Barry Commoner: The Illusion of Consumer Sovereignty
The reason we're in trouble with automobile pollution is big cars. As Henry Ford said, "Mini cars make mini profits." The reason Detroit went to big cars is not that people wanted them -- until they were told. It was because big cars were more profitable. Still, the issue always comes up: Isn't it up to us? Isn't it our fault that we buy the big cars, for instance? Well, no it isn't. Let me give you my favorite example of why the consumer is not really to blame in most cases. I wear size 12 socks. That's an intimate fact I will share with you. Not long ago, I went into a well-known New York department store and asked for a pair of size 12. They said, Oh, that's a special order. But over there you can get size 10-to-I3." Today it is very hard to get sized socks. Is this because of consumer demand? Do you know anyone who went into a store and said: "Listen, my feet change size every week. I need a variable-size sock?" That is not why it was done. It was done to reduce inventories and