Mormanity found this to be an example of "our shameless society," where wrong is right and right is wrong. And I was sort of right there with him, except for one thing: he called what they were doing a "sin."
And that got me thinking. Why exactly would that be a sin? So I asked in the comments. Partly, of course, I was just playing "mess with the conservatives," but I really did want to know. I didn't find the answers very satisfactory.
"Because it's breaking the law." Well, man's law and God's law aren't the same thing, obviously. In fact, sometimes the law itself is sinful. "Because they're lying." That's probably true in many cases, but in this case the point of the post was that they were openly selling fakes. They weren't trying to pass them off as authentic. "Because they're stealing." That's a little more complicated, but as far as I can tell, "stealing" in the scriptures means taking something away from someone so they don't have it anymore. Since neither the bags nor the labels were stolen in that sense, I'm very unsure that the sin of theft applies.
At about that point, Mormanity himself joined in. He wanted to talk about intellectual property rights. After a little give and take, he came up with this example:
I... start a business selling "Mormanity" hot dogs and they become very popular, thanks to all the work I put into building the brand, including tons of advertising, expensive art work for my packaging, buying celebrity endorsements.... People get in line to buy Mormanity Dogs.(Then I start making cheap, crappy knockoffs using his brand name.)
...You are stealing my intellectual assets: the brand name I have developed at great expense, the trademark I have paid for and registered to show that I don't want people using my stuff without my permission, the unique style of packaging that took a lot of work and expense to develop.
That got me thinking about hot dogs. A hot dog has an intrinsic value of, say, 35 cents. Add the convenience of eating out (I'm thinking hot dog stands here, not packages you buy in a store, but the basic idea's the same either way), and let's say an ordinary is-that-really-safe-to-eat 7-11 dog is worth about $1. Make it a very tasty dog, and we'll say it's worth as much as $3. Make it an ultra-tasty, organic, kosher Mormanity dog, and we'll say it's even worth $4. But with all his advertising and branding, Mormanity can sell his dogs for $8. And he sells loads of hot dogs and makes $10 million. That makes him a big success, a pillar of his community. OK, now just hold that thought for a second; we'll come back to it.
Because one of the examples of dishonesty Mormanity used in the discussion was an art forger. And that also got me thinking. Suppose I'm an art forger. I've invested years of study in perfecting my craft. I have to be an excellent painter; I have to know art history; I have to know the market; I even have to know some chemistry so I can properly "age" my painting. Finally I'm ready for my big score: I forge a Van Gogh and sell it for $10 million. That makes me a criminal.
But what, exactly, makes me any different from Mormanity and his hot dogs? I fooled one person into paying $10 million for a painting that's really only worth maybe $1,000. But all Mormanity really did was fool 2.5 million people into each paying $8 for a hot dog that's only worth $4. All either of us did was convince people to buy something for more than it's worth. Why does that make him an honest capitalist success story and me a criminal? Why aren't we the same thing, either both honest successes or both criminals? Can anyone explain this to me?