With marketing established as the bugbear in the economic relationships of ACE and the field outlined from that perspective, the next question is obviously, “What’s the solution?”—or better, “What are some roads to a solution?”
Answers are elusive, for many reasons. The first of those is that everything from the basic concept of marketing down to the rockbound core of conventional economic thinking forms a major pillar of those models; it is integral to nearly all of them that profits are the goal, and thus anything that boosts profits is a boon. That there may be goals greater than maximized profits is a concept so foreign to conventional economics—which I really should start abbreviating CE—that it takes an entirely new field, formulated on different precepts, to even ask the question.
There is also a tendency for anti-marketing thought to get lost in simplistic, reactionary ideas, the most common and least useful of which is some form of “ban advertising.” Or the equally misguided “regulate advertising.” Much advertising is regulated; however, those tepid constraints make very little difference in terms of this basic flaw in the system. Without getting bogged down in a long and complex side issue, note that—
Advertising does not equal Marketing; those who focus efforts on advertising are missing the point, even allowing themselves to be deflected from it.
The fundamental problem with marketing—most consumer product marketing by major corporations—is that it often violates that basic right of the consumer: economic self-determination. No matter how accepted, common, legal and established the marketing elements of deception, coercion, invasion and behavioral engineering have become, they are wrong against this elementary right.
Put more simply: it is wrong to bullsh·t people into buying things.
That conflict is a core issue and focus of ACE, because its impact is so powerful and far-reaching.
The ideal situation would be an economy (more specifically, a socioeconomic system) where marketing confines itself to availability and awareness. There would be no coercion; no misrepresentation, however legal; no invasion of consumer boundaries, no matter how tech-enabled; and behaviorists would have to go back to running rats in university labs, not crafting ever-more-powerful techniques to bypass consumer judgment. That would be the Ethical Marketing of the prior essay.
I can freely say that I have no idea how to get to that state. For one thing, it would be over the burned-out hulks of multinational corporations whose history, profit and dividends are built on little more than those coercive, manipulative sales, and they are likely to object. If there is a meaningful starting point, it lies with educating some majority of consumers as to the real nature of marketing, sparking a genuine rejection of the invasive, manipulative efforts by the victims themselves—a street fight, not a court fight.
That education, though, has some mighty hurdles in front of it, beginning with the massively contrarian idea that marketing should be limited. There is then the almost universal conviction of each consumer that s/he is “immune to advertising”; there’s no need to do anything about it because it either affects no one or (some variation of) only affects stupid people.
The only people immune to marketing are also immune to gravity.
Beyond that are more broadly defined beliefs that marketing is essential to capitalism—usually expressed through the lens of personal wealth and some nebulous idea of “freedom,” if not the championing of unfettered marketing as the engine of unfettered capitalism. Some believe that to restrict marketing is a flagrant violation of free speech. The last may be true; any significant effort to muzzle marketing through legislation would at best be tied up in First Amendment battles for decades. Perhaps even rightly so. No, legislation is at most a small part of the solution.
So “banning advertising” is not the path to a solution, but making all practices outside of Ethical Marketing a despised, boycotted and rejected notion, reeking on the level of child labor or human trafficking may be the only workable path to one. It’s not impossible… merely very difficult. But it is a key achievement for the consumer-based economic system and society we deserve—and as I hope to make the case for, must have.
Economic self-determination is the last unfulfilled human right, and we deserve it.
- to be continued (for one more installment)
—published on Quora, 16 Jan 2022