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October 29, 2008

John Stossel’s mighty megaphone

Quote of the Day: “Bad ideas can only bear the weight of reality for so long.” — Greg Jesson

Subject: John Stossel’s mighty megaphone

Today we’ll compare the cases of Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul, and John Stossel, beginning with this . . .

If you oppose fiat currency and centralized government banking, and would like to abolish the Federal Reserve and legal tender laws in favor of free market banking and free market money . . .

And you think the best way to achieve these things is to put the right people — people who believe as you do — in positions of power, then . . .

It would have been reasonable to assume, prior to seeing him in action, that Alan Greenspan was the “right person” to head the Federal Reserve.

You could have justifiably assumed, based on Greenspan’s previous writings and statements, that he would use his position to not only control the damage done by the Fed, but also to argue for its abolition.

None of these things happened. Instead, the opposite happened. Greenspan betrayed every economic principle he had previously professed. Putting a presumed “right person” in a position of power did not have the right result.

To contrast with this example we can compare the case of Ron Paul. Ron Paul has always said the right things, and done the right things too. 

Two different “right people” have produced two different results. What are we to conclude from this?

We conclude that you cannot tell in advance whether or not you’re entrusting power to the “right person.” The person you trust might turn out to behave like Ron Paul, or like Alan Greenspan. This means there is a huge probability that the time and money you invest in a presumed “right person” will turn out to be wasted.

Even if your chances of actually choosing a “right person who will behave in the right way” is as good as 50-50, that still means your time and money will have been invested to zero result. The good work of the 50% of “right people who do right” will be cancelled out by the bad actions of the people who betray your trust.

But we think it’s even worse than that. We do not think the attempt to choose “right people who will actually do right things” can possibly produce anything close to 50-50 results, even assuming that a majority of other voters choose as you do. The reason for this is simple . . .

The incentives of government power are structured to entice the people who have power to do bad things. We could choose many examples to bolster this claim, but there is one huge example that should suffice . . .

The Republicans told us for years that they would reduce the size of government, if only the voters would give them full control of both Congress and the White House. Eventually they gained that full control, and look what they delivered — the hugest spending increases ever.

We believe this example is devastating to the “elect the right people” strategy. And lest you think the problem is merely a Republican problem, just get ready for what the Democrats do. Obama has already betrayed his supposed principles in the case of his warrantless spying vote, and we predict more betrayals to come. Obama is not change, he is stasis.

We are supposed to be able to rely on the Democrats to protect civil liberties, and upon the Republicans to control government spending, but we cannot, because the incentives encourage the constant expansion of centralized government power in all directions.

And the prospects for a third-party solution are even worse, given winner-takes-all voting, gerrymandering, campaign finance laws, and a persistent partisan tribalism that limits the extent to which any third party can ever grow.

But there’s a further problem. How do you get a majority of Americans to vote for your supposed “right person?” You might argue for education to achieve this goal, but assertions are easier than results. The difficulty is highlighted by the example of John Stossel of ABC . . .

John Stossel has a mighty megaphone. His voice is far larger than that of any other person or institution advocating for downsized government. Every few months he produces excellent hour-long shows puncturing the myths of government programs. He reaches more people more powerfully than all other downsizing advocates combined. If you missed his latest installment, we strongly urge you to watch it.

But . . .

Even John Stossel’s mighty megaphone produces but a whisper in a hurricane. Aligned against Stossel’s one-hour shows are around-the-clock news coverage, political advertising, and teaching in our schools that constantly promotes the idea of more-and-more government “solutions.”

Even John Stossel, with his mighty megaphone, is fighting a losing battle.

The only way to win the battle is to have superior forces and superior funding. It will require a huge army that funds outreach capable of reaching everyone, everywhere, EVERY DAY. But what kind of institution could build such a force?

Will a think tank or a political party do it? We think not. Think tanks are think tanks. They are NOT grassroots organizing vehicles. Political parties ARE grassroots organizing vehicles, but to convince someone to join you must NOT ONLY convince them of your ideas, you MUST ALSO convince them to betray their old identity. It’s a doubly difficult task. Or . . .

If the vehicle you choose is a third party then the task is triply difficult, because the rules are rigged against you, and to change the rules you would need resources of people and money that the rules themselves prevent you from obtaining. We speak from experience.

We are humbly suggesting that we need a non-partisan, or even anti-partisan institution that educates, recruits, and imposes pressure on the politicians, all at the same time. We further suggest that such an institution should be structured so as to impose the smallest possible cost on each individual participant, so as to maximize both recruitment and participation.

We’ve built to do exactly that. It educates, recruits, and imposes pressure on the politicians, all at the same time. It aims at changing the incentives the politicians face through key reforms such as the “Read the Bills Act” and the “One Subject at a Time Act.” And our strategy imposes only a very small cost on each participant . . .

* A few mouse clicks and key strokes
* A few phone calls to Congress
* And financial investments that can be as little as a few cents per day

Even so, we well recognize that there’s one weakness to our plan — human nature.

Human nature assumes that if a problem is complicated, the solution must be too. Human nature also prefers to continue doing what’s always been done. Our only weapon against these natural tendencies is constant repetition of our strategic arguments. It’s the same tactic we believe is needed to win the American mind for the cause of downsized government.

Just as some amount of repetition is needed to memorize, so repetition is needed to persuade. What is not absorbed cannot convince.

It will take a lot of repetition to achieve our goals. Progress, like everything else in life, will be slow at first, but more rapid later, as the message takes hold. We do not expect to overturn what people “have always done” quickly. And so today, we’re hoping to slowly convince a few more people that our strategy is worthy of their financial support.

We need more monthly pledges to grow, and one-time contributions to help us make budget for October. We hope you can do one or the other using our secure contribution form.

Thank you for being a part of the growing Downsize DC army.

Perry Willis
Communications Director, Inc.

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