Sausage Metaphor Blogging

Ezra Klein brings some needed nuance to the sausage-analogy debate:

I think this is too kind to sausagemakers. The expression emerged in a more Upton Sinclair-esque era, when sausagemaking really was gross and dirty and unsafe, but producers let all of that go on because it was also profitable to serve a product that had a bit of rat and a bit of a worker’s finger in it. The most profitable way to make sausage and the best way to make sausage are very different, and we’ve got a lot of regulations that try to narrow that gap.

Sound points. However, this is 2009. Even if the expression was apt at the time it was originated, the times have changed. The modern sausage industry is far from perfect (particularly in terms of the ethics and ecological sustainability of the source meat) but it’s providing a basically safe product.

Elsewhere in the post Ezra draws a distinction between “the best way to make sausage” and “the most cost-effective way to make sausage.” I would sort of problematize that. There’s a difference between the way to make the tastiest sausage and the optimal sausage-production method. Cost to consumers is a real consideration. Compromising quality to meet authentic consumer demand for low-cost tasty food isn’t the same as compromising the quality of legislation simply because legislators are too set in their ways to adopt better procedures.