The ways in which issues and the popular will on any issue are being manufactured is exactly analogous to the ways of commercial advertising. We find the same attempts to contact the subconscious. We find the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are. We find the same evasions and reticences and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people. And so on. Only, all these arts have infinitely more scope in the sphere of public affairs than they have in the sphere of private and professional life. The picture of the prettiest girl that ever lived will in the long run prove powerless to maintain the sales of a bad cigarette. There is no equally effective safeguard in the case of political decisions. Many decisions of fateful importance are of a nature that makes it impossible for the public to experiment with them at its leisure and at moderate cost. Even if that is possible, however, judgment is as a rule not so easy to arrive at as it is in the case of the cigarette, because effects are less easy to interpret.
Note from KBJ: A good example of what Schumpeter is talking about is the call for homosexual "marriage." Over and over again, you hear talk of "marriage equality." This is designed not to stimulate rational thought but to bypass it. Suppose a group of people advocated changes to the law of statutory rape, so that adults could have sexual intercourse with children. Would calling this issue "sexual equality" carry any weight? Of course not. People would immediately see that the things being compared—sex between adults and sex between adults and children—are not morally comparable. Justice, as Aristotle taught us long ago, requires that likes be treated alike and unlikes differently (in proportion to their differences). The question in the case of marriage is whether homosexual relationships are like (i.e., "equal to") heterosexual relationships. This is a substantive question that calls for careful analysis and argumentation. Merely calling it "marriage equality" (however many times, and in however strained a voice) begs the question, for it assumes, without argument, that the things being compared are relevantly alike.