The market turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.
~ F.A. Hayek
It is now 2008, and Ron Paul himself has admitted that he thought he'd be back in Texas at this stage of the election campaign, cooling his heels. But timing is everything, and America seems a bit more receptive to Dr. Paul's message than she has been in recent times. The most obvious manifestation of his new-found staying power is his record-breaking ability to raise gobs of cash.
Back in early October, when I read that his campaign's brain trust had set $12,000,000 as their fourth quarter fundraising goal, the first thought that popped into my head was "oh my god, they are potheads!" Yet, here I am three months later and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't rake twenty million, minimum. And it's all because Ron Paul, at the beginning of October 2007, had been cured of his skepticism.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter Ron Paul (unlike every other candidate) decided to openly show the world how much he has raised in actual cash, and update the total every minute or so on his web site. That, ladies and gentlemen, takes absolute nerves of steel.
And what made his decision even more out there is that it was decided upon before the Ron Paul people had ever heard of Trevor Lyman and James Sugra (the brains behind the money bombs), before they had any idea that they were up the road ahead.
While Ron Paul had been cured of his skepticism, his decision to go transparent was helped along by his reading habits.
In his famous essay The Pretence of Knowledge, Austrian economist Frederic Von Hayek spoke to his belief that no matter how intelligent they might be, a small group of men, even a few thousand of them (even if they all had Ivy League Ph.D.s), could not come close to the aggregated knowledge of all their fellow citizens in their millions. Von Hayek's warning to would-be planners can be summed up in a saying my mother used to drill into our young Irish heads — "Let Go and Let God."
In other words, some things it's better to let alone — like your fellow man. As Bloomberg's Caroline Baum said, it's best to leave people be because "you never know where the next big idea or product will come from." It is a practical argument for freedom; its capacity to release superhuman, really cool events upon humanity — like Victor Pelevin, the iPod, and (in this instance) the money bomb.
In the boardroom discussions at the Ron Paul camp, that was the argument bandied about, that was his brain trust's thought process, that's why they decided to take a leap of faith and post their supporters' numbers and generosity in real time democratic, open, and trusting. No other candidate can hold a candle to this, and it all happened because Ron Paul read an essay penned by a now dead man and preached it to his followers.
Jon Bydlak (all quotations in this column are from him) spoke about Hayek's essay during our call, stating that its underlying argument "allowed us to get over our fear of going transparent." The entire concept of trusting that someone, somewhere, somehow would come along and think of how to raise that cash "fit with the model of our campaign," it fit with Ron Paul's governing principles.
The decision makes sense coming as it does from Ron Paul's classic liberal philosophy because it is based on trust in his fellow man to (usually) do the right thing. It stands in direct conflict with all political schools which call for man's freedom to be curtailed, else we'll smoke too much or drink too much or play dirty videos or, god forbid, save "too much" money or will choose not to go to Iraq. The philosophy of liberation views men as rational adults, capable of being trusted, of having an inalienable right to be trusted — socialism starts with no such premise.
Ron Paul trusted his supporters were large enough in number to raise $12 million, trusted enough that he was going to show the world its unfolding in real time. It was Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield bleachers before homering to the very spot. It was Davey Johnson stating pre-season that he expected his '86 Mets to dominate — before they did. It is Ron Paul declaring I can raise $12 million this last quarter before raising $19 million (so far).
Ron Paul let go and let God, secure in his belief that somewhere out there, he knew not where, there was somebody or some bodies that would show what a people left the hell alone can do. Quite a bit, incidentally.
Somewhere in the netherworld, von Hayek is chuckling.
How To Detonate A Money Bomb
No one person made this possible.
~ Jon Bydlak, fundraising director, Ron Paul presidential campaign, 2008
My favorite thing about Ron Paul's campaign and libertarianism in general is that its underlying moral can be summed up as "the plan is there is no plan." The money bombs, and classic liberal society in general, are a spontaneous action by, for, and from the working masses, perfect as any the communists always pined for yet never experienced. As the first money bomb gained strength, the internet rode Revere-like, from computer to computer, Ron Paul headquarters blissfully unaware.
Yet, I'd be remiss if I didn't give some opinion as to how it was pulled off. I just want to stress that it wasn't planned as modern day America understands the term. But there are certain characteristics that a candidate, and his campaign, must have in order to pull one off.
Like any news organization will tell you, Ron Paul's campaign is not exactly stuffed full of big-named, heavy-hitting establishment players. Hotel suites at two grand nightly are not on the menu for the Paul campaign staffers; I'm afraid they even at times endure the horror of a Motel 6.
But they are not exactly wet-nosed amateurs, either. After three decades in power Dr. Paul can make his way around our nation's capital without a map; he's an experienced campaigner. The decision to go completely transparent funds-wise (a decision that by happy coincidence would add fuel to the money bombs' fire) was not rashly made in a factual vacuum.
During the last half of September, two events were staged and unlike the soon-to-come money bombs they were actually planned by the campaign. Fill the Quill came first, and a request for $500,000 to fill an on-line thermometer graphic then followed on the last week.
What happened? These test runs allowed the Ron Paul people to “learn the power of empowering people.” For Fill the Quill he asked 1,787 (get it?) of his supporters to sign up to donate, yet the campaign’s focus was more on the number of donors rather than the cash generated. Ron Paul’s people, basically, were putting their toe in the water to gauge the depth of the market, before diving in.
Over twice the target number of people signed up. The following week, Ron Paul’s people decided to set a fund-raising goal for the last week of the third quarter $500,000.
The following week, Ron Paul's people decided to set a fund-raising goal for the last week of the third quarter $500,000. The MeetUp group which raised the most funds would get a personal visit from Dr. Paul.
They raised $1,000,000, ending the quarter at $5,000,000, shocking the pundits' laughter and Ron Paul's skepticism right out of them.
So they had a very strong inkling that the support was out there, "by the beginning of the fourth quarter we knew our ability to raise cash on-line was a big strength." They took a deep breath, looked the possibility of public failure right in the eye, and leapt into transparency.
Ron Paul's decision to go completely transparent and live prior to even knowing about the money bombs, before even knowing about their possibility, dovetailed nicely with the entire concept and turned it into a sporting event. By happy coincidence, scoreboard watching entailed donating.
If you are a supporter of the candidate it is being staged for, watching a money bomb detonate is much like watching a sporting event. Instead of my brothers calling each other back and forth all day with "did you see that catch?!?!," instead it had us asking "did you see what he's raised so far?!?!"
Jon Bydlak put it more professionally stating that, "by providing real-time numbers, it provides people with instant feedback," and even cooler, after donating you can zip back to Ron Paul's front page and see your name displayed for a few seconds of almost fame — a brilliant idea thought up by…Ron Paul's director of security.
Someone posted on blogforfredthompson.com "I anticipate 89 million since that other guy (Ron Paul) is half what Fred is in the polling. Should easily get double. Fred is polling high. Lots of supporters to draw from."
Apparently not. Bottom line, you need the support of the people; there just aren't enough actual people in the special interest groups and corporations to pull this off.
You don't need high-priced consultants to figure it out for you — a money bomb comes from your individual supporters — the masses. The Federation of Conservative Republicans blasted Fred Thompson's failed money bomb as "amateurish" — but this is clearly not the reason for its failure. A successful money bomb is in and of itself an amateur event, an event unplanned from the center. As Mr. Bydlak said, it is "people working together in a decentralized manner."
Trevor Lyman and James Sugra, the two gentlemen who lit the fuses for Ron Paul's money bomb success, are a California dude and a Miami Beach resident, respectively. They are both very young, and they are both as amateur as amateur can get.
And your supporters must not only be numerous, but excited enough by your message to act on it, to donate their time and money willingly. Ron Paul's pledge of equality before the law, his promise to stop the looting and killing, have struck a groundswell of supporters willing to act on their own.
In the run-up to Fred Thompson's money dud, one poster on blogforfredthompson.com excitedly wrote "finally the grassroots will help Fred with much needed cash. I was wondering when we would be activated."
Nobody activated Ron Paul's supporters to set off a money bomb, nobody had to. Ron Paul didn't think he had to because von Hayek told him he didn't have to. Ron Paul had that trust in his supporters, and proved his skepticism cured by going transparent. Trusting in the "free market" is, when you think about it, a trust in the people.
And therein lies the ideological chasm between Ron Paul and Fred Thompson, and far too many of his Congressional colleagues. They trust the aggregated money of special interests and corporations will roll in, and it does. But what do they have to sell the working masses but our own money and freedom? We have that already.
If you do not have that groundswell of widespread, excited supporters embarrassing things can happen. Much discussion took place at Ron Paul's brain trust, like "where do we set the goal, what happens if you don't meet it?" Like I said above, Ron Paul's decision took a large dose of courage, because failure would have looked, at minimum, like this:
Barack Obama became the front-runner for the White House.
Barack Obama's supporters launched an attempt to raise money to crush the Ron Paul campaign's mother lode. After all, with front-runner status and double-digits in the polls, surely Mr. Obama would see an inflow of more than $4,700 from 73 people on his November the 16th money bomb.
No he wouldn't, and stop calling me Shirley.
(Mike Huckabee) appears to be on the rise in national polls.
Traditionally, religion has been the last refuge of the scoundrel, but in modern day America that torch has been passed to "the children." Since, according to the run-up to his November 20th money bomb, Mr. Huckabee's the "one candidate who can truly better our children's future" (and who's not for the children?), one would guess that the Republican front-runner would bring in more than $223,589. I freely admit that is not a bad number at all if you keep your brain closed real tight and block out $4,300,000 and $6,000,000.
On December 27th, Mike Huckabee's legions of supporters, whose backing has thrown him into number one in the polls, held another money bomb for him and raised…$89,965.
Usually invoking religion is a no-brainer way to rake in the dough. Floating crosses and all, Mike Huckabee is proving the opposite.
The GOP front-runner isn't Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney…it's "none of the above."
Mitt Romney and his perfectly perfected otherworldly coif chose December 7th for his money bomb, to mark that black day when Japan, without a declaration of war, launched a pre-emptive attack on our nation.
Asking his poll-bots to stop giving him double-digit assurance and instead send money for a change, I can find nothing on his website as to its success. Interestingly, his websites "news" section on December 8th carried nary a mention of his money bomb.
Silence is always golden, and sometimes telling, too. Concerning its success, we'll safely plagiarize National Review's on-line comment concerning Fred Thompson's money bomb and apply it to Mr. Romney's as well — "if (it) went well, we'd have a number by now."
I've always wanted to use we'll and well in the same sentence, and thanks to Mitt Romney now I have. Sometimes, people, dreams do come true.
“My question to ya'll is: If Ron Paul can raise the money he raised in 24 hours….why can't we do the same for Fred?"
~ From www.blogsforfredthompson.com
Speaking of Fred Thompson, due to lack of funds as of the time of this writing he has been reduced to taking a tour bus from town to town in Iowa — no more flying for Freddie. Campaign spokesmen have been non-committal on rumors that Mr. Thompson, to help save cash, has been crashing nightly in various supporters' homes. OK, I made that last bit up, but the thought of it makes me smile.
On November 21st Fred Thompson assured by the polls that his supporters were double to Ron Paul's in number — asked them to participant in a joint mass fundraising called, strangely, "Fred's Giving Day." (Fred's not giving, you are.) No mention of any historic reference date, nor of the amount of cash raised.
As National Review on-line commented, (sing along now) "if u2018Fredsgiving Day' went well, we'd have a number by now."
The people of the Middle East can rest a bit easier; Fred Thompson is running out of gas.
Welcome to the Cheap Seats
There is nothing quite as wonderful as money. There is nothing quite as beautiful as cash. Some people say it’s folly, But I’d rather have the lolly. With money you can make a splash.
~ Monty Python
In American politics circa 2008, where the air is buried by the sounds of frenzied bi-partisan pigs feeding at the trough, there is nothing a man needs more to run a top-tier political campaign than gobs of cash. With so much of Other People's Money up for grabs, the special interests' bidding for a slice of the loot is fierce and fast. A modern-day candidate must spend upwards of $80 million or so to claw their way into America's heart, because the rent seekers are willing to pay millions for, and Congress is willing to sell trillions of, what is not theirs.
At the end of every quarter all candidates must announce to the American people how much tribute they've collected. America, being in the habit of measuring fitness for office in dollar terms, has decreed this a necessary part of the democratic process. It is a fact of life.
What makes Ron Paul's money raising juggernaut so fun to watch is that he's raising this money from individuals, not special interest groups or corporations looking for handouts of Other Peoples' Money, but from individuals who want nothing more than to stop the looting.
Ron Paul strolled into our political gladiator's pit to the howls and laughter of the luxury boxes. But he raised his eyes and voice to the upper boxes, raised them to all the forgotten ones sitting in the cheap seats. Judging by the $19 million of fourth quarter money they have showered upon him as of the time of this writing, the cheap seats weren't laughing.
Not at all.
This column is written with grateful thanks to Ron Paul's fundraising director, Jonathon Bydlak, who was kind enough to give his time and help fill in the blanks.
January 2, 2008