While I agree with much of what you’ve said here, I do have to challenge you on one point: the implication that UX consulting is not (in any, even small, way) about manipulation. Most UX methodologies incorporate keen understanding of user AND business objectives as orienting principles. If we are not helping our clients create experiences that benefit their businesses, then what are we doing? And, if all our clients’ customers flock to them simply because of the inherent quality or appeal then what do they need us for? Surely UX work is not only about reducing friction- it is also about creating motivation. Is there really such a difference between this and advertising? Advertising exists to encourage a customer to purchase a product because of a perceived or predicted effect on their self-image, quality of life, leisure time, etc. You refer to “balancing” client and customer interests, but what of the many situations in which that balance can’t be readily achieved? Do you resign those projects? No, I would imagine that you work to emphasize whatever elements or aspects of a product will position it as most appealing to potential customers. Is this purely “honest?”
Again, I agree with most of your statements and conclusions here – but I think we could back off the high horse just slightly. I, for one, am very happy for my clients to feel that we work in the best interests of their business objectives – while also strongly advocating the positions of their customers as we see them.