The Economics of Consumption

By Charles S. Wyand | Go to book overview

the tender mercies of the laissez faire principle, nor to fall asleep in his role of roi faineant. He needs must defend his interests energetically, for they are also the interests of society; therein lies their superiority."1

Grasping all of this slowly, men have become increasingly aware of their vulnerability both as producers and as consumers. A few have already learned that, as knowledge of the consumer and of his problems grows, production becomes more a precise attempt to fill precise needs and less a series of "fliers" with the element of risk proportionately large. Consumption begins to replace its characteristically crude and wasteful methods with a more careful and ordered attempt to make wealth yield maximum satisfaction. Ironically, in reaching what Stuart Chase has erroneously called an Economy of Abundance, we have found conflict keener and more confusing than ever. In the process, however, the welfare of the dominant economic personalities has become closely interrelated with that of the great mass of the consuming population. It is now more apparent than ever that the further development of our economic life, a closer approach to the maximum satisfaction of human wants, largely depends upon the expansion of our knowledge of consumption and its processes.


Summary

To make life possible or worthwhile, men seek to satisfy their wants through productive effort. But the totality of human wants is insatiable and the available wealth limited. Therefore, men are in constant conflict for a maximum share of this wealth or for the privilege of using their available resources most efficiently. Under individualism and laissez faire the consumer, being unorganized and relatively inarticulate, becomes the prey of other economic interests. However, since production is but the means to the end of satisfying human wants, the creation of utility without reference to consumption leads to conditions of economic chaos. It follows that, in the existing complex and interrelated economic structure, profitable production and efficient consumption are in large part functions of the amount of information available concerning the consumer and consumption.

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1
Gide C., Political Economy, American translation of the 3rd edition, D. C. Heath and Co., pp. 700-701.

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