Fables in Service of Capitalism

Dated Oct 7, 2020; last modified on Wed, 29 Dec 2021

Environmentalism

Over the last 70 years, less than 10% of plastic waste has been recycled - it’s uneconomical. Recycling shifts attention from the environmental impact of plastics and their overproduction to the consumer’s willingness to recycle. Reducing and reusing is a much better environmental strategy.

Betting (and Gambling)

I’m seeing more prominent gambling sites and ads compared to when I was growing up. Based on my peers, SportPesa made lots of headway in Kenya (few companies can claim to sponsor English Premier League teams). Its backing is foreign though, so maybe SportPesa is part of a global trend?

There’s also a dark side to betting. Common knowledge has it that the house always wins. Furthermore, some of the gamblers cannot afford to lose money. Betting has also been linked to underground sports bookies.

The fact that “white-washed betting” (e.g. DraftKings) betting seems to be on the rise despite its shadowy relations makes the enterprise worth exploring.

Slots are increasingly designed for addiction, e.g. quick simple games, adding “near misses”, more ways to win (and therefore more “near misses” if one doesn’t bet on the additional ways), losses disguised as wins, random but weighted outcomes. However, casinos claim that gambling addictions are personal failings that can be resolved with self-regulation.

FIFA Ultimate Team contains loot boxes that promise the chance of snaggling a top player. The Belgian government made FIFA no longer allow Belgian players to buy packs using real money . However, UK’s Gambling Commission did not follow suit as the prizes do not have monetary value and EA takes lots of measures to prevent secondary markets . is a prominent scholar who argues that loot boxes are linked to problem gambling.

On shadowy relations, is shorting DraftKings citing the illicit dealings (\(\approx 50\% \) of revenue) of SBTech, the subsidiary that provides the tech platform.

In spirit with Chersterton’s Fence, argues for sports betting on these fronts: higher entertainment value from games, cheap readily-available fun, potential to make money, increasing interest to learn new sports, and beginner-friendliness.

Prediction markets feel like an angel-on-my-shoulder in the world of betting. mentions features like reputation-points instead of real money, limits on positions, association with non-profit institutions like universities.

Food Delivery Services

Google allows certain booking and ordering services from third-party providers (e.g. Doordash) to automatically appear with business listings. To edit such links, the business has to contact the third party. Complaints by restaurants: Doordash has poor service that reflects on the restaurant; sometimes owners have their own delivery service which is circumvented; Doordash charges the restaurant for orders made through them.

It’s more likely that Doordash and Grubhub will have more technical expertise to navigate online listings - they have deep money-losing, but user-growth-fueling pockets (e.g. Uber Eats spent $1.2B to make $734m in Q4 2019).

Food delivery services may argue that an opt-out model for restaurants avails more choice for the customer. But should it be at the expense of the actual restaurants?

In some cases, the phone number provided by the delivery service is more visible (e.g. Yelp, Google Maps, 3rd-Party App) than the one operated by the restaurant itself. Furthermore, the 3rd-party phone number typically doesn’t disclose that it’s third-party. Any calls/orders made through this phone number results in the restaurant paying commission, even when it doesn’t make sense - $6.42 for a coffee.

References

  1. Recycling was a lie — a big lie — to sell more plastic, industry experts say. The Passionate Eye | CBC. www.cbc.ca . www.cbc.ca . Sep 23, 2020. Accessed Oct 7, 2020.
  2. Your Book Review: Addiction By Design. astralcodexten.substack.com . May 14, 2021. Accessed Jun 19, 2021.
  3. Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage. Ranjan Roy. themargins.substack.com . May 17, 2020.
  4. Doordash has hijacked my Google business page and I can't edit or delete the 'Order' link away. support.google.com . support.google.com . May 9, 2019.
  5. Even If You're Trying To Avoid Grubhub By Calling Your Favorite Restaurant Directly, Grubhub Could Still Be Charging It A Fee. Vanessa Wong. www.buzzfeednews.com . May 15, 2020.
  6. FIFA Points in Belgium. www.ea.com . www-koengeens-be.translate.goog . Jan 29, 2019. Accessed Dec 20, 2021.
  7. Fifa, PUBG and Overwatch loot boxes ‘not gambling’, despite fears children could become addicted. Anthony Cuthbertson. www.independent.co.uk . Jul 23, 2019. Accessed Dec 20, 2021.
  8. David Zendle - Google Scholar. scholar.google.com . Accessed Dec 20, 2021.
  9. DraftKings: A $21 Billion SPAC Betting It Can Hide Its Black Market Operations – Hindenburg Research. hindenburgresearch.com . Jun 15, 2021. Accessed Dec 20, 2021.
  10. Why Bet on Sports? - The Benefits of Sports Betting. www.gamblingsites.org . Accessed Dec 20, 2021.
  11. Prediction market - Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org . Accessed Dec 20, 2021.