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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

I am not trying to give anyone a heart attack…

… so I would advise anyone of an even vaguely libertarian inclination who gets stressed easily to read no further.

This article by Felicity Lawrence, Nanny does know best, Andrew Lansley, displays the ideology of the Nanny State in an unusually pure and unapologetic form:

Can it be too that Lansley is not aware of all the literature about how individuals’ “free choices” are shaped by marketing and advertising. Perhaps we should recommend some urgent remedial reading for his homework, starting with…

The Andrew Lansley for whom Felicity Lawrence is setting homework is the Secretary of State for Health. The fact that he consents to hold this position means that he too must be something of a statist, but nonetheless he recently said, “If we are constantly lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do, we will actually find that we undermine and are counterproductive in the results that we achieve.” It is a measure of how deeply Nanny’s rule has been accepted that even this pragmatic, rather than principled, objection to government health lectures aroused fury.

18 comments to I am not trying to give anyone a heart attack…

  • Reading the comments is depressing. Those people are getting the government they deserve and dragging us along for the ride. I really hope it’s just Grauniad readers.

  • Pickman

    Advertising is lying.

  • Pickman: what’s your point?

  • Pickman

    That the great majority of average people, even ones as intelligent as Europeans, are not and cannot be free of the ideational formatives flowing through culture in the broadest sense … that these are ideological, egalitarian and universalist, and profoundly anti-European in the racial sense, before they are commercial and simply dishonest … that genuine liberty is the (rare) capacity to detach from all such formatives and to find what is authentic and true.

    Will that suffice?

  • Perhaps the belief that people’s “free choice” is itself influenced excessively (controlled) by marketing and advertising is also influenced excessively by spending too much time listening to sociologists and/or reading the Guardian / watching the BBC. People with this belief must then themselves be protected from this pernicious desire to control the lives of others, by……

    And I guess one can go as far down that rabbithole as one likes. For the argument to work at all, someone must actually have free choice, so it ultimately comes down to “We know what is better for those odious proles than they do themselves, so we must rule them”.

    In truth, I am not convinced that anyone actually does have free will, but even if we don’t we must pretend that we do. Anything else leads to madness.

  • lucklucky

    “In truth, I am not convinced that anyone actually does have free will”

    !? Of course we have, those, at least for those that want it and don’t live in a Gulag.

    Free will don’t disappears with outside influence up to a certain point.

  • Pickman, that was a fine bit of nonsensical gibberish. Kindly go away.

  • Jack Olson

    If you have ever worked in a marketing department, you know that while it can be difficult to figure out what people really want, even that is easier than trying to sell them what they don’t want. The reason Apple couldn’t sell the Lisa computer but could sell the Ipod, the reason Sony could sell the Walkman but not the Betamax, was a matter of product and not advertising.

  • RAB

    Well I dont know how “Free” my will is, but I am happy to assert that I have never bought anything in my life soley on the strength of the advertising and marketing of the product.

    Let’s take the dreaded scurge of our times, the so called junk food, burgers.

    The first proper burger I ever had was in New York in 1973. I had seen no advertising for it, my American hosts just took me out and bought me one. It was a revelation. it tasted good, it had a bun and salad and stuff and fries and I liked it a lot, but I would not eat one every week.

    Oh I had had burgers before in Britain. They were advertised a lot, by a company called Wimpey. They had no bun, no salad some pathetic chips half a tomato and a bit of garnish, and they looked and tasted like a deep fried ice hockey puck. I did not repeat the experience.

    See what I’m saying? Advertising only really works to introduce a new product. Once the product has been sampled and found wanting, no amount of marketing will get the likes of me to buy it again.

    I used to work in Advertising briefly, and I found that absolutely nobody knew what worked or didn’t work or why. It was pure flinging mud at a wall and hoping some of it stuck.

    And let’s not forget that some of the most famous and well loved adverts of all time, the Joan Collins/Leonard Rossiter Cinzano ones, actually had the sales fall in their wake.

    So Jack Olsen, you are absolutely right, fancy words and images dont sell product, hands on experience does.

  • Kevin B

    Whilst some advertising seems to be about trying to get the public to buy one brand rather than another, it seems to me that a lot of it is just pretentious wankers showing off amongst themselves.

    I’m prepared to admit that some of that is caused by massive regulation on content , but car ads, beer ads and mobile phone ads in particular really are a joke.

    Mind you, I would like to see how the various food, drink, second hand smoke, AGW and the numerous other dubious studies, together with the clamerous din made by their supporters, would stand up in a regulatory regime half as stringent as that for a beer ad.

  • Tedd

    On a more positive note, here’s a story that ought to warm the heart of anyone who believes in free will, or even the pretense of free will.

  • Well Tedd, all that proves that some people like cheap toys with their burgers.

  • Kevin B

    C’mon Perry, when was the last time the CEO of a major business had the balls to tell a bunch of nanny-state enablers like the CSPI to FOAD.

  • I too was pleased to see McDonald’s sticking up for themselves.

    Makes a pleasant contrast to this story, in which the NAACP made a laughable accusation of racism about a talking greetings card – play the audio clip and see how laughable I mean – and Hallmark meekly submitted and pulled it from the shelves.

  • Weevie

    !? Of course we have, those, at least for those that want it and don’t live in a Gulag.

    Free will don’t disappears with outside influence up to a certain point.

    It’s actually a bit more complex than that It’s more to do with whether you believe our brains are just organic machines with varying configurations that are affected by inputs, produce outputs that may affect the next set of inputs. If you do then you’ve pretty much denied the existence of free will. Mind you even if you believe in the soul, you arguably end up with a sort of deterministic propagation where the fact that any such ‘soul’ has to integrate with the brain and thus becomes a machine processing the same inputs, itself with varying configurations to produce it’s own outputs.

    Some will fall back on uncertainty and quantum states but if some principle of randomness is applied that’s not free will either, it’s just those varying configurations within the said ‘machine’ are random.

    Or you say ‘God sorts it out, no need to worry’ but that’s not much help if you’re an atheist like me. ;o>

    Michael’s right though, best not to acknowledge any of this day to day. It doesn’t really help! :oD

    Sorry this was a bit off topic wasn’t it.

  • If I may continue drifting gaily off-topic, if Weevie’s point is correct and the human mind is.simply a finitely complex machine rather than some infinitely complex quantum-wavefront-thingbob then that should make building a ‘true’ AI much more simple, as it then becomes a matter of defining inputs and outputs (albeit on a grand scale) and all that messing about with fuzzy logic could.be dispensed with. You could probably even construct it entirely from NAND gates. You’d end up with a glorified Robosapien, but that would essentially be what its creator about was in any case.

    Whether a free plastic toy would encourage it to purchase a hamburger is another matter entirely…

  • Paul Marks

    In a free market – rival companies, and consumer groups (charitable trusts) can dispute each other’s claims.

    But it is not so easy with government “information” (which, for some reason, is not considered advertising).

    By the way commercial advertising is not “lying” – it is saying “look at my product”.

    As many advertising cases have shown – even when the ads are good (and win awards) people often choose NOT to buy the product. They look and they say “no thanks”.

    Without adverstising it is hard to see how new products would get to public attention at all.

    Would we rely on government “information campaigns”?

    The sort that were thought out by President Woodrow Wilson’s propagandists (the very people who wrote the first attacks on commercial advertising – but thought their own monopoly of information was fine) and were later copied by the Nazis – no violation of internet custom, as I am not saying “the Nazis” just to smear Wilson and co.

    The National Socialist minister of Propaganda openly admitted he got the main works of the Wilson propagandists and followed their principles.

  • Paul H

    We constantly hear this meme from the left, “advertising makes people buy stuff they don’t want”, thus perpetuating a wasteful consumerist society. As someone who has worked in sales all my adult life my answer to that would be “I wish!”. Marketing a service or product is damned tricky and as others here have pointed out, no amount of award winning advertising will make people buy a crap product. An old saying in advertising is “Half your advertising budget is wasted, the problem is you can never know which half”, I would say from experience that it is more like 90% and if the market turns against your product or even your product category, then that would rise to 100%.

    As an exercise, try this some time, during prime-time television (ideally while sitting with a left wing in-law), note the category of products being presented. You will see an awful lot of sanitary products and a distinct lack of anything that could be described as wasteful consumerism.