How the Quakers became unlikely economic innovators by inventing the price tag

We tend to associate economic developments with big theories and big bang reforms. But dig into economic history and you realise how small things matter much more. Infact, we take several things for granted today but when they were introduced sometime in history they created a revolution of sorts. For instance bar codes, shipping containers and so on.

Add price tags to the list as well. This video tells us how Quakers ended up inventing the price tag. The circumstances were unusual driven by morality and opposition to frequent price changes:

Belying its simplicity and ubiquity, the price tag is a surprisingly recent economic development. For centuries, haggling was the norm, ultimately developing into a system that required clerks and shopkeepers to train as negotiators. In the mid-19th century, however, Quakers in the US began to believe that charging people different amounts for the same item was immoral, so they started using price tags at their stores to counter the ills of haggling. And, as this short video from NPR’s Planet Money explains, by taking a moral stand, the Quakers inadvertently revealed an inefficiency in the old economic system and became improbable pricing pioneers, changing commerce and history with one simple innovation.

Superb stuff…


2 Responses to “How the Quakers became unlikely economic innovators by inventing the price tag”

  1. adamsmith1922 Says:

    Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Fascinating H/T Jim Rose

  2. Prabhu Guptara Says:

    Superb, perhaps… but rather partial (meaning: incomplete).

    The Quakers were pioneers in numerous areas. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to establish businesses that have lasted hundreds of years. For example, Barclays Bank, Cadbury, Clarks, Friends Life, Fry’s, Lloyds Bank, Rowntree….

    An explanation of the Quaker view of business by a contemporary Quaker, Sir Adrian Cadbury, is at:

    Another by a lesser-known contemporary Quaker is at:

    An assessment by a non-Quaker is on pages 13-29 of “Ethics in Global Business: Building Moral Capitalism” by Andrei Rogobete, published in 2016 by The Centre for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics, in Oxford, U.K.

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