Friday, December 23, 2005

Bundling Up for Alaska

I see no benefit to myself of knowing that there are acres of pristine ice & snow in Alaska where elk and caribou may run freely without having to look at mechanisms for extracting oil. I’ve never actually interviewed the wildlife in Alaska to ask if they share the Sierra Club’s aversion to all things “not natural.” My hunch is that we humans find “unnatural” structures more repulsive than do the animals on which we have projected our preferences.

Regardless, Sen. Ted Stevens’ combining drilling in ANWR with a defense spending bill is like trying to sell a carton of eggs with a margarita. Unfortunately in voting, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. Like many Democrats, I would have voted against the measure as well – but not because of my ties to environmentalists or my aversion to drilling for oil in Alaska, but because I would not have voted to spend more of other people’s money on the troops and Katrina victims. Of course, I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the “$2 billion to help low-income households pay this winter's heating expenses,” also contained in the bill.

The term ‘bundling’ is used to describe when multiple items are packaged together as one. It can be a good sales tool by reducing the search costs of the person trying to buy related items or trying to obtain multiple functions in one item. My cell phone, for example, combines the functions of a voice recorder, camera, phone, calendar, and alarm clock with some other features I never use. Bundling is an effective technique in politics, and I can’t really fault Stevens’ attempts to use it. Politicians use this technique all of the time. We are always voting for package deals when we elect candidates. We can’t choose the features we like from one candidate and the features we like from the other candidate. Instead, we take the qualities we like with the qualities we don’t.

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