Ice cream statistic misleading, learn to recognize your own consequences

Thomas Hummer

There’s a statistic floating around the Internet right now that the amount of money Americans spend on ice cream each year — allegedly $20 billion — is enough to feed every third-world country for a year. The question that’s posed is, “Wouldn’t you give up ice cream for a year to feed the world?”

Whether this statistic is true or not is beyond me; I honestly have no source that can verify it to be true or false, but it’s also not where my objection lies. My focus is the mindset that this “solution” to world hunger promotes — one of shallow, idealistic thinking.

So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this statistic is completely true. What would happen if we did stop buying ice cream and instead gave all the money we would spend on it to third-world countries?

Well, a number of things would happen here in America. A large amount of industries would be severely crippled, if not put out of business entirely, including dairy companies, dairy farmers, refrigerated transportation companies, ice cream retailers and all the companies that create raw materials for ice cream packaging. This, of course, would only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg — many other industries would be affected vicariously due to their connections to these companies, and our country would be in a state of mass unemployment and economic ruin.

Now, if ice cream were slowly phased out by some natural, free-market means, our nation would probably adjust. Looking at this from the other direction, let’s take the Internet itself as an example. Most of us can remember a time when the world got along just fine without the Internet. However, as we have become more and more dependent on it, it would be traumatic for our country to suddenly be without it. In the same way that these trends need time to build, they would need time to fizzle out, or else it will be too much to adapt to at once.

Regardless, I still don’t see anyone actually following through with this idea. Has anybody out there really cut their own ice cream funds? A similar question came up during the BP oil crisis: Everybody vilified the company, but how many people were willing to walk the walk and stop buying BP gas? I’m not defending BP in the least, but I also wasn’t one of the people slandering it with every available opportunity.

Given, our dependence on gas is much stronger than our dependence on ice cream, but that actually makes the whole thing worse. And why ice cream? Why not cell phones? Our society must spend tons more money on cell phones and cell phone services than ice cream.

Well, similar reasons still apply. First off, we would have a similar financial collapse, but it’s also because cell phones are a culturally made dependence that people simply aren’t willing to give up. Ice cream, however, is not, yet people still aren’t giving it up in the name of this cause. Talk is cheap, folks.

In the end, this last point doesn’t really matter anyway, because even if people followed through and gave up these luxuries, we all know that they wouldn’t give the money to a third-world country. They would find some other area of their lives to reroute the money to, and nobody should feel bad about it. It’s your money to do what you want with, and it’s doing more good supporting our own economy than being used to give handouts to other countries.

I’m not trying to be insensitive — I also feel like we should be helping those who are less fortunate — but the truth is, our time and money is better spent helping others become self-sufficient rather than being wasted on free giveaways. There’s a proverb that reads, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It seems overly simple, but it’s logically sound.

Some would say that the “no ice cream” proposition is simply to raise awareness and isn’t to be taken literally. That gives me a bit of relief, but not entirely. The question still must be asked, “Why are we using idealistic thinking to try and make points about the real world?” There is no relation between this line of thinking and reality. That’s like trying to use Harry Potter as proof there might be goblins in the world.

So please, everybody, don’t feel bad spending your hard-earned cash on some sugary indulgences every now and then. And to those who are spreading this idealistic, fairy-tale logic: Wake up to reality and learn how to recognize the real-life consequences of your proposed actions.