Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Don't Bet on Total Victory

"We're going to have to do some crazy discounting and drive prices down in order to take out the competition," a sales leader explained in a recent meeting.

"That'll drive the profit out of the category. Start discounting all that money away and it won't come back."

"Just in the short term. Once the competition goes under, we can stop all the promotions and make good money."

It's a good theory. But here's the problem: You probably won't reach the point where there's no competition and so you get to turn the market more profitably again. Even if the current competition goes under, if you try to take advantage of the situation by pushing prices up, that will likely result in new competition entering the market. It is much easier to drive prices down than it is to build them back up again, so it's really important to think trice (and then again) before starting a price war. And starting a price war because you think you can drive the competition out of business and then use your virtual monopoly to build prices back up again? You are kidding yourself. You don't get profitable monopolies unless the government is enforcing them.

It was with this recent set of work drama in mind that I ran into this article from the political realm, the basic thesis of which is that faced with a Trump administration which is willing to break with precedents, the Democrats should 'preserve democracy' by using tactics to create a lasting Democratic majority:
The list of those changes is dizzying. Grant statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, and break California in seven, with the goal of adding 16 new Democrats to the Senate. Expand the Supreme Court and the federal courts, packing them with liberal judges. Move to multi-member House districts to roll back the effects of partisan gerrymandering. Pass a new Voting Rights Act, including nationwide automatic voter registration, felon enfranchisement and an end to voter ID laws. Grant citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants, creating a host of new Democratic-leaning voters: “Republicans have always feared that immigration would change the character of American society. Democrats should reward them with their very worst nightmare.”
The theory is that once these tactics have been used to totally wipe out the GOP, it'll be possible to return to a new political 'normal'. Let's leave aside how lousy and destructive a lot of these ideas are in and of themselves: The premise that one party can use them to totally wipe out the competition and then set about rebuilding a nice polite political system is completely unbelievable. One party states only tend to come about when the government is using active repression to keep the other parties down.

We humans tend to think in stories, and stories often have neat endings. The world is put out of joint by an evil force, a band of heroes come together and fight the evil force, they win and the world returns to peace.

Because we think in stories, we want to think that the world can be made to work out in similarly neat terms: We rally against some force, defeat them, and then they're gone and we can go back to living just as we'd like.

However, in business and in politics (probably in other areas of life too, though I'm not thinking of good examples right off) this instinct to achieve the total victory and then be done actually serves us rather ill. Not only will you not get the total victory you're hoping for, in which your opposition ceases to exist and no new force arises to context the ground, but you'll also have to live with the aftereffects of all the things you did in order to try to achieve that total victory.


BenK said...

However, you risk falling into a trap by declaring that the stories we tell about our lives are fictional _because the are stories._ That's a materialist fallacy. Instead, they are good stories, but incomplete. The victories and failures are incomplete because there is still more story coming.

Anonymous said...

If the Democrats are foolish enough to take advice from a conservative, they deserve to lose forever.

Finicky Cat said...

Some of those ideas are good ones -- and some very bad -- but clearly none should be undertaken by ANY party with the sole purpose of rigging elections. It's an ugly business.