Why Presidential Candidates are Lame

Don Boudreaux loves to try to teach with analogies.  Sometimes they work for me, sometimes they don't.  I really liked this one.    Suppose you were tasked with selling a food product that 100,000,000 people would buy.  Anything at all interesting - sushi, a spicy southwestern dish, a nice pork tenderloin - would only appeal to a niche.  To get something that appeals to 100,000,000 you have to hit some lowest common denominator.

Eventually, you settle upon something that is unquestionably bland and common and uninspiring – something like a plain hamburger, or perhaps a dish of mild meatloaf with mashed potatoes topped only with butter.  Anything more exotic than such offerings will, while being much preferred by a few million of the people whose patronage you’re trying to win, will be rejected by a majority of the people.

The same rules, he argues, apply to Presidential candidates

No one should be surprised that candidates for the U.S. presidency transact mostly in platitudes and are forever performing deeds on the campaign trail that any self-respecting person with independent judgment and a genuine sense and appreciation of his or her uniqueness would never in a million years dream of doing.  And the closer a candidate gets to the political promised land, the more intense becomes the pressure for him or her to be the political equivalent of a Bud Lite.


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    Which is why with only two parties, we end up with Coke v Pepsi. Both have there loyalists, but the vast majority in the middle couldn't tell you which was which in a blind taste test.

  2. disqus_00YDCZxqDV:

    Also because the mililtary/intelligence community, the militarized justice business and the big banks are making a ton of money right now. They are never going to let anybody get into a position where that boat might get rocked

  3. NL7:

    Sure, this is why the most popular food and music is relatively inoffensive. It's worse than that, though. A broadly popular song or food entree doesn't come at the total exclusion of all other decisions for four or eight years. If I want to listen to a pop hit, that's 3 minutes at a time. If I want to eat a plain hamburger, that's one meal. But politicians are the desert island choice - the one song you get for 4 years, the one dinner entree.

    Nor do we spend months or years whittling down the choice of entrees from a dozen or more to basically two, then spend more time getting emotionally invested in the outcome of the choice between two broadly similar songs or two broadly similar entrees. Imagine months of some people loudly proclaiming that ketchup, mustard and a hot dog is the best choice for the future, while other people loudly rebut them and advocate mustard, ketchup, and a hamburger is the only clear path. Which way of underseasoned meat is best, grilled circles or grilled cylinders? Should the bun be stale white bread in two stacked circles, or stale white bread in two connected ovals? Maddening.

  4. ECM:

    Is this an observation even worth noting, other than as "duh" or the latest dispatch from Captain Obvious?

  5. None:

    The problem is that educated and informed mankind no longer really needs "leaders". Instead what we have are border line pyschopaths (the only people who would actually want to be a leader of a population in the first place) trying to bribe the electorate to get themselves voted into power, almost invariably by painting one section of the population as "bad" and promising to extract money from them/make them work harder. Makes me want to puke.

  6. skhpcola:

    You should start a political party that advocates for 90% of the bullshit that D-bags espouse, then call it something like, I dunno, maybe...the Libertarian Party. Then you can feel all superior, buff up your ego, and become the Royal Crown Cola party. You are so smart!