Heinlein on wealth

Waldfogel's book and the Wendy's punchline

While I haven't read Joel Waldfogel's new book, I have read the Slate summary, and I'm reminded of Walter Mondale's famous question--via Wendy's--to Gary Hart: "Where's the beef?" Waldfogel finds that markets aren't perfect; markets don't produce everything that people want.

So what? I don't have to elaborate because Glen Whitman has already produced a fine analysis. I'll add merely one observation: almost continually, technology is increasing the ability of the market to serve small groups of consumers. See any discussion of the "Long Tail". Or see Eric Brynjolfsson's finding of about $1 billion per year in consumer surplus generated from the huge assortment at Amazon.

Question: does any other institution, past or present, exploit technology to this degree to enhance variety and consumer choice?