is meant by an organic Christian society. A good beginning is to declare what an organic Christian society is NOT.

Below are ten misconceptions about organic Christian Society.

1. Organic Christian society is NOT the exclusive eating of organic or primitive foods. Rather, it favors the development of distinctive or even refined foods that reflects a culture as might be seen in Italian or French regional cuisine.

2. Such a society does NOT glorify poverty for all. It encourages the natural development of riches in society.

3. Organic Christian society does NOT insist upon the total independence of the family. It is truly a society. Thus, there must be healthy interaction, trade and dependency between members of a community.

4. Organic Christian society does NOT discourage all trade. It encourages trade when needed but not to the point where it dominates local economy.

5. Such a society does NOT understand “local” to be everything within a fifty mile radius. Authentic local products assume a connection between producer, consumer and locality, often over generations.

6. Organic Christian society does NOT exclusively promote smallness. Adjusting to the nature of man and his abilities, it cultivates a culture of small, medium and large-sized properties and enterprises.

7. Organic Christian society is NOT based on the naturalist life of the hippies. While it has spontaneous elements, it is also upright, rational, purposeful, and moral in accordance with natural law and the law of God.

8. Such a society is NOT ecological in the sense of today’s green movement. Organic society does not destroy nature but recognizes man’s dominion over nature and his right to develop it.

9. Organic Christian society is NOT atheistic or pantheistic. It must have the Church as its center and rely upon supernatural aid and the sacraments to assist men to live together in virtue.

10. It is NOT mediocre. A truly organic Christian society strives to Christian Subscription5.2virtue and perfection. It necessarily leads to a high standard of excellence.

For more ideas on what defines an organic Christian society, please see the article “Ten Defining Characteristics of an Organic Christian Society

Saint Albert the Great: Why Property is Needed

Saint Albert the Great Why Property is Needed
Saint Albert the Great (1200-1280) was a theologian and philosopher of great renown.

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He was a Dominican bishop, best known as a teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris. He simply states the reason why private property is to be preferred over that owned by all.


He states: “Everyone is by nature inclined to pay more attention to what is his own than to what is common; so that if this will be better cultivated it will also grow to good fruition where all are concerned; and this advantage is obtained from the fact that possessions are private.”

(as quoted in Odd Langholm, Economics in the Medieval Schools: Wealth, Exchange, Value, Money and Usury According to the Paris Theological Tradition 1200-1350, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992, p. 174)

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A Brutal Pace of Life: The Fruit of Intemperance

How the Masses Were CreatedMany people associate the virtue of temperance with the control of one’s appetite. A temperate person does not eat or drink in excess. This perception is undoubtedly true but temperance involves much more.

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Temperance involves the control of one’s appetites, sentiments, passions and instincts according to light of reason. It is the virtue that keeps everything in balance and functioning according to its nature.

One aspect of temperance is related to speed. Whenever someone practices the vice of intemperance, it often comes accompanied with a desire for an excessive and disproportional speed. The person develops a taste for super-rapid excessive speeds as might be seen in physical speeds of traveling. There is the speed of a quick thrill found in the person who is inebriated or drugged. The thrill of constant and quick communication found in modern gadgetry can easily throw a person out of balance.

Intemperance can also be found in excessive slowness. The desire for a quick high often leads to a corresponding low. A person falls victim to false slowness, lethargy and depression. This frenzy of action is followed by a period of unproductive listlessness. The stressful person simultaneously feels he has no time for anything, yet senses that he does nothing at all with his time.


On the contrary, the temperate individual likes speeds appropriate to normal human development. This person enjoys invigorating and ordered action in which one’s full potential can be developed. The same individual also enjoys refreshing leisure and profound contemplation. All of these actions and their corresponding speeds are proportional to our human nature.

When a person loses this equilibrium, the appetites and passions begin to take hold, and one begins to be intoxicated by the sensation of speed for the sake of speed, or slowness for slowness’ sake. The means become an end.

Modern society and economy favor such intemperate speeds. Ever since the days of the Industrial Revolution, the inventions that attracted the most attention and inebriated the public the most are those that favored a rapid pace of life and instant connectivity. The exhilaration of the markets has an element of frenetic intemperance which promotes the sensation of speed and constant transaction.

What was lost was the internal equilibrium of man, which is the essence of his innocence. There is no longer that sense of calm and peace that comes when a person governs himself proportionately according to human nature. What is needed is the practice of temperance where a person is free to develop himself to the fullest without disturbing the equilibrium of passions, appetites, instincts and sentiments. What is needed is a return to order.

 

When ‘Quantitative Easing’ Causes Uneasiness

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For years, the buzz-word in financial markets has been “quantitative easing,” better known as QE. Through the QE cure-all, the Federal Reserve pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy by buying bonds. Those in charge of this money-printing operation have claimed that it stimulated the American economy and kept interest rates low. Others are not so sure of these claims.

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The operation is definitely controversial. When the Fed finally wound down the QE program last fall, the experiment was declared a success by its fans and a ticking time bomb of unforeseen consequences by its many critics.

However, the story is not over yet.

Other industrial nations are now jumping on the bandwagon and taking over where the Fed left off with massive QE schemes of their own. The Bank of Japan has taken the baton with a bond-buying spree that now funds some 40 percent of all government spending, raising fear of inflation and even hyperinflation.

Not to be outdone, the European Central Bank is now preparing to splurge with rounds of QE bond-buying to the tune of 1 trillion euros (or $1.3 trillion). The move is seen as a measure to fight not inflation but rather deflation that now threatens the European Union.

The logic of the latest QE surge is that more of a good thing is better. If it worked for America, perhaps it will do its magic for the lagging European and Japanese economies.

However, many economists are looking upon quantitative easing with uneasiness. They see chaos in the markets. Pumping money into the system does not necessarily pump it into the right places.

Printing money leads to currency devaluations that in turn lead to currency wars that leave the world dangerously exposed to risk. In addition, the excesses of QE have spilled over to the emerging markets, setting the stage for what is known as “currency mismatches” in the payment of debt, especially dollar-based corporate debt.

William White, a former chief economist to the Bank of International Settlements, believes the world to be “dangerously unanchored.” The noted financial analyst is presently an advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He predicted with uncanny precision the last crisis and finds the present climate every bit as volatile as it was in 2008.


What is of particular concern is the fact that huge infusions of money are going to bonds, not banks where companies, especially small ones, go for much-needed capital. For a variety of reasons, European banks have tightened credit for small firms. Instead of pumping money into the general economy many fear QE will only pile it up, leading to dangerous asset bubbles, just waiting to burst.

There are fears that the newly printed money will not trickle down into the economy, thus defeating the purpose of the new QE offensive. Europe will be wasting time, money and opportunities in a quick fix that will only make matters worse.

Mr. White believes all these moves are part of a “treacherous dynamic” that leads to ever-increasing global imbalances where normal monetary levers no longer work properly. When these traditional means fail, nations will resort to knee-jerk reactions to defend themselves against crises beyond their control. The rush to QE, he argues, is a great unknown that may well backfire. Even the United States and the United Kingdom who pioneered the scheme may soon pay the price when QE’s side effects kick in.

The final conclusion that can be reached about the QE controversy is that financial magic is exactly that: magic. It is not based on the concrete reality of sound economy, but upon appearances and mirrors that keep the show going. The magician can only pull so many rabbits out of the hat before the trick fails and the show is over.

This desire for financial magic is all part of the frenetic intemperance of the times. There is Subscription5.3a restless and reckless spirit loose inside today’s economies in which everyone demands everything, instantly and effortlessly. The endless search to prolong the magic show reflects a culture of unrestraint that wishes to postpone the day of reckoning.

The lessons of history, however, prove the contrary. The day of reckoning always comes. The only way to return to order is to employ the needed common sense and moral restraint that keep economies and cultures in balance. The time has come to return to sound economics. Until then, the quantitative easing will only cause uneasiness.

As first appeared on TheBlaze.com

Eighteen Trillion Reasons to Fear for Our Future

401px-AvariceThere are eighteen trillion reasons to fear for the future.

Eighteen trillion of anything is a fearsome number. It suggests something beyond comprehension and outside the realm of reality. The number becomes even more unreal when it is attached to reasons. It boggles the mind since no one can actually reason in such terms. However, each one of these eighteen trillion reasons to fear for the future corresponds to something that does exist – in this case, an American dollar.

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It’s official. Some time this December 2014, the national debt passed the $18 trillion mark. The government now owes more than all Americans earn or produce in a single year.

Every one of these reasons is a cause for fear and concern. Each dollar represents a commitment that puts the future at risk. Since it is impossible to indicate the reasons why each dollar is a cause for anxiety, it is better to reduce the eighteen trillion reasons to four more manageable concerns.

The first major reason for concern is that the $18 trillion national debt reflects a culture of unrestraint. It leads to what has been called the “frenetic intemperance” of the times. People live with the idea that they must have everything instantly and effortlessly. They do not care to reflect upon the consequences of their spending and borrowing. They live only for the present, reject the idea of restraint, and come to rely upon the government to come to their aid. Such a mentality explains why the current government debt has reached the $18 trillion mark and why household debt is back up to pre-2008 levels at around $12 trillion.



The second major reason for concern is that such a huge national debt indicates something is terribly wrong with the concept of the government currently in place. When it takes an extra $18 trillion to run the government, it means the government is doing many things it should not be doing. Big government has assumed many functions that should be done by family, community or church at little or no cost to the Treasury. Tragically, this also means that something is terribly wrong with Americans who should be doing things they are not now doing and delegate to the government. All this opens the door for a vicious circle in which big government comes charging into the void… and gets ever bigger.

Yet another reason for concern is the nature of the current government debt. It is not like a normal loan that eventually is paid off. This debt trend never reverses; it never goes down and always goes up. Day in, day out, debt level constantly grows, dragging the nation down ever deeper, thus jeopardizing the future of the nation.

In addition, the growth is not even. It is terrifying to note that seventy percent of the $18 trillion debt has been contracted over the last six years. Moreover, the latest budget negotiations will allow the government to spend an additional $1 trillion of funds it does not have. Thus, by the end of 2015, there will be nineteen trillion reasons for concern.

Finally, the greatest reason for concern is that it appears that people are not willing to Subscription5.2sacrifice to remedy the problem. Everyone is willing to see the budgets of others cut, but not their own. Painful cuts must be made, but the sense of entitlement is too well entrenched for people to accept them. Too many people look upon America almost like an ATM which they use to improve their lives.

They should look upon America as a family. Everyone is in this crisis together – rich and poor, old and young, all groups and parties. When a family has problems, everyone pulls together to weather the storm. That is what is missing. Until America becomes like a family, as in times of crises past, there will be no solution to this problem. There will only be trillions more reasons for concern.

As seen on theBlaze.com

Second Warning

norman-79860_640The first warning was pretty clear.

Back in May, a group of central bankers and financial analysts met together in Basel, Switzerland and issued a report on the dire state of the world economy. The 2014 annual report of the Bank of International Settlements then claimed that the present climate is as fragile and volatile as it was during the Lehman Brothers crisis in 2007.

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Now in September, a no less impressive group of seventy central-bank officials and other monetary experts met in Geneva and issued their own report under the auspices of the International Centre for Monetary and Banking Studies (ICMB). Their message: Something is dreadfully wrong with the way we are dealing with the crisis. The measures being taken to bolster the present, toothless “recovery” are not working.

The very title of the new warning is telltale if not a bit cynical: “Deleveraging, What Deleveraging?” The report claims the logical reaction to any kind of crisis like the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis would be to “deleverage” or radically shed debts. While American households had the good sense to temporarily shed debt (it is now back where it once was at $12 trillion), most governments have not done so. In fact, the report shows that global debt, excluding the financial sector, just keeps on growing, rising some 36% since 2008 to a record 212% of GDP.



The underlying logic behind the policies criticized is an exaggerated fear of deflation. In typical Keynesian fashion, policy makers are actually crafting their actions to provoke higher inflation. They reason that higher debt is easier paid with less valuable dollars and that consumers will spend more now if they perceive higher prices later.

Central bankers have actually tried to induce inflation by pumping money into the economy with measures like the Fed’s w6yra8quantitative easing (QE). Indeed, just when it seemed that the Fed would end the money pumping that keeps the debt party going, Japan has recently announced its own quantitative easing program that takes the baton from the Fed and keeps the global dollars flowing. European backers also are offering their own version of QE as a “stimulus.” At the same time, interest rates are kept artificially low to keep money circulating without restrictions.

The bankers’ report notes that the money-pumping policy has failed to live up to expectations. It has neither induced inflation (which they see as a positive factor!) nor led to fast growth. Instead, modern economies are plagued by a “poisonous combination” of rising debt and slow growth, imperiling the global economic scene. This complicates “deleveraging” and encourages expanding debt.

Moreover, artificially suppressed interest rates add to the problem since they discourage savings, inhibit capital formation and lead to bargain borrowing. Without proportional growth, such misguided measures greatly increase the burden of debt service in the future.

It is no surprise that governments are major contributors to expanding debt. The American public debt ratio alone has climbed 40 percentage points to 105% of GDP since 2008. When governments maintain high debt levels, it increases the vulnerability to financial crises and gives rise to unrealistic hopes of government bailouts.

Nor is America alone in amassing debt. The report reveals that the same debt overload that provoked the 2008 crisis in developed counties has now appeared in emerging countries which “remain extremely vulnerable.” Early signs of the next financial crisis are “already visible this time around in some emerging economies and especially in China.”

Subscription5.3The Geneva report reflects a growing anxiety among central bankers who are deeply divided over what to do about policies that have yielded so few good results. The report suggests no concrete plan beyond the wishful thinking that a crisis might still take some time to happen.

However, experience has shown that an economy cannot be regulated, legislated and stimulated back to order. Solutions must be found beyond the economic formulas and figures, outside the Keynesian playbook. It is not only the financial and banking officials that are at fault, but a whole frenzied economy that reflects the present policies. What is needed is moral restraint and common sense on all levels of the markets to combat what might be called the “frenetic intemperance” of the times.

A second warning has been issued. Can the world afford to wait for more?