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Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health


Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health

4.2 (1979)

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    Available in PDF Format | Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health.pdf | English
    Nicholas Freudenberg(Author)
Decisions made by the food, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical, gun, and automobile industries have a greater impact on today's health than the decisions of scientists and policymakers. As the collective influence of corporations has grown, governments around the world have stepped back from their responsibility to protect public health by privatizing key services, weakening regulations, and cutting funding for consumer and environmental protection. Today's corporations are increasingly free to make decisions that benefit their bottom line at the expense of public health.

Lethal but Legal examines how corporations have impacted ― and plagued ― public health over the last century, first in industrialized countries and now in developing regions. It is both a current history of corporations' antagonism towards health and an analysis of the emerging movements that are challenging these industries' dangerous practices. The reforms outlined here aim to strike a healthier balance between large companies' right to make a profit and governments' responsibility to protect their populations.

While other books have addressed parts of this story, Lethal but Legal is the first to connect the dots between unhealthy products, business-dominated politics, and the growing burdens of disease and health care costs. By identifying the common causes of all these problems, then situating them in the context of other health challenges that societies have overcome in the past, this book provides readers with the insights they need to take practical and effective action to restore consumers' right to health.

Lethal But Legal has scholarly merit and marshals compelling evidence to support its central thesis. (Bonnie Stabile, George Mason University; World Medical and Health Policy)Lethal but Legal is the first to connect the dots between unhealthy products, business-dominated politics, and the growing burdens of disease and health care costs ... this book provides readers with the insights they need to take practical and effective action to restore consumers right to health. (Confrontations)

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  • By David Wineberg on 27 January 2014

    Nicholas Freudenburg attacks what ails us from a slightly different angle. He collects a litany of woes under the rubric of what he calls the Corporate Consumption Complex, as opposed to the military-industrial complex made famous in a warning by Dwight Eisenhower three days before he left office – to someone who expanded it greatly.There are half a dozen fat targets in this book, with copious footnotes to back the figures that are so frequent they are largely forgettable. But the underlying theme is that corporations want us to consume more, far more than a normal diet has ever required. This includes not just processed food, (Hyperpalatable processed food is softer and easier to chew than real food, leading to faster and increased consumption), alcohol and tobacco, but also cars and guns. It’s all about larger share of bank account, and anything that stands in the way, eg. health services, inspectors, government – be damned.He is particularly incensed at all the marketing to children. From Ronald McDonald and Happy Meals toys to underage drinking (every year, there are 4 million hospital visits and 4700 deaths from alcohol for those under 21) and shootings (every day, 60 children are shot, and 12 die of it). These are avoidable, expensive, not to mention pointless, premature deaths. As for tobacco, Freudenburg says that for every dollar made by Phillip Morris, $7.39 has to be spent in healthcare.Meanwhile, the new non-communicable (chronic) diseases account for 75% of US healthcare costs. 44% of Americans have one and 13% have three or more. Freudenburg doesn’t say, but they are the result of chemical compounds, 88,000 of them, that have never been tested or approved. They are in processed food, the air, manufactured furniture, fish, animals, and water.He traces this corporate hegemony back to the Nixon administration, when the president swapped out his Agriculture Secretary to become CEO of Ralston Purina, in exchange for a Ralston Purina Director, Earl Butz. Butz was notorious for promoting agribusiness against the small farmer. In the Reagan era, government became the problem instead of the solution. As agencies’ budgets were cut back, critics pointed to how ineffective they were. And of course, corporations have infiltrated agencies, commissions and government to ensure the rules favor them over all comers. Including the UN.Finally, in a single paragraph on the third to last page, Freudenburg mentions (almost in passing) what I consider to be the linchpin of the entire problem. Corporations have all the rights of a real person (“Companies are people too, my friend” – Mitt Romney), plus the superpowers of limited liability and bottomless financial resources. This leads to bullying tactics and overwhelming the opposition with truckloads of money, lobbying, lawsuits and absurd settlements that don’t require admission of wrongdoing. It all stems from an incorrectly expressed (and therefore misinterpreted) statement by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes at the turn of the last century. It needs to be undone and rationalized but at very least examined. One paragraph won’t do it. Fixing this one problem would change everything in the direction Freudenburg seeks.David Wineberg

  • By Jasher on 14 February 2015

    I do not hate it. I have yet to read it - a lot on my plate for the moment.

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