Dear Adbusters:

While your publication seems to have little use for neoclassical economics professors, there is at least one topic where you have my sympathy. Like you, I find most advertising to be extremely painful. Commercial radio, with its shrill and mind-numbing sales pitches, is the worst. But the ads on t.v. are almost as bad.

A couple years ago, however, I managed to eliminate 98% of the advertising-related aggravation in my life, and I’d like to share how I did it. While the following may seem flippant, I mean it in all seriousness. I freed myself from the pain of advertising by:

1. Subscribing to XM Radio. This product, available for $12.95/month, allows me to enjoy a fantastic variety of music, completely commercial-free. Unlike public radio, moreover, there are no excrutiating pledge drives.

2. Getting a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) from Dish Network. As long as I plan ahead, I can conveniently pre-record any program I want to watch, then fast-forward through all commercials. It’s not quite a good as not having commercials in the first place, but it’s close. The cost: $4.98/month.

Admittedly, another downside of commercial television is that it tends to be bland and insipid, because bland and insipid gets ratings, which means advertising revenue. But the solution for this problem has been around for decades:

3. Subscribing to HBO. For $13.99/month, you can watch high-quality programs with artistic integrity, like The Sopranos and Rome. Combined with a DVR, you get even more value, because you can pre-record everything worth watching.

The total monthly cost of tranquility: $31.92, or about a dollar a day. If you can afford the $35.00/year annual subscription fee to hear people complain about commercials in Adbusters, you can easily afford to pay a dollar a day to actually solve your problem.

My solution obviously does little to rid our whole culture of advertising. It is only an individual-level solution. But at minimum, my advice will significantly improve your life. Call it “corporate blackmail” if you must, but don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

Furthermore – and now the economist in me re-emerges – beyond the individual level, the “problem” of advertising shouldn’t be solved. Hard as it is for me or you to fathom, many people don’t mind – or actually like – commercials. When I visit my dad, he yells at me for muting them. As with religious disagreement, the best solution to commercial disagreement is live and let live.


Prof. Bryan Caplan
Department of Economics
George Mason University