Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wired News: Reading Green Tea Leaves in Tokyo

This full post/article is nice, but incomplete. Galbraith is worth some study, but realize that his work is a mirror of the culture which raised and supported him - the fifties. The longer view is that people vote with their wallets. Popular culture can be managed on the short term, but not on the longer trends. These last have been consistently pointed toward more free market control, which has translated toward globalization and the spread of freedom. Even those countries which have despotic governments revise toward liberties for their populations - which has been spurred on through the rise of information lines such as the Internet, a source not able to be stopped at local borders.

Again, it is not just supply and demand. Black helicopter theories disperse when information is freely exchanged. Poor service by a government or a corporation forces consumers/participants to find more information and fine/make other choices. Economics consists of all four points.

Wired News: Reading Green Tea Leaves in Tokyo:

"The book was called Avant-Pop too. I opened it and read:

'One of the good things about capitalism is that it's blind to what it sells. It's willing to sell anything.... The system isn't really the enemy. It's blind, all it wants is to replicate and do more things.'

McCaffery, a literary critic, was replying to a certain punk or alt rock puritanism which says that innovation and integrity can only come from indie labels, margins, fringes. He cited Elvis Presley, and the transformative power he had, and how his emergence on RCA in the mid-'50s threatened the establishment.

As I learned more about how Japan operated, I became less sure that it was simply the case that consumers were in charge of the wholesome or sophisticated products I was seeing on sale everywhere. I heard about cartels, anti-competitive practices, yakuza control, government regulation. And somewhere along the line I stumbled on the ideas of economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who said in his 1966 BBC Reith Lecture:

'The modern industrial society, or that part of it which is composed of the large corporations, is in all essentials a planned economy. By that I mean that production decisions are taken not in response to consumer demand as expressed in the market, rather, they are taken by producers. These decisions are reflected in the prices that are set in the market, and in the further steps taken to ensure that people will buy what is produced and sold at those prices. The ultimate influence is authority.'

So was McCaffery right that consumers could create a grass-roots revolution (for instance, rock 'n' roll) by buying what they wanted (for instance, Elvis records)? Or was Galbraith right to say that freedom of choice was mostly illusory, dictated by decisions made by producers, distributors, retailers, advertisers and authority?"

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