A brief historical overview of advertising documents that advertising traditionally performed two different functions: to inform and to persuade. Over time, the law has adopted the view that all advertising is information and, based on this view, has come to preserve the uniqueness, reputation, prestige, and exclusivity that today’s goods and services conjure in consumers’ minds. This chapter discusses three recurrent themes that underlie the function and operation of the current economic system and explores, in particular, how the workings of the present experience economy are justified in legal and economic theory. It is through the operation of these principles (revealed preferences, maximization of consumer welfare, external incentives) that consumer choices are supposed to allocate resources efficiently. It explains the contradictory tensions within those principles and provides the basis for the claim that a twenty-first-century reconceptualization of the consumer may enrich our understanding of what constitutes progress.
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