Gleichschaltung: How Ads Create and Reinforce
by K. Tarkington
A recent National Review carried a UPS ad. It shows two men, one Black and one
White. They both work for UPS, and together they founded Manna Ministries, a sort of soup
kitchen on wheels. The big words read:
We decided that nobody should have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
This sort of clouding-the-issue demagoguery is par for the course when you hear it in
Democratic campaign speeches, but more and more its like is starting to creep into corporate
advertising. Of course, ads showcasing the imaginary utopia of diversity have been
commonplace for twenty years. But this type of ad plays in to the new public-private
partnerships idea the government and UN are trying to foster. The government is not merely
doing five million things it is ill equipped to do -- and taking half your paycheck to do
it -- it is trying to get the private sector to do the real work its new bureaucracies
ostensibly exist to address. It's as though you pay the contractor, and then you have to
lay the patio yourself.
This is almost too boring and obvious to point out (hence better left to the libertarian economists
who enjoy these things) but government seems to work this way: it creates a bogus problem
and intervenes with a "solution." The solution creates a real and much greater problem that
conveniently serves as the pretext for total takeover of the sector in question. Thus a
mishmash bureaucratic sprawl of workers and "customers" is spawned, and the power of the
state increased. Thus does government create its own market. Government is not in the
business of meeting needs and providing services, it is in the business of creating problems
and increasing its power by providing money-sponging "solutions." Government finds
relatively small problems, things that no one with the best intentions and unlimited money
could do anything about, and subsidizes them into huge problems its bureaucracies are always
and never "solving." Only about twelve million people have pointed this out, but let me be
the twelve million and first.
Note also that this UPS ad is running in a conservative publication. When government gets
big enough it recycles so much of the average dollar that even the conservatives are forced
to do business with it. Few are principled enough to retain their principles.
The assumptions underlying this ad are that we all agree that A) the decision between food
and medicine isn't the same choice everybody faces (limited income), B) government taking
fifty percent of your paycheck doesn't limit already limited budget choices, C) government
intrusion into the health care/pharmaceutical market hasn't artificially raised prices of
medicine, D) fat, dumbish average-looking guys (who look like photo negatives of each other
in their earnest black-and-white Holsteinian rotundity) are to be admired -- by
conservatives reading conservative publications, no less -- for their simple morality in
helping others. They aren't thinking about the source of the problem, they are doing
something about it. That's admirable.
Thinking is a real no-no in 2000 America. Just as in the Staples ad, what we are supposed
to do is just shut up and admire, whether it's two guys stepping in where government and
human stupidity produce their natural consequences, or a sheepish guy who'd like to keep
some of his paycheck out of the maw of the public school system.
All democracies end up hating the thoughtful. What's average and popular and "correct"
is all the "free citizen" needs to know. And the government, schools and media and
advertising will keep him informed what that is.