Structurally and historically, big business marketing is a substitute for unrestrained, Adam-Smithian price competition, which capitalists have always hated and moved to suppress. By co-respectively avoiding price war and competing instead via marketing, big businesses essentially gain a power their own dogma denies they seek or have: the power to levy private taxes.
And big business marketing is precisely this: an activity funded by a tax levied by corporate shareholders upon those who comprise their targets, the sea of prospective buyers. The funds expended on big business marketing come from the marked-up prices of purchased corporate products. As I explained in The Consumer Trap book, in the aggregate, big business marketing is an activity that rivals total public government spending in scale.
The wastefulness of the spending this private tax embodies dwarfs most government programs.
Take the case of cellular telephone marketing in the USA, a topic we here at TCT have discussed before. Here you have an industry that is not only a natural monopoly (and therefore inherently easily run by the public), but one in which the private corporations who control it provide entirely unremarkable service at the world’s highest prices.
I’ve long been fascinated by the fact that, not only does saturation-level advertising accompany and largely cause this pointless (except to shareholders, of course) economic disaster, but the advertising in question, in the guise of “humor,” almost always depicts reasons not to use or “upgrade” cellular telephones!
Consider this particular ad, currently in heavy rotation on U.S. television, from AT&T:
Not only does this scene depict unattractive and shallow people using cell phones for a patently moronic and pointless activity within a setting — a moving automobile — that makes the depicted activity deadly, but what is the proffered benefit being suggested by the ad? To be five seconds ahead of your friends in receiving trivia. And the presentation? A threat: “Don’t be left behind!”
Our grandchildren will look back in horror that such were the priorities of our society and the nature of our “rethinking the possible” in the early 21st century. Should we somehow manage to dethrone our massively decrepit and shameless corporate overclass and pass future generations a world still capable to looking back, our “entrepreneurial” masters will be compared to Nero and Caligula.