The hudud debacle and Hotelling’s law — Syahir Sulaiman
JULY 12 — A sudden proclamation to establish hudud by none other than the party that strongly opposed the decree when it was first mooted; Hotelling’s law applies here.
Hotelling’s law, formulated by American economist Harold Hotelling (1895-1973), states that competitors differentiate their goods and services as little as possible in order to maximise demand from the public.
Surely there are exceptions and disputes of the theory, but Hotelling’s central idea is most certainly correct, and it explains why retailers and pump stations tend to cluster together, why airlines adopt similar flight schedules, and why refrigerator designs are largely identical.
Yet, it also applies in politics, and this is because politicians, just like salesmen with consumers, seek to capture majority of voters, the vast majority of which reside in the middle of a bell curve.
Malaysian politics is no exception, or perhaps a coincidence. A look at Malaysian policy evolvement reflects the similar observations.
From “Hidup Melayu” chants to the “Merdeka” slogan under the backdrop of national liberation struggle.
Handing over of land ownership to the masses under Felda scheme against the threat of communism and socialism
The introduction of “Dasar Penerapan Nilai Islam” and “Masyarakat Madani” in reaction towards the Islamic resurgence in 1980s
The embrace of the “Islam Hadhari” and “Wasatiyyah” concepts as an appeal towards a moderate state
And the 1 Malaysia goodies like BR1M, KR1M, BB1M, and TR1MA as opposed to the offers and promises in “Buku Jingga”.
The same can also be observed in the debate on Malaysian fiscal policy.
The need for stimulus versus austerity continues to be dictated by the populist approach that is concerned about how voters will react.
Last is about the sudden call to formulate and implement hudud by Umno.
Back to Hotelling’s law. Retailer A and Retailer B will maximise their profits by expanding their consumer pool.
Retailer A will move slightly towards Retailer B, in order to gain Retailer B’s customers.
In response, Retailer B will move slightly towards Retailer A to re-establish its loss, and increase the pool from its competitor.
The cycle repeats until both retailers are at the halfway point of the street, where each retailer has the same amount of customers.
Under these circumstances, Retailer A still might lose his nearest customer if he stretches too far towards Retailer B, thus leaving the customer to begin scouting around for a new retailer, Retailer Z.
Both Umno and PAS should be tactful of this positioning game and must always stand by its core values in order to gain “sustainable demand” from the customers, especially the younger ones who constitute almost half of the electorate.
In the words of Farish A. Noor, “PAS was always a dynamic party that dealt with the realities of the day, from the realities of colonialism in Malaya to the rise of authoritarian politics in the 1980s”.
Post March 2008, he poised his thought that PAS “is on the brink of gaining national acceptance, and has to set its sights to become a national party that reflects the pluralism of Malaysian society”.
Let’s observe this dynamic positioning as we approach the 13th general election.
* Syahir Sulaiman is a PAS Youth exco
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.