PONZI SCHEME

I’m with Kevin in hoping that Harvard Law merely hosts Jim Moore’s Weblog. Further, I’d say Moore understands economics much less well than he understands politics. His proposal:

Moveon.org has about two million registered members. If half of them—one million members—gave just $1000 each, this would add up to a BILLION DOLLARS. If we did this for Dean or for another progressive candidate it would certainly change the political landscape. OK, so dial me back a bit—let’s say that a million people gave just $200 each—that adds up to $200 million. More than George W. is expected to raise.

Sheer genius. Lemme point out some seemingly obvious facts:

  • Logging onto a free website is cheaper than giving $1000. Or $200, for that matter.
  • Everyone who logs onto a free web site does not subscribe to its views–let alone sufficiently to give $1000. For example, ye ole OTB linked to MoveOn’s idiotic poll, as did several other non-Howard Dean-supporting bloggers.
  • Were I to prove wildly wrong on the above points, the Republicans would, I don’t know, start their own web site.

    Jim continues:

    This scenario is not preposterous. [Is too! -ed.] Let’s cut it another way. Surveys suggest that there are at least 30 million “progressive” Americans—at just about 11% of the population. If just 3 million of those gave $100, we get $300 million dollars.

    Hmm. Some questions:

  • What percentage of society is left when one subtracts 11 percent from 100%
  • Does that remaining percentage of the population (let’s call it 89% until we have a definitive answer to the above question) have any money?

    But, I interrupt:

    This is in line with other scaleable activities in our economy. Harry Potter did $100 million in book sales just last weekend alone. A successful Hollywood movie does $100 million in a few weeks.

    The reason that political giving does not reach these sorts of totals—in a nation of over 280 million people—is not that people don’t value the presidency—but that the conventional mechanisms for political donating don’t scale. George Bush’s money is raised through small networks of wealthy individuals who tap their friends, family, and business associates. While this network is effective up to a point, it cannot compare to the scalability of a nationwide system of theaters, retail stores, or the Internet.

    But now the web has changed what is possible in campaign contributing. Using the web millions of people can participate, and do so efficiently. The Dean campaign is starting to prove this, as is Moveon.org. Moreover, new forms of giving can now be explored. For example, people might pledge $5 a week to a candidate—rather than all at once. This would make contributing affordable for more people, and increase their involvement with the campaign.

    Right. Allow me to retort:

  • People are more apt to buy Harry Potter books than give it to Howard Dean because 1) their kids aren’t bugging them to give money to Howard Dean and 2) more people like to read fun books than like nutty candidates.
  • The scalability argument here eludes me. Howard Dean gets free TV time, like going on Meet the Press. And, there are, at last count, lots of websites. Unless all the people with $1000 burning a hole in their pocket that like Howard Dean visit, there is not advantage.
  • Occam’s Razor seems to beg for a simpler explanation: 1) Not that many people want Howard Dean to be president badly enough to give him their money and 2) Many of those who do and would won’t because they think he’ll lose and don’t want to throw money away on a futile cause.
  • FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

    Comments

    1. jen says:

      Brilliant.

      Hilarious.

      Scary – he votes.

    2. Neal says:

      Jim Moore says Bush raises money through wealthy friends.

      The party that receives a large amount of money through a large number of small donations is:
      a) the Republicans
      b) the Democrats

      The party that receives a large amount of money through a small number of large donations is:
      a) the Democrats
      b) the Republicans

      If you answered a) to both questions you win a cookie.