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There’s A Staggering Conspiracy Behind The Rise Of Consumer Culture
Americans weren’t always addicted to buying things.
Long before U.S. consumers racked up $ 11.3 trillion in aggregate debt, people used to save money for things they actually needed.
But in the age of plenty that followed World War I, corporations countered the threat of overproduction with a manipulative psychological strategy.
“We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture,” wrote Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers. “People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”
This conspiracy, enabled by new sophistication in advertising and ardently supported by the government, was shockingly effective.
American corporations were rich and powerful at the end of WW1, but they were worried about the danger of overproduction. What if there people acquired enough goods and simply stopped buying?
Everything from shoes to cars was promoted in functional terms, meant to appeal to a rational consumer.
Banker Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers saw the way forward: “We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”