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Consumer: A Definition

Everyone knows what a consumer is, right?

Maybe I should have asked and answered that back at the beginning. But here we are, and it’s important for readers to understand that the general notion of that term does not match the usage here. Within Analytical Consumer Economics, “consumer” is a far more significant thing than ‘someone who spends money, buys stuff and, you know, consumes.’ The working definition here also rejects the monolithic, collective designation used in most economic discussions:

A consumer is an individual member of an economic system.

That concise statement goes far beyond the notion of a limited role as a buyer, user, ‘consuming entity,’ spender and vague end point for an economy’s bounty. It encompasses earning power (potential and fulfilled), decision making and the idea of inherent rights, not just blind consumption as one of an economy’s earthworms. It brings the idea forward from a passive, outside role to full participation and membership in the workings of the system. Put more simply, as I often will here:

A consumer is an economic individual.

This should not be a terribly radical notion, although it may upset those of traditional economic mindset who see the field as numbers and wealth vectors. The numbers may be the numbers, however abstract and irrelevant, but every vector, sale, purchase, exchange and event in economic study comes down to the action of a consumer. Consumers, almost without exception, drive the economy. To assign them to a blank category as largely mute passengers or spear-carriers inherently cripples the ability to understand their foundational role.

Which is why, in the end, ACE regards a consumer as the one thing conventional economics does not: a person.

—published on Quora, 22 Dec 2021

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