Consumer Sovereignty


Mainstream economics uses some simple starting points; it believes that they are the best possible. First is that agents have more wants than they can attain, so that they feel scarcity; in fact, for practical purposes, wants are assumed to be endless. Second, third and fourth are that agents are self-interested, rational, and the best judges of their own well-being. These four assumptions are indeed usually good starting points, rather than starting by assuming that agents are completely fulfilled, altruistic, irrational, and not well-placed to evaluate their own situation. They are not equally good as finishing points. Sometimes good arguments exist for not accepting them.

An assumption that agents are the best judges of their own well being is less questionable for businesspeople and corporations, given the resources they have for analysis. Debate focuses more on consumers. The phrase consumer sovereignty is sometimes read descriptively, to mean that consumers are sovereign, in that procedures are induced via profit-seeking and competition  to provide what consumers want. Sometimes it is read normatively, to mean that consumers should be sovereign, their wishes should prevail concerning what is good for them. The normative claim can rest on three different bases: that consumers do make good choices; that the alternative stance is worse – to use someone else’s judgments and estimates of what is good for a person and how good it is; or quite differently, that people have the right to make their own choices and mistakes.

Consumers will not make good choices automatically and unconditionally. Our wants are not simple; for example, some are wants to not to have other wants (such as the desire to smoke or a compulsion to gamble). Establishing a mature balance between wants involves skills. Choice is also unlikely to bring satisfaction if taken on the basis of weak information. Markets often do not provide consumers with full and reliable information, for it is hard to exclude people from information and therefore to ensure payment for it, so its market supply is weakened. Instead, in a commerce-dominated society, one of the main types of information that adults get will be images that say the good life is obtained through high consumption of commodities; there is too little counteracting public information.

The issue of consumer sovereignty goes beyond whether choices are good for the chooser. Other people are affected. Some wants may thus be unacceptable, notably wants that bring harm to others, including even wants to harm others. Mainstream economists have unfortunately often taken a don’t-want-to-know approach to ethics in which they confuse acceptance of all wants with a value-neutral stance.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Investing in Success


To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work is as impossible as it is to live without being born. Succinctly, there is no success without sacrifice. But is sacrifice bad? Like many words, the word “sacrifice” is misunderstood. To most people, sacrifice means giving up time or money, or enduring hardships, or doing something unpleasant. Now, it is true that sacrifice may mean those things. But that is only half the definition. The other part of the definition, the one that is almost always overlooked, is to gain something even more valuable.

The complete definition of sacrifice is give up something of value – money, time, or energy – to gain something of even more value – more money, a higher standard of living, better education for the kids, or other valuable considerations. Sacrifice means give up a little now to receive more later.

Sacrificing then means investing. We give up something today so we will have more of something tomorrow. Anyone who wants to achieve maximum success must be willing to sacrifice or invest now for reward later. To validate this point, consider the following:

  • A majority of people reaching age 65 have little savings, investments, or other valuables – this after spending 45 adult years in the richest society ever known. Had these people in poverty and near-poverty invested only ten percent of what they had earned in one of hundreds of “sure” investments, they would be very well off financially, and the social security system could be phased out completely.
  • Many young people feel that 35 0r 40 hours a week is all they should work. Being asked to work more than that is such a “big” sacrifice, many try to find another job.
  • Millions of people performing tasks that are rapidly being taken over by robots and computers think it’s too much of a sacrifice to learn new skills that are increasingly in demand.
  • Rather than invest part of what they earn, millions and millions of people give way to temptation and buy things on a certain plan.
  • And millions of students, rather than sacrifice and really learn a subject, use every conceivable technique to pass a course except to learn the material.

On the positive side, there are some people of all ages to be commended for their willingness – and good sense – to sacrifice. Sacrifice is an investment that means more than just money. Sacrifice means deep satisfaction in helping others to find joy in this world.

Happiness, achievement, money, promotion, reward, love, and anything else of value are gained only through sacrifice. Make sacrifices. They eventually lead to success.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.