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Retrospectives: Consumer Sovereignty

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  • Joseph Persky

Abstract

The term "consumer sovereignty" is usually traced to William Harold Hutt and his 1936 book Economists and the Public: A Study of Competition and Opinion. Hutt paid only passing attention to the maximization of consumer welfare or the achievement of market efficiency. He was stalking different game. For him, the basic issues revolved around the exercise of power in a free society and those issues concerned sovereignty. Why should consumers be given such great power in determining the allocation of resources and the course of production? Hutt's major argument for consumer sovereignty centered on its role in promoting political and social stability. It is unlikely that Hutt's defense of consumer sovereignty will be embraced by the economics profession in the near future. It received only passing attention when first propounded and has largely disappeared from active discussion. Yet I would argue that his approach has a most interesting message.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.7.1.183
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 7 (1993)
Issue (Month): 1 (Winter)
Pages: 183-191

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:7:y:1993:i:1:p:183-91

Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.7.1.183
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  1. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Wolfgang Fellner & Clive L. Spash, 2014. "The Illusion of Consumer Sovereignity in Economic and Neoliberal Thought," SRE-Disc sre-disc-2014_02, Institute for the Environment and Regional Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business.
  2. Christian Schubert & Andreas Chai, 2012. "Sustainable Consumption and Consumer Sovereignty," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-14, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  3. Elodie Brahic & Valérie Clément & Nathalie Moureau & Marion Vidal, 2008. "A la recherche des Merit Goods," Working Papers, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier 08-08, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Jun 2008.

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