Friday, March 12, 2010

Recommended Subsidies for Food

Something healthy should have a low cost in order stimulate people to buy it. Lowering costs can be done via subsidies, because part of the creation of the product is paid by government instead of the person buying it.
In the United States (and probably also elsewhere) this is not the case, as depicted in the following graph (from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine):

The issue I have with the graph in the original post is, apart from the presentation aspect discussed in this post on Flowing Data, that different things are compared: percentages of subsidies to units. My alternative is expressed in % of subsidy.
Health vs. Pork - graph
I made the following assumptions and considerations:

  • Nutrition recommendations are expressed in units, I converted the ‘Sugar, Oil, Salt’ category to 1 unit in order to do calculations with it.
  • High subsidies should mean that government wants to stimulate eating these products.
  • The ‘Federal Nutrition Recommendations’ are converted into ‘Recommended Subsidy Recommendations’ by the following statement: If we are supposed to eat 32% of vegetables or fruit out of the total intake per day, these products should be subsidized by 32% of the total budget.
  • In this way, we can convert the recommended units into recommended subsidy which in turn can be compared to the actual subsidy.
I’m not particularly proud of the visualization itself (it’s quick and dirty Excel work). Perhaps the weekend will bring some time to rework the graphical part.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Using a hammer to paint the wall (part 1)

It doesn’t make sense, does it? Using a hammer to paint a wall? No, it doesn’t, because we know what a hammer looks like and we all know what it takes to paint a wall.

Similarly, we don’t run out buying a PC to know what 2 times 2 is, we don’t spend twice our yearly income for a software application that would fill out our tax papers for us, we don’t buy a mechanical crane in order to drill a small hole in the wall. And so on, and so on. You get the point…

This is the first part of a series on using tools to solve problems in real-life, especially in organizations.

The point is that human beings seem to have an obsession for tools, especially ICT tools (hardware, software). And somehow, during the development or implementation of the tool, we seem to lose sight of the reason why it is there. The development or implementation becomes the new goal, rather than the underlying reasons for selecting the tool in the first place.

More about this topic later...

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