Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 7 No. 1 (Winter 1993)


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Retrospectives: Consumer Sovereignty

Article Citation

Persky, Joseph. 1993. "Retrospectives: Consumer Sovereignty." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 7(1): 183-191.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.7.1.183


The term "consumer sovereignty" is usually traced to William Harold Hutt and his 1936 book Economists and the Public: A Study of Competition and Opinion. Hutt paid only passing attention to the maximization of consumer welfare or the achievement of market efficiency. He was stalking different game. For him, the basic issues revolved around the exercise of power in a free society and those issues concerned sovereignty. Why should consumers be given such great power in determining the allocation of resources and the course of production? Hutt's major argument for consumer sovereignty centered on its role in promoting political and social stability. It is unlikely that Hutt's defense of consumer sovereignty will be embraced by the economics profession in the near future. It received only passing attention when first propounded and has largely disappeared from active discussion. Yet I would argue that his approach has a most interesting message.

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Persky, Joseph (U IL, Chicago)

JEL Classifications

B31: History of Thought: Individuals
B21: History of Thought: Microeconomics
D10: Household Behavior: General


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