The Economy of Scale Project

The Economy of Scale Project in action 1999

The Need to Portray Credibilty

For the Libertarian Party to grow and win elections, it is necessary to convey two messages:

  1. Liberty is valuable. A libertarian-run government is a better government than the current government.
  2. The Libertarian Party is the best tool for putting libertarians in office.

This is an and relationship. The message is only as good as the weaker of the two messages. This may be hard to see for some existing Libertarians, since they are almost by definition those convinced that the LP is, or will be, a useful tool for increasing liberty. However, there are many (most?) small-l libertarians sitting on the sidelines or actively working in the older political parties because the don't believe the the LP will grow to be big enough to win elections.

This is a serious problem, since we need nearly all small-l libertarians to vote for our candidates in order to win. It is a Catch-22 situation. The problem extends beyond libertarians. The press gives us meager coverage since we "don't have a chance of winning", and special interest groups like the NRA fail to give us support for the same reason.

The Meta Message

An important component of political credibility is the message that everyone else has also received the message. To do this, politicians put much of their efforts into very public marketing venues.

For example, if I see an ad during a highly-rated television or radio timeslot, not only do I hear the message within the ad, I know that most everyone else has also. On the other hand, if I receive a pamplet on my doorstep, I have no idea of how many others have received or bothered to read the pamplet. For all I know, my neighborhood has been targeted (which is often the case in LP campaigns!).

Communication examples that fail to send the meta message are: direct mail, small newspaper and magazine ads, radio and TV ads during cheap timeslots, pamplets on the doorstep, and direct conversations with the candidate or supporters of said candidate. Note that these are often the best ways to communicate complex messages to voters -- an important consideration for a party with an unfamiliar ideology. However, such methods do a poor job of selling the "have a chance to win" message.

Communication examples that do a good job of sending the meta-message are: TV ads in expensive time slots, billboards, TV news stories, headline stories in prominent newspapers, and yard signs. If I receive contact through any of these media, I know that many others have also received this message. Thus, I have assurance that I won't be the only one considering the candidate on election day.

Yard Signs, the Cheapest Meta Message

By far the cheapest of the meta-message media are yard signs. For less than a dollar, it is possible to publicly send a message to the hundreds or thousands of people -- with a high repetition factor at that. If I drive by a sign every day on the way to work, I am certain to read it more than once whether I want to or not. And I see all those other cars passing that same sign and undergoing the same experience.

Of course, it takes more than one sign to fully send the meta-message. If I see the sign on only one place, I figure that I have been targeted, and thus realize that only a fraction of the voters have received the message. On the other hand, if I see other examples of the sign on all the main streets of the relevant district, I know that all the voters that drive automobiles (a hefty fraction of voters!) have received the message, and thus the candidate has a shot a winning.

Dealing With the Downside

Of course, yard signs (an other meta-message carriers) have the downside that they carry a rather small message. In the case of yard signs, they usually just have the name of the candidate and the office sought. Such an approach does win votes, but it does little if anything to build up brand recognition for the party.

However, it is possible to convey more using yard signs. If a campaign uses several different types of sign, each type can convey an aspect of the campaign. The essence of a Libertarian campaign can be conveyed through a series of very short slogans: "Legalize Hemp", "Defend the Second Amendment", "End the Income Taxes", and so forth. If the signs share a similar layout (font, color scheme, logo, etc.) with the name sign, there is a tie-in.

If the word "Libertarian" and/or the Statue of Liberty logo are part of the signs, then the signs can build brand recognition for the party that future campaigns can use. Being the "Party of Principle" our positions don't change much from campaign to campaign, so such carry-over is an asset.

At this point it is worth asking why so few Libertarian campaigns use this approach. The answer is price. There is a significant overhead for each print run. It is much cheaper to print 500 signs of the same print run than it is to print five sets of 100 signs.

Much cheaper, as will be seen on the next page.

However, we are the "Party of Principle". Our candidates can share print runs with the same slogan. Indeed, we can even reuse the same slogan signs for multiple years if they stand up to the weather. It is high time we take advantage of our assets, and stretch our dollars accordingly. This is the idea behind the Economy of Scale Project.