For years the Big Mac has led a double life. It's been feeding hungry people around the world, and its price has been a new gold standard of a sort, by which the real value of currencies has been judged. We have The Economist magazine to thank for this ingenuity.
But the Bloomberg news agency has now proposed an alternative. Its challenge is spearheaded by that staple of first-home owners and scourge of ham-fisted joiners, the Billy bookcase from Ikea. But what we have here is much more than a battle of rival economic powerhouses and indices. As the Big Mac confronts the Billy bookcase, the US consumer culture is pitted against that of Europe; instant gratification against boring durability; the flighty service economy against stolid manufacturing.
Until that bigger contest is decided – which will be a long time yet – there is surely room for both. After all, even the most assiduous of flat-pack assemblers need something to sustain them.