Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 4, 2013

Invention often involves solving problems that many people might not think are problems until they see what a free-market developed solution for it might be.

A great example of that is flavored toothpaste. In the old Soviet Union, with its centralized economic planning, there was only one flavor of toothpaste, as the communists who ran the country saw no need for the government's toothpaste factories to produce any more than one flavor of toothpaste, viewing the idea of having more than one flavor as being extremely wasteful. That view is shared by many of today's college campus Marxists and many of Washington D.C.'s bureaucrats and elected officials who believe "one size fits all":

In the workshop "The Meaning of Marxism," Socialist Worker journalist Eric Ruder explained basic Marxist theory to a filled classroom.

He addressed the conundrum that most people today seem relatively well-off under capitalism.

"We're so much more productive as a society, literally thousands of times more so, except we let huge proportions [of people] actually die of starvation and material want, for no particular reason," he said. "It's a social problem, not one of material wealth."

Towards the end of the lecture, Ruder used toothpaste as an example of capitalism's inefficiencies.

"If you no longer have one section competing against another, you start to eliminate all kinds of waste," he said, referencing toothpaste brands Colgate and Crest.

Ruder then described the "wastefulness" of toothpaste's price: "About 90% of the price you pay for toothpaste goes into packaging, advertising, and profit, and 10% is the actual contents of the toothpaste."

"If you look into our economy as a whole, there is waste of that sort everywhere that you look," he said.

That's exactly the kind of progressive thinking they had in the Soviet Union, which they put into real world action. The Soviet Union's central economic planners made sure that just one kind of toothpaste would be manufactured waste-free in their government-owned toothpaste factories, which would all be done without profit.

The results were about what anybody with any real common sense would think. There were massive and chronic shortages of toothpaste, because there was no incentive for the government's toothpaste makers to produce enough toothpaste to meet their captive peoples' needs for it. As a result, their teeth suffered mightily.

And then it got even worse, because when don't have to ever improve a product or develop a new one to try to win consumers to earn a profit and continue doing business in a competitive market, you don't develop new and better technologies to meet the needs of the people whose needs you claim to satisfy, but aren't satisfying because you view the kind of marketing research and development it takes to do that as wasteful activity. Here's what that meant in the one-party-fits-all communist dictatorship:

Toothpaste meant whatever was available. Toothbrushes had hard bristles that cut the gums, sometimes doing more harm than good. Dental technologies were years behind those of the West; the 17-year-old who was crowned Miss USSR in 1990 flew to Philadelphia the same year to have the gap in her teeth closed and a few cavities filled.

Now, imagine yourself in that environment. Suppose that when you had the one glorious socialist toothpaste, you didn't like how it tasted, as you ripped your gums while brushing. How much incentive would you have to continue brushing your teeth?

As a result, in striving to prevent "wasteful" activity, the "know-it-alls" of the Soviet Union created an even worse level of waste. One measured by wasted teeth and health and lives. If only the Soviet socialists really cared more about people, but then, their answer to that was that the people wouldn't have to pay to go to the dentist to fix their teeth. Guess what else was in very short supply in the old Soviet Union, where the incentive to provide good dental health care just wasn't there....

Like the Soviet Union's central planners, today's progressives miss the fundamental lesson about toothpaste - it only works to fight the worse waste of tooth decay and other oral diseases when it's used. Having more than one flavor to choose from many means it's more likely that you'll find a toothpaste you are willing to use often. And for the trivial cost associated with the packaging of toothpaste to differentiate it from others so consumers can identify it on store shelves, consumers can have as much of the kind of toothpaste they want to have thanks to the incentive of profit for its producers and the marketing and advertising they did to help you to find the toothpaste solution that worked best for you.

And that brings us to what we really wanted to share with you today. Imagine a new kind of toothbrush that's so individualized for you that you can brush your teeth with it in just six seconds. It's called the "Blizzadent" (HT: Core77, who also provides a neat visual history of the technology of toothbrushes):

You can read more about how it works here, but basically, they take a 3-D scan of your teeth from your dentist to custom build a unique toothbrush for you, which optimizes the toothbrushing process by brushing all your teeth, and your gums, at the same time, using the optimal techniques for doing so - providing far better oral hygiene than you might ever be able to achieve using a regular toothbrush. You put some liquid toothpaste (oh no, another kind!) on your tongue to coat your upper teeth, then put Blizzadent toothbrush it in your mouth, then bite and grind your teeth on it 10-15 times, rinse it out, and you're done, having perhaps done the best job in brushing your teeth that you ever hope to do (at least, until a new invention comes along), all in about six seconds. What's more, Blizzadent claims their toothbrush can last an entire year.

We'll let you be the judge if it's worth the asking price, which you'll have to balance against the cost of regular toothbrushes, dental floss and potential dentistry expenses that you might now be able to avoid because you're using a tool that does a better job in promoting your dental health.

It's exactly the sort of capitalist-invented device that today's progressives and Marxists would view as wasteful. But then, they've already proven they don't really care about you, much less the condition of your health, so why should you listen to them or do what they tell you to do?


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