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Jan-25-2010 12:59printcomments

Measures 66 & 67: The Referendum Process and the Political Dark Arts

When a crucial referendum is brought before the people, it is accompanied by the same well oiled, highly paid, and utterly deceptive propaganda machine that seeks influence on a daily basis in capitol corridors.

Nope sign

(EUGENE, Ore.) - The referendum is as close as we get to real democracy in this State. What the referendum teaches about democracy is that the people are just as selfish, confused, and unconcerned with serious policy considerations as the legislature.

It is human nature to be selfish and confused. God only knows what “serious policy considerations” look like. I have certainly never engaged in anything that I would label as serious policy consideration.

The point here is that we are all fallible, all prone to the same weaknesses, and most importantly, all in this together.

We have legislators who do their best to craft the best policies possible under the constraints that they face. This should be recognized, and disagreement over policy should never be taken as impugning the motivations of any legislator.

We also have a referendum process that allows the citizens of this State to act as a check on the legislature, and to offer them their advice and consent.

The referendum process is an essential counter balance to a representative government made up of fallible and self-interested individuals.

Referenda are not without their flaws. The referendum process is not well suited to making policy that requires intense deliberation on complex subjects. It is, however, an adequate means of judging the general mood of the public, and their support for policy decisions made by the legislature.

It should be remembered that we would not have Medical Marijuana or Death with Dignity in this State without the referendum process. In these cases, the legislature has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept the most fundamental and basic concepts of individual liberty, human compassion, and public welfare.

In light of these established facts, no one should cast aspersions upon the citizens of this State when they raise their voices and assert their own judgments on the legislature’s actions.

The citizens of this State, being much more numerous than the legislators, have imbued in their collective wisdom a perception and experience of the conditions of life in this State that far exceeds the capacities of anyone who must spend their days in hearings, and meetings, and all of the other activities that make up the daily life of a legislator.

The referendum allows the farmer, the doctor, the waitress, the police officer, the pastor, and all others to judge legislation according to their own wisdom. This process brings to bear a far greater depth of intellect and experience than the legislature could ever posses in themselves, and should be treated with an accordant degree of respect and deference.

For citizens, the referendum process also brings with it the first hand experience of being pestered on all sides by parties trying to beg, borrow, bribe, and extort their acquiescence to a preferred policy.

When a crucial referendum is brought before the people, it is accompanied by the same well oiled, highly paid, and utterly deceptive propaganda machine that seeks influence on a daily basis in capitol corridors.

Propaganda, bribery, blackmail, and coercion have only one purpose: to convince people to do what is contrary to their own interests. These tools of the political dark arts will always be found working to that end.

A wise man once said: everything done in the dark gon’ come to the light. He was paraphrasing from a wiser man, but the point is the same.

The dark art of propaganda is based on a single principle: all ideology is a means to an end. Propaganda starts with the fundamental assumption that nothing is true, and that the only thing to be gained in life is convincing other people to believe your own version of fiction, so that you can manipulate and control them.

Two con-artist’s tricks are long time staples of this trade: The False Choice, and The Sucker Compromise.

The Sucker Compromise

Suppose you say that 2 + 2 = 4. I come to you and claim that 2 + 2 = 3. Your rational response would be to tell me to beat some sense into my head with a large blunt object. Instead, I propose to you that we should compromise, and agree that 2 + 2 = 3.5. I argue that reasonable people can disagree, and that in cases of disagreement, reasonable people should compromise. If you fall for this, you are a sucker, and have become the victim of a sucker compromise.

Take another example: Suppose I come to you and ask for $20 dollars. You refuse and say that you will give me nothing. I suggest that we split the difference, and that you give me $10 dollars. I implore you to be reasonable, and to settle our disagreement with a compromise.

Once again, this is a classic sucker compromise.

The False Choice

Three Card Monty is an example of the False Choice.

In Three Card Monty the hustler lays out three cards upside down and asks the player to identify the queen amongst the three face down cards. The hustler has shown the queen in recent recollection, so the player assumes that the queen is amongst the three cards.

The queen might pop up early in the game, which is the sucker bait. The sucker bait gives the player a taste of the money, which is meant to draw them further into the game.

The queen is never on the table unless the dealer puts it in play as sucker bait.

The False Choice is created when the sucker is convinced that the only options that exist are the rules being dictated by the dealer.

If you don’t pick the non-existent queen out of the cards, you lose. You lose, you pay.

The choices in a contrived game of cards are very different from the choices in life. A simple game of three cards follows simple rules. The rules of life are more complex, and allow for a slightly broader range of variation in outcomes.

Step on the table. Strip the dealer naked, take every cent on their person, and set their cards on fire along with the rest of their belongings: this is but one of many options. Life is full of so many possibilities.

The False Choice tries to limit a person to a set of simple and predefined choices, of which all will be to the benefit of the hustler who creates the False Choice and to the detriment of the sucker who buys their shtick.


The Sucker Compromise and The False Choice are two con acts that continue to be recycled ad nauseam by unoriginal proprietors of the b.s. trade.

The propaganda campaigns for Measures 66 & 67 incorporate both aspects of these classic routines.

These measures present to the voters two bad options, and no real choice. They offer the citizens of this State a compromise between bad and worse. That is a False Choice.

Personally, I choose none of the above.

I will not choose bad over the threat of worse. I am nobody special, but that is not an option on my menu. Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.

Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance.

You can write to Ersun at:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Mike H. January 26, 2010 12:32 pm (Pacific time)

Warncke for Governor.

Jacob January 26, 2010 11:11 am (Pacific time)

Ersun why not run for an elected position?

Ersun Warncke January 25, 2010 4:11 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for the kind words Jeff. In general I would advise people to vote their own conscience. In an earlier article on the subject, I provided some analysis of the measures from the perspective of tax fairness, and economic impacts on small business, and recommended rejecting both on those grounds. I have also written a couple of articles showing how revenues could easily be raised by closing other corporate tax loopholes, as opposed to raising taxes on all businesses, and how budget cuts that don't effect the delivery of services are possible and reasonable to ask for. Specifically, I highlighted several hundred million dollars being spent on corporate subsidies and excessive salaries for government employees that have nothing to do with core government services. On the basis of that evidence, I voted no on both measures.

Jeff Kaye~ January 25, 2010 2:02 pm (Pacific time)

Ersun, you seem like one of the most intelligent people in the state. It sounds like your advice would be to vote NO on both of these measures? I haven't read them, but I'm sure you have, so your opinion would carry some weight with readership.

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