Economics

Get a Raincheck on Buy Nothing Day (Audio Commentary Forthcoming)

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Later today, I'll be on the NPR show Marketplace doing a commentary that takes some shots at the annual observance of Buy Nothing Day, an anti-consumerist protest spearheaded by Adbusters.

We'll post audio and the script once they are available. If you want to listen live, go here for a map of stations that broadcast Marketplace, which typically airs between 4pm and 6.30pm in your local time zone.

Back in 2000, Jacob Sullum reviewed Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America, by Adbusters' big wheel Kalle Lasn. Read his critique here.

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  1. Shoot. Now I have to go buy something. What was it my wife wanted for Christmas?

    Two recent, high-profile disaster warnings outline the sudden urgency of our dilemma. First, in October, a global warming report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted that climate change will lead to the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen. Soon after, a major study published in the journal Science forecast the near-total collapse of global fisheries within 40 years.

    So consumerism is no big deal. According to these guys the problem will solve itself.

    I’ll just ask for a Wal*Mart gift card for Christmas and use it to buy ammo.

  2. Advertisng is mostly profit driven, bullshit, propoganda. However, occasionally advertising actually disseminates useful information. e.g. “That sure is a nifty product. Why didn’t I think of that?”
    If you can honestly say this has never happened to you, I’d really like to hear your story.

    P.S. I imagine 20-30% of the adult population can filter out the BS. Politically, they tend to lean Libertarian.

  3. I don’t buy anything (in meatspace) on the day after Thanksgiving because I don’t want to fight the crowds.

  4. Ahh, the anti-brand. I really do appreciate what they do, even if all their marketing is the same thing as the marketing they rail against. But here is my experience: their black spot shoes looked cool to me, so I bought a pair along with one of their hate-the-marketing-world DVD’s. The shoes came about two months later, and the DVD never came. The shoes fell apart after about 3 months, and despite several emails to them, I still haven’t received the stupid DVD. Perhaps they should hone their message: “we’re not anti-branding, we’re just anti-customer service!”

    National buy nothing day is a cool idea…like flying cars. I like adbusters as a critical organization. They are inept as an organization trying to take action.

  5. I don’t give a damn about AdBusters or Buy Nothing Day…but after too many years working in the restaurant business and a couple of seasons in retail through college, I don’t go within 10 miles of a shopping center on Black Friday.

    Too many people, too much hassle, too much rudeness, too little patience and too much urgency. I might as well go to work.

  6. In psychology, it’s called projection.

  7. Almost every day is Buy Nothing Day for me but I will make a special effort to buy something on Nov 25.

    It seems to me that these people obsess about “consumerism” in about the same way that christian fundies obsess about sex.

  8. From reading the posts, there appears to be an amusing convergence here between anti-capitalists who object to other people spending money and arch-capitalist libertarians who don’t want to spend their own money.

  9. Aresen,

    Good point. When people have to spend their own money, instead of other peoples, they tend to me more frugile. This means fewer worthless purchesses (the stuff you buy and then stick in the attick for 40 years) and more resource conservation. Capitalism and conservation go hand in hand.

  10. jtuf

    Can’t disagree with you, but unlike the Adbusters types, libertarians don’t give a damn if you want to spend your own money, however stupidly.

  11. jtuf/Aresen

    I am not sure you understand the “Adbusters types.” These are people who are criticizing aspects of our culture that they see as counter productive. It is the same motivation as a libertarian criticizing the tendency to use government to solve problems when there might be other private solutions to that problem.

    It is possible to believe in the American market system, and still believe that Americans waste a lot of their money on useless shit they don’t need.

  12. MsM

    I may think someone is spending wastefully, but I am not going to lecture them about it or pretend that my choices are “superior” to theirs. When I refer to “Adbuster types”, the referent is in context of this posting and describes those who want to lecture and condescend to those who they think unwisely. In another context, I might have said “Nader types.”

  13. “I may think someone is spending wastefully, but I am not going to lecture them about it or pretend that my choices are “superior” to theirs.”

    Unless, of course, their choice is to support wasteful government spending…

    ;^)

  14. By the way… you might try replacing “lecturing” with “attempt to convince” and see if you have the same problem with the activity.

  15. “Capitalism and conservation go hand in hand.”

    And, of course, the company selling a worthless product has no stake in trying to use persuasion (nay even untruths) to increase sales of the worthless product. There are ways that market forces can be leveraged towards conservationist ends, but there is certainly a polarity between the goals of those selling products and those that think we should be more frugal with our resources.

  16. Did anyone actually look at video?

    http://www.adbusters.org/videos/player.php?v=bnd

    Notice the dramatic landfill footage and clear-cut? Or the statement “a world that could die?”

  17. What is or is not “worthless” is in the eye of the beholder. Or perhaps we should set up a government agency which will tell us what is and what is not “worthless?”

    In a dynamic, capitalist economy consumers get to figure out what is and what is not worthless.

  18. Should I have bought those expensive snow shoes; I mean, clearly to some people they are “worthless.”

  19. Aresen: “I may think someone is spending wastefully, but I am not going to lecture them about it or pretend that my choices are “superior” to theirs.”

    MSM: Unless, of course, their choice is to support wasteful government spending…

    Lecturing a person about how he spends his money is condescending, lecturing him about how he spends my money is not.

  20. Zeno,

    I believe BP uses the same footage to sell their products.

    Adbusters thinks that advertising has the power to convince people that a certain behavior is in that person’s benefit, whether or not it is. They, therefore, think this is a tool that can be used to further their own agenda. Their agenda is selling a way of life, or a way of thinking. Just as the makers of the 6 bladed razor are selling you a line of bull when they tell you that your sex life will improve if you buy their razor, adbusters will sell you a line of bull to get you thinking about your role as a consumer and its connection to problems of environmental sustainability and the like. If they convince you, based on false pretenses, that you have been buying a lot of worthless shit that is harming the planet, they have achieved their goals.

    “Lecturing a person about how he spends his money is condescending, lecturing him about how he spends my money is not.”

    I knew you were gonna say that. This, of course, brings up the issue of externality in the market place. Adbusters types would point out that the choices you make may have a negative impact on our shared resources. You lecture about how using government funds “wastes” you share of a shared resource (government resources). They are lecturing you about how your use of your money impacts their share of a shared resource (natural capital). It is the same point, really.

  21. I see a distinction between libertarianism and objectionism. Libertarians forbid the initiation of force, so they would oppose government restrictions on how someone spends his money, no matter how foolish that person’s choices might be. Objectionist argue that each person should decide by himself, because tastes differ so much that other people’s opinions aren’t helpful. I’m a libertarian, but I still think that politely pointing out a friend’s mistakes can be a good thing if not done to excess.

  22. jtuf

    Objectionists?
    Do you mean Objectivists?

    Objectionists just complain about everything.

    I object
    I object

  23. MSM,

    Sorry, I am not moved by hyperbole.

  24. “I still think that politely pointing out a friend’s mistakes can be a good thing if not done to excess.”

    It’s about as safe as telling a mother that her child is ugly.

  25. “Sorry, I am not moved by hyperbole.” –Zeno

    Neither am I.
    I have never been moved by hyperbole.
    Not once in my whole life has it ever moved me.
    Not even for a second.

  26. From the Buy Nothing Day press release:

    Buy Nothing Day activists aim to challenge themselves, their families and their friends to switch off from shopping and tune back into life for one day.

    Ha! As is the purchase of goods and services that you desire isn’t part of life.

    The global event is celebrated as a relaxed family holiday, as a non-commercial street party, or even as a politically charged public protest.

    Oh, so a street party where folks may enter into voluntary commercial exchange with other folks to acquire things that they value is not approved of?? Why would anyone take this stuff seriously? These Ad Buster guys are just obnoxious busybodies. And if they really wanted a happier world, they would be organizing public protests against government activity, which inhibits the economic freedom that is capitalism.

  27. Advertisng is mostly profit driven, bullshit, propoganda. However, occasionally advertising actually disseminates useful information. e.g. “That sure is a nifty product. Why didn’t I think of that?” If you can honestly say this has never happened to you, I’d really like to hear your story.

    Happened today:

    http://www.sawstop.com/

  28. It is the same point, really.

    No, it’s really not. Claiming that any action a person takes has some impact on others does not make lecturing him about his choice any less condescending or there would be no such thing as condescension. Now, I suppose it is possible that in some rare cases the externality is so great as to mitigate the condescension a bit. However, that fact certainly does not place the typical whining about a person’s private choice of how to spend his own money in the same realm as complaining about how someone wishes to take and spend another person’s money. It is not the same point at all.

    Let me make it clear, though, that I’m not saying they shouldn’t try to persuade people to think like they do – they have every right to be condescending, of course.

    I knew you were gonna say that.

    Oh, baiting a response. How clever.

  29. The difference between “Adbusters types” and “Nader types” is most clear in the role of government. Adbusters uses marketing to push its message, while Nader’s goal is to use government regulation.

    As to whether it’s condescending, so what? The tone of the message is the choice of adbusters, and frankly, I don’t see how one can make any kind of societal criticism without being seen as condescending. Condescending criticisms are inseperable from questions of taste. When I tell you that your beloved Walmart sucks, that’s condescending. When you reply that Walmart is saving the world and the poor, that’s also condescending. Did anybody see David “rosy cheeks” Brooks’ column on our culture of condescention? Link to non-Times Select version A point is never wrong because it is condescending. Adbusters, just like any other movement, should be taken with a grain of salt, but they aren’t totally off the mark.

  30. “Ha! As if the purchase of goods and services that you desire isn’t part of life. ”

    Who said it wasn’t?

    But would you say that it deserves the central importance placed on it by our current culture? Many people who are shopping today are dreading the activity, and yet they do it anyway. Not because they desire it, but because they think the “need” to get it done. I would say pointing out that their sense of “need” is misplaced isn’t such a radical goal…even if the buy nothing day is a bit silly.

  31. “I knew you were gonna say that.

    Oh, baiting a response. How clever.”

    No Brian,
    When I read your name at the top of the comment and saw that you were entering the discussion, I knew what you were gonna say.

  32. This might not be a good day to shop at some places for some folks if they have time considerations. But that’s a subjective decision for the individual to make.

    What’s worrisome about the Ad Buster idiots is they probably have no compunctions against forcing their anti-market sensibilities on us via the government, thus depriving us of our individual choice.

  33. Buy Nothing Day activists aim to challenge themselves, their families and their friends to switch off from shopping and tune back into life for one day.
    Having gone shopping with different women I will say that, to alot of women, shopping is a very enjoyable part of life. The ability to spend six hours shopping, spend $20.00, and say they had a great time truly amazes me. Perhaps that danged Y chromosom prevents me from appreciating the experience.

  34. “What’s worrisome about the Ad Buster idiots is they probably have no compunctions against forcing their anti-market sensibilities on us via the government, thus depriving us of our individual choice.”

    That’s just bullshit.
    These guys are dedicated to using the means they use to convince you. They have never advocated regulations.

  35. The difference between “Adbusters types” and “Nader types” is most clear in the role of government. Adbusters uses marketing to push its message, while Nader’s goal is to use government regulation.

    And anyone that hasn’t realized this, and is bickering over this needs…something. Not sure what, but something.

  36. And anyone that hasn’t realized this, and is bickering over this needs…something. Not sure what, but something.

    A clue, perhaps?

    They’re on sale today for a limited time only!

    🙂


  37. A clue, perhaps?

    A clue! Better put it in our notebook.

  38. “the typical whining about a person’s private choice …”

    “It is not the same point at all.”

    See Brian, if I can continue in lecture mode.

    Your sense of the triviality of the “typical whining” about how you waste resources that we both share is not an issue. The “typical libertarian whining” about use of government resources for X program that the vast majority of people see as beneficial equates to Adbusters complaining about the fact that people feel the need to replace their 32 inch tv with a 64 inch. Most people think the 64 inch screen is enough better that it is worth using the resources…most people think government program X provides a beneficial service. Lecturing about how you are spending my resources is the same whether you are talking about government programs or consumer spending.

  39. MainstreamMan:

    Who said it wasn’t?

    It’s implied in their press release:

    “Buy Nothing Day activists aim to challenge themselves, their families and their friends to switch off from shopping and tune back into life for one day.”

    They don’t have the courage to be clear and say that it’s living life in a way that they object to, so they just make the ridiculous insinuation that it’s not a part of life.

    But would you say that it deserves the central importance placed on it by our current culture?

    That’s interesting question. I think that it does indeed deserve the central importance placed on it by our current culture if that is due to the voluntary choice of individuals in an environment absent of coercion from government or criminals pushing that result, even if it’s not necessarily how you or I or any other individual might choose to order our priorities.

  40. Lamar

    I see your point about condescending, but I’m not sure that the description is apt. I would say certainly not if the information is pertinent, sought after, and delivered in ‘equals’ mode.

    Possibly not if two sides are arguing an issue. As a group, the lot of us are a fairly self-assured bunch, to put it mildly, and often the posts here carry more than a little condescension. Some posters, notably thoreau, are willing to patiently analyse an opponent’s position, accept an opponent’s valid arguments, state their own positions and give their analysis without personal attacks or an air of superiority.

    I think we find the Adbuster types infuriating because of their implication that anyone who is spending money in what they deem ‘socially acceptable’ ways is both insensitive and irresponsible.

  41. Oh, self-righteous busybodies of all stripes have every right to point out the error of my ways.

    And I have every right to mock them.

  42. What follows illustrates why libertarians are right to be concerned about these busybodies:

    MainstreamMan:

    That’s just bullshit.
    These guys are dedicated to using the means they use to convince you. They have never advocated regulations.

    But note that in their Buy Nothing Day press release it says:

    “The global event is celebrated as a relaxed family holiday, as a non-commercial street party, or even as a politically charged public protest.”

    “Politically charged” pretty much implies the advocacy of government action. Does it not? And it’s hard to imagine that they’re thinking about reducing government in order to reduce consumerism.

  43. TPG,
    I heard about the sawstop technology a couple of days ago (browsing ads no less) but until I saw the demo video didn’t actually think it would work the way it was advertised. Pretty damned impressive!! I am sure there will be bugs and if it doesn’t work as advertised and somebody looses a finger then they will be out of business, but kewl none the less.

  44. When people have to spend their own money, instead of other peoples, they tend to me more frugile. This means fewer worthless purchesses (the stuff you buy and then stick in the attick for 40 years) and more resource conservation. Capitalism and conservation go hand in hand.

    jtuf,

    This isn’t even close to accurate and, indeed, makes no sense.

    The more money one has – regardless of where they got it – the more they spend. And the more money one has beyond covering basic needs (food, water, shelter) the more they’ll spend on useless crap.

    Capitalism has zero to do with conservation unless there is an immediate economic incentive to do so…which there usually isn’t.

    I’m not championing conservation or dissing capitalism, BTW…I’m just pointing out the massive flaw in your reasoning.

  45. I advocate less government consumption of my freedom. Does that count?

  46. madpad

    I think there is a mild link in that capitalists attempt to use resources in the way which will generate the most profit; i.e. maximize cost/benefit. There is certainly no incentive to “waste” a resource.

    I am not ignoring situations such as industrial waste being dumped into rivers. Those situations arise due to a lack of anyone having an ‘ownership’ interest in the river.

  47. “Politically charged” pretty much implies the advocacy of government action. Does it not?

    It does not…you’re getting hysterical, Rick.

    It’s possible to protest politically in a fashion that spurs folks to change their actions or thinking and promotes businesses to move in new directions without calling for regulation.

    If I rememeber correctly, that’s pretty much the foundation of the libertarian movement.

  48. The more money one has – regardless of where they got it – the more they spend. And the more money one has beyond covering basic needs (food, water, shelter) the more they’ll spend on useless crap.

  49. Kwix & TPG,

    I can’t remember where I heard about sawstop. I do know it was on one of the TV magazine-type shows (20/20 maybe) a couple of years ago.

    At that time the inventor was trying to sell it to the toolmakers like Delta and Ryobai but was being rejected.

    They apparently were not willing to take the liability risk.

  50. Oops, that was an inadvertant (dumbass) post.

  51. Oh, I watched that Sawstop ad and immediately wanted a hot dog, so I went to the kitchen and made one.

    There’s that irresistable power of advertising again.

  52. The more money one has – regardless of where they got it – the more they spend. And the more money one has beyond covering basic needs (food, water, shelter) the more they’ll spend on useless crap.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s see, beans and rice, a bathroom at the end of the hall, a room to sleep in. Maybe we should get extravagant and get two changes of clothes. Nobody needs anything else as it’s all “useless crap”.

  53. Rick

    “Who said it wasn’t?

    It’s implied in their press release:”

    Sorry, but that is what you inferred from their press release, not what was implied. There is an important difference.

  54. Understood Aresen…but there’s usually no incentive to NOT waste either. And since efforts beyond basic exploitation of a resource usually mean spending more money, that becomes a disincentive to conserve.

    Good point about ownership, BTW…and that’s probably a factor in some industries. And I’m not ignoring certain industries and players who make conservation part of the business model…but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.

  55. See Brian, if I can continue in lecture mode.

    You have another mode? 🙂

    Lecturing about how you are spending my resources is the same whether you are talking about government programs or consumer spending.

    So, exactly which resources of yours are being spent when someone buys a new TV?

  56. J sub D,

    Well…yeah…but I wouldn’t have put it that way. But I guess you could.

    Just as one man’s useless crap is another man’s comic book collection, One man’s beans & rice is another man’s filet mignon.

    But in either case, the same core principle hold true…the more you got, the more you’ll spend. And once you’ve covered (what you feel are) your basic necessities, you’ll most likely start spending on other stuff…including useless crap.

  57. “And it’s hard to imagine that they’re thinking about reducing government in order to reduce consumerism.”

    From the Adbuster’s website:

    “Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century….We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest. We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.”

    Seems closer to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon than a call for increased government to me. Anarchy was originally an anticapitalist idea since there is so much interdependency between captialists and government once you get past naive idealisms.

  58. It does not…you’re getting hysterical, Rick.

    Now God Damn it, madpad. You better f***king mean hysterical-Ha ha and not hysterical-crazy cuz I’VE BEEN TAKING MY MEDICATION, JERK! ANYWAY, HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? DO YOU KNOW? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE??

    🙂

    It’s possible to protest politically in a fashion that spurs folks to change their actions or thinking and promotes businesses to move in new directions without calling for regulation.

    But that’s not what the word “political” means. That type of protest is better called “social protest”. No matter how you try tp put a benign face on the matter, I don’t think we can view the Ad Buster folks as being respectful of individual liberty.

  59. “So, exactly which resources of yours are being spent when someone buys a new TV?”

    I think the “exactly” part of that request is a bit technical, but I will go with a general response. Any degradation of a clean water source, clean air source, or ecosystem, used in production or disposal of the TV spends some of my (or rather, our shared) resources. These things are not typically included in the price of the item, and you (Brian Courts) obviously are not thinking of them when you buy something.

    Wikipedia has a nice short article on the problem of externalities. Negative externalities are what Adbusters is concerned with and why they do what they do. Libertarianism as a general political philosophy fails or succeeds (at least in part) to the extent that it fails/succeeds in dealing with externalities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality

  60. TP’sG – Damn, just watching those videos makes me feel icky and want to watch my fingers carefully. Cool technology, though.

  61. “You have another mode? :)”

    Sure.
    Mode 1. Lecture
    Mode 2. Rant
    Mode 3. Tutor
    Mode 4. Patronize
    Mode 5. Mock
    Mode 6. Pick up sticks

  62. What we really need is a National Non-Smugness Day.

  63. “We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.”

    I’d buy (now they’re mad) your spin on it, MainstreamMan, if it said something about expressing their anger thru voluntary action and eschewing government “solutions”.

  64. Hey Rick:
    How long after you realized you were wrong did it take you to dig up that quote and use it out of context?

    Weighing in on or recognizing a “politically charged” issue does not mean that the person weighing in views politics as the solution. Ad Busters is pretty clear that it is a social movement, as you say. Show me one politician that they have supported, financially or in print.

    More importantly, here is their mission statement, which (1) identifies itself as a social movement and (2) says nothing about empowering government to do anything: We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century.

  65. But that’s not what the word “political” means.

    Maybe you shouldlook up the word ‘politics’ on wikipedia. THUMBNAIL: Politics is the process of attempting to exert influence over the actions of an organization.

    From my point of view, that fits.

    I don’t think we can view the Ad Buster folks as being respectful of individual liberty.

    Well of course they don’t…they’re trying to change peoples behavior to their own view of what’s right. But I still see no attempt to regulate that behavior, which if I understand, is your objection.

  66. Rick,

    I don’t keep close tabs on the Adbusters, but I have never heard them advocate a government-based solution to a problem. They don’t tend to see the government and the corporations as aseparate power structures. The world view of Adbusters is that the government is just an arm of the corporate power structure… and they want to reduce the power of that power structure over our lives. The typical adbuster type would like to see a reduction in the influence of BOTH government and corporations. They advocate reducing government advocacy for business in the same way that libertarians advocate reducing government limitations on business.

  67. “What we really need is a National Non-Smugness Day.”

    Thanks for that…
    I forgot

    Mode 7: Smug

    I’m more smug than you are!

  68. Wait.
    I think I have hit on the libertarian campaign slogan:

    Libertarians…we’re more smug than you are, so leave us alone.

  69. Lamar,

    Try again. I used the quote in my first post. Please provide a link to their mission statement.

  70. madpad,

    Well, I just thought of the term, “office politics” which is an example of a broader meaning that you point to.

    But don’t you think that when the Ad Busters anti-consumerist agitation inspires legislation, they welcome it.

  71. “What we really need is a National Non-Smugness Day.”

    I think I could manage 1 minute, maybe even 90 seconds. Beyond that, I’d probably pop an artery.

  72. Rick,

    As far as I see, the only area of their campaign that gets close to what you are concerned about deals with their advocacy of “True Cost Economics” which looks to restructure the relationship between business and government. It seems to be the only area where their positions deal directly with government.

    They have an informational website about the idea.

    http://adbusters.org/metas/eco/truecosteconomics/

    The general idea is that government taxation distorts the cost structures of business and that current policies are particularly unsound and should be re-structured in ways that are more in line with the true costs of doing business (in this sense they are minarchistic instead of anarchistic). Most schemes attempt to internalize externalities in some way. Some result in less taxation and less government involvement, some just shift the methods. Herman Daly is probably the most prominent advocate of this idea. He advocates moving taxation away from taxation on labor and onto taxation of resource throughput. This would provide economic incentive to be resource efficent. The current model provides incentive to be labor efficent.

  73. The Adbusters smug-ifesto

    I think the reason that Adbusters is against the government is because the government isn’t very…cool. Perhaps things would change is George W. Bush got some aviators and an angular haircut….

  74. MainstreamMan:

    They don’t tend to see the government and the corporations as separate power structures. The world view of Adbusters is that the government is just an arm of the corporate power structure…

    That’s a silly perspective from Adbusters. There are corporations that use government power and those that don’t.

    The typical adbuster type would like to see a reduction in the influence of BOTH government and corporations.

    Harmful corporate activity is very limited sans government power. Absent such power, different corporations serve individuals as each of us choose them to do so by our patronage. The harmful “influence” is that with government.

    They advocate reducing government advocacy for business in the same way that libertarians advocate reducing government limitations on business.

    Libertarians advocate reducing government advocacy for business too. It’s just as important.

  75. Any degradation of a clean water source, clean air source, or ecosystem, used in production or disposal of the TV spends some of my (or rather, our shared) resources. These things are not typically included in the price of the item, and you (Brian Courts) obviously are not thinking of them when you buy something.

    Mainstream Man: I assume you are posting this using an 8088 processor, 64K memory,a B/W monitor and a 5 1/4″ floppy drive. No? You upgraded as technology improved? What about the “degradation of a clean water source, clean air source, or ecosystem, used in production or disposal of” the computer you are using? Do I smell a teensy weensy bit of hypocrisy here?

  76. “efficent” = efficient

  77. Forgot to add: the Adbusters smug attitude extends to shitty trance music. Can you say, “the new drug music”?

  78. Libertarians…we’re more smug than you are, so leave us alone.

    Was that directed at me? Cuz if it was, I certainly didn’t mean to come off as smug and I’m sorry if what I wrote was taken that way.

  79. “You upgraded as technology improved? What about the “degradation of a clean water source, clean air source, or ecosystem, used in production or disposal of” the computer you are using? Do I smell a teensy weensy bit of hypocrisy here?”

    Not necessarily, since I considered these issues when upgrading. I went with a system (Shuttle) that uses less resources, is easily recycled, and has efficient power usage. I recycled my old system. And to be fair, I only upgraded after having my old computer for nearly a decade. It met my needs until it could no longer interface with the newer operating systems/ networks. Attention to externalities does not mean that you don’t ever buy anything. You are missing the point.

    “Libertarians advocate reducing government advocacy for business too. It’s just as important.”

    You mean you share a piece of the Adbuster mission. Amazing. Wonder if you could work together towards that end. Maybe you could hold some sort of “politically charged public protest” against government advocacy of business.

  80. Rick,

    “Was that directed at me? Cuz if it was, I certainly didn’t mean to come off as smug and I’m sorry if what I wrote was taken that way.”

    It was directed only at those to which it applies. I haven’t seen you being very smug here. I do see a certain amount of “if only people were more educated/smarter/not so stupid/informed/ they would see how our position is correct” on the H&R boards. That was the target of the slogan. You don’t think it is fitting? I think it probably applies to every political party.

    Dem’s We’re more smug than you are, we support the middle class worker.
    Rep’s WMSTYA, we protect you from the evil and the Dem’s
    Green’s WMSTYA, we care about the earth.

  81. “Harmful corporate activity is very limited sans government power. Absent such power, different corporations serve individuals as each of us choose them to do so by our patronage. The harmful “influence” is that with government.”

    This is a bit idealistic for me to swallow. While it is true that most monopolies result from a collusion between government and business, most business will do what they can do get as close as possible to monopoly status.

    Once you have monopoly or near monopoly status for a product/resource, you have the ability to exert influence that is disproportionate. Business practices that stifle competition are just as harmful as government policy that does the same.

  82. “Harmful corporate activity is very limited sans government power”

    Not to harp here (mode 8: harping), but corporate activity can be very harmful when their only concern is profit. If we stick to the environment, a corporation who has an evironmentally devastating manufacturing process that is profitable in the short run can create a huge harm, take the cash and leave the scene of the crime. Then find a new region, repeat the process, and move on again. Keeping this process out of the minds of consumers who buy the product that results isn’t too much of a challenge. We all love shiny objects. Those people near the scene of the crime may eventually rat the company out, but by that time the harm has been done.

  83. But don’t you think that when the Ad Busters anti-consumerist agitation inspires legislation, they welcome it.

    I don’t know and there’s not enough info to form a solid opinion on that. What little info there is seems to disagree with you.

    AdBusters appears to be well aware of some basics about business, economics and market forces – cheifly the limits of regulation in achieving goals.

    If AdBusters is aware that marketers respond to consumers…and their goal is to get consumers to change their minds…and they accept that regulation doesn’t change peoples minds…then maybe not.

    Rick, it’s tempting to think that everyone who wants change also wants – or will settle for – regulation. But AdBusters seems much more saavy then that. They seem to be more interested in convincing the market to change because that will force marketers to change:

    Consider this from the About Us section of their web page…

    We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest.

    There’s not one word about desiring or working for regulation anywhere on the site.

  84. We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest.

    (Madpad: “There’s not one word about desiring or working for regulation anywhere on the site”).

    If you actually think about what those two Adbuster sentences mean, you realize they mean nothing. Sound nice, mean nothing.

  85. Buy something
    Did you resist all enticements to hit the mall at dawn? If so, you made “Buy Nothing Day” backers happy. But commentator Nick Gillespie says the protest against the post-Thanksgiving shop-a-thon is a bad deal.

  86. What the world needs now is another boycott, like I need a hole in my head. 😉

  87. Just out of curiosity, do you think the Ad Busters’ folks and their fans would welcome a new piece of government regulation that restricted consumer choice or would they rail against it as government meddling? Would they welcome a new high tax on certain items they would deem socially undesirable – video games, gap jeans, nike shoes, etc.?

    Externalities are important to the argument. But since everything involves some form of externality, no matter how trivial, we should be careful of letting that argument play too powerful a role in our decision making, lest we truly be led down the road to serfdom. Let’s not forget that there are many positive externalities as well to our actions, some so subtle and/or leading to other positive externalities (which in turn spin off to other positive results and so on) that we cannot fully measure them. Taking not just the negative but also the positive externalities into account, should help restrain the amount of governmental intervention we think is necessary in economic activity.

  88. I bought some beer and some gear oil. That good enough?

  89. They’re all concerned about the Stern report. As I recall the answer to global warming is supposed to be F***ING CARBON TRADING isn’t it? Can you buy carbon on buy nothing day? Where can I suggest to these guys that they have a ‘buy nothing year’ where they can sit in a cave with no food?

  90. MainstreamMan:

    …most business will do what they can do get as close as possible to monopoly status.

    Which is a good thing cuz the only way to acquire a larger market share, sans government intervention, is by reducing prices and otherwise making the customers happy.

    Once you have monopoly or near monopoly status for a product/resource, you have the ability to exert influence that is disproportionate. Business practices that stifle competition are just as harmful as government policy that does the same.

    But the evidence is that it just doesn’t happen, without government help, in a way that harms consumers. One of the reasons why lowering prices to the extent of incurring a loss to drive out competition and then raising them back up after the competition exits the market doesn’t work is that new entrants to the market don’t have to make up the loss as the would be monopolist has to. Of course, government hurdles to entry that make it more expensive to compete in the market place make the would-be monopolists strategy looks more tenable.

  91. Rick,
    Though your second paragraph seems fair, I’d like to hear of a real world example of a monopoly that was de-monopolized by a competitor rather an arbitrary power such as government. In a good economy, barriers to market entry (i.e., intensive capital outlays) can push capital into other sectors. In a bad economy, the capital just isn’t there.

    By the way, I agree with your first paragraph and probably agree with your second paragraph with respect to products. When it comes to resources, I part ways. Of course, it should be noted that many “resource” industries have grown up with heavy government regulation. The problem with, say, natural gas is that people don’t have the choice of walking away from a transaction. This fact is what skews my thoughts on competitive markets. I’m not saying you are totally wrong in your world view, only that it doesn’t apply to everything.

  92. MainstreamMan | November 24, 2006, 12:31pm | #
    “I may think someone is spending wastefully, but I am not going to lecture them about it or pretend that my choices are “superior” to theirs.”

    Unless, of course, their choice is to support wasteful government spending…

    ;^)

    I know I am a little late, and I apologize if somebody else already made this point.

    We pay taxes, the government uses that money, therefore every tax payer has a say in how government spends that money (through voting, petitions, bitching to politicians, etc.).

  93. Rick,

    “One of the reasons why lowering prices to the extent of incurring a loss to drive out competition and then raising them back up after the competition exits the market doesn’t work is that new entrants to the market don’t have to make up the loss as the would be monopolist has to.”

    A real world example. Look at Autodesk, the makers of Autocad. Autocad has a virtual monopoly on drafting software, despite the existence of a large number of good software packages that do the same thing. How do they maintain the virtual monopoly? They do not do it by lowering prices (they are the most expensive product)? They do it by luck of the draw. They were there first, created a proprietary file format that was difficult to reverse engineer, and have been very aggressive about protecting that proprietary format. Would the consumer be served by other businesses having access to that proprietary format so that they could make their cheaper/often better software interface with the businesses that utilize autodesk’s products? Autodesk would be crazy to provide it to them as they would lose their near monopoly status.

    Another example would be Microsoft. How come no one has knocked them out of their market dominance? They are certainly not maintaining it by leveraging government power. There are cheaper (free even) alternatives to windows that work better. Is the market free when a player as large as Microsoft is involved?

    There are some government policies that help them, primarily copyright and patent law. Do you advocate getting rid of these? Does government harm or help the market in situations like these? Would government power be used correctly to “break” these near monopolies for the good of the market?

    I don’t know the answer here.
    Just asking for opinions.

  94. “Which is a good thing cuz the only way to acquire a larger market share, sans government intervention, is by reducing prices and otherwise making the customers happy.”

    Again, your idealism is heartening, but suprisingly naive.

  95. I observe “Buy Nothing Day.” For me, it’s not about being “anti-capitalist.” I am very concerned about the number of people who feel compelled to shop (or do anything, really) because of societal pressures. “Black Friday” is the biggest example of that, and the near-psychopathic behavior displayed in the early morning hours is the evidence. I’ll have no part of that shitstorm.

    I just wish people would stop and think about what they are doing, rather than follow some kind of compulsion to shop on that day because it’s “the thing to do”.

  96. MSM, you decided when and how to upgrade. You didn’t ask for my or the gov’ts permission. If you are advocating voluntary decision making and encouraging people to consider the enviromnment when making their decisions, I’m with ya. If you are advocating gov’t intervention into my decision making process I most definately am not with you. Why? The USSR government made all the spending decisions. What anenvironmental disaster that turned out to be.

    BTW, isn’t civility pleasant?

  97. I just wish people would stop and think about what they are doing, rather than follow some kind of compulsion to shop on that day because it’s “the thing to do”.

    You’ve got that right. I do my grocery shopping at 5-6 AM. It’s so much more pleasant, and an overall timesaver.

  98. Actually, MSM, I think Microsoft is a good example of a company losing a monopoly. Having market dominance is a step DOWN from where they were ten years ago. Both Apple and Linux have been gaining market share. I would point out that patents are a form of government regulation. Without patents and copyrights, Microsoft would have a much more difficult task of keeping its position.

    IE used to be pretty much the only browser on the market, but Firefox has made dramatic market share gains and has forced Microsoft to improve IE.

  99. I just wish people would stop and think about what they are doing, rather than follow some kind of compulsion to shop on that day because it’s “the thing to do”.

    I don’t know…for all the people out there on Black Friday, there are plenty of folks avoiding shopping centers for all the reasons so far listed…crowds, rudeness, lines, etc.

    I’m one of them. Most of my family – except for my mother – are too.

    No high-minded, conciousness-raising behind it though. Just pure, unadulterated self-preservation.

  100. I could support a “don’t buy goods that damage the environment day” but “Buy Nothing” suggests that there is something negative in buying and selling in the abstract or generally. I don’t see that. I see it only in cases where negative externalities appear to mostly outweight positive externalities (and that’s not always easy to prove).

    Who is it helping if I refrain from buying flowers at the local florist or solar panels from a environmental company or fresh fruit at the local grocers, or any number of environmentally friendly goods or services? And doesn’t it hurt those people, which in turn results in negative spin-offs for the economy, who do not get my business for that day?

  101. “If you are advocating voluntary decision making and encouraging people to consider the enviromnment when making their decisions, I’m with ya.”

    That is what Adbusters is advocating…and the topic of the thread.

    “BTW, isn’t civility pleasant?”

    I’ve always thought so. Why do you ask?

    “Actually, MSM, I think Microsoft is a good example of a company losing a monopoly.”

    Notice the timing on that. Once the governments around the world started making “monopoly noises, Microsoft changed some of their business practices that made it hard for others to break into the market and there were competitors ready to take advantage. I wonder if that would have happened without the governmental pressure.

  102. “I would point out that patents are a form of government regulation. Without patents and copyrights, Microsoft would have a much more difficult task of keeping its position.”

    No need to point that out. It was in my original post. That is why I asked whether people thought that was a role that was appropriate for governments. Got an opinion?

  103. MainstreamMan

    Once you’ve demonized government as the source of all the evil in the world, government obviously has no appropriate role. Those not too stupid to realize that government is just one manifestation of the human drive to increase power through collective action and organization can think productively about appropriate government roles. I don’t think you’ll find many such bright lights here. Vulgar libertarianism is a lot like vulgar marxism–it’s dumbed down for evangelization of the dimwitted.

  104. If “Buy Nothing Day” is gimmick that is a move in a positive direction then why not “Buy Nothing Week”? Or maybe even “Buy Nothing Month”? Wouldn’t it follow that if buying nothing for the day is good for the environment and as a cure for the consumerist mentality of Americans in general then a whole month of buying nothing would be even better? Those of you who think this gimmick is a great idea or has only a neutral effect I’d like to ask what impact do you think “Buy Nothing Day” could have on your business, especially if it becomes “Buy Nothing Month”?

    Tangentially, but related, if restricting trade between countries is a good idea, then why not between the states? Or even the cities?

  105. “I don’t think you’ll find many such bright lights here.”

    I actually think you would be surprised. There are many here who recognize the important role government plays in society. This is a libertarian website, not an anarchist website…

  106. Under “About Us” section on the adbusters website, it says “We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age.”

    The vast, vast majority of people I’ve ever known or heard of who fit into those categories favor more government regulation of commerce. A lot more. It is usually the “solution” they think of first. At some point when the Adbusters crowd fails to convince the rest of us directly, they’ll go the government regulation route.

  107. Jeff S.

    Sorry, this has been covered. Adbusters is DEDICATED to using their chosen method of social action. It is the method of protest that they advocate more than the particular position. If you look a little more closely at their website you will see that they are a business that sells consultation on how to achieve social goals. What they sell is the method. They sell the use of marketing tools commonly used to sell products for application to social causes.

    Just because someone is anticapitalist does not mean they are pro-regulation. Again, the Adbuster types are more likely to be followers of an updated version of Proudhon’s ideals than Nadar’s.

    http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/proudhon/Proudhonarchive.html

  108. “Once you’ve demonized government as the source of all the evil in the world, government obviously has no appropriate role.”

    But who has done that here? I can think of a lot of sources of evil beyond government. And I can think of a lot of useful activities of government – police, courts, defense (when it’s truly defense and not misguided offense), environmental regulation to handle pollution problems not efficiently handled alone by markets, rule of law to support contracts, laws against fraud, etc. I am also at least open to discussing ways that political decision making might handle certain social problems that civil society and the market have not handled well, supposedly.

    “Those not too stupid to realize that government is just one manifestation of the human drive to increase power through collective action and organization can think productively about appropriate government roles. I don’t think you’ll find many such bright lights here. Vulgar libertarianism is a lot like vulgar marxism–it’s dumbed down for evangelization of the dimwitted.”

    So, illuminate us then with your brilliance. Elaborate in detail with reason and evidence to back up your points as Mainstream Man has done here. Or is just too much fun to sling a lot of wild overgeneralizations around?

  109. Richard,

    “Vulgar libertarianism is a lot like vulgar marxism–it’s dumbed down for evangelization of the dimwitted.”

    “Since the two principles, Authority and Liberty, which underlie all forms organized society, are on the one hand contrary to each other, in a perpetual state of conflict, and on the other can neither eliminate each other nor be resolved, some kind of compromise between the two is necessary. Whatever the system favored, whether it be monarchical, democratic, communist or anarchist, its length of life will depend to the extent to which it has taken the contrary principle into account.[5]

    …that monarchy and democracy, communism and anarchy, all of them unable to realize themselves in the purity of their concepts, are obliged to complement one another by mutual borrowings. There is surely something here to dampen the intolerance of fanatics who cannot listen to a contrary opinion… They should learn, then, poor wretches, that they are themselves necessarily disloyal to their principles, that their political creeds are tissues of inconsistencies… contradiction lies at the root of all programs.[6] ”

    More at
    http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/proudhon/sp001863.html

  110. “I actually think you would be surprised. There are many here who recognize the important role government plays in society. This is a libertarian website, not an anarchist website…”

    MainstreamMan

    Well some posters here use “government” the way fundamentalist Christians use “Satan.” Maybe I’ve generalized from a limited sample of the dimwitted zealots. Sorry.

  111. MainstreamMan on November 24, 5:06pm :

    corporate activity can be very harmful when their only concern is profit.

    It’s exactly the profit motive that exercises a strong motivation for businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.

    Note how so many business’s advertisements invite customer patronage by citing evidence that their products/processes are cleaner, safer etc. Also, note how many corporations invite customer patronage by pointing to their donations to charity etc.

  112. MSM,

    I know I am late to this discussion but…

    Adbuster’s website says its method is available to you if it approves of your cause. Would Adbusters help me if my cause, for example, were to enlighten people about the fallacies of urban sprawl?

    And I don’t see how you can downplay it’s positions on issues and highlight its methods. It seems to be all about certain positions. Maybe it’s methods are unique and for the first time in history a bunch of “artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs” got together that have no wish ultimately to shape society through further government regulation.

    As for the anarchist link, sincerely, I’m just not as educated as you are. So if there is some movement out there that is technically anti-capitalist but not pro-regulation, then it probably is small, fringe and relatively unknown to the majority of us.

  113. Once you’ve demonized government as the source of all the evil in the world, government obviously has no appropriate role.

    Government is not the source of ALL the evil in the world. But it is certainly the way that the vast majority of it is brought to fruition.

  114. This is a libertarian website, not an anarchist website…

    There are plenty of objectivists and libertarian absolutists who make the distinction less clear.

  115. There are many here who recognize the important role government plays in society. This is a libertarian website, not an anarchist website…”

    When government goes beyong the protection of folk’s property and liberty, it often does great harm and it is always unfair.

  116. “to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.”

    Again, your idealism is heartening, if consistently naive.

    While there is a grain of truth to what you say, there are just too many real world examples of corporations acting harmfully (particularly in regards to the environment) for me to take the position seriously. It is in the interest of business to appear as if they are avoiding harm, and providing positive externalities. There is no incentive to actually avoid harm or provide positive externalities that may harm the bottom line.

    “It seems to be all about certain positions.”

    Indeed it is, but you were making assumptions about how it wanted to go about advocating those positions.

    “As for the anarchist link, sincerely, I’m just not as educated as you are. So if there is some movement out there that is technically anti-capitalist but not pro-regulation, then it probably is small, fringe and relatively unknown to the majority of us.”

    Well, you can start with the “True Cost Economics” link above to get educated on that movement. I would start with the work of Herman Daly. You can also look at this book http://www.natcap.org/ if you want a more in depth discussion of how this movement works. It is not fringe at all. It makes up a large portion of those who identify themselves as Greens.

  117. madpad,

    After examining Adbusters, I now think that you are right about them. And they feature some good critiques of US government foreign policy.

    I now consider some of their stuff to be more obnoxious and annoying rather than dangerous. Their ridiculous Buy Nothing Day seems beneath them.

  118. Rick,

    “Their ridiculous Buy Nothing Day seems beneath them.”

    On this we agree.

  119. “When government goes beyong the protection of folk’s property and liberty, it often does great harm and it is always unfair.”

    As is life.

  120. MainstreamMan:

    Again, your idealism is heartening, if consistently naive.

    Naive? That’s the second time you’ve said that with out backing it up. I’m starting to think that you’ve succumb to a knee-jerk mode of thought.

    While there is a grain of truth to what you say…

    “Grain of truth” Ha! Try “overwhelming evidence” that It’s profit that motivates businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.

    there are just too many real world examples of corporations acting harmfully (particularly in regards to the environment) for me to take the position seriously.

    Then you shouldn’t have trouble pointing to lots of examples where the government wasn’t in the role of the enabler, such as leasing the land to the company.

    There is no incentive to actually avoid harm or provide positive externalities that may harm the bottom line.

    What?? If they get found out lying, the market ramifications are devastating.

  121. Please excuse me, I wanna go out and buy stuff now. Take care.

  122. MainstreamMan,

    One more thing: That “life is unfair” offers no legitimate pretext to government or criminals.

  123. I’m celebrating “Buy Nothing Second.” Times up, going on a packy run now.

  124. madpad, since Objectivists are explicitly NOT anarchists, you should probably read something about the philosophy before taking cheap shots.

  125. Randian!?!? How the hell are ya’ man? I was missing you a while back and asked about you on the board. Someone said you were in one of the current hot spots. Hope you’re well.

    And I never said that Objectivists were anarchists…I said that the anti-government postings by many of the hard cores (such as yourself) made the distinction from anarchist less clear.

    But what the heck, you’re gonna beat me up over it no matter what I say – you wouldn’t be Randian if you didn’t.

    Good to have you posting again. Hope you’re well and Happy Thanksgiving.

  126. Rick,

    Tobacco companies lied about the noxious effects of their product as long as they could get away with it. All sorts of false and misleading claims are made to sell worthless products to gullible consumers. Snake oil was doing a lively business long before anybody thought of government regulation. The mafia provides loans at exhorbitant rates and uses nasty methods of collection, all with no government help. Your faith in the gooness and shining light of the profit motive is touching, but it’s based on cherry picking evidence to support your claims.

  127. “Government is not the source of ALL the evil in the world. But it is certainly the way that the vast majority of it is brought to fruition.”

    That’s right, Rick. Much evil lies in the hearts of men, but Satan brings it all to fruition. We have to get the Devil Master back in his hole. Give me an Amen! Give me a halleluya!

  128. “Naive? That’s the second time you’ve said that with out backing it up. I’m starting to think that you’ve succumb to a knee-jerk mode of thought.”

    My consistent use of the term reflects your consistently naive position. You have not yet moved beyond idealistic positions in your statements.

    “If they get found out lying, the market ramifications are devastating.”

    Which is why they spend lots of money avoiding getting caught.

    BP is a recent example. They spent more money on an advertising campaign aimed at spreading the “BP is environmentally aware” than they did on maintaining their pipelines in ways that would avoid major toxic spills. (As I understand, BP owns the field, not leases the field).

  129. That is…

    the “BP is environmentally aware” meme

  130. Not shopping at all sounds good

  131. Can Buy Nothing Day be considered a religion? Are consumers brainwashed? Is consumerism our only true religion?

  132. Aren’t most American swimming in a sea of debt? Isn’t the savings rate -zero? Maybe with real estate prices on their way down, a few shopping-free days would be in order. The bubble is bound to burst eventually.

  133. Richard, If I played your game I’d say, “Hey look at all the dimwitted environmentalist zealots here. Just replace market with Satan and you get the picture. Give me an Amen, give me a Hallelujah.” But instead I recognize that some of the supporters of Ad Busters here say something of substance and back up their points, as does Rick. The same cannot be said for any of your contributions. You win the taunting tee-off. Congrats.

  134. madpad-
    Ha, yeah, I am doing well, thanks…R & R in California for about 2 weeks. Sorry for the misunderstanding concerning your meaning…damn, I really thought there was only one interpretation of what you wrote.

    I did try to post earlier that the whole “tune in to your life and drop out of shopping, man” thing kind of offends my silent-majoritiness and instantly sets off my hippie alarm…

    Perhaps someone should actually call AdBusters and ASK if they support government intervention in our lives…as for the rest of the bluster, Nick can rail against what he wants and I think that he has a point. The other argument I haven’t seen dealt with…what about Buy Nothing Month? Is that better?

    The smarmy idea that I don’t ALREADY think about what I buy is the most offensive…I just “have” to take a day to reflect on what I carefully consider all the time? Stupid.

  135. Random mandom:

    Okay, I’ll bite. Name something Rick has backed up his “point” with that isn’t a slogan.

  136. Lamar on November 25, 1:46am

    Rick,
    Though your second paragraph seems fair, I’d like to hear of a real world example of a monopoly that was de-monopolized by a competitor rather an arbitrary power such as government

    The phone monopolies and airline rout monopolies are examples of where the government simply took away the legal protection against competition and competition came in and the consumers benefited greatly. Also, just the threat of more competition tends to keep prices down.

    BTW, look at the price action in the relatively unregulated computer/software industry where consumers have been getting more for their money for years. Compare to the very regulated medical industry where the situation is sadly quite the opposite.

    By the way, I agree with your first paragraph and probably agree with your second paragraph with respect to products. When it comes to resources, I part ways. Of course, it should be noted that many “resource” industries have grown up with heavy government regulation. The problem with, say, natural gas is that people don’t have the choice of walking away from a transaction.

    At least here in Colorado, the power companies have different natural gas companies that they can choose from each season. I think that the power companies are granted government protection against competition, however.

    .

  137. Richard,
    Here’s a point that Rick made about the benefits of the profit motive; then he supported it by giving an example of how being environmentally friendly can improve profits. He could have made an even stronger point by giving a few more specific examples of how this works – he could have cited the market for hybrid cars for example and then asked if it was truly a good idea to refrain from buying something like that for a day. But essentially, he made a point and backed it up. All I’ve seen you do here is toss out a few ad hominems. It would be more interesting if you cited your evidence for ways that government intervention in the economy as been a good thing.

    Rick Wrote:

    “It’s exactly the profit motive that exercises a strong motivation for businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.

    Note how so many business’s advertisements invite customer patronage by citing evidence that their products/processes are cleaner, safer etc. Also, note how many corporations invite customer patronage by pointing to their donations to charity etc.”

  138. Richard,

    Most of my posts in this thread have been spent backing up my points. You might try joining the debate instead of taking cheap shots.

  139. random mandom,

    Thanks, and good point about hybrid cars.

  140. MainstreamMan on November 25, 3:18pm

    BP is a recent example. They spent more money on an advertising campaign aimed at spreading the “BP is environmentally aware” than they did on maintaining their pipelines in ways that would avoid major toxic spills

    The fact BP is doing an advertising campaign bragging about spending money on maintaining their pipelines in ways that would avoid major toxic spills is an example of the point that business’s advertisements invite customer patronage by citing evidence that their products/processes are cleaner, safer etc.

    Even if BP did, infact, spend more money on the advertising campaign then they on maintaining their pipelines, it doesn’t constitute a refutation of the point, it’s an affirmation of it.

  141. “it doesn’t constitute a refutation of the point, it’s an affirmation of it”

    There is a difference between “carefully abstain from doing harm” and selling a line of bull trying to convince clients that you are “carefully abstain from doing harm.”

    Your point was stated clearly as “It’s exactly the profit motive that exercises a strong motivation for businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.”

    This is not a point about appearances, but about actions. Your claim has changed? You have come around to my view that profits only motivate the appearance and not the actuality?

    “The phone monopolies…”

    Sorry but AT&T was actively broken up by the government with an anti-trust suit.

  142. Rick,

    Just humor me here. Can you think of an example of how a business could work towards monopoly status without government collusion? Is there a way to outwit your competition that doesn’t involve lower prices and better products?

    I know you have some skepticism in you. Use it to speculate.

  143. “The other argument I haven’t seen dealt with…what about Buy Nothing Month? Is that better?”

    Thanks Randian, for bringing that up again. Yeah, I’d still like to know that if Buy Nothing Day is such a good idea for the environment and for addictive consumerism then wouldn’t Buy Nothing Month be even better?

    Now I wouldn’t suggest that people go out and buy frenetically,even on environmentally friendly products, but if one had a plan to buy a solar panel on a certain day and then thought, “Oh wait, this is Buy Nothing Day, maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow….or maybe next month or possibly just some point in the future to buy it” then that would just be kind of silly.

    On another point. It might seem counter-intuitive to all the non-economists or non-arm-chair economists in the room, but a business that promotes the consumption of a resource tends to increase the supply of that resource, at least if they own the land the resource comes from (not true if they are leasing land from the government as they then have no incentive to maintain the capital investment of the property they are working on). Buying paper products can actually increase the amount of trees grown as the demand for more paper creates a greater demand for more trees to be grown. This has been shown to be empirically true where paper companies own the land; not true if they are leasing the land. Take International Paper. Not only are they growing more trees I believe they also have created another market on their land for eco-friendly kinds of tourism.

    This is not to say that businesses do not ever damage the environment or cause other kinds of social ills on their own (and it is not to say that boycotting certain products one finds distasteful or harmful is somehow anti-libertarian, certainly not). But they are much more likely to cause problems when they are in collusion with the government or are offered some sort of governmental protection or sanction (take the S and L scandal) from the government.

  144. “It’s exactly the profit motive that exercises a strong motivation for businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.”

    Rick,

    How do you know that the profit motive provides the only strong motivation for business to abstain from doing harm? Surely the fear of criminal charges also provides such motivation. The drive for profit sometimes motivates businesses to engage in behavior that harms consumers, witness the tobacco companies’s efforts to supress information about the link between smoking and cancer. The drive for profit sometimes motivates business to cut costs at the expense of safety, witness BP’s safety record. The drive for profit sometimes motivates business to lie and cheat, witness Enron. You should stop sloganeering and consider the all the evidence. Things are never as black and white as zealots see them or as their slogans present them.

  145. MainstreamMan

    If Rick had any skepticism in him, he probably would have used it by now.

  146. “Even if BP did, infact, spend more money on the advertising campaign then they on maintaining their pipelines, it doesn’t constitute a refutation of the point, it’s an affirmation of it.” –Rick

    Then the point must be that profit motivates business to APPEAR to be doing good. Man, you can’t even keep the logic of the slogans straight.

  147. I’m not arguing, by the way, that the profit motive is bad. I just don’t think–nor does any reasonable person–that it’s an absolute good. Billions of dollars are made selling worthless stuff to gullible fools. Snake oil salesmen don’t hate the gullible fools; they love the money.

  148. The profit motives sometimes leads businesses to do harm and sometimes creates incentives for businesses to do good. I recognize the former but do the Ad Busters’ crowd recognize the latter? And are they cognizant of the many cases where government gives a very large push to help businesses cause harm.

    I wonder who has been a greater destructive agent of the environment, private companies where the companies must be held liable for their destruction or pollution, companies that lease land on public land or are offered some sort of liability waiver, or government land where the government is in sole charge – such as Deptarment of Defense land?

    There’s another question of whether the cure for harmful business practices is worse than the disease. Take Sarbanes Oxley for just one example. The cost of such a program is likely to create so much business destruction, many unmeasurable as many businesses will never get off the ground that otherwise would have, that the net negative effect will very much likely outweigh the positives of the program. I wouldn’t necessarily abandon all regulation on principle but this question should come into consideration before leaping to embrace such a wrongheaded act like Sarbanes Oxley.

    The market sometimes does provide its own cures in the form of the damage that can happen to a company when its misdeeds become known. Those companies will (and have gone) out of business. And the courts do punish those guilty of fraud, such as the Enron folks. Like I said, I wouldn’t just say no to regulation, but it should at least be acknowledged from the other side that sometimes the loss of reputation in the market and the use of courts are at least “sometimes” preferable solutions to regulation which may lead to a net damaging effect on the economy.

  149. Richard:

    How do you know that the profit motive provides the only strong motivation for business to abstain from doing harm?

    I did not contend that the profit motive provides the ONLY strong motivation for business to abstain from doing harm. And it doesn’t follow that cuz the profit motive, much less frequently, also leads businesses to cheat, that it doesn’t provide a strong motivation for business to abstain from doing harm, and in fact to do good even beyond the goods and services offered.
    The drive for profit sometimes motivates business to cut costs at the expense of safety, witness BP’s safety record.

    Is that true or are you making stuff up? Please cite a link that shows that BP cut costs which adversely affected safety.

    Then the point must be that profit motivates business to APPEAR to be doing good.

    The fact that BP is spending money on maintaining their pipelines and then advertising it is an example of the point I made that: “Many business’s advertisements invite customer patronage by citing evidence that their products/processes are cleaner, safer etc.”

    BTW, Note that MainstreamMan provided this BP example, his only one, when I pressed him to give examples to back up a point that he was contending when he claimed that there were many examples. And it turns out to be an example of the point that I made!

  150. MainstreamMan:

    Can you think of an example of how a business could work towards monopoly status without government collusion? Is there a way to outwit your competition that doesn’t involve lower prices and better products?

    Are you asking how a business could work towards monopoly status without resort to government or lower prices and/or better products?

  151. madpad,

    It appears that Adbusters is not so benign after all:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/116890.html?success=1

    See Jadagul on November 26, 1:17am

  152. MainstreamMan:

    Your point was stated clearly as “It’s exactly the profit motive that exercises a strong motivation for businesses to carefully abstain from doing harm, and also do good beyond the goods and services that they offer to us.”

    You have my points confused. My point, that the BP citation that you kindly provided was an example of, was: “Many business’s advertisements invite customer patronage by citing evidence that their products/processes are cleaner, safer etc.”

    Sorry but AT&T was actively broken up by the government with an anti-trust suit.

    But the resultant Baby Bells were noy afforded monopoly status and competition came in.

  153. Joe,

    I’m not responding to your comment on this thread due to your callous belittling of the grief of different individuals here about Milton Friedman’s dying. I think that you should be ashamed of yourself. Ya know, his wife and son read this blog. Did you ever apologize? It still disgusts me. Maybe next time.

  154. It appears that Adbusters is not so benign after all:

    Thanks, Rick…If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

    The smarmy idea that I don’t ALREADY think about what I buy is the most offensive…I just “have” to take a day to reflect on what I carefully consider all the time? Stupid.

    Randian…I’m in marketing which relies on an interesting mix of buyer intelligence and buyer lack-there-of. I can’t explain it in an H&R post, suffice to say, much consumerism works through a combination of abundance, awareness and stupidity in the marketplace.

    Lot’s of people buy just because it’s the “hot thing.” How many things do you buy that don’t get used or used very much?

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way…I’d rather have too much than too little chois out there.

    But I also lean to the spiritual/philosphical bent which sees great virtue in trying something new, taking yourself out of your normal path and taking deep consideration of why you do what you do.

    As I pointed out earlier, I avoided the stores myself this weekend, mostly out of sanity concerns. Not so spiritual, there…but I was rewarded with a nice, quiet weekend with my wife & playing with my kids.

    I don’t expect it to change much or many. But as long as it’s not being imposed on people, I’m not gonna get too twitchy.

    Enjoy your R&R, BTW, Randian.

  155. Rick

    You really think the Friedman family spends reading teenagers flaming each other? I’ll bet they’re kinda busy.

  156. Joe,

    David Friedman is an Academic Advisory Board Member for Reason.

  157. Rick,

    You now look dishonest. Something I am surprised at…

    “The fact that BP is spending money on maintaining their pipelines”

    The point I made (widely reported) was that BP was NOT spending the money needed for maintaining their pipelines, which then started leaking with potential for great harm to a sensitive ecosystem. Instead, they spent the money on adverstising that touted their eco-friendly business practices. In other words, they lied so that it would appear that they were doing good and carefully avoiding harm. I am not sure the point you claim I was providing a positive example for was intended to hightlight that business would lie about their lack of harm… but if that is your point, then we agree. Profit provides a motivation for deception.

    “But the resultant Baby Bells were noy afforded monopoly status and competition came in.”

    WTF? Do you even read what you say? You claimed that the phone company was an example of a monopoly that was de-monopolized by competition. It wasn’t. It was broken up by the government. Why would the government break up a monopoly and then grant the pieces monopoly status?

    “Are you asking how a business could work towards monopoly status without resort(ing) to government or lower prices and/or better products?”

    Yes. How could they do it? How have they done it in the past? Can you think of counter examples to your assertion that the only way to gain a monopoly is to provide better products at lower prices?

    “this BP example, his only one, when I pressed him to give examples to back up a point that he was contending when he claimed that there were many examples.”

    If you can’t think of any yourself, you live in a bubble. I gave a recent, widely reported example. This would be like giving you an example of a tastee treat, and getting criticized for not mentioning cookies.

  158. Yikes! I had no idea. Maybe (I hope)he advises the magazine but doesn’t bother reading all this nonsense. If he does, I apologize to David Friedman and members of his family for my insensitivity.

  159. …great harm to a sensitive ecosystem.

    Just as every city in an Islamic country is a “Holy City” to a muslim, every ecosystem is “sensitive” to a true believer Green.

  160. MainstreamMan:

    The point I made (widely reported) was that BP was NOT spending the money needed for maintaining their pipelines,

    No, that was not the point you made. You wrote: They spent more money on an advertising campaign aimed at spreading the “BP is environmentally aware” than they did on maintaining their pipelines in ways that would avoid major toxic spills

    First can you show that it’s true that they spent more money on the advertising campaign than they did on maintaining and fixing their pipelines?

    The BP situation, even if the advertising was in response to the North Slope pipeline leaks, still illustrates the dynamic that I laid out- that under capitalism, market pressure from the consumers helps engender businesses to do the will of the consumers including environmental concerns, safety, charity etc.

    The only way that you can contend that the BP situation is not illustrative of the dynamic at all is to show that they are actually doing very little in the environmental regard.

    As I understand, BP owns the field, not leases the field

    I took your word for that, but the BP example is not meritorious for your argument for which you provided it if that’s wrong and I’d be surprised if a British oil concern owns part of the North Slope. But I’m not sure. Why is that your understanding? If you are right about that, could you please provide a link?

    Monopoly:

    Acquisition might be tried, but if after the aquisition(s), prices are raised over their previous levels, or quality is reduced. New entrants will come into the market with out having the cost of the acquisitions to make up.

    This would be like giving you an example of a tastee treat, and getting criticized for not mentioning cookies.

    I think that if you go back and read our discourse, you’ll find that that is not an apt analogy here.

  161. Joe,

    Thank you. That was nice of you. Also, after you wrote: “reading teenagers flaming each other”…well, it’s none of my business how old you are, but I’ll just say that when I was a lot younger, I said some way insensitive things.

  162. Consumerism has existed since the first civilisations only then only 10% of the population could afford it. They used it to show that they were aristocrats

  163. One does not need the house car television and computer and electricity anyway so what’s wrong with consumerism?

  164. Back to the topic at hand, I wonder whether some people hate consumerism because they don’t have much money. There’s a lot of things I’d like to buy that I can’t afford.

  165. When the image gets too hard to maintain, companies can always relocate to countries that have less regard for safety.

    From Wikipedia:

    BP has recently started to move its oil exploration activities away from the North Sea and Alaska and is looking into the former Soviet Union for its future reserves.[2] On July 19, 2006, BP announced that it would close the last 12 out of 57 oil wells in Alaska, mostly in Prudhoe Bay, that had been leaking. The wells were leaking insulating agent called arctic pack, consisting of crude oil and diesel fuel, between the wells and ice.[3]

  166. Back to the topic at hand, I wonder whether some people hate consumerism because they don’t have much money.

    Possibly…to a certain extent. Having money is often a symptom of combining personality skills, actual education/technical ability and luck.

    Talk to most of anti-whatever – greenpeacers, PETA-activists, anti-capitalist – and they’re usually missing 1, 2 or all three.

    A lot of them are actually smart people, but they can’t leverage that to achieve real economic success. So they sour-grap it.

    At least that’s my lmited view on things.

  167. Inheriting money is another matter. It doesn’t take anything but luck. Warren Buffet didn’t leave his kids anything because he didn’t want them to be part of a “lucky sperm club.” Also they’re not waiting for him to die. Smart people don’t always make a lot of money, but people who do make a lot of money are usually pretty smart. Or violent. That also works.

  168. Rick,

    Thanks for accepting my apology. You’re obviously a nice guy. Probably too nice to be rich.

  169. “The BP situation, even if the advertising was in response to the North Slope pipeline leaks,”

    Rick, the ad campaign was not in response to the North Slope pipeline leaks…it predated them.

    “Why is that your understanding?”

    I read it recently, not sure which article.

    “If you are right about that, could you please provide a link? ”

    You’ve got google if you don’t trust my memory.

    “New entrants will come into the market with out having the cost of the acquisitions to make up.”

    If that’s the best you got, I am sticking with naive.

  170. Inheriting money is another matter.

    Keeping inherited money (or lotto wins or other lucky windfalls) requires having some leverage-able skill or training and having the right personality traits. Thus the trinity I laid out. Some of the personality traits, btw, include focus, attitude, discipline.

    Lots of lotto winners and rock stars lose their fortunes quickly. The ones that keep them had or obtained other skills that allowed them to leverage their fortunes – real estate investment, other creative ventures, starting businesses, etc.

  171. Anyone who inherits or wins a large fortune has to be just smart enough to hire a good, honest financial manager.

  172. Anyone who inherits or wins a large fortune has to be just smart enough to hire a good, honest financial manager.

    Being smart enough is one of the personality traits I refered to, but that’ll only get you so far….learning what you need to know to take control and manage the financial manager is also key.

    Having money is one thing. Making and keeping money means taking an interest in the mechanics of making and keeping it.

  173. Now you’ve got me worried. My parents are wealthy, and I’m not getting very good grades.

  174. MainstreamMan,

    You didn’t back up some of your claims with citations, even after I asked, including your initial claim that BP spent more money on the advertising campaign than they did on maintaining their pipelines. So I guess I’m gonna have to file a complaint against you in the private court of arbitration for libertarian blogs…

    If that’s the best you got, I am sticking with naive.

    That’s pretty standard micro-economics.

    BTW, this chapter: Antitrust [Alan Greenspan]…

    http://www.polyconomics.com/searchbase/06-12-98.html

    …in: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal- Ayn Rand Ed…

    http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/books/rand/cui.html

    …is germane to what we’ve been discussing. As is the chapter: Common Fallacies About Capitalism [Nathaniel Branden] No link provided for that one. Maybe someone can find it or just snag the whole book.

  175. http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/09/350158.html

    The prize for the most audacious corporate “therapy” attempting to sell a climate killing company as a friend of the earth surely goes to BP and its ‘beyond petroleum’ campaign (apparently the lower case is more reassuring to the public). Last month, John Kenney, a creative director at an advertising agency, explained his role in BP’s image transformation in the New York Times. Kenney revealed that he had initially felt inspired by the brief:

    “Think of it. Going beyond petroleum. The best and brightest, at a company that can provide practically unlimited resources, trying to find newer, smarter, cleaner ways of powering the world.”

    Wonderful! But alas there was a problem: “they didn’t go beyond petroleum. They are petroleum.”

    Kenney’s conclusion:

    “I guess, looking at it now, ‘beyond petroleum’ is just advertising. It’s become mere marketing – perhaps it always was – instead of a genuine attempt to engage the public in the debate or a corporate rallying cry to change the paradigm.” (Kenney, ‘beyond propaganda,’ The New York Times, August 14, 2006)

  176. “That’s pretty standard micro-economics. ”

    But ignores unethical, illegal, or coercive options.

    “You didn’t back up some of your claims with citations”

    Like I said. This stuff is in the mainstream press, I don’t see the need to look up a USA today article for you. You’ve got the internet…check my facts yourself if you don’t believe them.

    “Research and preparation cost $7 million; bp planned to spend $200 million between 2000 and 2002 rebranding its facilities and changing signs and stationery and another $400 million on advertising its gasoline and pushing the new logo.”

    “Dean said the company spent $71 million on corrosion prevention alone in Alaska in 2006, an increase of 15 percent from 2005 and up 80 percent since 2001.”

    By my figures that is less than 400 million since 2001.

  177. Rick,
    By the way. Read that antitrust article. Some good points in the article… but on the whole a bit simplistic for my taste. The real world is messier than the picture Greenspan paints. Hayek is a better mind for your side of the argument.

  178. Rick,

    For a nice review of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal that will raise your hackles.

    http://members.tripod.com/~FDR/rand

    I really think you need to read Natural Capitalism. It is as idealistic as you are, but has a much different view of things. You might find it interesting.

    http://www.natcap.org/

  179. It’s quite apparent now that the Ad Busters group is not satisfied with just persuasion but is quite willing to turn to coercion to get their way. Well, apparent to everyone but Mainstream Man who seems to keep confusing them with his crowd of ‘natural’ capitalists.

  180. Now you’ve got me worried. My parents are wealthy, and I’m not getting very good grades.

    Education/training doesn’t necessarily mean ‘school’. Lot’s of well-educated and trained people go nowhere. It’s the right education that’s important. And it’s usually self-directed.

    Read about business and money management, learn about marketing and study markets, learn about organization & time management. Hang put with rich people who do know how to make money. Find a mentor.

    You seem smart enough. And the skills of making money will come to you if you take an interest. It’s the attitude and focus that are most critical.

  181. I’m not worried about making money; I’m worried about losing the money I will one day inherit. Maybe I’ll work on getting an increase in my allowance.

  182. “It’s quite apparent now that the Ad Busters group is not satisfied with just persuasion but is quite willing to turn to coercion to get their way.”

    I don’t know that I have seen any good evidence of that presented. I still haven’t seen a citation whereby “Adbusters types” as a group advocate a government solution to anything (although they are suing for access to media outlets in Canada… that might count, but is hardly central to their movement). Your “quite apparent” is based on very little evidence.

    Here is an example of they see change happening…

    http://www.adbusters.org/metas/politico/antipreneur/forum/


  183. “Politically charged” pretty much implies the advocacy of government action. Does it not? And it’s hard to imagine that they’re thinking about reducing government in order to reduce consumerism.
    ” — Rick Barton


  184. “Politically charged” pretty much implies the advocacy of government action. Does it not? And it’s hard to imagine that they’re thinking about reducing government in order to reduce consumerism.
    ” — Rick Barton

    Sorry, I mean to type instead of hitting submit.

    More so, most of the of the folks that I hear railing again consumerism and those who feel that the world is indeed on the verge of self destructing rarely preach against government intervention unless it’s about cutting off Big Oil’s subsidies or legalizing hemp.

    I myself am all for finding ways of doing something other than thinking that simply buying someone a gift is meaningful. But I figure that most people who are capable of figuring that out don’t a special day to help them get there. Beside, if I’m busy protesting the consumerism how will I find time to kick back and appreciate a slower paced life? 😉

  185. And I forgot to add I frequently listen to Marketplace and was very happy to hear Nick’s commentary out of the blue. Thanks Nick!!!

  186. I think it was the recommendation for an across the board global price system which tipped my hat, MM. How can price controls especially on a global scale occur without governmental coercion?

  187. “How can price controls especially on a global scale occur without governmental coercion?”

    Unless you are advocating anarchy, there will always be global scale price fixing with coercive elements involved. The point is that we currently have one set of coercive policies. They can be replaced by better policies that are less biased towards ends that are environmentally unsound. In most cases that means reducing the overall burden (eliminating many current taxes on, say, labor) and replacing them with less burdensome taxation on resource throughput.

    It is when you only think all or nothing that these things seem to be problematic.

  188. MainstreamMan:

    Unless you are advocating anarchy, there will always be global scale price fixing with coercive elements involved.

    No there won’t. Why would that have to be?

    It is when you only think all or nothing that these things seem to be problematic.

    When you said :” there will always be global scale price fixing with coercive elements involved” you were engaging in all or nothing thinking.

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