Re: Environmentally conscious investing

Max More (
Wed, 28 May 1997 09:44:29 -0700

At 12:49 PM 5/27/97 CST, Rick Knight wrote:
> >>And in regards to environmental problems associated with Coca-cola
> and other junk food manufacturers,
> * Excessive use of plastic packaging [etc.]

The March 3 1997 issue of Fortune carried a survey (based on 13,000
responses) of the Most Admired Companies. This was broken down into eight
attributes of reputation. One of the categories: Community and
Environmental Responsibility. Guess who ranked number 1? Coca-Cola.

[Aside to Peter McCluskey: Coke also ranked no.1 in the category Value as a
Long-Term Investment. This information had nothing to do with my choice,
which I made before seeing that result, but adds to my confidence in my
analysis of the company's prospects.]

> Ever since aspartame
> was approved in l985, there has been an increase in brain tumors.
> There is no direct proof that aspartame caused the brain tumors, but
> there is enough reason to suspect that, and the television show, "60
> Minutes" recently did a report linking the increase in brain cancer to
> aspartame use.

Somehow this does not convince me at all. TV shows frequently produce
reports that aim at ratings more than truth.

Regarding the studies you mention, I appreciate your information, but must
point out that it shows nothing. You omitted information essential to any
rational assessment of the studies. Practically any substance will induce
tumors or other problems in sufficient doses. You said nothing about the
doses or whether the animals respond to aspartame in the same way as
humans. This would certainly not be the first time that claims of health
problems have been based on bad science. Remember the Alar scare?

I do not claim that you're wrong about aspartame. Just that you have not
given adequate reason to accept your claims.

> Yes, humans make their own decisions as I am profoundly aware with the
> loss of both my parents this year to lung-related illness due to
> smoking. But some humans are less capable of others of making sound
> decisions and that factor must be considered before one shrugs off
> consequences. [snip]
> If someone drinks their way to obesity or diabetes, the subtle
> rippling effect of that dis-ease manifests in the community, in the
> culture. Might not the extropian aim be not so much altruistic as
> quintessentially noble?

I do not choose to be paternalistic to that degree. People need to learn to
make responsible choices. I will not avoid investments because some people
will abuse the product of the company. My choices here reflect a spectrum
and I cannot draw a sharp line: there are companies and industries that I
will not invest in because the product is, according to my assessment, just
too easily abused. I will not invest in a tobacco company, even though I
grant that smoking two or three cigarettes per day probably does you no
harm. While my mother for many years smoked exactly one cigaretter per day
(two on Christmas Day and her birthday) I know that few people restrain
themselves. I prefer to seek profit from investments that do not have such
negative health effects (especially since I loathe cigarrette smoke and
give some credence to studies showing the effects of secondhand smoke).

On the issue of values, I will also note that my investment priorities will
vary depending on my circumstances. When I am wealthy, I may be even more
strict about refusing to invest in companies that have less extropic
effects than I'd like. I will be willing to take a lower return in order to
invest in the most extropic companies. However, the less my wealth, the
more flexible (within limits noted above) I will be in order to get a
higher return. A very high priority for me is to secure my financial
position. I consider this a highly extropic thing to do.

Although I disagree with your critique of my investment choice, I
appreciate your raising the issue. I agree completely that investment
decisions should reflect our values. However, my assessment of the facts,
and probably also my values, differ from yours.



Max More, Ph.D.
Author: The Augmented Animal (Forthcoming: HardWired, 1998)
President, Extropy Institute, Editor, Extropy,
(310) 398-0375
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