Politics

Blurgh on PIRG

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Over at Asymmetrical Information, Jane Galt explains how working for PIRG changed her politics from "ultraliberal to libertarian":

Now, of course, I think of myself getting money from those poor people for PIRG, and I writhe in shame. Because of course, the whole thing is a massive scam. All the money from the canvass goes, not to the cause, but to the canvass: you are paying them to collect your name so that they can sic telemarketers on you several times a year. The canvassers don't believe in what they're saying, at least not in any reasonably creditable way; they are told what to say and exactly how to say it, about issues they know nothing more about than you do. Many of them shamelessly lie; others repeat untruths they picked up somewhere with the best of intentions and the worst of results. Even after the telemarketers are through with it, at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.

Whole thing here.

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  1. We had one of those groups interested in soliciting on our campus when I was in college a couple years back. Fortunately our student council was highly skeptical and didn’t give them much leeway.

  2. Did Reason do a piece recently about professional activists? I find it repugnant, but hardly worth changing my politics. Why is it that when people get pissed off at the world, they become libertarians?

  3. Why is it that when people get pissed off at the world, they become libertarians?

    because its the only group of people that look at everyone on the left and right and argue they’re both wrong. In theory, its the most centrist organization, lol.

  4. Perhaps this shows the private sector isn’t always necessarily better than government. Consumers (or givers) need to be fully informed about the choices they make and often aren’t.

  5. Bill,

    What should the government do to help the private sector in this case?

  6. “…at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.”

    I am, as you may well imagine, shocked.

  7. My friend’s roomate used to be an ACORN canvasser, and he is probably the most morally elastic person I have met in my entire life. Of course, I hesitate to build generalizations based on one or two experiences, but after reading the article, perhaps there is a pattern.

  8. Who is Jane Galt?

  9. That’s a funny story. Reminds me of those scams in the backs of comic books getting kids to sell useless crap.

    I always thought it strange how some ideological turncoats make drastic changes such as “ultraliberal to libertarian”. And often as the result of a seemingly non sequitur of an event. Becoming atheist because of Ted Haggerty’s revelations, or socialist because of Friedman’s dealings with Pinochet, etc. Going from one extreme to another at the drop of a hat always seemed to me more a sign of one’s inclination to extreme emotional views rather than dedication to rational thought. Not that any particular view is necessarily irrational, but rather the changes seem a result more of kneejerk instinct than thoughtful progression.

  10. > Going from one extreme to another at the drop of a hat always seemed to me more a sign of one’s inclination to extreme emotional views rather than dedication to rational thought.

    Maybe, but to be comfortable with libertarianism you have to be comfortable with rational thinking.

  11. shecky: agreed. I know a fair amount of leftist/liberal types who distrust/outright hate groups like PIRG very much — just cause one organization is a crock/scam doesn’t mean the whole idoelogy is though I’m glad Jane Galt became a libertarian…

  12. maybe I’m slow, but I can’t make any sense of this. What is PIRG?

  13. A “research” group supposedly in the “public interest”.

  14. greg,
    PIRG stands for Public Interest Research Group.
    Ralph Nadir used to be behind this scam, might be still. One of their methods is to have Student Unions tack on manditory payments to tuition. Ostensibly, the money is to be used for scientific research to benefit the public good, but the reality is that the money lines the pockets of liberal and greenie evangelists when it is not outrightly used for lobbying purposes.

  15. Wow, that whole cycle of bogus achievements followed by new bogus crises sounds painfully familiar. When did that last national LP fundraiser mailing go out?

  16. Read what Radley Balko wrote about PIRGs back in 2003 here:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,80925,00.html

    Cut and paste or click on my name.

  17. Sounds too familiar. I know PIRGs operate on the same Ponzi scheme, but the details were so specific that I think she sounds like she belonged to CalPIRG. Thanks for reviving my most reviled memory of college. Damned CalPIRG fuckers.

  18. I always hated the fact that a portion of my student fees (UCSB) went to fund calpirg whose platform and lobbying I vehemently opposed. I was always sure to mention this to canvassers who would ask me for more of my hard earned beer money.

  19. At the University of Montana, MontPIRG uses its canvassed money to do such wonderfully community-minded things as order delivery food and report to students on which one arrives the soonest. Fuck yeah, and all you dupes think it’s a waste of money.

  20. Three bucks for corrupt fund-raising wouldn’t have bothered me as much as the $150 they charged me in lab fees, that went to carpet the Ombudsman’s office while my physics professor scrounged lab equipment from salvage yards and ham-fests.

  21. Wow. Jane Galt’s experience sounds identical to mine, only the group I was with was Clean Water Action, not PIRG… though there were PIRG veterans among us.

    Now, identical in the effect it had on my shift in “ideology”, not in my work experience. Working for CWA was wonderful, even though I basically thought I was a mercenary scammer. The people were great fun to be around; very supportive, much like being in a cult (we even jokingly referred to ourselves as “Cult Water Action”).

    Hell, I’d even do it again, if I could make ends meet that way… not out of any ideological commitment, but simply out of my sick desire to be the best sociopathic scammer I can and bilk people out of as much money as possible. Being an asshole is a lot of fun. I developed a lot of skills and gained an insider’s look at quite a few political campaings through my time with them as well; it was far from wasted.

  22. .. I used to petition for my $2 each semester to be returned .. something about the org used to just grate me wrong …

    .. Hobbit

  23. Lamar and Shecky have it right. Basically, no matter what you believe, you’re going to be stuck with a couple of a-holes who believe roughly the same thing. Libertarians are fewer in number and have few opportunities to get their hands dirty, so they have less capacity to annoy. If they were in power … well, cue the Who song …

    I dated a PIRG canvasser once, and all I remember was that their conventions were like Woodstock without the bands. And maybe without the drugs. So basically a muddy orgy — that might sum it up best.

  24. I got a taste of NYPIRG the summer after graduating high school. I answered an ad that said “Work with NYPIRG to protect the environment! Work with scientists, lawyers, lobbyists!” etc. So I went to their offices and sat through the little orientation session. And what did they want you to do? Go door to door collecting money. No lawyers, scientists, or even lobbyists in evidence. I worked one day and then called them up and told them I was quitting. And I was pretty good, too: I made money my very first day out. But there was no way I was going to put up with their crap.

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