Victor Lebow

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Nationality United States
Field Economics
Contributions Retail analysis

Victor Lebow was a 20th-century economist and retail analyst, perhaps best known for his quotation regarding the formulation of American consumer capitalism found in his paper "Price Competition in 1955" (Journal of Retailing, Spring 1955). Modern authors disagree as to whether Lebow was encouraging and prescribing conspicuous consumption or grimly acknowledging and critiquing its prevalence among American consumers.[citation needed]


According to the biography published in the beginning of his book Free Enterprise: The Opium of the American People (1972), Lebow was "an executive, officer, and director of large corporations". He once testified before the Senate Small Business Committee in its investigation of competitive practices, and was at one point the co-chairman of the University Seminar on the Economics of Distribution at Columbia University.[citation needed]

Price Competition in 1955[edit]

Lebow's best-known words were published in the Spring 1955 issue of the Journal of Retailing. The paper discussed the cost of maintaining the American lifestyle in 1955, and the effect this cost had on retail profits. According to Lebow, the large "cover charge" taken out of retail sales revenue would result in severe competition at the retail level, and that retail markups would be widespread. Under the heading, "The Real Meaning of Consumer Demand", Lebow wrote:

Lebow's best-known words have been quoted in a number of articles, documentaries, and articles in the years since his paper was published.[1] He is cited in the book How Much Is Enough?: The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth by Alan Durning of the Worldwatch Institute. In 1993, Lebow was quoted in an article entitled "Consume 101: joys of consumerism at Campus Fest" in the University of British Columbia's student-run newspaper, The Ubyssey.[2] His words were most recently featured in a 2007 web-based documentary about the life-cycle of goods and services called The Story of Stuff, as well as a 2009 opinion column by Andy Coghlan in New Scientist magazine.[3]

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