As everybody knows, cigarette companies were held legally responsible for the misfortunes caused by smoking, even though the cigarette companies didn’t hold a gun to anybody’s head. Smokers smoked because they chose to do so. So, why did cigarette makers owe damages? And, why did all cigarette makers owe damages? Why should the manufacturer of Marlboro cigarettes have to pay damages for someone smoking Salem cigarettes?
So, why do Americans save so little? Financial planners like to see clients save 10% of their income, and Americans have often done that but not since the early 1980s. During the financial crisis of 2008/9, our savings rate briefly touched a respectful 8%. Today, it is only 2.5%.
Compounding the problem of declining savings, companies have discontinued most pension plans. When Americans need to save more, they are saving less. This is bad for individuals, bad for families, and bad for America. Many see this problem as a moral issue, i.e. that people don’t have to self-discipline to save.
Another theory is that, as Americans spend more and more time watching hundreds of cable channels, they are not only getting fatter but also more susceptible to advertising, which means they can “have it all” by charging more on their credit cards or they can “find happiness and fulfillment” by again charging more on their credit cards. Stated starkly like this, the stupidity shows.
Of course, Madison Avenue advertising agencies convinced us that smoking was sexy and sophisticated, before convincing the courts that the manufacturers were the guilty parties. Now, they have convinced us that spending is sexy and sophisticated, before blaming it on the victims.
Does the advertising industry have any liability for anything they do? Do they have a moral compass?