Research

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This is the moderated wiki page of the Consumer360 Academy about consumer governance in practice. A summary will be available on Wikipedia, with a link to this website. It can be used as an open source for teachers, as private distant learning e-course or module in studying economics, social sciences or consumer law, and/or as lifelong learning wiki for yourself as a consumer/citizen. It is about results of discussions in our own workshops and our visits to conferences of other organizations worldwide. But also the result of many phone calls and emails, research and newsgathering, reading and talking. Of course everyone is invited to read and to learn but also to tell about own experiences and make new suggestions! We're all looking for the deepest insights, the most important arguments and the best possible solutions to be available on the worldwide web! Aren't we?

Peter Daub (moderator)

Consumer governance

open e-courseware
  1. Introduction
    Consumer freedom and responsibility
    Consumer governance in the 21st century
  2. Economics is about consumers and producers
    Economics is about labor differentiation
    Consumers producers traders and bankers
    History of globalization
    Development of consumer organizations
  3. Consumer governance in the 21st century
    Six billion consumers
    Economy of question and answer
    Logistics are the chains of integration
  4. To buy or not to buy
    Money management is time-management
    Spending is paying off the past and living now
    Saving is financing your producers
    Subsidizing the next generation producers and product innovation
  5. Decision making and the quality of life
    Quality quantity and price
    Guarantees and labeling
    Payment delivery and user guides
    Quality of life
  6. Our daily needs and greeds
    Information shopping and decision making
    Physical social and cultural producers
    Twelve consumer organizations
    Consumer 360 overview
  7. Consumer organizations
    Economy of scale vs individual needs
    Information and dialogue
    Agreements orders and prepay
    Consumer authorities
  8. Logistics
    Economy of question and answer
    Information: Multi Channel Management
    Chain Management Consumer Banking Producer
    Chain Management Producer Trade Consumer
    Just in time
    Just in place
  9. Producers service and advisory
    Specialization by labor differentiation
    Producers
    Services
    Advisory
  10. New developments
    Good governance
    New problems new solutions
    Consumer education
    Lifelong Learning

1 Introduction

1.1 Consumer freedom and responsibility
1.2 Consumer governance in the 21st century

1.1 Consumer freedom and responsibility

We're 21 now! After we began to think on our own since the first Greek philosophers, after the first of us (in Galilea) left our families to live on our own, after the French Revolution when we started to talk about democracy and so ... and now after we learned to "shop till we drop" .......... we're free!

"Free to choose" was the title of the book of the Nobelprize winner Milton Friedman, and that's exactly the problem! Because now we have to take up responsibility ourselves! No more parents, priests, kings, politicians, marketing managers or other guru's can tell us how to go on! Even materialism helped us to stand on our own feet now and God him/herself is now waiting if he/she can believe in us! (1) We're co-creators now and everybody can feel it that way! Especially painful when we talk about all the smaller and bigger crises yet to overcome, we can recognize that we ourselves as individuals, as consumers and as citizens are now in the middle of the age of maturity!

Based on the twelve necessities of life we'll have to ask ourselves how to manage our world in all directions. Looking around in the cosmos we can also look through twelve "windows" or 360 degrees around the horizon. And through twelve "consumer organizations" we can ask the questions to all our "producers". How about food, how about housing, how about energy transport and sustainability, but also how about medicare, education and even politics and religion? Stepping into maturity means always an end to all the answers of the past. But asking all questions again will show us that a lot of answers were good already, but have to be translated now to the 21st century of our own.

But also important to know is that in the differentiation of all the peoples of the world we're now with six billion individuals, even six billion religions! Therefore it is now interesting to look where we stand as individual, where we live together in a democratic way as citizens, and where we work together as producers to create all products and services. In all these directions a lot of pioneering work has been done already inside and outside the "spiritual sciences" (2), the opposite of the natural sciences which is the other side of the same coin called "science"! As we know in our own daily life everything has to do with matter AND mind! With hands AND head! And the heart between to judge, to translate, and to choose the best combinations between the spiritual world of ideas and the material world of daily reality.

As human beings of the 21st century we're the managers of the future ourselves. We have to ask the questions, to do the talks and to pay the bills! We at Consumer360.org are there to give you some roadmaps for your journey! Maps we make since we went our own journey!

(1) Pope Benedictus at the youth conference in Colonia Germany 2005

(2) Research in spiritual sciences done since the 14th century by Rosicrucians, Theosophy in the 19th century and since the 20th century Anthroposophy which is also the most comprehensive research organization today with the most pioneering projects worldwide (Biodynamic farming, Waldorf education, organic architecture, ethical banking, etc etc etc). Research in spiritual sciences is as concrete, transparent and verifiable as natural sciences. The method of research is comprehensively described in "The way to insights in higher worlds" and many other books by Rudolf Steiner (biggest worldwide one man's oeuvre of books published - 354 titles)

1.2 Consumer governance in the 21st century

Towards an economy of question and answer

Consumer governance is the word connected to the 21st century, where globalization and internet made us more "mature" not only in thinking and talking about worldwide issues, but also in taking responsibility for better decisions about what to buy or not to buy! And because the consumer is a manager about his/her budget better decisions needs better information!

The book "Consumer Freedom and Responsibility published in 1998 described the results of seven years of research in consumer organizations and especially the role of the consumer as an individual. How can we as consumers have a better view around us in the world of economics? How can we search for the most relevant arguments when in dialogue with producers? And where can we find best-practice solutions to learn from others? These and many other questions were later published on the website of the Free Consumers Association (consumer360.org) since 2004, including all kinds of links, latest news and the website itself was designed meant for e-learning and as management-scheme at the same time. For our members and visitors, and for ourselves in daily practice on writing lobbying and networking it became a most valuable tool for tackling all issues asking for innovative solutions! It's proving to be an eye-opener every day for every possible question about consumer governance!

As Paul Samuelson's Handbook Economics was all about world economics and readable like a detective story, it triggered our research to find out everything about what is especially important for the consumer. But nowadays a book and even a website are not enough to get the holistic picture of world economics! Experiences and knowledge from other areas of science and life itself are important as well. In these pages which we are going to build as a WIKI (and a summary of it on Wikipedia) we will go on in lifelong learning, together with our readers. And because everybody is a consumer, we mean everybody!

The big picture then is of course based on the consumer and the world of economics. Since the French Revolution made clear that we have to look for freedom in cultural issues, equality in all our social relations, and work together on a basis of fraternity, we can recognize the interactions between our heads (thoughts) hearts (relations) and hands (products and services). Thirty years of research made by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) gave also the results that we can recognize these three aspects not only in the human body and in society as a whole, but also in every organization as well, in every single issue of society. In fact it has everything to do with the polarity we are standing in between mind and matter! The reality of everyday life is of course as complex as it was before. But can be much better understood when we know on what basics that reality is build. In fact we can see ourselves as a point in the cosmos defined by three dimensions: between heaven and earth, between all our neighbors left and right, and standing in the course of time between the past behind us and our (common) future when we are looking forward!

2 Economics is about consumers and producers

2.1 Economy is about labor differentiation

In early times we collected our own food, made our own clothes and build our own tents. It was the time of the do-it-yourself economy! Later on we lived in villages where we split up tasks in agriculture, building houses or medicare, but also education, lawmaking and art! We called it a barter economy or an economy of exchange. When it became more and more complex and more globalizing we needed traders and bankers to arrange the processes of distribution and administration between producers and consumers. For goods and services as well.

Also today we make decisions to repair our own car or go to a garage, or even splitting up or integrate whole companies! Always in search for more efficiency and more effectively, working on more wealth and (if well divided) more wellness for more people.

3 Consumer governance in the 21st century

3.1 Six billion consumers
3.2 Economy of question and answer
3.3 Logistics are the chains of integration

4 To buy or not to buy

4.1 Moneymanagement is time-management
4.2 Spending is paying off the past and living now
4.3 Saving is financing your producers
4.4 Subsidising the next generation producers and productinnovation

5 Decision making and the quality of life

 

5.1 Quality quantity and price
5.2 Guarantees and labeling
5.3 Payment delivery and user guides
5.4 Quality of life

5.1 Quality Quantity Price

According to the human being with head heart and hands also the decision-making process has to do with these three aspects. When we think about quality it is not only about the visible but also the invisible qualities of a product or a service. Not only about materials, sustainability, capacities, durability, colors or industrial design, but also about the inner quality (food!) service, combinations of design and myself, my house, my style of living. Summarized we think about an image of the product in connection to our own situation and what could give it to the quality of our live!

So Quality is an image of the product. Quantity has to do with how much we need (or greed). Price (fair price) is only the administration of the work done. Quality quantity and price are the three aspects of a product or service

Quality

Quality of life is starting point for every decision-making process! Our everyday's choices in quality of products and services and all other aspects are derived from that one-and-only wish we have to improve our wellbeing with every next step. Although we often make different decisions in different circumstances, in our heart we feel always that same feeling as pilots in the history of flying always said: faster higher further! But also "le Petit Prince" said to the famous aviator Antoine de Saint Exupery: only with your heart you can really listen! And that's about "inner" quality. Because so many things are about qualities you can't see but are real! For instance taste, sphere, composition, situation, but also for instance aspects of planetary influences on food in the same way as sun and moon are relevant for growing crops and fruits! Quality has also to do with time and space and with the possibilities we have to buy one thing or another. Quality can be a composition of many aspects but in the end it is our well-being which is the last check. In other words: the quality of OUR life!!

For consumer organizations as for producers as well quality is also an aspect of statistics because mass production means thinking about what is the expected degree in quality for most of the consumers? Although in combination with production in modules, extra service and help(desks) a kind of tailor-made end result is possible, choices are to be made even before starting up research and development of new products and services. More and more we can see that consumer organizations are doing the "bottom-up" marketing by collecting the questions! In fact working in an economy of questions and answers. In the dialogue between producers and consumers, between product developers and consumer organizations, between retailers, service and packaging etc etc, in fact in the dialogue throughout the whole chain from idea or nature to product, sculpture or culture as an impressive creative process is ongoing from version 1.0 and so on and so on until something complete new is invented!
A special remark must be made to the consumer him / herself! To enjoy the quality you chose for it is of course also important to read the user guides! Plus beyond those guides our own creativity plays a big role to MAKE the quality of life we wished ourselves! For instance in preparing food, in creating circumstances, in choosing and using! Everybody is an artist! (Joseph Beuys: Jeder Mensch ein Kunstler.

Quantity

Quantity is about how much we need for our daily needs. It's about the barometer with all the indications between too little and too much. Where Ghandi said: "there's enough for everybody's needs but never enough for anyone's greed..." It's about asking questions from dividing the labor to dividing the production. It's about income. But as simple as it sounds the discussions have just begun about basic income and what about the extremes at the upper side of the scale. More and more everybody is thinking and talking about income, about the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty. But also about income in general - in fact the discussions have switched from producers to consumers, to everybody!

Somewhere in between we shall see the solutions in the coming years. In the same way that all kinds of social systems were developed including young old and sick people we could expect all kinds of thoughts about realistic income for everyone worldwide. For everybody a reasonable way of living must be possible because nature is for us all. So we should say: a REASON-able income is a right! It is a question between consumers! More and more consumer-initiatives are taken worldwide to think about new ways how to live together on this one-and-only planet! Beyond charity everybody is not only talking about fair trade, but also about sharing (basic) incomes, directly and via taxes.

As dividing is a question between people, the daily needs themselves we only can judge our self! What do we need, what do we really need? A complex of twelve necessaries of life, thus only twelve questions! What do we need for food, housing, education, transport, communication, etcetera? And to be realistic: including what we need for our addictions, our hobbies and collections, for our "greeds". If there is enough room for all the extra's depends of course on what is left after everybody has his / her basic income cq reasonable income.

The translation for the quantities that are to be produced in the end can be done by consumer organizations. Producers can then calculate how much production will be realistic according to different qualities and prices. If the consumer-producer relations are also confirmed by subscriptions, prepaid, consumer-owned inventories or consumer guarantees, producers can work without fear that they are alone in taking all the risks. Many banks already accept for this reason lower risk-percentages and less bankruptcies are the result.

Price

Price is 100% payment for labor only! Because nature is a gift by definition. That's the basis of pricing. But in practical life there are different corrections plus and minus. For instance time (fruit), place (cigarettes, food, water), scarcity (art) or abundance (books), etcetera. Including these we don't speak about price anymore but about value. Thus price is not only a figure but it's the work and enthusiasm of a human being who made it for you! It is human reality as well! Buying and even negotiating is a process which can reveal us the reality of human labor and give us a feeling of deep respect for the other. It gives us in every situation the basis of what trade is and what fair.

Although the basis is simple, practical pricing is indeed much more complex. Price discrimination (different prices for different incomes), speculation, subsidizing, taxes and insurances, risk premiums etc etc are making every price calculation a jungle! But even then all 100% price is going somewhere to someone who did something for this product or service! Direct or indirect... Every discussion about price is therefore talking about what labor is delivered, what is real what is fair what is value.

But pricing is in the end also very simple again: only a way of administration in exchanging products and services. For making possible that the producer becomes enough income to make the next product.

5.2 Guarantees

Guarantee is the check of all these aspects and the financing of the 2 % of the products that fail to meet the quality asked.

To check if quality quantity and price are correct the consumer is always the controller in the end! Although producers and hallmark institutes do their continuing checks they can only check at random. Which means per definition that only 98 % is ok. In calculating those plus 2 percent in the prices these last 2 percent are already financed. That means that every discussion about guarantee should never be about the failure of the product itself, but only an understandable investigation if it occurred because of mistreatment by the user himself / herself.

In practical daily life all kinds of situations are of course much more complex. Mistakes, badly read or written instructions, irritations, transport and insurance, etc etc. So therefore often actions have to be taken to solve the dispute. (for instance: 1. Go to another retailer first for a "second consult" so you can see the problem in the best perspective 2. Google to the website of a Consumer Authority or institute where you can find all information about consumer laws 3. Talk with your retailer 4. If problem not yet solved go to consumer organization for individual or collective help 5. Sometimes a problem can generate ideas for new solutions (hallmark organizations are especially interested and willing to help)!

Read more

5.3 Payment Delivery and User guides

Payment Delivery and User guides are (like a mirror of the first three aspects) the three aspects for which also the consumer is responsible.

Payment

Three ways of payment are possible: backward (credit) cash and prepaid. The easiest way to understand the practical difference is looking from the bankers' perspective. Backwards is the most risk full way so the interest rates will be highest, in fact the interest rate is containing the extra risk premiums for not paying or even bankruptcy. Paying cash looks most simple but still there is a great risk for the retailer if continuation of business will be possible in the future.

Most secure ways of doing business are the prepaid versions like subscription, prepaid chip cards, consumer-financed stocks. In fact we give then the right signal that we're asking an economic question. And by arranging for instance a three month or six months' notice we have the freedom to change to another producers or retailer. But that gives all parties to think and talk about problems and to arrange changes if necessary.

Already many payments are prepaid: housing, papers, communication etc etc. In many other areas there are experiments for instance in the chain of food and agriculture, But bankers can tell you that all these constructions make the possibility of bankruptcy to a minimum risk. And in the end consumers will have to pay less for their products.

Delivery

Point of sale, packaging, just-in-time, just-in-place (special point of sale for instance at stations, mountain hotels or delivery by couriers in the middle of the desert. Direct from the factory or the farm, delivery and service at home or in the office, or even preparing fresh to your home or to your table in a restaurant. Information "channel management" is as complex as the many ways of delivery. The only simple thing is the question where the consumer is at every moment of the day.

Consuming / user guides

The quality of products and services are in the end also the result how we as consumer treat those products and services. If food of high quality is degenerated for instance by our running-out-of-time hurry putting it in a magnetron, we don't get the best possible results! The same with bad maintenance of a car, not reading all the necessary guidelines for use of a refrigerator, or neglecting misuse in general. User guides are for reading! To get the quality intended!

5.4 Quality of life

The quality of life is the ultimate goal for everyone, even when life itself is also sometimes a struggle, a lifelong learning process. The quality of life depends partly on the quality of products and services, and for the biggest part of our attitudes, behavior, and ... karma! The quality of products and services however are now more and more frustrated by the misunderstanding about the relation between labour and income. To get this issue more transparent and find the right words we published an article as a suggestion for the conference about economical growth and new ways of measuring in Tilburg 2009 January 10 (read more www.economischegroei.net )

About the quality of life
A consumers' vision

Why is every producer wrestling for stakeholder-value for stock-owners? Why is a consumer shopping and hopping to get lowest prices only? Because everybody is in a desperate fear for not having enough income. And in fact that is the reason why nobody is really interested in quality first! In quality of products and services, in the quality of the labor situation, of fair prices and so on, in sustainability, in quality of life!

But in fact our income is not an economical factor but a (human) right! In the same way as for instance two men, a sick woman and a little child on a Robinson Crusoe Island have to live of what those two man gather for food! In a globalized world we have to share our wealth in the same way among all people. Depending on what we need for our individual development: a reasonable income is a right! Thus between two dollars a day and ten million a year we've got yet a lot to discuss about what's reasonable. Haven't we? If we think about our big world-family as a creation or as a big bang (for dummies) doesn't matter. One way or another we have to deal with it in a way of 21st century (mature?) consumer/citizens should!

But the word itself contains the solution already: REASON-able ! In the same way all social systems are developed on the basis of reasons for what we really need we have to complete that puzzle also for the last group consumers among us who are producers as well for 40/168 part of the week ........... And that discussion is now in a current since two years. Everybody is now discussing about basic incomes and top salaries. But the puzzle is how we manage that whole spectrum in between? For that we need the word 'reasonable' to find reasonable solutions! I think. If those inter-human financial relations are better solved in the near future then only then everybody can really think about sustainability and quality in general. Not haunted anymore by values or prices alone!

6 Our daily needs and greeds

6.1 Information shopping and decisionmaking
6.2 Fysical social and cultural producers
6.3 Twelve consumerorganizations
6.4 Consumer 360 overview

7 Consumer organizations

 

7.1 Economy of scale vs individual needs
7.2 Information and dialogue
7.3 Agreements orders and prepay
7.4 Consumer authorities

8 Logistics

8.1 Economy of question and answer
8.2 Information: Multi Channel Management
8.3 Chain Management Consumer Banking Producer
8.4 Chain Management Producer Trade Consumer
8.5 Just in time
8.6 Just in place

9 Producers service and advisory

9.1 Specialization by labourdifferentiation
9.2 Producers
9.3 Services
9.4 Advisory

10 New developments

 

10.1 Good governance
10.2 New problems new solutions
10.3 Consumer education
10.4 Lifelong Learning

10.4 Life(s)long learning...

Consumer education is now introduced by Consumers International to governments worldwide for implementing in school curriculums, the place where all our knowledge of economy starts! And although this website about twelve necessities of life gives a good overview, in reality every situation is of course a complex of many issues and many many people involved. That's the reason why the artist Joseph Beuys gives it the name "Soziale Kunst" (social art), why Schiller is writing about "Spieltrieb" (playground) and about the ethical education of mankind, and why Shakespeare says: "The whole world's a stage and every human being a merely player".

Where we as human beings are looking to the world of organizations around us in a threefold way (with head, heart and hands): to the world of culture (religion/art/science/education/ communication), the world of human relations (human rights/consumer rights/justice/politics and international relations), and the world of the economy (all activities where we create all our wealth together with all the other people of the world), it is in the economical aspects where things become most concrete until and including the financial bookkeeping of it all.

And to keep in touch with the big picture while acting in every single daily situation ("think globally-act locally"), it is easy to recognize that we all play our "roles" in that polarity created to gain more efficiency as consumer and/or producer (or trader or banker in between to connect those two). And that the main issue is quality of products/services as the basis for the quality of our life.

And according to Shakespeare we can have a feeling of friendship towards each other in recognizing each others role rather than thinking about the struggle for life and looking for lowest prices only! Dialogue and subscription are the best tools for bridging this gap plus a meeting or an annual report each year to evaluate the relation.

For our own lifelong learning process it can be very handy to registrate (only) our most interesting information, meetings and monthly payments on an A4 sheet with twelve columns or on the rear side of a matchbox. That's what managers do, that's the most simple basis for lifelong learning in consumer governance!