Monday, 17 November 2014

As long as it's black ....

I used to teach my students that the need for marketing was primarily the result of oversupply.
 
In undersupplied markets the producer is sovereign to the extent of consumers having little choice beyond taking what is on offer or going without. During the early industrial period and right up to the middle of the twentieth century, merely possessing the latest exciting consumer durable such as a TV or a washing machine was enough to make you the envy of your friends.

A combination of mass production technologies and cheap labour resulted in a reversal of this order of things in the third quarter of the century. In oversupplied markets the producer who lacks a good marketing mix will lose out to competitors who understand the customers better, even if the latter has a technically inferior product. The least successful at selling will see their products remain on the shelves or in the display rooms.

In some ways I think the established political parties in the West are behaving like early twentieth century industrialists. They assume that grassroots members can be safely ignored and voters will continue to vote for the big old parties because only they can assemble the majorities needed to control government.

Just because voters are concerned about EU regulations, migration, and in Scotland home rule it doesn't mean their concerns need to be addressed. Since the days of Edmund Burke politicians have hidden behind the defence that they are not delegates but experts, whereas voters are basically ignorant.

Before the information revolution this position might have been sustainable. In an age of 24/7 news and minute scrutiny of public officials it is not. We see the rise of populism all over the West, some of it unattractive to say the least, but all of it responding to the neglect of the citizenry by the traditional plotical classes.

It is long past time our politicians stopped behaving like feudal barons and started taking the views of their constituents more seriously.