ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Dems as Market Makers? Ummm, No

Great post by Jane Galt at Asymmetrical Information... (Read the whole thing)

But even worse are the folks telling the progressives that the only problem is that they are misunderstood. Howard Dean, like a lot of my acquaintances, seems to believe that the only reason Republicans keep winning is that people somehow don't understand what they're up to. On fine regulatory questions, that is undoubtedly true--but I doubt that many voters know what Clinton's telecoms policy was, either. On big questions, such as taxes, the budget, the military, or what have you, the voters have a rough but workable idea of the differences between the two parties, and there is no evidence that there are systematic differences in their misperceptions of their politicians (which is to say, they believe some wrong things about Republicans, but about an equal number of wrong things about Democrats). The problem is not ignorance, or that they've been lied to. It is that they don't like what Democrats stand for.

The folks trying to tell Democrats that they've just got a branding problem are right, but the Lakoff solution--better slogans--is exactly the wrong idea. Democrats have a branding problem because, just like many companies with branding problems, they overpromised and underdelivered. Americans looked at the seventies, saw that it was the culmination of decades of progressive hegemony, and decided that they didn't need any more of that--just as decades earlier, they had punished Republicans for the Great Depression. Whether either, or neither, was fair, that is the political reality. Republicans eventually dealt with it, but the hardliners in the progressive movement are still resisting. Yet it's hard to see any hope of resurrecting the Great Society vision; the success of welfare reform has made that politically impossible. Other big issues, like abortion, are being slowly eroded by technological change that is making their stance both unnecessary, and unappealing. And the huge middle class entitlements that many are proposing in order to subvert bourgeois resistance to subsidizing the socioeconomically dysfunctional have a price tag that seems to be unacceptable to the American public.

I think that the "brand" warriors and the post above make the same, common mistake: they think of markets as something very like the ones described in John Kenneth Galbraith books, where consumers are but the hapless, unknowing cattle herded by ad-wielding corporations to the slaughter. Certainly, corporations can and do change the marketscape, but only within the fairly immovable constraints placed upon them by consumer desires. Boeing can't just sell big tin cans and make people buy them through force of will, and Democrats can't just up and change the terms of debate, because both are set by what consumers like. Perhaps this is what the author is trying to argue, but I didn't get it from his post . . . and in general, this sort of argument seems to be advanced by those who believe that they can "make the market" with pretty much the same big spending programmes they've always believed in.

Here are my thoughts on the matter... I agree with Jane that the Dem's problem isn't one of making a market vs. market taking (ie tinkering within defined market boundaries to take whatever profits are possible).

First, while Boeing was the Market Maker for jumbo jet at the time, it's doubtful that a competitor wouldn't have come up with the concept a few years later, so I think a different company should be used... heck, how about eBay?

Anyway, the problem with the Left is this... They're not trying to create a market. They're trying to RECREATE a market (since the USSR is the most extreme example of their ideals with the most palatable version being the New Deal/Great Society here in the US). US voters have been to that market and have turned away... if you're a product designer and your product fails, do you just tag it with a new name (ie progressive) and try again in a few years? No, you admit failure and exit the market (or create a new product entirely). Unfortunately for the Dems, the universe of "products" in the political sense have pretty much been explored, since the marketplace is some thousands of years old.

Here's the result of history... capitalism is the most effective way to allocate finite resources. All other systems have serious flaws that involve unbelievable suffering for some in society. Capitalism and its attendant meritocracy is the best way for the most people to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

If you disagree with this, I recommend that you read some history of other systems... or check out the unsustainable economic model that is continental Europe today. If you choose not to admit this reality, I am sorry that you are unwilling to get on board with the 21st century. The only person that will be hurt by your decision is yourself. But please do not try to force ME back to a 20th century experiment of an economic model that has been proven a failure.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler