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Effetti perversi dell’innovazione merceologica

The Perverse Effects of Innovation in Commercial Technology

Anno XXIII, n. 101, aprile-giugno 1988
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

Even setting out from a positive, non-"moralistic" evaluation of consumerism, it must, nonetheless, be acknowledged that the commercial innovation typical of consumer capitalism systematically gives rise to perverse effects (such as, for example, the distortion of consumer decisions that may be caused by advertising). The market is not in a position to control these effects and they, hence, do not permit the best possible allocation of resources.
The case of the information and inventions market—i.e. good about which the consumer possesses information which is, by definition, incomplete—is paradigmatic in this sense. The fact that the information available to consumers is sistematically incomplete causes producers to be uncertain about results. Neither curve—of demand and of supply—of the new product is precisely definable in relation to price. This has obvious consequences upon resource balance and allocation and brings about a typical situation of market failure. On the other hand, the institutions which should make up for this failure by providing the consumer with information—fashion and advertising—are organized by private interests and, hence, systematically produce information that is incomplete and occasionally distorted.
This is an example of the persistently perverse effects of consumer capitalism arising from the need—in other senses, progressive—to innovate systematically. The fact is all the more significant to the extent that the growth of capitalism implies increased production not only of the so-called superfluities but also of information itself: of information containing mere entertainment but also, most importantly, of information containing culture and knowledge, the acquisition of which is indispensable for the enrichment of "human capital".