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When Tang, A Drink For Astronauts, Was A Status Symbol In China

“The year I turned 16, a new product caught my eye. Fruit Treasure, as Tang was named for the Chinese market, instantly won everyone’s heart. Imagine real oranges condensed into a fine powder! Equally seductive was the TV commercial, which gave us a glimpse of a life that most families, including mine, could hardly afford. The kitchen was spacious and brightly lighted, whereas ours was a small cube …

The drink itself, steaming hot in an expensive-looking mug that was held between the child’s mittened hands, was a vivid orange…

Until this point, all commercials were short and boring, with catchy phrases like “Our Product Is Loved by People Around the World” flashing on screen. The Tang ad was a revolution in itself: the lifestyle it represented – a more healthful and richer one, a Western luxury – was just starting to become legitimate in China as it was beginning to embrace the West and its capitalism…

To add to my agony, our neighbor’s son brought over his first girlfriend, for whom he had just bought a bottle of Tang. He was five years older and a college sophomore; we had nothing in common and had not spoken more than 10 sentences. But this didn’t stop me from having a painful crush on him. The beautiful girlfriend opened the Tang in our flat and insisted that we all try it. When it was my turn to scoop some into a glass of water, the fine orange powder almost choked me to tears. It was the first time I had drunk Tang, and the taste was not like real oranges but stronger, as if it were made of the essence of all the oranges I had ever eaten.”

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If shiny little bits of trash or a sugary, artificially flavored drink mix were made scarce and claimed to be desirable by the herd, especially its fertile female contingent, we must predict that everyone would scramble to get it.

This is why I’ve long considered measures of intrinsic value(of a good to an individual) to protect ourselves from the caprices of an insane and self-destructive mass society.

I recognize that the individual cannot be held truly distinct from society, not even close, but I keep my model simple.  It’s a basic method to clear away unwarranted hype and come out ahead of the crowd.

I’m supposing the boy in the story got a generous short term hypergamous payoff for following the fad and buying a can of orange flavored junk.
But guess what probably happened to his fawning groupies as soon as the Tang bubble popped?
We would see him left with a worthless powder for which he paid dearly and no long term or tactical gain to show for it.

Indeed, with that much less resources in his wallet, the less capital he has to impress the next round of herd females.  Worse, he was probably spending scarce funds his family needed to feed itself and pay for rent and education.

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