In the years immediately following WWII, a remarkable shift occurred in American economic life. For the first time in history, we reached a stage of prosperous development in which we could produce far more goods and services than anyone needed. Various factors combined to create this new situation, including advanced industrial technology, wartime expansion of the economy, the destruction of Europe’s industrial base while our own remained unscathed, and women added to the workforce.
To sustain all this growth, to continue paying wages and continue expanding profits, it was deemed necessary to stimulate our habits of consumption, to artificially increase the public’s appetite for what was being produced. No longer were manufacturers content with simply determining what people wanted and needed. Thenceforward, to a degree never witnessed before, it became necessary to learn effective ways of persuading people that they wanted and needed all sorts of things that they had never wanted or needed before. As a result, the public was soon being bombarded with non-stop messages to fall into line and do what we were being told: the duty of Americans, it became clear, was to go shopping! The ‘good life’ had been confused with the ‘goods’.
So c’mon all you rugged individualists. Race you to Walmart!