One of the most pivotal books I have ever read was The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard (Washington Square Press, 1957) because it opened my eyes at an early age to the “tricks” that people use to make us want to purchase their products. I think my all-time favorite trick is from the makers of Alcon’s contact lenses cleaner where, when we purchase two large plastic bottles together, they will give you a “free” plastic contact lenses holder. Of course it probably costs the manufacturer about 1 ½ cents to provide this to us but, since it is easily three times the size of any other holders I have ever seen, if we use it we will use three times the amount of cleaner. So that makes this a good “investment” for them. Pretty slick! But other psychology, of course, is pricing because we all know that an item that sells for $9.99 is obviously a better bargain than one priced at $10.00. I also like the billboards that promote “Ben’s Hamburgers, Voted Number 1!” Of course, the voters were probably Ben’s mother-in-law and son. But mostly all ads imply that if you purchase their product, you will be happy, successful, joyful, and romantically satisfied. (So buyer be aware. . . .) But I also learned to employ this approach in my private mediation practice, where often before we disband without an agreed-upon settlement I will give a so-called “Mediator’s Proposal” in a final attempt to settle the case. And my proposed settlement is almost always just less than a psychological barrier amount. For example: “Defendant, will you pay $70,000 to settle this case?” with the reply being “No, not a chance, that’s much too much, we will go to trial instead of paying that much money.” But if instead I ask: “Defendant will you pay $68,750 to settle this case?” the response is often “Sure.”

But, going on, these tricks are also frequently used in political campaigns where politicians tell the voters what they think they want to hear, instead of telling them the real truth. (Honestly, that is one reason why Libertarians do not win many elections, because we accent the truth.) In addition, the other parties also often broadcast implications about their opponents that will have a strongly negative emotional impacts upon the voters. Two of the worst were President Johnson in 1964, who broadcasted an ad showing a nuclear bomb explosion and which implied that Senator Goldwater would lead us into nuclear war if elected president; and the Biden campaign in this past election that broadcasted an ad that implied that President Trump was just like Hitler. The second worst trick has been California Attorney General Becerra’s postings of supposedly “neutral” ballot summaries of various propositions which are strongly slanted to push people into his own political way of thinking. And then there are fundraising letters for various charities that put actual postage stamps on their letters because the recipients are psychologically much more likely to open the solicitation letters when they look more personal. (And, following that logic, have you noticed that many of the letters more recently actually have three one-cent stamps on them, so the sender can gain that more personal impression but also save money?) And others include return postage stamps on the donor envelopes, with the anticipation that people are much more likely to mail back contributions if they don’t have to use their own stamps. (And since many people often remove those first class stamps and use them for their own mail, now some senders use five 10-cent and one five-cent stamps because they are more cumbersome to remove.) Of course, sellers of products can be held accountable for largely false statements and warranties, but often their ads are just construed as “puffing,” which is legally allowed. Thus the only really effective response is that, when it comes down to it, it is up to us to educate ourselves and be aware about what we buy and how we vote. Why? Because mostly governments are (and should be) ineffective at controlling the speech of commercial and political ads. In other words, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me” is still the best approach.

Quote for the week from Yogi Berra: “A writer asked me ‘What makes a good manager?’ I answered ‘Good Players.’”

Judge Jim Gray (Ret.) Superior Court of Orange County, California 2012 Libertarian Candidate for Vice President

As stated above, feel free to listen to our radio show entitled All Rise! The Libertarian Way with Judge Jim Gray as we discuss timely issues and show how they will be addressed more beneficially by employing Libertarian values and approaches. The series has concluded, but you can still hear any edition On Demand by going to https://www.voiceamerica.com/show/3883. And, by the way, these 2 Paragraphs columns are now on my website at www.JudgeJImGray.com, Facebook and LinkedIn at judgejimgray, Twitter at judgejamesgray, and wordpress at judgejimgray.wordpress.com. Please visit these sites for past editions, and do your part to spread the word about the importance of Liberty. In addition, my new book with the same title as my radio show is now available at Amazon.com. Please read and discuss it with your friends, and send in a review.