The medicine show hypester, the confidence man, the snake oil salesman… my country has a long history of marketers of ill repute.
The reason is simple: we spent two hundred years spreading out over the continent, and unlike Europe, strangers were common. Everyone was coming and going, and it wasn’t unusual at all to engage with someone you didn’t know.
The downside of this openness are all the people who took advantage of it. A tradition that continues to this day.
In the rush to expand, people embraced the idea of the big win. They named their ranch Bonanza, or their town Prospector. They drilled for gushers, invested in penny stocks, and took expensive placebos…
The upside is that being receptive to new ideas, even those too good to be true (especially those) creates a tradition of neophilia and optimism. When someone has a breakthrough—an innovation that actually keeps its promise—it’s much more likely to catch on.
The downside is pretty obvious.
And so we have to remain vigilant, teach our friends and customers to be on alert, and push regulators to take care, because there’s still a con artist on every corner.