The Letter of the Law: It Killeth, or at Least Ticketh Off

“The letter [of the law] killeth,” as Paul noted in 2 Corinthians 3:6. I thought about that verse this morning as I had a bowl of (gasp) Honey-Nut Spins sold by Wal-Mart, a product that competes against Honey Nut Cheerios. I can’t make any excuse for this behavior: it was just there at moment of weakness, and one thing led to another, . . . so yes, I ate some.

Consumers are supposed to think that since the lower-cost Wal-Mart product has a name similar to the branded product, it ought to have the same ingredients. And in fact, the ingredients are similar, but not the proportions. As I tasted the product, I looked at the graphics on the cereal box. About half of the width of the box is occupied by a huge almond, just dripping in honey, with a honeycomb as the background. “Loaded with almonds and honey” is the message. Curiously, I couldn’t discern any nut flavor at all, something I can easily detect in Honey-Nut Cheerios. As i scrutinized the list of ingredients in Honey-Nut Spins, I found almonds listed as ingredient #16, right after such notable components as tricalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, trisodium phosphate, vitamin C, iron, color, and vitamin A. Wow, are they using nanotechnology to put nanobits of nuts in their package? The brand name product, Honey Nut Cheerios, has almonds as ingredient #8, right after salt but before the list of minor chemicals. Not much, but enough to taste.

I am sure that Wal-Mart’s marketing approach is entirely legal. They have met the letter of the law. But those who strive to understand and meet the letter at its lower limits are often the ones doing their best to break the spirit of the law. It is a deception to name a product after a nut and depict a nut as the dominant element on packaging when for all practical gustatory purposes, no nuts are present. Have they saved a penny by moving nut content down to an undetectable level? Here, the letter of the law, absent of its spirit, truly ticketh off.

OK, there are bigger problems out there, like the nuts about to send our kids to war with Iran (see Congressman Ron Paul’s troubling take on our use of war). But what I see in this event is simply an image of America’s decreasing ethical standards, reflected in ever-mushrooming volumes of legal code to deal with every aspect of life, while our leaders and so many of our people are increasingly lawless in their actual behavior, though they may find ways to meet the letter of the law at its lower extremities, “toeing” the line, so to speak.

May we all seek to live by higher ethical standards and be men and women of honor, not nut cases who deceive while thinking the letter makes them honest.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

7 thoughts on “The Letter of the Law: It Killeth, or at Least Ticketh Off

  1. 🙂 I like your title and plan to plagarize it as soon as possible. Okay, I’ll use your name.

    Interesting segue from Wal-Mart to the war in Iran.

    I am intrigued and mystified by the Wal-Mart phenomena, even more so since I worked there. I think there is some important social aspect to it, but I don’t know if it’s positive or negative.

    One thing I learned though, is that all the store brand stuff is not mediocre. I learned from the customers what was good and what was not.

    Frankly, I’m just glad that I am at least halfway through my life and these troubling issues will soon be meaningless to me. I hope.

  2. It is interesting to me how some use the letter of the law to avoid doing certain things that they probably ought to do, but then also use a spirit of the law to do the same thing – get out of doing something that they should. For some the door swings both ways.

  3. I was listening to NPR yesterday, and they were discussin illegal immigration crackdowns, and the guy they interviewed said something about Wal-Mart’s “letter of the law” policy.

    I was quite amazed because I had just read this entry- so apparently you are not alone in your views of WalMart.

  4. Some might say that Mormon missionaries practice similar ‘advertising’ techniques to your cereal analogy with the ‘milk before meat’ approach…

  5. So are math teachers–imagine the intellectual dishonesty of teaching arithmetic before algebra, and algebra before calculus! >cue scary music< They're hiding things from you!

  6. Perhaps, instead of questioning how close some people (and organization) are to the edge of the law, you ought to question the law itself?

    IMO, valid laws are those that protect our rights while invalid laws are those that exist to control others.

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