NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The World Is So Full Of A Number Of Things These Days

July 20, 1999

Earlier this century, consumers had far fewer choices in products than they do today. The basic rule was one size fits all. But with the advent of the Information Age, there has been a remarkable explosion in the types and varieties of products to chose from.

Consider that between 1970 and the latest statistics available:

  • The number of new car models jumped from 140 to 260, while the variety of vehicle styles increased from 654 to 1,212.
  • The number of breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves climbed from 160 to 340.
  • The number of national soft drink brands to chose from leaped from 20 to 87.
  • The number of over-the-counter pain relievers leaped from 17 to 141.

Even the number of dental flosses being produced went from 12 to 64, and the choices of contact lens types went from one to 36. Meanwhile, the choice of running shoe styles blossomed from five to 285.

But if that increase seems large, consider that there are now about 250,000 software titles -- compared to zero in 1970.

Source: W. Michael Cox (Dallas Federal Reserve Bank), "Productivity Should Be Higher Still," Investor's Business Daily, July 19, 1999.


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