Market Making versus Market Taking in Politics

by Henry Farrell on June 24, 2005

I just finished reading Rick Perlstein’s “The Stock Ticker and the Super Jumbo”: yesterday (an earlier version of the essay and the various responses is available “here”:, but buy the book if you can for extra post-election analysis goodness). It’s a great read, and a smart essay, but I think it buries its real argument.

Perlstein tells the Democratic party that if it wants to succeed, it needs to be like Boeing in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and not like Boeing in the 1990’s. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Boeing prioritized long term, risky investments over short term responses to stockmarket pressures. This meant that Boeing won incredible profits through building the 747, but also had its shares trade at a considerable discount, so that it was vulnerable to corporate raiders. In the 1990’s, it signalled its willingness to kow-tow to the short term demands of the stock market, by refusing to compete with Airbus’s plans to build a new super-jumbo. The stock market loved it – but Boeing also missed out on a crucial opportunity, because it was prioritizing short term results over long term gains.

Hence the lesson for the Democratic party is that it should prioritize long term gains over short term ones, Jumbo over Dumbo. It’s losing out with voters because they don’t know what it stands for anymore. It keeps on chasing short term advantage (like Boeing in the 1990’s) and sometimes wins temporary gains, but only at the cost of cannibalizing its long term asset of party ID – voters don’t identify with the Democrats because they don’t know what they should be identifying with. Perlstein says that the Democratic Party needs to return to its populist roots, and build a coherent identity up from these roots.

Thus, the main contrast that he draws in the essay is between short term thinking and long term thinking. Short term thinking is hiring Dick Morris, and engaging in a Clintonian process of “triangulation” in order to win over voters in one election, while muddying the Democrats’ appeal in the longer term. Long term thinking is building a set of coherent policies that build on the Democrats’ core strengths, while adapting them to new political realities. Now I reckon that Perlstein is using the right metaphor (even if Boeing is doing a little better now than it appeared to be doing in the summer of 2004), and is also right on the main underlying argument. But short term thinking versus long term thinking is the wrong way to connect metaphor and message. It results in some confusion among his commenters, and gives the more hostile ones the opportunity to take a couple of unwarranted cheap shots. What Perlstein is really trying to get at, I think, is what one might call the difference between market making and market taking (or at least, this is the lesson that I take from Perlstein’s extraordinary “book”: on Barry Goldwater). To capture this difference, you need to be using a different language than that provided either by economists or by rational choice political scientists. You need to be looking at how economic sociologists like “Neil Fligstein”: describe processes of market creation and disruption, or how renegade political economists like “Mark Blyth”: talk about the intersection between ideas and economic policy.

What was important about Boeing’s creation of the jumbo-jet wasn’t simply that it involved long term strategizing, and the willingness of Boeing’s CEO to accept temporary failures. That’s process rather than product. It’s that it was an act of market making. Boeing didn’t go out and look at a given market structure, in order to figure out how best it could fit in. It realized that new technologies provided it with the opportunity to build a _new_ market, in essence to summon customers (who had never realized that they wanted a jumbo-jet) out of thin air. And once it had built this marketplace, on its terms, it was able to dominate it for a very long time. Because it had created the market, it was in a position where it could define what Fligstein calls the “conception of control,” the rules under which competition took place, so as to secure a long term advantage.

In contrast, most firms most of the time are market takers. They try to fit themselves into an existing ecology, finding some secondary niche that isn’t too vulnerable to predators. They don’t have any ambitions to re-write the rules, but instead accept the market as it exists. They forego the massive profits that accrue to the market-making firm or firms in exchange for a more-or-less comfortable existence.

This, I think, is the key distinction that Perlstein’s metaphor and argument is pointing to. The Democratic Party, at the moment, is a market taker. It’s working in a political marketplace where the Republicans have set the rules. The Dick Morris-type consultants and New Democrats for whom Perlstein has appropriate disdain are working on the underlying assumption that the Democrats need to adjust to a more conservative political space if they are to survive. They need to triangulate and adapt, to become more like the Republicans, because that’s what the market seems to be demanding.

But Perlstein’s key point (and again, you need to read his book on Goldwater to properly understand this) is that the current conservative bias of US politics is _itself a political artefact_. It’s the product of an extraordinarily successful long-run initiative by right wing Republicans to reorient the political debate around a set of ideas that once seemed bizarre and unnatural to most Americans. The Republicans have largely succeeded in capturing the “conception of control” in the marketplace. They set the rules regarding what can be debated and what can’t in economic policy (protecting the poor becomes “class warfare”), and, increasingly in other areas of policy too. As long as that’s true, the Republicans are always going to be in a position of structural advantage, and the Democrats in one of structural weakness. Triangulation can help win temporary victories, but it can’t produce long term gains. Indeed, by forcing the Democrats to ‘accept’ rules of the game that they haven’t themselves set, it weakens their long term ability to bring through real structural change.

Hence the logic of Perlstein’s argument. If the Democrats are going to win back territory, it isn’t going to be through playing a game in which the Republicans have set the rules. It’s going to be by overturning the gameboard, and setting new ones themselves. Barry Goldwater’s people changed the rules of American politics, so that debate took place on terms where they had a structural advantage. Ever since, the Democrats have been fighting a holding action, and losing territory over time. If the Democrats want to win, they have to stop playing on Republican terms. They have to do what the Republicans did, and move from being market takers to market makers. Perlstein’s prescription – a return to economic populism – seems to me to be the right and obvious way for Democrats to start remaking politics on their own terms.

Update: Matt Yglesias has a very smart “response”:, with two main points. First, that the “the contrast between “market taking” and “market making” strategy” doesn’t perfectly map “to the left-center division inside Democratic circles.” He’s right – but one of the DLC/New Democrat talking points is to claim that more radical strategies won’t work, because they aren’t what voters want. While there’s no reason why the centrists in the party couldn’t come up with an equally interesting long term analysis and prescription, in order to do so, they would have to stop saying that we need to take the political structure of voter preferences as a given. Second, Matt provides some more specific prescriptions for a populist approach that would address unexpressed demands among voters. To which I can only repeat that if I had my pick of populisms, “it would be something along the lines of Matt Yglesias’ version of Kimberly Morgan’s thesis, addressing working families, along with strong redistributionist policies and a beefing up of union power.”

{ 1 trackback }

Crooked Timber » » Political pure plays
06.30.05 at 1:36 pm



Rick Perlstein 06.24.05 at 11:24 am

Damn, Farrell, you’re not supposed to tell them they can get the preliminary version for free on the Internets!

Great points. I should have talked to you in 3/04 when I wrote the thing.

It’s REALLY important to understand the ways in which the notion of conservative dominance is in itself a political artifact. I did a reading in Chicago yesteray and someone asked me about a point by Woolridge and Micklethwaite’s (bad) recent book on American conservatism The Right Nation that Dennis Hastert’s district is “normal” America, and Nancy Pelosi’s, the urban Democrat’s, is not.

I said: My, have those conservatives punked the media elite. I pointed out that many of the most popular national radio sitcoms that took place in teeming cities were moved to suburbs when they moved to TV. And now people buy the notion that conservatives have been selling: that cities aren’t really American.

I’m rambling. Buy the book. The main point: when uttering the phrase “culture war” is as illegitimate as uttering the phrase “class war,” the Republicans can not possibly win.


Louis Proyect 06.24.05 at 12:34 pm

The ideas contained in Rick’s book were first raised in a Boston Review article that he asked me for feedback on. Here’s what I wrote him and to the Marxism mailing list I moderate:

To start with, everybody should take a look at Rick’s Boston Review article which is titled “How Can the Democrats Win?” at:

There are also replies by well-known leftists and liberals such as Robert Reich, Adolph Reed and Stanley Aronowitz.

To start with, I found your discussion of Boeing quite interesting. I had the chance to look at the development of the 747 in some depth as part of an examination of airline deregulation a few years ago. I relied heavily on a book by John Newhouse titled “The Sporty Game” that appeared originally in the New Yorker when the magazine was worth something. I was much less sanguine about viewing the development of the 747 as an unqualified success, at least on capitalism’s own terms:

>>In the same year that Newhouse’s book appeared, a report on “Competition and the Airlines: An Evaluation of Deregulation” was submitted by staff economists David R. Graham and Daniel P. Kaplan to their superiors at the Civil Aeronautics Board. Given its internal character, the authors make no effort to depict deregulation as progressive legislation motivated to make air travel affordable. Instead it is declining profits that occupies center stage. In fact they openly admit that air travel had become a mass consumer phenomenon without the help of Senator Kennedy’s trust-busters. They state that between 1949 and 1969, air traffic grew by more than 14 percent a year. During this same period, average air fares actually fell by 2 percent while the consumer price index rose by 50 percent. In other words, air travel was cheap relative to other consumer goods.

What concerned the economists was the fortunes of the airline companies rather than those of the consumers. With all the money spent on 747s and other oversized jets, empty seats became a much more serious problem given the economies of scale.


Louis Proyect 06.24.05 at 12:36 pm

continuation of my reply to Perlstein that was clipped by CT’s new software:


Turning now to your recommendations to the Democratic Party leadership:

“Any marketing executive will tell you that you can’t build a brand out of stuff the people say they don’t want. And what do Americans say they want? According to the pollsters, exactly what the Democratic Party was once famous for giving them: economic populism.”

All I can say is that this not quite the Democratic Party I am familiar with, at least in broad historical terms. Keep in mind that the Democratic Party was originally the party of the Southern Bourbons. While Arthur Schlesinger Jr. portrays Andrew Jackson as some kind of plebian democrat, he owned slaves and saw his role as promoting the interest of the same class he belonged to. The Republican Party emerged as a revolutionary opposition to the Democrats and only withdrew from the task of uprooting racial supremacy in the South when Northern liberals, particularly those grouped around Godkin’s Nation Magazine, persuaded party bosses that they were encouraging developments in the USA that might turn out like the Paris Commune. David Montgomery details all this in “The Death of Reconstruction”.

I myself stumbled across this sordid tale while preparing a critical review of the Nation around the time that Hitchens had become a turncoat and Marc Cooper was perfecting his own redbaiting skills. I learned that hostility to radicalism was not an invention of Katrina vanden Heuvel, but something rooted in the magazine’s hoary past. On December 5th 1867, the Nation wrote:

“It must now be confessed those who were of this way of thinking [namely that the Radical Republicans were going too far], and they were many, have proved to be not very far wrong. It is not yet too late for the majority in Congress to retrace its steps and turn to serious things. The work before it is to bring the South back to the Union on the basis-of equal rights, and not to punish the President or provide farms for negroes or remodel the American Government.”

After the “great compromise” that ended Reconstruction, challenges to the big bourgeoisie were mounted not from within the Republican or Democratic Parties but from 3rd party efforts like the Populists. Then, as today, efforts were mounted to either co-opt or destroy these movements. If you compare the programs of the Democratic and Republican Parties from the period of the end of Reconstruction to FDR’s election as a *balanced budget* realist, you’ll find about as much to choose between as George W. Bush and John Kerry. (I must say that for all your eagerness to assert that “beating George W. Bush at the ballot box in November…is imperative to the future health of the United States”, you don’t seem at all that interested in explaining why. That is, unless you think that “staying the course” in Iraq is part of that future health. But what can I say, I am one of those unrepentant 1960s radicals who never would have voted for Humphrey, to the everlasting dismay of Todd Gitlin I suppose.)

After FDR’s election, New Deal legislation was enacted not because he was a populist or even wanted to win elections. Change came because workers sat-in at factories, marched on Washington and generally raised hell. I guess you might say that that describes my attitude in general. I am for raising the more hell the better.


Jerry Monaco @ Shandean Postscripts 06.24.05 at 12:57 pm

Does this means that the Democrats need to be subsidized massively by the Pentagon system and have a semi-monopoly over its industry just like Boeing?

I apologize for the snarky rhetorical question but it seems to me that the analogy to ‘marketing’ is precisely what is wrong with politics in the U.S. This is mostly because of the way we understand ‘markets’ and ‘advertising’ is mostly a matter of doctrinal definitions. It is not even noticed that there is a massive contradiction between the way the ‘marketing’ industry works and the way ‘free markets’ are supposed to work. The legal fiction of free markets is that we have perfect, or at least good, information on what we buy. The purpose of the marketing industry is to change the perceptions of a commodity without necessarily changing the commodity. In other words ‘public relations’, advertising, marketing works to obscure information. Unfortunately, in a sense Perlstein is correct, this is exactly how U.S. politics is meant to work…

The lesson I draw from the conservative movement is the strength of organization. In order to create a progressive politics we must leave behind the paradigm of ‘marketing’ altogether. What we must do is organize and educate and then organize some more. The forms and ends of the organization should be debated. We do not want those organizations to take the model of the Christian right but what model they should take is another question. Of course I speak as a very old fashion social democrat who would not fit very well in the top echelons of the Democratic party. The business institutions and associations and similar groups will always have a headstart in organization over the rest of us and this head start will have its ramifications on ground rules for debate.

Jerry Monaco


abb1 06.24.05 at 1:00 pm

So, what are the terms – what kind of economic populism? There are many: anti-globalization? anti-immigration? protectionism? price/wage-control? wealth/income redistribution? crackdown on corporate crime? nationalization of industries?


joel turnipseed 06.24.05 at 1:06 pm

Hmmm… the Goldwater book has been on my “must get to this” list for a while–maybe this one will, too.

But I wonder if a better analogy would be Microsoft’s platform strategy, which also more closely matches the Conservative one (I know something about it, having been a hard-charging College Republican/Intercollegiate Network editor as an undergrad)… Maybe Dems should be giving PRTM a call?

Meantime, am tending the baby today but have some things to say, re: historical analogy to 30s–which I’m deep into for my current book. Maybe at nap time…


abb1 06.24.05 at 1:09 pm

I mean, the Republicans have their own kind of economic populism – cutting taxes, cutting welfare, cutting public services. This is also a form of class war, isn’t it. Significant part of the population (albeit a minority) responds favorably.


Barry 06.24.05 at 1:18 pm

abb1, the theory is that, absent a real economic populist alternative, a faux economic populist program looks good. The GOP does not practice economic populism; they practice economic elitism.


abb1 06.24.05 at 1:58 pm

Maybe it is elitism, but it sounds just like populism: the liberal elite rips off the ordinary workers – productive members of the society – and funnels the loot to welfare queens, lazy minorities, bums, illegal immigrants, etc. in order to buy their votes – you know the story. As always, they’ll match anything you have to say – and they’ll add some.

I’m just saying that it’s not as simple as ‘a return to economic populism’. A bunch of party apparatchiks getting together and deciding to return to economic populism is not the solution; what the Democrats need is a network, organization, popular movement to promote and advocate their populism. They need labor unions.


Barry 06.24.05 at 2:24 pm

abb1, perhaps reading Paul Krugman’s columns on the economics of the administration could refresh you on reality.


abb1 06.24.05 at 3:07 pm

I think I understand the reality, but this post is about party politics, framing the debate. I even agree that ‘economic populism’ is the way to go, that’s obvious, that’s trivial. I’m just saying that this MBA-style talk is not necessarily very enlightening. Boeing?


otto 06.24.05 at 3:30 pm

I bought the book (Btw, it’s not too dissimilar from Michael Lind).

If you want to succeed a la Goldwater you need a grassroots social movement willing to focus on the long term and change the political market. An Anti-war/Trade-Union/Universal Healthcare type movement is the possibility combining the various grassroots from the economic populism side. Perlstein should have had an organiser from the SEIU as one of the commentators, or even Howard Dean (who might do better leading such a movement than being DNC chair).

“Woolridge and Micklethwaite’s (bad) recent book on American conservatism The Right Nation ”
Is there a good book on contemporary conservatism (not Goldwater)?


Barry 06.24.05 at 3:38 pm

Agreed on the MBA talk being rather unenlightening. And unnecessary; this is just
the old option of playing by the other guy’s rules, or making your own rules.

An alternate explanation proposed elsewhere is that the Democratic Party leadership doesn’t really understand that they are not the party in power. They feel that this is a temporary set-back, and that the next election will remedy it, if they play competantly. In the House at least, that’s far from true – the GOP has an edge, that they’ve honed since 1994.

Therefore, the Democratic leadership has to take risks, or continue losing. Of course, most of those people got in place by not taking risks, and can continue to draw money and power for quite some time, even if the Democratic Party falls into the dustbin of history.


Henry 06.24.05 at 3:45 pm

On type of populism – that’s not the point of Goldwater’s essay, nor is it about framing. It’s about understanding what are the risks and benefits associated with general orientations towards politics. If I had my pick, it would be something along the lines of Matt Yglesias’ version of Kimberly Morgan’s thesis, addressing working families, along with strong redistributionist policies and a beefing up of union power. But that’s just my pick.

Godfrey Hodgson’s “The World Turned Right-Side Up” is a good read on conservativism’s rise to power, focusing more on the religious right.

An SEIU type would have been interesting – although one of the things I like about the SEIU is precisely that it’s putting the union-building in front of the political-movement building.

I think that Perlstein’s quite different from Michael Lind though – Perlstein’s a much more committed member of the left. Which is why his book on Goldwater is so brilliant – he doesn’t identify with Goldwater politically so that he doesn’t write a hagiography, but he’s attracted to his radicalism, and understands it (and is as repelled by the corrupt LBJ/Rockefeller version of consensus politics as Goldwater and his followers were).


Jerry Monaco @ Shandean Postscripts 06.24.05 at 5:58 pm

Henry, I like your reply here much more than your original post. And I think you are correct to point to the SEIU. If I knew what kind of organizations we should have I would certainly try to tell anyone who would listen.

I read Arronowitz’s reply to Perlstein when he wrote it (“Organize the Poor” he says)… and though I am sympathetic I have never seen that the poor per-se have ever established lasting institutions.



James Kroeger 06.25.05 at 6:11 am

Interesting. I think your market maker vs. market taker comparison is quite relevant. I only wish the DLC could somehow become familiar with it. The Democrats will become successful market makers only when they have become just as savvy at marketing as the Republicans have long been. Democrats lose because they don’t understand how to reach their target audience—the swing voter—while beset by a storm of Republican criticism. They don’t know what Republican strategists know about human nature. While Democrats knock themselves out every election cycle trying to talk to Swing Voters about The Issues, Republicans have calmly focused their attention on winning The Image Campaign.

Republican strategists know they would rarely win if election results were always determined by a logical discussion of The Issues and nothing more (they know that most voters would benefit more from Democratic economic policies than from Republican policies). They know they must win the Image Campaign to have any chance of winning. That is why they are committed, now and forever, to negative campaigning. Republicans have never forgotten a key stratagem they perfected during the Reagan Era: DEMONIZING YOUR OPPONENTS WORKS.

The most important reason why negative campaigning has worked so well for the Republicans is because their negative attacks on the Democrats create a positive impression of Republican candidates, who appear—in contrast—to be individuals who do not possess the defects that they have accused others of having. They define themselves [positively] by defining their Democratic opponents [negatively]. On a visceral level, what the Republicans actually “stand for” in the minds of Swing Voters on election day is that they are not Democrats—those defective people who seem to have been born to ruin everything.

The Republican Nemesis

James Kroeger


Henry 06.25.05 at 9:45 am

Yikes – I actually hadn’t realized that Rick had read the post and commented when I put up the last. (I suspect the comment was in moderation for a while). What Rick says.


anciano 06.25.05 at 10:04 am

Why did sane journalists like Clarence Page accuse Sen. Durbin of being over the top in his Gitmo comments? Why are those journalists silent about the fact that US military psychiatrists and psychologists are participating in “breaking down” Gitmo prisoners? If that’s not a violation of the Nuremburg principles, then war is peace and love is hate.

When Hillary, windsurfer Kerry, cutie-pie Edwards or Babbling Biden step up and say that it was wrong to invade Iraq and that it’s flat wrong to torture people, even if they may be terrorists, then I’ll respect the Democrats. When a major Democrat steps up and says look -stop the baloney about ending dependence on foreign oil. Oil is slowly running out. We must stop the dependence on oil and that’s gonna take blood, sweat and tears, then I’ll respect the Democrats. They can’t see long term, they are thinking of the election one year away and the fact that Joe Six Pack hates to hear anything that suggests that our country has pursued stupid and evil policies. Both the Serbs and the shallow American religious right whipped themselves up into an intoxicated state of victimization. Most religious Americans see through Rove and Rumsfeld. They couldn’t stomach Kerry. Kerry promised the same thing as Bush, only that he would do it better. He tried to straddle the Iraq issue. You can’t do that.
We can hope for Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton as the two main Presidential candidates in 2008, so that a third party might actually win.


Bruce Wilder 06.25.05 at 10:42 am

Three points:
1.) Branding the Brand X, the other Party, is more important than branding your own Party. Negative advertising works, because voters need some clue to unpack the usually vacuous self-descriptions of the Parties. With the Media completely under the control of the Republicans, Democrats cannot depend on “objective voices” in the media, to “reveal” to voters what the Republicans are “really” doing. Democrats have been almost incredibly bad at hammering home the “real” agenda of the Republicans, to wit, income redistribution in favor of the very, very wealthy.
2.) Political parties are always coalitions or alliances: any “brand identity” is going to have to marry the preferences of disparate groups without alienating. The Democratic Party was critically weakened after 1970 by the civil rights “interest group” organizing, which alienated white, middle class voters, who were implicitly excluded by virtue of their identities from the groups Democrats were nominally trying to “help”. For Democrats in 2005, the biggest problem is tying idealistic, technocratic types to those who are fearful about the pace of change and want the reassurance of patriotic solidarity; “free trade” is a critical issue — Democrats need a policy on trade, which avoids the stupidity and corrupting potential of simple-minded protectionism with a trade policy, which reassures working class people that the Democrats are promoting and defending their interests. This requires some creativity of ideas and expression, to appeal to solidarity: Clinton’s “rewarding those who work hard and play by the rules” was a good formulation, worth reviving along with new inventions along the same lines.
3.) Business success is not just marketing; it is finding a resource base. Democrats have suffered from their dependence on business for campaign funds; the bankruptcy bill revealed that plainly. Democrats need a fund-raising base, which is different from the Republican fund-raising base of corporate executives, and which will not corrupt them fatally on policy. Identifying a fund-raising niche, which is consistent with certain broad policy directions will add a lot of credibility to a Democratic “brand”. Corruption is the greatest vulnerability of the Republicans; the Democrats, however, have to transform themselves to credibly take advantage.


Henry 06.25.05 at 10:55 am

I think that something that should be emphasized here is that Perlstein’s point, if I understand it correctly, isn’t simply about branding or marketing. It’a point about trying to change the rules of the underlying marketplace, in which this or that branding exercise takes place. As Perlstein acknowledges, this is a risky enterprise, that requires a long term effort with an uncertain payoff. But if it does pay off, it will pay off spectacularly.


James Kroeger 06.25.05 at 11:51 am

Bruce: “Democrats need a policy on trade, which avoids the stupidity and corrupting potential of simple-minded protectionism with a trade policy, which reassures working class people that the Democrats are promoting and defending their interests.

How about this Bruce for a starting point? The full proposal takes on all of the questions that Republicans would be sure to raise…


ccobb 06.25.05 at 2:14 pm

Nicely done. The idea that “new technologies provided it with the opportunity to build a new market” is fundamental. I was a brand guy at Starbucks back in the day, and that essentially was the same approach that Starbucks made its bet on. And the notion that one of “the DLC/New Democrat talking points is to claim that more radical strategies won’t work, because they aren’t what voters want” is the flip side to this equation. As my boss at the time used to say, “you’ll go broke listening to your customers,” which sort of flies in the face of most current marketing approaches.

His simple test was this: if a product’s success is predicated on giving customers what they say they want, then why do so many businesses fail that do exactly that? And why do some companies that offer something nobody knew they wanted until they tried it (think iPods and lattes and jumbo jets) succeed wildly, while also transforming the marketplace? Because they give customers something that they didn’t know they wanted, but find they can’t live without.

But this approach also tells us something about the kind of thinking it takes to make a market, which should tell us something about the kind of thinkers the Democratic Party needs to hire to explore the idea. Unfortunately it probably isn’t the kind of thinking the Dem Party looks for now or is likely to hire anytime soon. It takes a mindset that accepts far more risk than is currently on display by the next crop or presidential contenders, notably Kerry, Biden, Clinton, etc.


abb1 06.25.05 at 4:03 pm

Republicans have powerful grassroots network – churches. The Democrats have nothing. It’s as simple as that. Economic populism is a good theme, but without organization it won’t work – opposition’s propaganda will twist your message beyond recognition in 5 seconds.

The only chance is that the Republicans will somehow destroy themselves: some kind of a Watergate-like event or a great depression-like event. Otherwise it’s pretty much hopeless, I’m afraid.


Rick Perlstein 06.25.05 at 4:23 pm

abb1, ever heard of, um, “unions”?


BigMacAttack 06.25.05 at 4:25 pm

A lot of dubious assumptions and vague propositions.

But as far as delivering a product people didn’t know they wanted and needed leisure might make more sense than economic security. Leisure could actually be delivered. Short a magic wand that creates a permanent boom and a tight labor market economic security is a good deal tougher to deliver. Much.

I wonder if when MY sits down to play some poker or if he ever catches the WSP on ESPN and thinks back to the dot com crazes and a little voice in his head whispers I am absolutely crazy to think economic security is what people want?


modus potus 06.25.05 at 8:20 pm


For someone who criticizes the thread for “dubious assumptions,” you seem to have made a whopper [oops, wrong brand] yourself. High-stakes poker players and dot-com crazies aren’t exactly representative. If we imagine a dial that ranges between all-day adrenaline rushes and a predictable satiety of needs, most folks would turn it closer — but not all the way — to the latter. They do want a safety net — but not a safety harness.


goatchowder 06.26.05 at 1:35 am

This is beautiful. I’ve been saying this for years, but Perlstein has found a new and interesting metaphor with which to communicate the idea. I hope he succeeds.

Democratic officeholders anxiously watch the polls, as a sort of a barometer of what they should do in order to properly serve the people. But Repugs *drive* the polls, by selling ideas and attitudes, and *telling* the public what they should want. This is why those “market makers” succeed.

I think the “marketing” metaphor works well because, first of all, “the business of America is business”– business analogies are very widely-understood, with perhaps only sports analogies being moreso. Secondly, the Repugs have not only used marketing analogies, but, far more importantly, employed marketing *techniques*, with devastating effect, for 40 years. Karl Rove and Company was a direct-mail firm. Reagan was a shirt salesman. The captains of industry who have funded and continue to fund the right-wing takeover of this country are all businessmen with a keen understanding of marketing, markets, and the modern techniques of hucksterism and bullshit which fester and seep out of Corporate Marketing departments. Hell, even their “think tanks” are little more than “sales and PR firms”– not much thinking comes out of there compared to the alarming amount of punditry, bloviation, advocacy, and evangelism which does.

The right-wing takeover of our country is but one symptom of the larger corporate private takeover of all life on this planet– “globalisation”. Bush is our first (and hopefully our last) MBA president. Corporations are profoundly anti-democratic, neo-feudal organisations. So I sympathise with those who find the “MBA-speak” and business analogies objectionable, but I think they are very much “reality-based” for today’s world.

Finally, I think one of the reasons why Goldwater/Reagan were able to think long-term is because they had no hope of any short-term wins; they were defeated so utterly and humiliatingly in 1964 that they developed a permanent inferiority complex (which, strangely, their political descendants maintain even to this day), and so deprived of any short-term hope, they were able to focus on long-term woodshedding. Reagan in ’66 and Nixon in ’68 perhaps offered them some hope, but for some reason they maintained the revolutionary attitude of a small vanguard forever doomed to be outnumbered by hostile enemy. That kind of pessimism has its limitations, but it also helps prevent “lust of result”, and reduce the risk of getting addicted to– or distracted by– short-term wins. I’m not sure we can or should emulate their technique for maintaining long-term focus, but I think it’s at least worth noting how they did it.


abb1 06.26.05 at 4:46 am

Yes, unions, where are they? It’s almost impossible to organize a union. I remember how this surprised me: LECHMERE, INC. v. NLRB, 502 U.S. 527 (1992), because I was working for that company at the time.

So, where are the unions? Read this: Wal-Mart store tells workers to be ready to work any shift. “Workers who cannot commit to being available for any shift between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, will be fired by the end of this week.“. It’s crazy fucking shit, man. Boeing…


BigMacAttack 06.26.05 at 9:09 am

modus potus,

Millions of ‘ordinary’ Americans shoveled billions into dot coms and millions visit casinos every year.

I am not claiming that most are high flying risk takers. I am just pointing out that they are not pathologically averse to risk.

I was just pointing out that aside from the difficulties in delivering economic security as opposed to leisure you might want to question your assumptions regarding the ordinary voters need for greater economic security versus higher return.

But hey I couldn’t care less. Don’t consider leisure.


Franklin Delano Sinatra 06.26.05 at 9:46 pm

abb1, Rick means that unions even today contribute very significant money and volunteers to political campaigns.

And to Rick, your work is great, but in 1992 Perot drew nearly equally between people who would have voted D or R. And I think in general you underestimate the importance of external circumstance in political elections. I think that there is no way a D could have come within 10 points of Reagan in ’84 because of external circumstances.

More recently, how ’bout that hurricane that blew through Florida and gave Bush millions of dollars of free media in that state in ’04?

Comments on this entry are closed.