• Wallows
    9.6k
    Hotelling's Law states:

    Hotelling's law is an observation in economics that in many markets it is rational for producers to make their products as similar as possible. This is also referred to as the principle of minimum differentiation as well as Hotelling's linear city model. The observation was made by Harold Hotelling (1895–1973) in the article "Stability in Competition" in Economic Journal in 1929.

    The opposing phenomenon is product differentiation, which is usually considered to be a business advantage if executed properly.
    Wikipedia

    I first became acquainted with this Law in college during a class in Political Economics. The gist of the law is that in stable equilibria (think establishment politics in a binary representative democracy such as the US), candidates will seek towards the center of opposing parties to appeal to an electorate.

    Now, this concept was edifying for me in understanding why have the Democrats in the US, since Reagan, have tended to be very conservative in nature, at least to foreign eyes. The political pendulum hasn't been swinging too much to the left, and moreso to the right since Reagan for the matter, which I wrote a paper on in one of my poli-sci classes. Another fact contributing to this is simply the fact that dems are at a disadvantage in the US to pursue progressive and socialist policies, given the Cold War and the vilification of socialism since then (although times are changing).

    Trump by all measures isn't a very far-right politician (he seems like a caricature of Reagan in my eyes); but, he got into power through creating the public perception of being anti-establishment and favoring nativism along with his typical demagogic twist in what has effectively become a popularity contest in US politics.

    Before I babble, I want to ask a simple question.

    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?Wallows

    Yes. And it provides stability; we like stability.

    But there must be other factors involved. Taking the beach analogy, the beach has a fixed length and thus a fixed centre; not so the political spectrum. The limits of the political spectrum are set by something like 'what custom finds acceptable'. Thus in America anything that is thought of as 'socialism' which I think is opposed to 'individualism', is not on the beach at all but way up on the cliffs where no one goes. Whereas in Europe, - well it's going the same way, but it certainly used to be that anything like Trumpism was way up the cliff at the other end of the beach where no one had been since the fascists were defeated inWW2. Politics is also about moving the centre, not just occupying it. You don't necessarily have to bomb one end of the beach to move the centre, a stink bomb will get folks moving, or a sewage outflow.
  • Wallows
    9.6k


    There's a lot of insight here. Hope I can address it all and if I don't, feel free to point out any omissions.

    Taking the beach analogy, the beach has a fixed length and thus a fixed centre; not so the political spectrumunenlightened

    This is what is very unique about the US. In that it's political structure is very homogenous for such a diverse culture. I have in mind that given Hotelling's law, you effectively have a one-party system governed by the super-elite with their economic dominance over the workings of the economy. Trump is no idiot and has been observing all this from the sidelines.

    The limits of the political spectrum are set by something like 'what custom finds acceptable'.unenlightened

    You will find that Trump and his buddies have pretty much disregarded any concept of cultural-sanity in regards to what people find acceptable; but, they (Trump and his gang) thrive off of this traumatization or radicalization of 'acceptable' politics. This coincides with the deep individualism or rugged individualism that America is so well known for.

    Politics is also about moving the centre, not just occupying it.unenlightened

    Before I build a straw-man, please do elaborate on this. I feel as though Hotelling's law self-reinforces this concept devoid of any kind of regard for what the people want. If my memory serves me right and the connotations are accurate just think about types like Leo Strauss or Kissenger. America has always been about managing expectations/dreams/aspirations of the populace.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    Politics is also about moving the centre, not just occupying it.
    — unenlightened

    Before I build a straw-man, please do elaborate on this.
    Wallows

    I'm not sure I can, very much. But let's say that at the extremes of left and right there are views that cannot be espoused without penalty. So on one side, McCarthyism seeks to delegitimise and penalise the 'far left', and on the other, Trumpism seeks to rehabilitate the 'far right'. Both if successful have the effect of moving the centre to the right.

    So rather than move my shop to the middle, I might do better to demolish some houses at your end of town and build some new ones at my end, and then the middle will move to my shop. That way you become the extremist and I become the moderate and also have the consistent and stable position through all these changes...
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    I'm not sure I can, very much. But let's say that at the extremes of left and right there are views that cannot be espoused without penalty. So on one side, McCarthyism seeks to delegitimise and penalise the 'far left', and on the other, Trumpism seeks to rehabilitate the 'far right'. Both if successful have the effect of moving the centre to the right.unenlightened

    Well, this sounds more like shifting the Overton window than Hotelling; but, I suppose they go hand in hand, yes?

    So rather than move my shop to the middle, I might do better to demolish some houses at your end of town and build some new ones at my end, and then the middle will move to my shop. That way you become the extremist and I become the moderate and also have the consistent and stable position through all these changes...unenlightened

    What if I said, that the politics of the right will always have an advantage due to unwritten laws like Zionism or some divine rationale? Is this sensible? How can it be addressed when you have a worryingly high percentage of a population of a nation that still believes that the world was created in seven days?
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?Wallows

    For someone to have a chance against Trump, among other things, they need to be different enough from him to be appealing--they have to depart from the crazier aspects of Trump, but they need to not be so fringe that they'll only get a very niche vote. So saying things like they're going to give free healthcare to all illegal immigrants--which apparently candidates said in a recent debate--isn't going to cut it.

    I also think that a viable candidate wouldn't get into mudslinging/flame wars with Trump. Trump is going to do that, but I don't think that anyone would beat Trump by playing along. The opposition would have a better chance by hammering in messages of "What I want to focus on is how we can make Americans' lives better, easier." And then they're going to need real ideas for that. If they do that everytime Trump tries to troll them, they could win, if their ideas are good enough, and not too fringe with respect to mainstream American opinions.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    For someone to have a chance against Trump, among other things, they need to be different enough from him to be appealing--they have to depart from the crazier aspects of Trump, but they need to not be so fringe that they'll only get a very niche vote.Terrapin Station

    Well, part of what my OP is/was trying to impart was the idea that hotelling is tantamount to making concessions to your rival. And, given that your rival is debasing everything you stand for, then comes the need to inspire and differentiate from the current political climate--something Biden really struggles within my view, which would only be exacerbated by the current anti-establishment sentiment amongst independents and conservatives.

    So, instead of making concessions towards your opponent, who is not cooperating in trying to ensure that any of your efforts to appear centrist (which de facto has been reified as being part of the establishment), as the same schtick that people are pretty tired of, especially after Obama's "change" campaign promise reified by Trump, that an appeal to values (something Trump has nothing in iota to do with) is necessary.

    I just don't think Biden has the courage to appeal to these values, given that Democrats have pretty much-been hotelling since Reagan left the Oval office.
  • unenlightened
    4.1k
    What if I said, that the politics of the right will always have an advantage due to unwritten laws like Zionism or some divine rationale? Is this sensible?Wallows

    Well I'm not that great an economist, but if one shop always has an advantage because *whatever*, the other shop will always go bankrupt. Perhaps that has already happened in the US, and you don't have a 2 party democracy at all, but a plutocracy with propaganda. Amusingly, that is exactly the same as Russia and China ...

    It occurs to me that democracy requires a general level of sanity. But I must avoid jumping on my favourite hobby-horse in your thread.
  • creativesoul
    7.1k
    I must avoid jumping on my favourite hobby-horse in your thread.unenlightened

    Advice I should take more often...

    :wink:
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Did you recently become more intelligent? Did you start a new medication or something?
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    Did you recently become more intelligent? Did you start a new medication or something?Noah Te Stroete

    After ten years and a small fortune in experimentation with medications, I think I'm on fairly safe and sustainable meds now:

    -Zyprexa and Strattera.

    Also, a lot of crap in my life is coming to an end (an almost 15-year divorce that started overseas and is now being finally ended in a joint division of assets here in the States). Also being on SSI, helps in allowing me to devote most of my attention to philosophy. So, I'm pretty happy. Also starting a new business from home, which will help me and my mother if it all works out.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    It occurs to me that democracy requires a general level of sanity. But I must avoid jumping on my favourite hobby-horse in your thread.unenlightened

    Hobby-horse away, given no other interest in the topic as far as I see.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Also, a lot of crap in my life is coming to an end (an almost 15-year divorce that started overseas and is now being finally ended in a joint division of assets here in the States). Also being on SSI, helps in allowing me to devote most of my attention to philosophy. So, I'm pretty happy. Also starting a new business from home, which will help me and my mother if it all works out.Wallows

    I’m happy for you.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.4k
    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?Wallows

    In as much as candidates have to be marketed to potential buyers (voters) this 'law' or effect will probably come into play. I doesn't help us determine which candidate has the best ideas, the cleanest record, the most sordid history, or the greatest leadership skills. But it is handy to think about candidates the way one thinks about mustard. Which one to buy? Maybe French's--the standard yellow variety [Biden] or a coarse ground one with a touch of honey or horseradish [Sanders/Warren]?

    Shampoo, mustard, beer, and political candidates have to fall within a fairly narrow range of acceptability. "standing out against the background" of other candidates is a necessary risk. If all of the candidates form the undifferentiated background, then none of them can become 'visible'. if they stand out too much, they will seem like a gang of outliers.

    Bernie Sanders stands out; I like the way he stands out, but I fear that for many Democratic voters, or disaffected Republican voters, he will seem like an outlier. "Socialist" sounds good to me, but I am in a small minority of the electorate who actually like the sound of that word. Elizabeth Warren is also attractive, but may stand out (from the other candidates) a bit too much. She, like Sanders, is a highly differentiated candidate -- both in what she says, and the sharp focus with which she presents her views.

    Amy Klobuchar, from my state, is pretty close to being a gray cypher of a presidential candidate. She seems too undifferentiated. She's sort of like Seth Moulton, not memorable. Biden also has too much history, too differentiated because of his long service in the middle of the road.

    Pete Buttigieg is also too differentiated, and not very experienced. Were he a straight guy with a wife and 2 children, I think he'd be raising far less money and getting less attention. I like the idea of a gay president, but I really have very little idea what Peter would attempt to accomplish.

    Whoever comes to lead in the nomination race needs to be able to articulate sound programs aimed at global warming, a national health finance system, the trillion or so in college loan debt, and the like. Out Trumping Trump is a losing strategy. In the election, it is important that there be a clear programatic choice.
  • halo
    47
    Traditionally, the criteria for president has been the economy, national defense, domestic security, immigration...

    When the current administration is getting high marks in theses areas, which by most reasonable accounts Trump gets an ‘A’ across the board, the challenging party attempts to hijack this criteria into their own criteria which of course favors themselves - abortion in the past years and racism today.

    These are black and white issues that an average joe can make a quick, decisive, moralistic and emotional decision on. No real analysis required.

    The strongest frame a person can hold in an argument is a moral frame, such as racism or abortion. For most humans, morality trumps (no pun intended) all else. For our salvation, it can be argued, is a person’s greatest incentive. This is why the ‘ market’ of religion has always been so ‘profitable’.
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    @ssu, I'd be highly interested in your input in this thread.

    Sorry, and thanks!
  • Reshuffle
    27
    “Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?”

    Yep. Presidential victory is captured by playing between the 20-yard lines, to use a football analogy. There’s your “Hotelling’s Law,” imperative if I understand it accurately.

    Once a candidate crosses over into the margins, or inside the 20s, American voters get nervous and suspicious. Call it the fear or anxiety of extremism.

    The Right experienced this liability, as a paradigm, with Goldwater. The Left ditto with the likes of McGovern et al. The sad news for the Left is that it hasn't yet learned its lesson; i.e., it continues to triumph fringe candidates.

    Now, one could argue that Obama tip-toed into the 20s and won, except a closer examination of his victory was less about him-and any extremism-than about a resounding disgust with Bush the junior, whose Iraq misadventures and economic messes gift-wrapped the presidency for Obama.

    Nor does the fact that Obama (being to the left of Hillary) beating Hillary refute my point. Again, Hillary was defeated by her own demons, as with Bush, and not by a cri de coeur for extremism. Indeed, Obama only transmogrified into a bonafide liberal AFTER he won the election (e.g., his gay-rights shift).

    In short, the Left ( or Right) can pretend all it wants during the primaries that its respective fringe/extreme politics are meaningful; but in the general election, those same politics are a death march.
  • ssu
    1.7k
    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?Wallows
    No matter how much you research the voter base and political trends, there happens all the time surprises that the pollsters and campaign professionals never saw coming.

    Hotelling's law simply is an outcome of how risky it is to choose a totally new approach, design something utterly new and totally different from others. Yes, it maybe a huge hit (which then competitors will copy), but then again one might be wrong and it's a total fiasco.

    It is a bit similar to the famous Beauty Contest -example of John Maynard Keynes (when describing how the stock market works). The judges don't choose the girl that they find most attractive, they choose what they think the other judges think is the most attractive girl. Hence if every judge thinks that all the other judges are total morons that have utterly no idea of beauty, they might choose a girl nobody's particularly fond of.

    Can you put Hotelling's observation to politics? Sure, but it is also a bit different. One might say that the American voter has been "angry" and "dissappointed" at present politicians and the two parties since... the 70's or earlier? (Forever?) And that want for something else, desire for change, might pick up a Trump or a Ross Perot every once in a while from the "normal" types of politicians.

    this concept was edifying for me in understanding why have the Democrats in the US, since Reagan, have tended to be very conservative in nature, at least to foreign eyes.Wallows
    Should be still noted that the US has a right-wing and a centrist-right wing party that share power.

    Another fact contributing to this is simply the fact that dems are at a disadvantage in the US to pursue progressive and socialist policies, given the Cold War and the vilification of socialism since then (although times are changing).Wallows
    The US basically didn't have a strong 20th Century type socialist movement at all. The Democratic Party is a Social Democratic Party, it has only a leftist wing that can well call itself leftist in the European way.

    Does or should Hotelling's Law apply to potential democratic candidates-who would want to win, quite obviously-against Trump in 2020?Wallows
    Going against a sitting President is always difficult and a risk-averse approach might not be the most successful as in order to win you have to get excitement around the candidate. Now Trump isn't the most popular President for sure, yet at least the Democrats don't look at him to be a pushover. Which is good as the condescending attitude that the media (and the Democratic party) had right from the start towards Trump was the most important reason, in my view, that Trump came to be so popular.
  • Wallows
    9.6k


    So, there are a couple things at play here that I want to mention.

    Trump would have stood no chance against someone like Sanders. Just read the WikiLeaks of the DNC and their suppression of Sanders campaign.

    We have a shift in demographics or a more active youth, mainly through the effects of social media on voter competency.

    Sanders is just too old, but I suspect he will eventually shift his willing and able base to Warren when the time is appropriate.

    And, finally fear... I don't think the cold war mentality of socialism as a dire threat to American freedom will work anymore on the current electoral base. Times are simply changing.

    Oh, yes, also climate change is a HUGE topic and Democrats have enough zest to pitch this concern of most every democratic voter to further motivate them towards high turnout, which has been an Achilles heel for Democrats.

    It might actually be a slight repeat of 2008, just with a new slogan... Like "REAL Change".
  • ssu
    1.7k
    Trump would have stood no chance against someone like Sanders. JWallows
    Trump actually would have likely lost to anybody else than Hillary, actually.

    We have a shift in demographics or a more active youth, mainly through the effects of social media on voter competency.Wallows
    The demographic shift is why Republicans saw themselves as underdogs even when the have the Presidency and have a hold on Congress.

    And, finally fear... I don't think the cold war mentality of socialism as a dire threat to American freedom will work anymore on the current electoral base. Times are simply changing.Wallows
    As I said, the Soviet Union is long dead and buried. Yet what the 'new left' is finding is a new love of Western social democracy, not pure socialism. Whopee.

    It might actually be a slight repeat of 2008, just with a new slogan... Like "REAL Change".Wallows
    Like this time it's really, REALLY different!!! This time things will change!!! This time the Congress and the Presidency will work together and solve ALL the problems!!! :grin: :grin: :grin: :wink:
  • Wallows
    9.6k
    OK, so I just stumbled upon Third Way politics in the US, and it perfectly describes what I've been getting at hereabouts.

    Thoughts?
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