Use your money to get unfair advantages: Politics


If you think rich people get unfair advantages, you’re often right. It’s not just in the traditional and obvious ways like affording better schools to send their kids. Here’s some fun ways you stay ahead of the curve when you can afford it.

Small-time: how not to get speeding tickets

Do you live in California and hate speeding tickets? Why not become a member of the California Highway Patrol Foundation from between $2,500 and $100,000.

But wait, why in the world would someone donate to a police fund? I thought taxes paid for that already? From the CHP 11-99 Foundation website, the foundation is about “Providing emergency assistance to California Highway Patrol employees and scholarships to their children.” Is that a bad thing? Of course not. BUT keep in mind that life is all about incentives.

Let’s use our brains. If someone is paying $100,000 for a donation, they’re probably not all doing for purely philanthropic reasons. The fact that the difference between the $2,500 and $5,000 gift level is a second license plate frame implies that you’re putting that frame on two of your vehicles. If you’re doing 12 over on the highway, do you think you are more or less likely to get pulled over if you have that frame around your license plate?

Why do you think ID cards are included in the package? Because on the off chance you do get pulled over, when the cop asks to see your license and registration, you get to also show your ID as one of his donors.

If you’ve stolen a car and robbed a bank, will this help you? Probably not. But if you failed to signal when you changed lanes? Can’t hurt.

Medium: why politicians write so many books

Related to that, do you know why so many politicians write books about themselves? Obama has a few books out, and so does Bernie. Hillary probably has a few dozen in print at this point.

Do they all happen to love writing? They probably don’t hate it—they’re all academic types, after all.

Is it a form of marketing? For Obama, it definitely was. Dreams from My Father, while written long before he ran for office, was picked up en masse when he ran in 2008. For a man who hadn’t had a very long political career, it was a helpful introduction. But what about all the books after?

Here’s the dirty secret. Politicians write books because that’s how their political party pays them. If you donate XX amount to the party, or to this PAC, or buy this plate at a dinner, then you get one of these books! How fun!

The parties are buying tons of these books. They’ll give away a bunch, but lots they’ll just resell later on at a massive discount. When they buy them on mass, it

  1. Pumps the book to the top of the bestseller lists
  2. And compensates the author in a legal way

Bernie writes a ton of books because the DNC will buy them. That’s how he gets paid. That’s why it’s still in the incentive of politicians to support their party even when they get shafted, because they still gotta eat.

Side note: I’m not trying to take Bernie or the DNC to task. Republicans do this, too. I just mention Democrats here because they have better branding than anyone else since Republicans are incredibly boring (with one notable exception).

Big-time: nepotism and government contracts

Like to the cop foundation donations, “donating” to a party or candidate can pay dividends down the road. Donations counts, for sure, but it’s not always so straightforward.

Let’s say the city conducted a study and they decide to build a new football stadium. You are a local distributor for a national food and beverage brand. If you’re already rich (or work for someone who is rich), you get to take city council members out to dinner, invite them onto your boat, show up to the country clubs where they hang out, and schmooze on a different level.

If you’re a mom-and-pop shop with great food and lots of ambition, you’re going to have to 10x as hard just to get in the same room as the people making these decisions.

Lobbying is a rich people’s game because it takes time and a lot of up-front capital. There are also many flavors of it.

Other ways lobbyists work:

  • Working with journalists to favor particular stories
    • Why would the BBC talk about the unremarkable shows Paramount+ is adding to their streaming catalogue on their front page?? Spoiler: it’s an ad.
  • Brokering meetings between elected officials and “friends” of theirs
  • Stoking political fires in order to keep their industry alive, e.g:
    • The classic military-industrial complex
    • Environmentalism, including those both for and against regulations
    • Rich people activities. Isn’t it funny how almost all of Colorado went into “red” covid-lockdown this winter, but the counties with ski resorts never did? Hmm…

I’m not trying to stir anything up, just acknowledge how the world really works. The rules aren’t fair—until you understand the game you’re playing. Then it’s still not fair, but at least you have a better shot at winning!

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