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Coercion of Ads

October 07, 1990

In answer to Russell Dvonch (Letters, Sept. 30), who contends that free enterprise involves voluntary exchange:

It is true that capitalistic free enterprise lacks the power of physical coercion in selling products.

However, it is scarcely news that it possesses a much more effective tool: emotional coercion. This arrives in the form of sophisticated advertising, guided by the knowledge that people have an atavistic need for pre-eminence and that this need can be fulfilled by projecting fantasies into objects.

Free enterprise produces engulfing quantities of commodities, and ad men play on human desire to coerce the purchase of these far in excess of material need.

Capitalistic free enterprise arose partly because scientific rationalism, begun during the Renaissance, eradicated our original awe for a living nature, replacing it with an abstract collection of forces for human exploitation.

Robert Heilbroner, in his excellent book "The Nature and Logic of Capitalism," provides a telling insight into this unique economic system's ideology: "The expansion of capital is aided and abetted by the declaration that moral and aesthetic criteria, the only dikes that might hold back the floodtides of capital's expansion, are without relevance within the realm of economic activity."

PATRICK KELLY

Monrovia

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