The 50 Years Ago column from the March 1968 issue of the Socialist Standard
As goods were produced, not that they should be used by their producers, but only to be sold at a profit, the quality of the articles was of little concern to the manufacturer so long as the purchaser could be deceived. The sale of adulterated foodstuffs, for instance, spread to proportions which would have seemed incredible in the ‘simple age' when people prepared food to eat. Bright declared adulteration a ‘legitimate form of competition’. Rubbish, in our civilised age, is sold as food, poison as drink, and the all-producing proletariat are clad in shoddy clothing, and in paper boots. Fortunes are built up, by the sale of quack ‘patent medicines’ and 'cures’ for every imaginable ailment. The advertising of goods has become an art in itself, an act of lying and deceit. Every article is pronounced from a hundred glaring posters to be better than all its competitors. Under capitalism it has become impossible to separate lying from the most everyday economic relations. The worker lies to his boss about his qualifications; the manufacturer and salesman lies to his customers from the hoarding and the Press, by his agent or over the counter. The ‘business lie’ has become ‘not a real lie at all’, a mere convention which everybody expects and everybody sees through.
Such are some of the glorious results of free competition and the 'rights of the individual’.
From the Socialist Standard March 1918.