In 1999 Coca-Cola developed a vending machine programmed to raise prices during hot weather. Within a few months Coca-Cola’s stock price had fallen 20 percent. Could it be that admitting that demand influenced prices turned away consumers, who did not want to hear the dirty little secret aired? Or was it the fact that EU regulators began investigating Coca-Cola’s alleged anticompetitive practices in Europe? Probably both. Pursuing the economic model in a sense is required by U.S. law, but not talking about it is required by consumers, who like to think that the world is a stable, orderly place, with prices inherent in the makeup of a product—like color or taste—and thus unchanging. The rage for order in all of society, including economic life, was announced by a Chinese poet in 250 B.C.:
Therefore, in the Government of the Sage:
He empties their minds,
And fills their bellies,
Weakens their ambition,
And strengthens their bones.
He constantly causes the people to be
without knowledge and without desires.
If he can bring it about that those
with knowledge simply do
not dare to act,
Then there will be nothing that is not in order …
Heaven and Earth are not humane;
They regard the ten thousand things