Betty Crocker Democracy

Have it. Eat it. [Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash]

In the USA and plenty more countries, the present political system is what one might term ‘Betty Crocker Democracy’ (or Bettycrockracy, if you prefer).

What is that?

Well, there’s a lovely anecdote from the 1950’s about housewives and sales of cakemix.

As the fable goes, a company by the name of Betty Crocker manufactured a particular cakemix that only needed a little water to turn it into cake. Strangely, this convenient product didn’t sell quite so well as they expected.

When the corporation did a little research, they found that housewives liked it better when they had more input, like adding an egg or two. That way, the housewives felt like they were making the cake. The other way — when all they did was add a little water to the mix right out of the tin — it seemed like they were just goofing off. It didn’t seem right to claim they had made the cake themselves.

Now, the end result either way was the same — a cake — but the ladies felt ownership of the egg-and-water cake when that emerged light and fluffy from the oven. It was as if they had made it from scratch. In reality, of course, they were little more than witnesses to the cake either way.


Multi-layered Betty Crocker cake [Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash]

This same behavioural psychology concept is at play in the US political landscape, where the general public labour under the illusion that they are baking the cake of democracy. In reality, they’re adding the eggs (and plenty of the ones they add are bad eggs indeed). Because democracy has been corrupted, the voting public is having about as much input into the cake as those Betty Crocker housewives seventy years ago. They are witnesses to the cake, and whether they add their eggs or not, the cake will still get made just the same.

It’s the cakemix, stupid

The cakemix — the fundamental part of the cake, in the form of legislation, party candidates, and policy decisions — has already been assembled, far away and out of public view, by a corporation, for their profit and to suit their interests.

Sure, they could just as easily leave the egg in or out, but ain’t it nice (and expedient) to have the general public add the egg and the water. That way, the public takes ownership of the cake that’s still going to taste just the way the corporation has decided cake—or democracy—is gonna taste.

Mmmmh, democracy. Yum.

That’s disgusting.

The Bill Murray thing? Couldn’t agree more.

No, the Bettycrockracy.

Oh, that. Well, the less said, the better… only, there is some hope on the horizon, for the upcoming mid-terms as well as more generally.

With the rise of alternative media outlets and a broader simmering discontent—particularly amongst millennials—with the traditional political offerings, there is greater possibility of the necessary inefficiencies brought about by a multi-party system.

Necessary inefficiencies = Oxymoron…?

Democracy is not meant to be efficient*; democracy is about compromise and incrementalism to implement the will (of the vast vast majority) of the people—and convert their slow-changing but ever-moving moral centre into the law of the day.

[*Efficiency, by contrast with democracy, is not mindful and measured, but reactionary and faddish; that is surely the realm of private enterprises, not the body politic.]

So… hope?

Hmm, well, like any budding cook, we’ve all been burnt (by hope) before. And there’s the certainty that those who do well from the Bettycrockracy will aim to sabotage society’s attempts to bake their own cake, from scratch, using their own ingredients.

Still, better to be optimistic than otherwise, eh? So get out and vote for the outliers, the dreamers and the renegades. Scatter flour and yeast and sugar and eggs. Make a mess and bake that cake!