Monday, January 13, 2014

Government Advertising

Never had a doubt, in the beginning
Never a doubt
Trusted you true, in the beginning
I loved you right through
--Naked Eyes

Some claim that marketing and advertising make society worse off. For example, Galbraith (1958) argued that advertisers create unnecessary demand for products--thus siphoning resources away from more important needs.

Such claims are certainly contestable. In unhampered markets, advertising, like many other types of communication, can convey useful information to prospective buyers. It is also a form of voluntary persuasion. In markets for influence, people decide whether to consume that persuasion or not. Moreover, claiming that advertising diverts resources from more important needs implies that the claimant knows those 'important needs' better than those people who are freely engaging in trade. Hubris of this sort helps drive central planners.

To the extent that such claim are true in the private sector, then why would it not be equally if not more true in the public sector? After all, government seeks to influence thought and behavior. Because it is legalized force, government also has the means to turn up the volume of its voice so as to drown out opposing influence. Furthermore, government can only market by force, as it must obtain its communication resources by forcibly confiscating those resources from individuals.

Why aren't government marketing campaigns to push policies and programs at least as likely to manipulate and deceive people as do private sector marketing campaigns?


Galbraith, J.K. 1958. The affluent society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

The democracy of the market consists in the fact that people themselves make their choices and that no dictator has the power to force them to submit to his value judgments.
~Ludwig von Mises