Monday, February 13, 2012

Evil Corporatist Consumers

In this chapter Frank begins showing the darwinian side of his argument but not before establishing that he is a 'good guy' and not a silly stupid wing-nut. Is the pandering truly necessary? Frank talks of libertarians as if they are members of some great inhumane cult praising the market as the great provider. And though there may be some or even many that hold this view of faith in the market, it doesn't really matter. A market is not some magical provider of goods and services it is not some ocean that ebbs and flows based on the S&P 500. A market is a description of the natural allocation of scarce goods and services between individuals.
However, his view of the rights' faithful relationship with the market is only a distraction from what is the truly important mistake in his argument. Ignoring the ad-hominem, the poor biology and the moral sentiments just look to his separation of people. Frank talks about the dichotomy between producer and consumer, erring on the side of the evil or greedy producer. He describes advertising as "...Madison Avenue hucksters [persuading] consumers to want..." So now supply can create demand? Frank even refutes his own claim with failed advertising examples, but then tries to dismiss them as the exception to some arcane rule. Advertising can create a preference but a demand for spending must already exist. Demand is not a measurement of want but a measurement of willingness and ability. I might want to buy a restored Series III Landrover but I can not afford one so I am not part of the demand curve. This is however a digression from the point that Frank does not understand what a producer is.

Let me elaborate:
Producers = Consumers
Buyers = Sellers
Individuals = Traders
People = People
Groups =/= Individuals

A producer is a consumer. A consumer is not necessarily someone pushing a cart at a Walmart or a Wholefoods Market. A business can be a consumer. It will likely need to be. The notion that a producer is trying to screw other producers and consumers is scale-able. This applies to consumers as well. The issue that arises with this is not the greed or malice, it is the potential for a higher economy of scale. This is a group problem. A group can better economize the malicious process. This however, is only a problem when the group is not subject to the same rules as individuals.
Under Smith's notion inefficient production will lead to reaction from corrective market forces. This seems like an acceptable response to the fear of the arms race. The only place I see this as a problem is the groups that can cheat and enter into an arms race with no risk of repercussion, no check on inefficient behavior. I am of course talking about the state, the very tool one must assume Frank hopes to enact a tax on envy.


  1. Reread the quote talking about Madison Avenue Hucksters. You miss characterized what is being said here.

  2. I read the offending paragraphs several times and I conclude that his main point is that markets are actually efficient enough to validate the "libertarian" assumptions. I think Garrett is correct that you are mischaracterizing his point here.

    However, without trying to sound like I'm agreeing with everyone, your main point about producers and consumers being the same is crucial. It's something I harped on during my talk about monopolies in Sherri's class last semester (Jack? Adam? Khrisstian? Where are my poster boys?).