The Economics of Consumption

By Charles S. Wyand | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
BIOLOGICAL, PHYSICAL, AND ECONOMIC DETERMINANTS

We have just seen the complex and ramified influence exerted on choice by individual and group factors. Other forces, however, are equally significant and modify many if not most of the selections we make. Among these extrasocial determinants are (1) a group of factors inherent in the natural environment, and (2) a more obvious set of forces emanating from our exchange economy. The former category includes all biological, climatic, and topographical modifications of choice; the latter embraces the various influences that are constantly in evidence in an individualistic price system. The present chapter will be devoted to an analysis of the nature of these forces and their specific effect on choice.


Physiological Restrictions

Occasionally one hears the observation, "I'm very fond of tomatoes [for example], but I can't eat them. They disagree with me." Although this reaction may be the result of prejudice, there are many people whose choices of food, and in some cases of clothing, are definitely restricted by a very real physiological condition known as an allergy. Such a state is more an abnormal than a pathological one. Essentially it is "the capacity to react to many substances that are entirely innocuous to normal individuals."1 It is an unusual sensitivity to certain proteins.2 Thus, the allergic person may suffer skin eruptions, digestive disturbances, or respiratory disorders from the use of things having no harmful effect whatsoever on non-allergics.3 Virtually every food

____________________
1
Rackemann F. M., "Clinical Allergy," cited in Jour. A.M.A., vol. 104, no. 22, p. 2000.
2
Similar reactions have been produced in animals from non-protein chemicals. (See Key J. A., "The Production of Chronic Arthritis by the Injection of Weak Acids, Alkalis, Distilled Water, and Salt Solution into Joints," Jour. Bone and Joint Surg., vol. 15, p. 67.) Objection has been raised to this thesis on the ground that non- proteins create a new protein when in contact with human blood protein, the new protein producing the allergical symptoms. Cf. Vaughan W. T., Allergy and Applied Immunology, p. 76.
3
Cf. Rowe A. H., "Roentgen Studies of Patients with Gastro-Intestinal Food Allergy," Jour. A.M.A., vol. 100, no. 6, pp. 394-400.

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