As a follow-up to my first post on this topic, in this episode I’ll examine the policies of some of the parties and organizations I do like.
First up, the Pirate Party. Despite the provocative name, the Pirate Party has a rational, well thought-out platform that addresses only a few specific areas of law. Far from being selfish, the platform is actually philosophically, historically and practically sound. Here’s the start of their “Introduction to Politics and Principles”:
The Pirate Party wants to fundamentally reform copyright law, get rid of the patent system, and ensure that citizens’ rights to privacy are respected…
That’s pretty much it – those are their only issues of concern.
It expands with respect to copyright:
The official aim of the copyright system has always been to find a balance in order to promote culture being created and spread. Today that balance has been completely lost, to a point where the copyright laws severely restrict the very thing they are supposed to promote. The Pirate Party wants to restore the balance in the copyright legislation.
Pharmaceutical patents kill people in third world countries every day. They hamper possibly life saving research by forcing scientists to lock up their findings pending patent application, instead of sharing them with the rest of the scientific community…. Patents in other areas range from the morally repulsive (like patents on living organisms) through the seriously harmful (patents on software and business methods) to the merely pointless (patents in the mature manufacturing industries).
Following the 9/11 event in the US, Europe has allowed itself to be swept along in a panic reaction to try to end all evil by increasing the level of surveillance and control over the entire population….The arguments for each step on the road to the surveillance state may sound ever so convincing. But we Europeans know from experience where that road leads, and it is not somewhere we want to go…. Terrorists may attack the open society, but only governments can abolish it.
I couldn’t agree more with each of these sentiments, though getting rid of patents entirely might go even further than I would propose. I may expand on each later in separate posts, but for now I can say that this sums up my feelings nicely and I couldn’t do a better job of explaining each topic so succinctly.
I will also point out that all these views are diametrically opposed to those of the Democratic party, which is fiendishly pro-“intellectual property” (especially regarding grotesque expansions of copyright law), and doesn’t seem to care one whit for individual privacy.
Note (7 May 2012): I just came across a fuller platform for the Pirate Party. Still quite spartan compared to many other parties, but expands on the copyright/patent issues in a number of ways, including more direct democratic participation in government, government transparency, drug policy, environment, equality, and education.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
EFF “[blends] the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists…[to champion] the public interest in every critical battle affecting…cutting-edge [digital rights] issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights.” EFF is the one organization that is consistently most “clued-in” about such issues. I believe they serve a critical role in our society, and wish they had ten times their current budget.
American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU is well-known, and while some of the issues it champions might go beyond what I’m usually concerned about, I think it’s still important to support them. They have long been a bastion against the rise of corporate and government abuse of individual rights and privacy. I can sum up the reasons why I’d support the ACLU even where I disagree with them, by using this quote, attributed to Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Common Cause is a “citizens’ lobby”, leading the effort to “put the people’s voices ahead of the special interests for more than 40 years”. Common Cause is concerned with money in politics, government accountability, fair and open elections and voting access, ethics in government, and diversity and independence of media. Their basic philosophy is that “people and ideas are more important than money” and that public policy should reflect “the needs and priorities of our citizens, not special interests.”
While the Green Party is far less established in the United States than it is in Europe, it is still growing rapidly. While I do wish they would concentrate their candidates in local races where they might actually win, as opposed to running for President, Senator, Governor, and other “unwinnable” posts, I think the party and their aims are still well worth supporting.
I should note in passing that the common belief that voting for a party other than the Democrats or Republicans is “throwing your vote away” is a fallacy, and in fact the very cause of the horrible political mess we are in currently. Since there is little substantive difference between Democrats and Republicans, a vote for either is the wasted vote; it is a vote for more of the same. While a vote for a third party with no hope of winning will still not allow that third party candidate to win (at least in the near future), it is a vote for a change in policy. Without such votes, neither party has any incentive to take such policy changes seriously, leading to a corporate-driven same-ness in the policies that really matter (even as they publicly squabble over emotional “hot-button” issues with no right answer and no hope of compromise, just so they can appear “different” and appeal to one or another demographic). I just don’t understand why people are so reticent to vote for candidates they really believe in, and who support policies they really agree with. But it does certainly explain why such candidates never get elected, and such policies no longer exist in our government.
Unlike the other parties and organizations I’ve mentioned, the Green Party has a comprehensive platform, covering a wide variety of issues in the general areas of Democracy, Social Justice, and Environmental and Economic Sustainability. This platform is detailed and carefully thought out with respect to specific changes proposed to our current political system. Overall I like the direction of their platform. Some issues I’m not personally concerned with. Others I don’t think go far enough – they try to work too much within the current system, rather than replacing it. Some issues that I care about are simply not addressed. In some cases, I respectfully disagree (such as nuclear power). But overall, this platform would be far preferable to the politics we live with right now.