Do you crave the gooey center pieces from the brownie pan, or is your passion for the dense, chewy edge brownies? I prefer the latter, and apparently so do tens of thousands of others. In 2010, a company called Baker’s Edge sold more than $2 million worth of brownie pans specially designed to make every brownie in the pan an “edge brownie.”
In the same way, the Wall Street Journal reports that Nathan Wratislaw loves extra marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal. In fact, he loves them so much that he purchases more than 1,000 pounds at a time — a semi load. He then sells most of the marshmallows (one hopes) to other marshmallow aficionados who suspect the leprechaun is stingy in adding the sweet charms to the cereal.
Who needs these things? No one. The mere fact that such subtle delicacies are even produced is a lesson in the creative abundance of capitalism. Economists agree that firms in “monopolistic competition” market structures (such as the breakfast cereals or baked goods) continually produce marginal changes to products in hopes of slightly increasing the pleasure of the customers. Success or failure of a firm can depend on attention to precise details such as the difference between a center brownie and an “edgie.”
The apostle Paul called for Christians to “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:11) and it is best if this comes from a sincere love of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless it is interesting to note that even if it is not sincere, free market competition favors the companies that best approximate this command in serving the needs of consumers. Gentle reader, I would not argue that every desire of a consumer should be met by the market (after all, we are affected by sin). Even so, we can be grateful that free markets in the United States produce not only an abundance of nutritious food, that also never-ending array of subtle delicacies. Brownie, anyone?