The Economics of Consumption

By Charles S. Wyand | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 19
CONSUMER GOALS

On the basis of the foregoing materials we are forced to the conclusion that the average consumer's position is, in many respects, as unenviable as that of the average producer. For both must function in markets where the fecundity of the modern machine has in large measure destroyed the conditions of extreme scarcity upon which extensive profit rests. The seller is, therefore, frequently forced to misrepresent his product or lose in the competitive race for markets. And the consumer finds the effective satisfaction of his wants frustrated in the process. It is no longer a matter of personal option. A sufficient number of unscrupulous enterprisers exist to make it extremely difficult for the honest merchant to dispose of his wares without resorting to unethical, albeit conventional, sales tactics. As a result, the misrepresentation of goods and the misstatement of fact have become so common- place as to be accepted widely today as a legitimate part of merchandising. When an official of one of the nation's largest and most reputable advertising agencies can blandly inform the American Medical Association that advertising copy cannot be effective if it is more than 70% truthful,1 the terms "commercial honesty and integrity" have become little more than figures of speech.

Nor can the potentially honest merchant do much about the situation. The cherished American policy with regard to the relationship between government and business is one of strict laissez faire. In the minds of successful enterprisers there is no sounder maxim than that of "no government in business." The few so- called "regulatory" bodies maintained by the government are so completely dominated by business-minded individuals or are so inadequately staffed and financed as to be practically worthless as policing agencies. The honest merchant who appeals to them for the abolition of unscrupulous albeit profitable trade practices is frequently looked upon as a nuisance.2 At best he can only win an

____________________
1
Cf. ch. 10.
2
It is of course true that there are at all times a few government agents who seek

-506-

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