May 27th, 2009

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"Why bother." -- Where Advocacy Groups Fall Down.

This is the question I get a lot on relatively low energy involvement in low priority proceedings. I just got it now, as you might imagine.

The answer is because all effective advocacy is culture change. That includes culture writ small (at an agency, among a community of experts) as well as culture writ large. Everyone parachutes into the big proceedings and makes lots of noise. But the battlefield is prepared well in advance, shaped over time by repeated low level interactions.

The same is true in other areas of advocacy. Everyone wants an op ed in the NY Times or the Washington Post. But opinion pieces in a bunch of free local newspapers are important in shaping attitudes over time. The conservative movement grasped this a long time ago in its dedication to a continuous campaign around its issues (although it appears to have reached the limits of effectiveness on certain types of communication/organizational skills).

Yes, one must balance factors such as over exposure and allocation of resources, there is a difference between low-level activity and mobilization activity, and numerous other factors. I'm not talking about reasoned decisionmaking. I'm talking about the fact that too many advocates do not see the connection between consistent relatively low-effort, low-payoff efforts, movement building, and culture change.
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Another Free Market Myth Bites The Dust

Turns out even if you assume both costless advertising and perfect competition, you will not get full disclosure of "shrouded product attributes" (hidden fees, high maintenance costs, or other factors that exploit consumer ignorance to drive up cost). Turns out it is too profitable to bias behavior and too difficult for non-exploitative firms to capture customers from the exploiting firms.
http://www.aeaweb.org/annual_mtg_papers/2005/0109_0800_1103.pdf

I don't expect this to alter the belief set of true believers, mind. Who needs truth in billing rules when the market can take care of it for us? And, of course, the more complex the transaction, the greater the opportunity to shroud attributes.