EMERSON AND HITLER IN THE MARKETPLACE
I really hate using Hitler quotes these days; people take them as ultimate slams, rather than illuminating thoughts from a bad guy. But that said, Adolph did make a very clear and useful statement when he said this:
I have not come into this world to make men better, but to make use of their weaknesses.
This is a fundamental model of human action, and sadly, one that is fairly common. Granted, most people don’t take it nearly as far as Hitler did, but they do use the model, purposely taking advantage of human weaknesses.
My first professional-level boss operated on this principle. He’d take advantage of you as far as you’d let him, although he did compartmentalize his actions. That is, outside of work he acted like my grandpa, but at the office he’d rip me off whenever he could… and he did the same to our customers.
Sadly, there are a lot of people like my old boss, and a lot of them mask their behavior in free-market rhetoric. Nonetheless, the principle underlying their actions is “Make use of their weaknesses.” They may limit their predations to the marketplace (for which I am glad), but their principle of operation inside the marketplace is corrupt, and it tends to corrupt the market as well as themselves.
And while I have no desire to get specific pointing fingers, I will share some examples:
- You sell people things they don’t really need, because you can.
- Your advertising takes advantage of psychological weaknesses – hustling people into buying more of your product than they would if you reasoned with them.
- You get legislation written to drive politically weaker competitors out of your market.
- You pay politicians to force people to buy your product.
- You use your superior influence to have standards written in your favor.
- You purposely mislead customers.
- You use misleading click-bate to juice your numbers and “get famous.”
- You purposely stir controversy to “get famous.”
- You manipulate interest rates so that people have to put their money in a pot you control.
- You customize the web pages people see, serving the desires of those who pay you. The page-viewer isn’t told he/she is being manipulated in this way.
And so on.
I think we all have to admit that this method of doing business is becoming dominant. Clearly it’s already dominant in Washington, DC, on Wall Street, and in the boardrooms of the various mega-corps.