Rents: How Marketing Causes Inequality (Chapter 1)

Rents: How Marketing Causes Inequality, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2018

See all articles by Gerrit De Geest

Gerrit De Geest

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2018


This working paper contains the introduction and first chapter of a forthcoming book on the relationship between marketing and inequality. I argue that the dramatic rise of income inequality since 1970 has largely been caused by advances in marketing. Marketers have become better at creating and exploiting market distortions in legal ways. The legal system, in principle, prevents the deliberate creation of market failures, but it has not evolved at the same speed. Business schools have outsmarted law schools. This chapter offers an introduction to a new, general theory of marketing. Although marketing is meant to improve markets by bringing products to the right customers, it often does the opposite—creating “value” to businesses by making prices less transparent, splitting informed and uninformed consumers, making products incomparable, locking in consumers, exploiting psychological biases, creating network externality effects, or preventing price wars. Over the time span 1970–2015, the impact of marketing on the economy has steadily increased. Few markets have not been turned into less competitive ones by marketers, trained at modern business schools. This has significantly increased the amount of artificial profits (“rents”) in the economy.

Keywords: income inequality, marketing, antitrust law, consumer protection law, efficiency versus equity, redistribution

JEL Classification: M300, M380, K20, K34

Suggested Citation

De Geest, Gerrit, Rents: How Marketing Causes Inequality (Chapter 1) (August 1, 2018). Rents: How Marketing Causes Inequality, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Gerrit De Geest (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-398-4941 (Phone)

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