Privatize profit. Socialize risk.
December 23, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Push Capitalism. Bill Moyers' interview with Dr. Benjamin Barber about the state of our modern capitalist society and how he believes capitalism threatens American democracy. PBS.org streaming video.

This week on Bill Moyers, an interview with Dr. Benjamin Barber, senior fellow at Demos, and author of books such as Jihad vs. McWorld and more recently, Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole.
posted by orelius (74 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
left wing trouble maker ought to be barred. Hoover would have rounded that malcontent up,along with others who would destroy our way of life.
posted by Postroad at 10:40 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


THE MARKET WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on December 23, 2007


Having just saw Sweeney Todd last night, I misheard the intro as "Benjamin Barker is here to talk about how Americans are consuming themselves" and thought to myself that Warner Brother's viral marketing has gotten a bit out of hand.
posted by Weebot at 10:51 AM on December 23, 2007


Blah, strike viral.
posted by Weebot at 10:51 AM on December 23, 2007


i'll save you the trouble of reading the interview, barber's message boils down to this:

1. you're too stupid to handle capitalism because you can't be trusted to make the right choices;

2. unlike you, we have a social conscience guided by a more enlightened morality, so we're gonna limit some of your choices for your own good.

merry xmas mefites!
posted by bruce at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


Barber's blog: strongdemocracy.
posted by homunculus at 11:09 AM on December 23, 2007


Previous post about Jihad vs. McWorld.
posted by homunculus at 11:12 AM on December 23, 2007


I think that WordGirl has it right:
WORDGIRL: WordGirl!!

BILL MOYERS: There is some resistance to this constant commercializing. Watching early morning cartoons with my grandchildren the other day, I discovered word girl the PBS series of a fifth grade superhero fighting evil with her amazing vocabulary

WORDGIRL: Listen for the words vague and specific.
What's that, WordGirl? There's no telling what concept is being identified by the word 'capitalism' and subsequently refuted?
posted by A-Train at 11:23 AM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


MeTa.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:29 AM on December 23, 2007


[a few comments removed - please try to discuss the topic and not talk smack other posters, we have metatalk for that.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:33 AM on December 23, 2007


Mota.
posted by box at 11:33 AM on December 23, 2007


Don't ruin it Steve, this is just getting good.
posted by LarryC at 11:34 AM on December 23, 2007


[The following is not entirely serious. But it's fun!]

Well, the main problems are television (destroys society, encourages pointless consumption, breeds resentment and fear) and positional goods like those advertised in Vogue and modelled by celebrities (lead to dissatisfaction with the simple things, divide society into haves and have-nots)

Now, both of these problems are the result of government, not the free market.

Here's how. Television requires government regulation of airwaves and networks (to ensure that we don't all set up television networks on the same frequency) and positional goods and television both rely on the artificial monopoly created by government intellectual property laws.

So, let's let the free market rip!

Remove the licenses for broadcast channels, let anyone make and broadcast anything. If your aerial is on your property you can broadcast any electromagnetic stuff you like. That'll do for television (and cellphones, extra benefit), since most of the country will be swamped with unregulated transmissions, especially when combined with the effect of everyone being able to copy anything produced by television companies and redistribute it for nothing. The positional goods will no longer be items of envy and disappointment since we'll all be able to have them, produced with a two-week turnaround by efficient backstreet manufacturers for a few bucks. We'll be happier, have more active communities, and less stress.

Who's with me? The big corporations won't like it, but they've been suckling at the government teat for too long. Free market forever! Bruce? Whaddya say?
posted by alasdair at 11:36 AM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Of course capitalism is ''consuming itself." Actually no matter what economic regime we use, we're consming resources. In the end, none of this is sustainable, because we'll use up all the resources on the planet. And the sun will burn out. And then eventually then the universe will reach an even temperature and that's it. Like Keynes said, in the long run we are all dead.
I wish that all the ''sustainability" people would stop kidding themselves, because in the end nothing is sustainable.

But that's not the point-- the point is to ask ourselves, what kind of lives are we going to live (and our children, and our children's children...) are going to live in the meantime.
posted by wuwei at 11:41 AM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I thought he was extremely articulate. Thanks for the link.
posted by dobbs at 11:55 AM on December 23, 2007


i dunno alasdair, how far are you willing to go? no more patents or copyrights? no more vice laws? do we really need to license drivers? animal cruelty laws are also a government infringement on personal choice. i support capitalism within the american constitutional framework. i have, on several occasions, sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. are you pro-constitution or anti-constitution?
posted by bruce at 11:57 AM on December 23, 2007


BILL MOYERS: When politics permeates everything we call it totalitarianism. When religion permeates everything we call it theocracy.

BENJAMIN BARBER: Right.

BILL MOYERS: But when commerce pervades everything, we call it liberty.
posted by Auden at 12:05 PM on December 23, 2007 [10 favorites]


I love how capitalism is "them" and encouraging demand is an evil thing that "they" do.

And all of the hand-waving at the beginning about how the interview arose because Bill Moyers just happened to have a spontaneous desire to chat with Barber. Because it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that Barber just released a new book, oh no. Why that would mean that he was out promoting a product and trying to artificially create demand for it just before Christmas, which he has unimpeachably demonstrated to be a Bad Thing.

I'm halfway through the video and if Moyers doesn't point out that this is at least a little bit hypocritical it's going to blemish my hitherto untarnished respect for him.
posted by XMLicious at 12:10 PM on December 23, 2007 [8 favorites]


...all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds
posted by Postroad at 12:18 PM on December 23, 2007


I've been noticing that, just as the vanguard of Christianity (Evangelicals, Bill O'Reilly, et al) makes extensive use of the myth that Christianity is somehow under siege in this country, and must be defended with as much noise and bluster as can be produced, the vanguard of capitalism (consisting mostly of libertarians and rich people) make use of an extraordinary fantasy that somehow capitalism is so defenseless that they must ride to its aid the moment anyone says anything remotely critical.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


Well, no one who throws their energy into defending something is going to admit that it would be totally fine without help.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:24 PM on December 23, 2007


I'm not sure I understand the point about commerce and liberty.

Unavoidably, some things we want will be made out of scarce resources (raw materials, labor, or both). Commerce seems like the most free way of allocating those things, even if it's not perfectly free.

On the other hand, if he's saying that people are systematically mislead about what will make them happy and consequently make poor choices, this is indeed paternalistic, but it's also quite likely correct.

This isn't really a criticism of markets, though, since no one claims that unfettered markets are efficient when the market players have imperfect information. It's quite possible that our advertising culture is causing market failures by misleading market participants, but I think this presupposes that someone knows what value people should ideally assign to different goods and services (or at least knows better), and I'm not sure this is true.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 12:26 PM on December 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


Auden writes "BILL MOYERS: But when commerce pervades everything, we call it liberty"

Commerce isn't the problem; corporate control is.

Tentaively, I'd propose that corporate personhood be abolished, and replaced with co-operatives. Make all employees owners, limit co-op employee size to some maximum (say 10,000) in order to keep relationships within the co-op more personal and less hierarchical, and mandate that the maximum employee compensation not exceed the minimum employee compensation by more than a some factor, say 20.
posted by orthogonality at 12:27 PM on December 23, 2007 [9 favorites]


Wasn't Benjamin Barber the source for Thomas Friedman's (defunct since Yugoslavia) theory that no two countries that have McDonald's franchises have ever gone to war?

Benjamin Barber ~= Thomas Friedman

i.e. no longer of relevance in 2007. Not to mention 2008 and the Great Beyond.

One of my very few friends at the office worried for weeks because he couldn't find a wii for his kids for Christmas. Then he found one. He's happy. I don't think I will mention the moyers barber link to him. IT'S THE SEASON OF GIVING.
posted by bukvich at 12:33 PM on December 23, 2007


As a quasi-Georgist I've come to understand the difference between Capitalism and Rentierism.

What we think of "capitalism eating itself" is actually rentierism collecting unto itself the wealth of the nation, but these two -isms are actually quite orthogonal (there is plenty of Rentierism going on in Cuba and it was the basis of the soviet communism becoming unworkable).

Capitalists like Matt Haughey providing useful goods and services on the free, low-barrier-to-entry New Economy internets are engaging in free capitalism and not rentierism.

The artificial scarcity of FCC-allocated and controlled spectrum is another case of rampant government-sanctioned rentierism, as is the economic rents exacted from productive society by the multi-headed health-care combine.

At the heart of all of this is the privization and control of the natural wealth of our country -- the natural resources, spectrum, and actual land itself.

The fake economy of the past 6-odd years has been a weird brew of militaristic inflammation and government-sponsored speculative investment in land-bubble appreciation. We've misallocated trillions of dollars towards these two twin booms, and there's going to be hell to pay getting our wonderful so-called free-market economy back to basics down the road.
posted by panamax at 12:36 PM on December 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


Tentaively, I'd propose that corporate personhood be abolished, and replaced with co-operatives.

Cooperatives have personhood too. I don't see what problem you're trying to solve, because it's extremely difficult to run even a moderately sized business without some entity personhood.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 12:41 PM on December 23, 2007


"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "I don't see what problem you're trying to solve"

Criminal liability, predominantly: I want corporate officers to fear prison, not just lawsuits or stockholder revolts.
posted by orthogonality at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2007


Corporate personhood is largely orthogonal to criminal liability for corporate officers. If one is engaged in a crime, interposing a legal person generally won't change that.

The issue, I think, is that many of the wrongdoings that bother you either aren't actually crimes or aren't prosecuted vigorously. This isn't an issue of corporate personhood, though.

Alternatively, in any collective, it may be difficult to assign criminal liability to individual members for actions taken by the collective, but this is a problem with cooperatives too. Eliminating any possibility for collective action, so that every action (criminal and otherwise) can be assigned to a natural person with enough certainty to support a criminal conviction, seems rather drastic.

It's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The bathwater just might be that toxic, but I'm not convinced.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I find Benjamin Barber utterly repulsive. Catch phrases, anecdotal evidence, sweeping generalizations, with a sprinkle of pop psychology. I don't see economists, political philosophers, or psychologists getting together and discussing Barber's groundbreaking ideas. And yet he uses the college speaker circuit to pimp his book. He is an academic "packager". The only thing I see him being successful at is tapping into the guilt complex of plebs who sit on the couch and eat potato chips all day, providing them with an unnecessary product that is supposed to make them feel better. He is, at his core, a motivational speaker.
posted by phaedon at 1:17 PM on December 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand the point about commerce and liberty.

Amen, Tex. Who the heck says commerce == liberty? Here's another one from Moyers: "So many people will say that choice is joy." Again, who the heck says that? Can anyone say "straw man"?

People have always criticized avaricious irresponsible commerce and industry. It used to be called "greed" but these days it's fashionable to hide your moral judgments behind sophisticated terminology. And people have always been suspicious of the deceptive salesman and the scheming oligarch who puts up a whitewashed facade to cover some scam to plunder the public good.

Pundits like Barber launch these tirades about everything that's wrong in the world, sneeringly blame everything on commerce, and act as if the problems they point out are some big secret that no one else has been clever enough to examine or question. They're just fine with all of the benefits they might reap from consumerism personally - like selling his book in Barber's case - but everyone else who participates in commerce is either clueless or evil.

For those who buy into this it becomes a generic device for self-aggrandizement - "I've got a special insight that makes my enterprise and purchases enlightened and good while everyone else is a greedy materialistic loser." As far as poisoning the world with misanthropic ideas they're giving the best advertising agencies a run for their money, I'd say.
posted by XMLicious at 1:22 PM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why that would mean that he was out promoting a product and trying to artificially create demand for it just before Christmas, which he has unimpeachably demonstrated to be a Bad Thing.

Let's give thanks to the Lord above
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:26 PM on December 23, 2007


I think that abolishing Corporate Personhood is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater; however, it constitutes throwing out so much water that the baby is going to get awfully dirty before an alternative is found. I love clichéd analogies.

And there is way too much confusion among "Capitalism", "Free Enterprise", "Free Markets","Entrepreneurialism" (if that's a word; spellchecker tells me no), and "Whatever Kind of Economic System the United States of America Has Right Now" which are not all the same thing (but I don't have time or inclination to go into all the differences). I appears that even Dr. Barber is guilty of a lot of that confusion, which makes whatever message he has much less valid and valuable.

Just as the "media market", including the marketing Books About Big Ideas, tends to distort the "marketplace of ideas". Just remember, all my posts are © their original author.
posted by wendell at 1:31 PM on December 23, 2007


And for some of us, Santa Claus comes TOMORROW night. Damned International Date Line screwing up the discussion.
posted by wendell at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2007


I think that abolishing Corporate Personhood is not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Can you explain? I'm having trouble imagining any significant enterprise if business entities can't own property or enter contracts.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 1:37 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


...which was why I said "the baby is going to get awfully dirty before an alternative is found."

Do I gotta explain all my jokes?

There will be "significant enterprise" going on, but not in any way that we currently know it...
posted by wendell at 1:51 PM on December 23, 2007


bruce writes "so we're gonna limit some of your choices for your own good. "

Well that's right, one got more choices when one can choose between eating shit, eating shit frappe, eating shit macchiato, eating shit shrink wrapped, or eating shit with extra shit on it. That's a lot of choice , a lot of it, but no matter how you choose you still eat shit.

Is that a real choice or just an illusion of choice ?

alasdair writes "Remove the licenses for broadcast channels, let anyone make and broadcast anything."

Of course you can do that, it's called total freedom. Except that if you don't follow some technical rules (not dictated by any government or market) very soon you are going to interfere with some other person signal, and their signal with yours and so on. Clearly, without regulation only a few with the strongest signals would prevail as they would compete the harsh way, by crushing your signal. Why ? Because if nobody doesn't stop them, it's a way profiteable way to compete without spending billions in expensive and uncertain research.

Obviously at the end an oligopoly of few powerful transmitters would end up controlling the whole spectrum, basically just like a tyran government, but privatized. That's not good because they can make you pay to say anything even if it costs them almost nothing, or even set a price so high that nobody but a few can afford it , while avoiding any accusation of active censorship. It's their spectrum, they do whatever they please with it and if you don't like, make your own.

That's one of the reasons behind the developement of cable telecommunications, which are a form of "private spectrum" in which the owner of the cables dictates what goes and at what price.

"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "It's quite possible that our advertising culture is causing market failures by misleading market participants"

Misleading implies that the leader is directing toward something he shouldn't be directing people to, by the means of the very trust a leader is given. People don't necessarily trust advertisement, but they certainly pay some attention to it and can for an idea that isn't technically based on lies, such as "water purity". I can say that potable water is good for you, but few people know what properites potable water should have.

So as an advertiser I can work on that shortcoming and say that bottled water is more controlled (easily true) , contains less residues (possibly true) and suggest from here to Mars that bottled water could be better for you. That does NOT imply that tap water is, therefore, worse for you...but if I want to sell steadily I should somehow suggest tap water is a lot less than tolerable or may contain some harmful chemical.

That still doesn't mean that tap water will harm you or kill you, because few people understand that "poison" is the _quantity_ of a substance you drink/eat/somehow get into your system. You can poison yourself with too much almost pure h20 and die.

More then misleading, it's suggesting. Heavily suggesting people to do what is most profiteable for X company ; yet as a wage earner in any company, your wage and job is tied to company profiteability , so profiteability becomes your _obsession_ , often bliding you from any other consideration, because too often your survival AND your satisfaction are tied to your wage (or some other form of wealth/credit transfer).

In a distorted company culture, in which profit is what actively seeked without any remorse ( regardless of all the "we are responsible company" propaganda) , any method becomes acceptable , because the END justify the means.

Imagine you are working in a meat packaging line. The quicker you work, the more and faster cut, the least expensive each cut becomes. Yet you must pay attention not to cut into intestines, because the resulting spill of shit would contaminate meat. Shit happens, you wash it with water and quickly go ahead because, you think, you are not endangering another life because the meat will be cooked. If it is not cooked properly, people will suffer or die.

You tell the boss, the boss reassures you , but the shit goes on and on. The boss tells you not to worry, because meat is cooked. One day you read on the newspaper people died because of meat contamination, you start to feel afraid for yourself. The boss dismisses your problems, suggests you may want to hold to your job in a period of depression ! You cave in...and if you also feel guilty for not being able to stand up and fight a machine that is immensely more powerful than you.

In order not to feel guilty, you start thinking you just can't fight the system, it's reasonably too strong to be won by you alone. In that moment, the cost of the shit spilling on meat is being _socialized_ , transfered to the consumers which may not pay it , but surely are carrying ALL the risk and the economical consequences.
posted by elpapacito at 1:51 PM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered. - Stanley Kubrick
posted by nola at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


elpapacito, the "misleading" I was talking about (and I'm not sure that is indeed the right term) involves convincing people that a product or service will be more satisfying than it actually will be. If people are mistaken about what will make them happy, the market is no longer maximizing well-being. It's maximizing something else.

I'm trying not to impose my own values on other people, though. If some product, priced $X, really will increase the purchaser's well-being more than any other use of $X, and if $X really does account for all the costs (visible and hidden) of the product, I'm hesitant to tell people they can't have it.

Your meat example brings up an interesting point, though. Maybe people really would prefer cheap but slightly dangerous meat over more expensive but perfectly safe meat. It's not necessarily irrational to forgo spending on safety measures. On the other hand, maybe people don't actually have a good idea of how dangerous the meat is.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 2:33 PM on December 23, 2007


elpapacito - No one is saying that the meat industry should be allowed to get away with any of that. They ought to be taken down the way asbestos concerns, lead paint manufacturers, and Love-Canal-type polluters were.

No one thinks that corporate self-interest, lying, deception, or fraud should not be pointed out or investigated or prevented. Everyone knows that unrestrained profiteering will result in all of those ills. The objectionable thing is that combining legitimate, particular concerns together into broad-spectrum contempt for everything commercial and the crass common consumer sounds like "I am helplessly being forced by The Man to eat shit! None of you understand the eating of shit that's inherent in the system! Plus you all like the taste of shit, you cretins!"
posted by XMLicious at 3:20 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


If only there was some sort of device to spare us of commercials and the evils of influence.

Oh wait, there is, it's called my mind.
posted by furtive at 3:40 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's not perfectly free

It's not free at all. Almost all products made today are made from some kind of natural resource, most of which are in the control of a relatively small number of large organizations. Even second tier organizations selling them exert powerful control on how goods are manufactured and distributed. It is not in these organizations' interest to offer the lowest prices and the best quality; on the contrary, it is in their interest to charge the highest price and offer the lowest quality that their hegemony will allow.

There are a few proponents for the free market that also want to see oligopolies fall. However, many free market proponents appear to be more like capitalistic proponents. They equate attacks on capitalism as attacks on the free market.

I'd be all for capitalism if it equaled free market, like really free market. That would imply that smaller companies would have just as much of a chance to succeed as large companies. But in practice they generally don't. A bigboxen doesn't beat out mom and pop stores solely because it offers better prices (although the prices often are lower). It wins because it has a structural advantage -- it can encourage local governments to subsidize it (usually in the form of special tax advantages) and it can also influence the prices of its suppliers (and, these days, it often is its own supplier). Neither of these two advantages derive from being a more "efficient" company, just more big and more powerful.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:54 PM on December 23, 2007 [9 favorites]


That's a good point Deahalicious, and better stated than most.
posted by nola at 4:10 PM on December 23, 2007


This isn't really a criticism of markets, though, since no one claims that unfettered markets are efficient when the market players have imperfect information.

Yes, but in practice market players always have imperfect information. Indeed, advertising serves as a medium of disinformation. The fact that brands "add value" to an item is a indictment of the free market model. Items should have value based on the time and materials that went into them. The very calculated efforts by the fashion industry to ensure that users rotate through their clothing faster than it wears out is a sign of the free market system encouraging people to purchase things that they don't need for excessively higher prices.

Who the heck says commerce == liberty?
Are you an American? If so, you can't have missed all of those ads that featured a camera rolling down an aisle in a supermarket while some narrator went on about choice and freedom? And the fact that the first thing we were supposed to do after 9/11 was shop? It's all about life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness more stuff.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:12 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Items should have value based on the time and materials that went into them.

Well, no, that's not right. The value of a product is the well-being, happiness, or utility it creates or provides.

It is not in these organizations' interest to offer the lowest prices and the best quality; on the contrary, it is in their interest to charge the highest price and offer the lowest quality that their hegemony will allow.

This is a strange point. Of course the producer of a good (or the provider of a service) is going to want to maximize his profits, since that's why he's bothering to engage in the whole enterprise to begin with. Most people don't love their jobs so much they would do them for free, and even if they do, they still have to eat!

This has nothing to do with hegemony, whatever you mean by that. It's simply rational self interest, and it's displayed by market participants who have little if any power (e.g. an office worker he tries to maximize his salary while minimizing his time in the office).
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 4:50 PM on December 23, 2007


phaedon: I don't see economists, political philosophers, or psychologists getting together and discussing Barber's groundbreaking ideas.

Why do you presume that's the only litmus test?
Barber is precisely the kind of guy who my parents would find reasonable and compelling. He does the soft sell to the middle classes and fence-sitting liberals, which is a really important job, even if it isn't as sexy as rabble-rousing with the radicals or as CV-fattening as cheek-puffing with the academics.

furtive: If only there was some sort of device to spare us of commercials and the evils of influence.

Oh wait, there is, it's called my mind.


"...the voice of the literate man, floundering in a milieu of ads, who boasts, ‘Personally, I pay no attention to ads.’... The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter sense rations or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance." - McLuhan

Individual ads are the tip of the iceberg, the distillation of an increasingly immersive culture of consumption and impatience.

It would be nice of our own self-satisfaction could change things. But advertising seems to work on a lot of people, especially children.
posted by regicide is good for you at 4:51 PM on December 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


This is the LifeStraw example Dr. Benjamin Barber talked about right at the end of the interview. Seems like a terrific idea.
posted by JaySunSee at 4:58 PM on December 23, 2007


This has nothing to do with hegemony

Well yes it kind of does if you don't want to adress that you miss the point which we are talking around.
posted by nola at 5:01 PM on December 23, 2007


Couple things, now that I found out I could read the interview rather than watching it:

First off, he doesn't seem to be saying anything particularly novel or controversial. Individual actors, maximizing their own gain (especially short-term gain) are not necessarily acting in the long-term interest of society. Many of our political and economic structures are distorted under that pressure; there are remedies to mitigate that pressure (though doubtful any to remove it).

As for corporate personhood, even Tex has to understand that it's a legal fiction, and that the objections to it are usually two-fold: it serves to displace the risk from those truly responsible (owners) onto this fiction, sometimes to the detriment of society; and that it allows this fiction to access rights that are better understood as human, sometimes to the detriment of society. Very few people have trouble with relatively unregulated speech by humans, far more have trouble with relatively unregulated speech by corporations (especially when that corporation is displacing the risk associated with the exercise of that freedom).
posted by klangklangston at 5:10 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "involves convincing people that a product or service will be more satisfying than it actually will be. If people are mistaken about what will make them happy, the market is no longer maximizing well-being. It's maximizing something else."

Well let' say that you are happy if X= some value ..or a close "enough" approximation to make room for individuality.

I tell you that X will be 1 , but X turns out to be 0 . I may have lied to you, but maybe I grossly overestimated X, who knows. And who cares, they both are my fault for announcing x=1. In both case I will bear the consequences, if any , of your dissatisfaction.

It gets more tricky if we look at your evaluation "function" . I may notice that your function is such that you tend to think x=1.3 when there's more sugar in coke , or notice that you tend to evaluate x=0.8 when there is less sugar. In layman terms, I notice you do like sugar.

Let' assume that we both don't know about the negative effects of having too much sugar in your body. I will now present an advertisement that says "Now with more sugar, superdelicious! " or some other suggestive claim such as " Sweeter then before" or " The sweetness you like so much" . I cannot possibily know if ALL my consumers will respond the same way, but I guess most of people will taste x=1.3 and their evaluation function is now > 1 . I sell more, everbody is happy.

The problem lies elsewhere : not everything that will make you happier will also do you good. You could argue that decreasing health will make them less happy, so health must be a var in their "happyness" function, yet I cannot be held responsible for their own misevaluation or for forming their own opinions, if don't openly lie to them and misrepresent my product.

XMLicious writes "The objectionable thing is that combining legitimate, particular concerns together into broad-spectrum contempt for everything commercial "

I agree that generalizations are likely to be misleading when they are based on faulty premises, such as "meat industry doesn't care about consumer health" . Many enterpreneurs have an interest in return customers, so they are unlikely to NOT care about the satisfaction and well being of their customers.

The conflict between private interest and collective interest becomes evident in special circumstances, such as occasional food poisoning, in which few would argue that
the individual interest into profit should trump collective interest of finding untainted food in the food distribution chain. We could and must argue on what is safe , not safe and what not, but the individual interest should, arguably, be limited.

The problem is more complex when a product , such as bottled water, is suggested so efficiently are pervasively that other product , such as tap water, star suffering the effects of competition. Yet while one could argue that tap water may not be as good as bottled in some instances, it's a lot more difficult to state that there is no collective interest into developing a system that can bring drinkable water to the citizens for a fraction of the cost of bottled, just mentioning monetary cost.

Certainly bottled water industry has not interest into publicizing comparative facts about tap water that may reduce the sale or the profiteabiliy, not to research data and publicize how many resources are used to bring a bottle to a customer, and how incredibily more efficient (in terms of resources) a tapwater system can be.

By analogy, RIAA has no interest in making customers know how incredibly unexpensive a copy of a song can be, as that would suggest the consumer that they may be paying too much. Ironically, the very same satisfaction instinct that drives sales sometime to irrational ends can rear his head toward the very same industry that thrives on it, so attempts are made to placate it by focusing on how artists live on sales and other factoids, designed to reshape customer perception to maintain profitability.
posted by elpapacito at 6:21 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


re: out promoting a product and trying to artificially create demand for it

here he is gushing about how his colbert appearance "bumped up sales big-time" :P

i liked his distinction between government and democratic institutions/civil society tho!
the reality is, here, there is a powerful role for, I'm not gonna say our government, for democratic institutions. For citizens. For participatory institutions. They include our government. They include our townships. They include our PTAs. They include our NGOs and our philanthropies. There's a whole civil society which is a whole lot more than just the government. Where we act not as private consumers, or selfish individuals, but we act as neighbors. We act as citizens. We act as friends to establish the social character of the world we live in
it reminded me of an interview w/ amory lovins on natural capitalism:
...there’s a lot civil society needs to do to bring about that sort of result. I think markets make a wonderful servant, a bad master and a worse religion. If we try to substitute markets for ethics, politics and faith, we can really get in a lot of trouble. Markets are very good at what they do, but their purpose is quite far from the whole purpose of the human being. But if we believe as I do, that governments should steer and not row, they’ve got to be steering in the right direction, and I think it would be very promising as tax changes are in the air, to think about how to help business stop the waste, in all of our interests. And one very good way would be gradually to shift taxation away from the things we want more of, like jobs and income, and on to the things we want less of, like resource depletion and pollution. This would make the economy more balanced, more fair, more efficient and a very powerful instrument for healing society and the earth...
the rejuvenation of civil society btw is the subject of (mc)lovins' fellow natcap author paul hawken's new book blessed unrest (on the origins and transformative power of environmental and social justice movements).

re: corporate personhood be abolished

speaking of books, probably the highest profile advocate of this is robert reich, clinton's labor secratary. in supercapitalism, from the dust jacket:
He calls for an end to the legal fiction that corporations are citizens, as well as the illusion that corporations can be "socially responsible" until laws define social needs. Reich explains why we must stop treating companies as if they were people -- and must therefore abolish the corporate income tax and levy it on shareholders instead, hold individuals rather than corporations guilty of criminal conduct, and not expect companies to be "patriotic." For, as Reich says, only people can be citizens, and only citizens should be allowed to participate in democratic decision making.
re: advertising
The idea behind a market economy is that the best product will eventually win, in a Darwinian manner. However, it does not work like that in the real world. Usually, the product with the best advertising campaign wins, which makes it very difficult for small companies to compete, even if they can offer better quality. It is in the best interest of a healthy capitalistic system to abolish advertising and replace it by simple informational messages about available products.

...

Advertising amplifies several undesirable aspects of human nature, such as greed, envy and discontent. It is also morally reprehensible since it uses tried and proven propaganda techniques such as omissions, half-truths and suggestive associations, but rarely hard verifiable facts.

...

It thus makes economical sense to avoid products which are heavily advertised. Buying such a product means financing things you don't want: radio ads, TV commercials, web banners, junk mail and billboards.
oh and finally, if i may, x-post :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 6:41 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


this is a good clip for explaining, clearly, to my non-reading parents why capitalism in post-modernity is authoritarian and a threat to governance. yay bill moyers.

if you want to talk about paternalism, please watch a century of the self, for a history of marketing and public relations in the US and Europe, and then compare those industries to Bill Moyers.

free-marketeers would like to have some pure ideal of market allocation without authoritarian, legislative corporations. But there is a huge gap in their ideas about an economy--if the market allocates "efficiently," who or what distributes the wealth of society? Corporations fill the vaccuum left by this gap, although i don't understand why co-ops and federated co-ops, or even non-profit corporations couldn't fill it just as well.

In the same way, communists would have a pure classless society without leninism and authoritarian, centrally planned economies. But who ensures that the people's party is democratic? Both are somewhat ahistorical dreams, at least if we assume an industrial society.
posted by eustatic at 6:43 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


kliuless writes "The idea behind a market economy is that the best product will eventually win, in a Darwinian manner."

Gah, Darwin must be spinning like a gyro. Turtles didn't evolve into turtles because they were "best"...they just happend to be the result of adaptation to unescapable forces..we will never know about the GnaPaStaFrylocuz and how cool an animal it could have been, but not because he was "less" than a turtle..maybe an occasional meteorite or what-have-you wiped out the whole race.


kliuless writes "Advertising amplifies several undesirable aspects of human nature, such as greed, envy and discontent. It is also morally reprehensible since it uses tried and proven propaganda techniques such as omissions, half-truths and suggestive associations, but rarely hard verifiable facts."

Uhm hyperbole indeed. Advertisement do put product "on the map" and help companies reach their audience , which in turn may find a product they didn't know about. Now it happens that some advertisement relies heavily on propaganda, suggestion, omission et al , but that doesn't make all advertisement reprehensible.
posted by elpapacito at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


i didn't 'write' that; false advertising :P

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:21 PM on December 23, 2007


you're too stupid to handle capitalism because you can't be trusted to make the right choices;

This is an egregious misrepresentation of what Barber said in the interview, so your assurance that we need not read for ourselves is offensive.

He doesn't expect that we would make what he considers right choices because those choices are not offered to us in the first place. A narrow range of choice is presented to us as if it were the full spectrum.

I try to stay away from this kind of stuff these days, as I think we're basically a lost cause at this point, but I do like his point that companies could still do well if they focused more on fulfilling existing, unmet needs rather than manufacturing desire for luxury.
posted by troybob at 7:59 PM on December 23, 2007


As for corporate personhood, even Tex has to understand that it's a legal fiction, and that the objections to it are usually two-fold: it serves to displace the risk from those truly responsible (owners) onto this fiction, sometimes to the detriment of society; and that it allows this fiction to access rights that are better understood as human, sometimes to the detriment of society.

Legal personhood and limited liability are two different concepts, and they don't necessarily accompany each other. Legal personhood refers to the ability to enter contracts, own property, sue and be sued, and so forth. Limited liability refers to the limitation of the liability of the owners of an entity for the obligations of the entity.

I'm not sure corporate personhood is any more of a legal fiction than so-called "natural" personhood, actually. We don't have to let natural persons enter contracts or own property, and the fact that they can is no less an artifice of our legal system than a corporation's ability to do so is.

As for the true responsibility of owners for the actions of a business entity, what I interpret you saying is that even though limited liability protects owners from the legal liability for the entity's obligations, the owners are still morally liable, and perhaps the law should follow morality. I don't think I agree. A corporation may have any number of owners, and these owners may have very little say in the operation of the corporation, and the power to actually run the corporation may be vested in people who aren't owners at all! While the owners collectively can replace the officers and directors, each owner individually may have very little power.

This is in fact the justification for limiting their liability. Facilitating the pooling of investment capital is seen as very useful, but no one would buy in if doing so meant subjecting oneself to joint and several liability for the actions of people one has little if any real control over.

I don't think claiming that limited liability and corporate personhood have sometimes been used to the "detriment of society" really says much. First, limited liability and corporate personhood are so utterly fundamental to our economy that trying to imagine the shape things would take without them at this point is just pure speculation. Second, people have different visions for society, and if all you're claiming is that these two legal doctrines have sometimes been used to hurt people, that's true of pretty much any legal doctrine.

If truly all you're saying is "sometimes corporate personhood and limited liability have lead to bad results," you're right, but it's kind of a weird thing to say. Imagine if someone said "sometimes free speech has lead to bad results." You'd think they were going somewhere with that.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 8:04 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


The problem lies elsewhere : not everything that will make you happier will also do you good. You could argue that decreasing health will make them less happy, so health must be a var in their "happyness" function, yet I cannot be held responsible for their own misevaluation or for forming their own opinions, if don't openly lie to them and misrepresent my product.

I think I agree. My original remarks were directed only at situations in which the producer knows better than the consumer what will make the consumer happy (because the producer has tricked the consumer or otherwise manipulated him). It's quite possible these situations are rare.

If no one, including the consumer, knows what will make the consumer happy, efficiency seems pretty hopeless.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 8:08 PM on December 23, 2007


"Legal personhood and limited liability are two different concepts, and they don't necessarily accompany each other. Legal personhood refers to the ability to enter contracts, own property, sue and be sued, and so forth. Limited liability refers to the limitation of the liability of the owners of an entity for the obligations of the entity."

Yes, they're two separate concepts—limited liability being older, at least in America (a great deal of colonial business was done through LLCs). But corporations didn't assume all the modern rights they hold as associated with personhood until the late 1800s, and they are connected through the idea of corporations having property rights as if they are a person (which is another form of limiting liability for stake-holders).

"I'm not sure corporate personhood is any more of a legal fiction than so-called "natural" personhood, actually. We don't have to let natural persons enter contracts or own property, and the fact that they can is no less an artifice of our legal system than a corporation's ability to do so is."

Under the philosophy that founded this country, there is an explicit difference. Once you start to reject natural rights, and prefer a theory of granted or enforced rights, then the distinction is much less stark (and rights theory has been moving this way over the last century or so).

"As for the true responsibility of owners for the actions of a business entity, what I interpret you saying is that even though limited liability protects owners from the legal liability for the entity's obligations, the owners are still morally liable, and perhaps the law should follow morality. I don't think I agree. A corporation may have any number of owners, and these owners may have very little say in the operation of the corporation, and the power to actually run the corporation may be vested in people who aren't owners at all! While the owners collectively can replace the officers and directors, each owner individually may have very little power."

I understand your objection, but I disagree—owners do have a moral responsibility for what their property does, generally. That a corporation has any number of owners, and those owners may lack direct power, should be an issue for owners to contemplate when deciding whether or not to invest. There's a little too much Eichmann in your argument for my tastes.

"This is in fact the justification for limiting their liability. Facilitating the pooling of investment capital is seen as very useful, but no one would buy in if doing so meant subjecting oneself to joint and several liability for the actions of people one has little if any real control over."

I wouldn't argue for a total abolishment of legal liability, as it is indeed useful and necessary for investment. However, I believe that the pendulum has swung too far toward excusing owners from the moral responsibility they should hold. In fact, that limited liability is pretty much the definition of privatizing profit while socializing risk, which I feel has been abused of late by a minuscule percentage of corporations to the detriment of a fairly huge number of people.

"I don't think claiming that limited liability and corporate personhood have sometimes been used to the "detriment of society" really says much."

Well, duh. That's why I didn't think that the FPP was all that deep.

"If truly all you're saying is "sometimes corporate personhood and limited liability have lead to bad results," you're right, but it's kind of a weird thing to say. Imagine if someone said "sometimes free speech has lead to bad results." You'd think they were going somewhere with that."

But now we're getting too shallow. To move on to your free speech analogy, and connect it back to corporate personhood, I believe that free speech has been used by corporations to hurt people. But because I view them as fundamentally different than actual people, I have no real problem in treating corporations more restrictively when it comes to the exercise of that free speech.
posted by klangklangston at 8:30 PM on December 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Voting is a pure form of currency, aside from the one we collectively print and insure to facilitate a demand economy. When the economy fails for anyone, they should vote to make up the difference. All arguments to the contrary are circular. Money is res publica, a thing of the people.
posted by Brian B. at 8:36 PM on December 23, 2007


re: fulfilling existing, unmet needs

paul collier has an idea in the bottom billion, cf. the bottom of the pyramid and the next 4 billion, also btw merry christmas from mawulé agbeka :D

cheers!
posted by kliuless at 8:55 PM on December 23, 2007


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.

Holding minority shareholders individually responsible for actions of a corporation merely due to their status as shareholders is profoundly counterintuitive to me. Your general statement, "owners do have a moral responsibility for what their property does," just sounds completely bizarre to me, unless you want to heavily qualify it.

I can't really comment on the rest of what you say, since I don't understand your perspective on the moral issue, and from a purely pragmatic perspective, it seems sure to do much more harm than good.

To clarify, I'm all in favor of pursuing corporate directors and officers (and shareholders, for that matter) who commit wrong acts of their own (e.g. through directing corporate wrong acts), but I need a wrong act by the person being held responsible, not merely a wrong ownership. The latter feels too much like status liability.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 9:02 PM on December 23, 2007


The latter feels too much like status liability.

I knew we'd hit class warfare in this thread, eventually.
posted by eclectist at 10:39 PM on December 23, 2007


Just wondering what Mathowie thinks? Also wondering how much influence Jess and Cortex have on his view?

Our world. Our ^ "world" leaders".^


The mind you give up, may be your own.
posted by LiveLurker at 11:04 PM on December 23, 2007


"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "I need a wrong act by the person being held responsible, not merely a wrong ownership"

The owners of stocks have sometimes the right to vote in the general annual assembly of the company, so that their will can be expressed and eventually the board of directors can be sent home. If the stock owners decide to let the board do whatever the board deems fit to do, it's their own choice and they carry both the power and the responsability of being able to do that. I don't need a "wrong" or "right" act, I need an act ..that of pre-approving board decisions without preventive oversight, which is also done for practical reasons as the decision process would become too cumbersome, but that excuses nothing.

So if the action of the board ends up damaging collectivity somehow, I don't care if the stock owners didn't know, as they failed to stop them or direct them otherwise.

Similarly, if you give anybody a car you may not be imprisoned for murder if he kills somebody with that car, but you should be liable for willingly give him the keys. In a company with limited liability your liability wouldn't extend to your personal belongings and you would only lose the car, which may be enough of a punishment if you really didn't know the driver had a DUI history. Yet what if you just didn't care to check ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:14 AM on December 24, 2007


Similarly, if you give anybody a car you may not be imprisoned for murder if he kills somebody with that car, but you should be liable for willingly give him the keys.

I don't think you're being honest with me. On a day to day basis, I don't think you actually consider people culpable merely because they fail to stop actions they don't know about, haven't instructed, and don't even wish. I'm not sure why you're claiming you do, but if I were to speculate, I would guess you don't like corporations very much.

Do you have any employees? Would you really feel fairly treated if one of them committed a wrong of some sort, without your knowledge, and not in any way according to your instructions, but you were held personally responsible anyway, on the theory that perhaps you could've shadowed the employee 24/7 and prevented him from doing wrong? Would you honestly feel that justice had been done?

Also, it might interest you to learn that under most states' laws, the shareholders largely cannot oversee the directors' day to day decisions. The management of a corporation vests exclusively in the directors and officers, not the shareholders.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 2:34 AM on December 24, 2007


bruce: i dunno alasdair, how far are you willing to go? no more patents or copyrights? no more vice laws? do we really need to license drivers? animal cruelty laws are also a government infringement on personal choice. i support capitalism within the american constitutional framework. i have, on several occasions, sworn an oath to uphold the constitution. are you pro-constitution or anti-constitution?

Well, I'm a social liberal (I think that's the right label) so I'm quite up for scrapping vice laws (assuming you mean laws against prostitution). Animal cruelty seems okay to me: we don't mind it in farming, and I don't have an ethical objection. I certainly opposed the hunting ban on grounds of personal liberty. I have wondered about scrapping driving licences in favour of an order that an individual cannot drive, handed down by a court in response to a traffic offence. But I'm sure we could find something that I did agree should restrict individual liberty for the sake of the general good, which is your point. So yes, you're right, we have to make compromises in our freedom of action to live together, and more compromises at higher population densities and in conditions of restricted resources.

The argument, I think, is where these compromises fall. Driving licenses are probably good. Vice laws are bad. Drug laws are bad. Limited intellectual property laws are good. Animal cruelty laws depend on the animal. You'll have a different set. But I would agree with the general rule that "you can do anything unless the law says not" and "you should be as free to do stuff as possible". I suspect you're in largely in agreement with me.

Where's all this going? Well, the post is about some people who have identified some more compromises we should make for the general good. Within our general rules, are these compromises reasonable? You and I can't just say "Never restrict personal freedom!" because we've agreed that to live together we have to do that. So we have to look at the specific issues raised by the post, not just say "those people think they're better than us!" In this case, I'm concerned that television-led consumerism is damaging our social fabric and am interested in solutions to that. But am I right? And even if it is a problem, is the state the right agent to fix it? What do you think?

I'm anti-constitution because I'm a loyal subject of Her Majesty, so I regard the lot of you as villainous traitors and rebels. Just kidding. I love America and Americans, and I have the highest regard for your constitution and society. It's a noble and exciting experiment. If it doesn't work out I'll certainly support your entry to the Commonwealth and EU, and if the EU doesn't work out may we apply to be another State or four?
posted by alasdair at 3:16 AM on December 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "I would guess you don't like corporations very much."

On the contrary I do like the idea of limited liability, so much that I almost gasp at the notion that such an ingenious idea could fall in unscrupolous, egotic driven, short sighted control. Some use it to escape responsability, but as there is no escaping from factual consequences, I do see such people as parasites and not enterpreneurs, even if they pretend to be a gift from heaven.

"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "I don't think you actually consider people culpable merely because they fail to stop actions they don't know about, haven't instructed, and don't even wish."

Of course not, but they did give away their control when they voted the board and subsequently failed to oversee the board action. It could be that the board/employee decided to ignore the instructions or managed to escape a 24/7 ideal suirvellance somehow, but it still is the stockholder responsability. The board will then answer for their reckless disregard of stockholder instruction TO the stockholder, but the clients will satisfy themselves on stockholders capital.

Problem is the company may not have enough capital to answer for the directors mess, but that is what happens when one enters in business with a limited liability company, you don't know if you will ever be paid or reimbursed for damages, so that's why one has to charge them for the risk.

"Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys writes "under most states' laws, the shareholders largely cannot oversee the directors' day to day decisions."

Oh nice trick, the law doesn't allow that, so they stockholders cannot be faulted for a wrong law ? Of course the rationale is that too many shareholders would interfere with the decision process by slowing it down, but what if they form a group represented by 2-3 person and sit on the board and decide on a daily basis ? That's probably unconvenient too, so the best way is to just make the shareholder responsible of whatever is done by the director.

The bucket has to stop somewhere and it must not be an imaginary being.
posted by elpapacito at 4:33 AM on December 24, 2007


Deathalicious : Are you an American?

Yes.

If so, you can't have missed all of those ads that featured a camera rolling down an aisle in a supermarket while some narrator went on about choice and freedom?

I guess I did. What were they advertisements for?

And the fact that the first thing we were supposed to do after 9/11 was shop?

Yeah, I remember Bush saying that people shouldn't change their spending habits out of fear of terrorism. I thought it was silly and toadyish too. That still isn't remotely the same thing as "commerce is liberty."

It's all about life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness more stuff.

Again, no one says this. It's a straw man to assert that this or "commerce equals liberty" are widely held principles or are the principles of your polemical opponents when your purpose is to demonize capitalism and consumerism.
posted by XMLicious at 9:04 AM on December 24, 2007


Maybe people really would prefer cheap but slightly dangerous meat over more expensive but perfectly safe meat. It's not necessarily irrational to forgo spending on safety measures. On the other hand, maybe people don't actually have a good idea of how dangerous the meat is.

that was a movie (and a book ;) cheers!
posted by kliuless at 11:10 AM on December 24, 2007


On the contrary I do like the idea of limited liability, so much that I almost gasp at the notion that such an ingenious idea could fall in unscrupolous, egotic driven, short sighted control.

You like it so much that you want to get rid of it? What?

Of course not, but they did give away their control when they voted the board and subsequently failed to oversee the board action. It could be that the board/employee decided to ignore the instructions or managed to escape a 24/7 ideal suirvellance somehow, but it still is the stockholder responsability.

Didn't you read what I wrote earlier? Shareholders do not have the authority to oversee the board in the way you're suggesting. They can't, so it's nonsense to suggest they must.

I want to hear your honest answer to my question earlier about having an employee. If you don't have an employee, pretend you do.

Oh nice trick, the law doesn't allow that, so they stockholders cannot be faulted for a wrong law ? Of course the rationale is that too many shareholders would interfere with the decision process by slowing it down, but what if they form a group represented by 2-3 person and sit on the board and decide on a daily basis ?

That has the exact same problem as before! People aren't responsible for their representatives' actions when their representatives act without their knowledge or direction. Do you feel personally responsible for the wrongdoing of government officials?

I still don't think you're being intellectually honest here, because I honestly can't imagine anyone thinking what you claim to think. I'd really like to hear your answer to the employee question.
posted by "Tex" Connor and the Wily Roundup Boys at 12:33 PM on December 24, 2007


Even Directors don't have a huge amount of control over day-to-day company operations or sometimes even long-term strategy. See Roy Disney's battle with Michael Eisner.
posted by ryanrs at 2:54 PM on December 24, 2007


I'm not sure if this is too glib, but since allowing for limited financial exposure seems to be broadly accepted, isn't limited legal exposure a good idea as well? I suspect this is a facile point, but it seems reasonable to me that some good could come of a system that assigns some legal peril in proportion to both operational authority and ownership, since the two are hard to separate.
posted by ~ at 11:44 AM on December 25, 2007


This isn't really a criticism of markets, though, since no one claims that unfettered markets are efficient when the market players have imperfect information. It's quite possible that our advertising culture is causing market failures by misleading market participants, but I think this presupposes that someone knows what value people should ideally assign to different goods and services (or at least knows better), and I'm not sure this is true.

I can't parse this passage, because so much of it is loaded language. For example, what does "ideally" mean in this context? It seems like handwaving to make the problem identified in the first sentence and the first half of the second sentence go away quietly. But it must have meaning, because it was favorited by several people and I assume they understood it enough to really like it.

Now the ability of advertising and "marketing" to make sure a critical mass of individuals have what the poster would call "imperfect information" is validated by the market place, i.e., it is successful at making money (thanks, S. Colbert), so perhaps the failure of the market is in the ability of large amounts of capital to not only generate goods and services but also to generate a demand that does not sustain the cycle of enhancement upon which a healthy economy rests. If fulfilling the media-created demand leads to a less productive society, then evenutally economic activity will slow and stagnate, leading to violent dislocations and the attendant social ills. Treating this all as benign side effects of a gloriously beneficent invisible hand seems a bit jaded.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2007


fwiw, Happiness Machines :D
"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." It focuses on how Freud's ideas were used by business and government, far more deliberately and extensively than one might imagine, during the 20th century to achieve what Curtis calls "the engineering of consent."
cheers!
posted by kliuless at 7:32 AM on December 29, 2007


...the rest of the series...
posted by kliuless at 7:40 AM on December 29, 2007


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