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The New Mercantilism, 1

So apparently, in the 2012 Olympics the police will have the power to stop people from entering events with non-sponsor items.

Now I think that most everything you can buy is actually generic—cola is cola, soap is soap, a shirt is a shirt—and the fact that people actually care about brand is just sad. Really, if Coke sponsors the Olympics and you wanted to drink a Pepsi, the very fact that you have an opinion on the marginal taste difference between two crappy colas suggests that you’re a massive loser.

But still: the power of the state will be used, or at least be available, to force people to buy one brand instead of another. That’s just wrong.

Adam Smith said it best:

“It is unnecessary, I imagine, to observe, how contrary such regulations are to the boasted liberty of the subject, of which we affect to be so very jealous; but which, in this case, is so plainly sacrificed to the futile interests of our merchants and manufacturers.”

In that quote Smith was talking about mercantilism (where powerful sellers dominate the economy, the government, and the population, and their need to sell is treated as more important than anything).

And:

“It cannot be very difficult to determine who have been the contrivers of this whole mercantile system; not the consumers, we may believe, whose interest has been entirely neglected; but the producers, whose interest has been so carefully attended to. . . .”

This happens in the US too; for instance, in many states it’s illegal to criticize the food supply (and hooboy is the food supply horrifying).

How did we get here? That’s a post for later.

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