May 12, 2004

President of Beers

Posted by shonk at 10:42 PM in Politics | TrackBack

I’ve had a fair amount of free time in the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been watching a lot of basketball and hockey recently. No, I’m not going to delve into sports (please, hold your applause); rather, I wanted to mention briefly a commercial I’ve been seeing a lot of recently as a result of all this sports-watching. Specifically, I’m talking about the Miller ads that have been running, the ones that are part of the “President of Beers” ad campaign.

Aside from the fact that they’re more entertaining than most of the commercials you’ll see on the idiot box, I like the Miller ads because they do a nice job of satirizing the whole democratic process as currently conceived. They capture both the mudslinging antics of politicians and the Everyman complaints about the lack of choices in the political system quite nicely. For example, in the debate ads, the Miller spokesman/candidate both attacks his opponent (a Clydesdale, obviously representing Budweiser) for being a horse and wearing blinders as well as getting frustrated that the debate moderators won’t let him expand on his position.

What I think I like best about the ads, though, is that they highlight (unintentionally, no doubt) the fact that the beer market embodies much more completely the very principles that the democratic process is supposed to uphold. For example, whereas voters who prefer the losing candidate are stuck with the winner, beer drinkers aren’t forced to consume any particular beer simply because a majority prefers it. Non-voters who dislike all the candidates are still going to be stuck with one of them, whereas teetotalers are under no obligation to drink beer simply because the majority of people do. Furthermore, if you like, say, Kerry’s stance on healthcare and Bush’s stance on the war (God help you), you won’t be able to have both, whereas someone who likes Budweiser for a relaxing beer after work but prefers Miller when bar-hopping on the weekends can have both (how such a person could distinguish between the two is beyond me, but we’re only speaking in hypotheticals here). Also, if the candidate you really like best is, say, Ralph Nader, you know in advance that you’re going to lose, whereas if you prefer Guinness or Fat Tire to Bud and Miller, well, you can buy those instead. And, finally, if you like some part of a candidate’s platform but not others, you can’t choose only to fund those parts that you like, whereas you’re free to purchase precisely as much beer as you drink, instead of having to purchase three cases a week when you only want one.

The point is, in the beer market everybody can make the choices that make them happiest, whereas in politics the supreme lack of choices and the winner-take-all reality means that virtually everybody comes away dissatisfied. This, I think, is what makes the Miller ads work: the notion of holding a beer election in the same way we hold presidential elections is so patently absurd that we can’t help but chuckle a bit at the ads.

And what does that mean for politics? Well, in that regard, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.


What if voting for president was like buying beer?
This, as many of your posts, sets the wheels turning.
1.) How can we make buying government more like buying beer?
2.) We know what electing a president is like in a democracy and what electing a president is like in a dictatorship. What about the difference between beer in a democracy and a dictatorship?
It seems as though the problem with buying government is that everyone wants the benefits but want someone else to pay for it. This could be ameliorated by passing a government benefits tax equalization act. So you donít want that old B-52 base in your town closed down, even though it serves no useful purpose now that the cold war is over. What if all the people in your district had to pay a special tax to keep it open? The same goes for that new V.A. hospital they want to build even though your local private hospital is half empty, those ethanol subsidies to grow corn, that 2 million dollar program to encourage minority kids to play golf and that new Laurence Welk museum in your district. If your president and congressman had to send the bill to the taxpayers every time he came home with the bacon just like the average individual consumer buying beer and other necessities has to pay his bills, the changes would be truly revolutionary.
What is beer like in a dictatorship? Pretty good, I think. I assume they had good beer in Nazi Germany. I was in Taiwan and South Korea when they were dictatorships. The beer was a little watery but it was fresh, light and cheap. You didnít have much choice though. You could get American or Japanese beer but it was real expensive due to the exorbitant tariffs you find in dictatorships. On the other hand Japanese beers are world class and there are lots of them, so I guess beer is better under a capitalistic democracy. How is Bulgarian beer?

Posted by: Dave at May 13, 2004 09:03 PM

who would you vote for in the race for the President of Beers? Miller Lite or A-B?

Posted by: stefan at July 10, 2004 09:55 AM

To take this to the next level, people can vote for president of beers. There is a website someone wrote in response to the commercials.

I voted for Bud !

Posted by: Brett Cook at August 9, 2004 09:42 AM