Politics

Now Open for Members: The Open Source Party Proposal

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Technoculture legend RU Sirius is serious about fomenting political change. Over at the always-interestin' 10 Zen Monkeys, he lays out his Open Source Party Proposal:

I propose a Liberal/Libertarian/Other unity party that will develop ideas and solutions to America's political problems through an Open Source process that will be engaging and fun. We will have online conferences, social networks and wikis, we will have meetups, we will have parties, we will create games that model likely real world responses to our proposed ideas, we will field candidates starting in 2010, get "crazed" anti-authoritarians on TV and radio, and maybe change a few things before the apocalypse, the Singularity, the second coming, the complete conquest of the world by Google, the election of another generation of Bushes and Clintons, or whatever other event you may be expecting.

More here.

The OSPP is meant to be engaged concurrently with The QuestionAuthority Proposal, which goes a little something like this:

QuestionAuthority is an educational and advocacy project dedicated to defending and extending personal and civil liberties and encouraging free expression. Our goal is to create a broad-based coalition of non-authoritarian groups and individuals who may currently be working in relative isolation on single issues, for political organizations and candidates, or in relatively isolated ideological cohort groups. As a cohesive force, we can do more than just stem the tide one issue—or one court case—at a time. We can exercise political and cultural influence by uniting the vast numbers of Americans who believe that the country has taken a radical turn in an authoritarian direction.

More here.

The last party I remember joining was the Uplift Mofo Party Plan (featuring special bonus song), which didn't work out so well. But this is all interesting stuff and worth checking out.

RU writes about our right to death for reason here.

Writes a fantastic book, with Dan Joy, about counterculture through the ages here.

NEXT: Separating Marriage and State

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  1. I really like his QuestionAuthority idea, but I’m not sure I can get past R U’s use of Lone Whacko-style capitalization.

  2. I do not recognize your authority to make this proposal.

  3. The problem arises when these “one issue” advocates are reliant on one of the two major parties for implementation. Many gun owners are loathe to oppose the GOP attacks on the other amendments while drug war advocates are loathe to stand up for the 2nd and 10th amendments to curb federal expansion. No one seems excited to stand up for “someone else’s” rights.

  4. I like it. This dovetails perfectly with the WaPo article by Welch/Gillespie about the approaching critical mass of small-l libertarianism. And now back to your regularly scheduled screed:

    Prepare, folks. The revolution cometh.

  5. What we need is to finally win the drug war. We haven’t gotten serious yet, we need to fight a REAL drug war by rounding up all the users for some good ‘ole fashioned SEVERE PUNISHMENT, death and torture are appropriate. Marijuana has to be illegal because of it’s effect on the degerate races, it makes the negro look twice at the white woman, it causes the satanic music, jazz, it causes murder, insanity and death.

  6. No, Sage, it doesn’t. Most people don’t want freedom.

  7. Prepare, folks. The revolution cometh.

    While this may be true, it may still get darker (with Hil or Rudy as president) before it gets lighter.

  8. Marijuana has to be illegal because of it’s effect on the degerate races

    I agree the point should be to win the drug war, but quit the racism.

  9. The war of the sock puppets?

  10. The war of the sock puppets?

    If only it were a deathmatch.

  11. More power to ’em, but I don’t see it. Most voters really are moved to pull the lever by one or two issues. Their chief concern is to advance those issues or spoil an attack on them. No third party, no matter how groovy, will have the essential element of relevence sufficient to overcome the strategic value of voting in one of the two parties.

    It always makes more sense to be a party to a winning coalition that will advance your big issue or harm your issue’s opposition, even if you have to hold your nose.

  12. the complete conquest of the world by Google

    Doesn’t he mean the complete conquest of the world by US Steel Standard Oil Freemasons General Motors International Jewry General Electric The Red Menace The United Nations International Business Machines The Trilateral Commission Microsoft Council of Foreign Realtions…

    Oh, never mind.

  13. I would posit that this idea will end up like its namesake, open source software. It’s a neat idea, and there will be supporters and participants. But the fact that profit (in this case, political capital) is limited will discourage many participants, who will opt to go for the established model of politics where profit in the form of politcal capital is more obvious and tenable.

  14. No third party, no matter how groovy, will have the essential element of relevence sufficient to overcome the strategic value of voting in one of the two parties.

    I wonder how the Federalist and Whig parties died. Food for thought.

  15. Alright! A party targeted for the group of people least interested in politics and least likely to vote. It should be a rousing success!

    [/sarcasm]

  16. How do you fight consolidation and establishment by forming a consolidated establishment?

  17. I wonder how the Federalist and Whig parties died. Food for thought.

    The weren’t smart enough to enact legislation freezing competitors out of ballot access.

  18. Episarch- I read your comment on a Kubuntu Linux-powered Dell (I bought it with Ubuntu installed) in a Firefox window, with Open Office and Thunderbird running on my other desktops. Consequently, I have a hard time dismissing open-source software as only a neat idea that will never gain much traction.

  19. I should elaborate: Open sourced software may never dominate the market. But it does enjoy a significant market share, and many of its innovations eventually make their way into commercial software. OSS, in other words, has a level of influence greater than one would expect from its market share.

    Given the inherently limited appeal of non-authoritarian ideas, I think we could find worse models than the open-source one.

  20. Open source only needs to attain enough market penetration to force the major players to pay attention. That penetration can be rather small (10% or less) and still force a reaction from the entrenched market leaders.

    In political terms, it is only necessary to alter the outcomes of a few elections to get attention.

  21. Captain Chaos,

    How do you like Open Office? I use Firefox and Thunderbird (the latter at home only), but it’s hard to use anything other than MS Office applications in corporate work.

  22. Chaos, please read what I said:

    But the fact that profit (in this case, political capital) is limited will discourage many participants, who will opt to go for the established model of politics where profit in the form of politcal capital is more obvious and tenable.

    I am not saying that it is ineffective. However, if you want to make a ton of money in software, you don’t generally think “yeah, open source is the ticket!” Same in the political realm.

  23. I wonder how the Federalist and Whig parties died. Food for thought.

    The Federalists were initially on the wane shortly after the turn of the 19th Century because their base of support was in New England, and they failed to capture any support in the South or in new growing western states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. The War of 1812 finished them off because they became associated (rightly or wrongly) with a New England faction that was angry over the war and threatened secession and/or support of England.

    The question of slavery killed the Whig Party. The more prominent northern anti-slavery faction formed the Republican Party, while the southern Whigs joined the Democrats.

    In neither case were the parties killed off by upstart rivals. Instead, their demise led to the creation of upstarts (first the Whigs and then the Republicans).

  24. As to this RU Sirius business, diffuse forces rarely have any success in politics. This sounds like the Reform Party spiced up with technobabble. I wish ’em well, but I’m just too old and cynical about this type of thing.

    BTW, the Uplift Mofo Party Plan ended pretty well–it’s the best RHCP album, IMHO.

  25. PL-I like Open Office as well as or better than MS’s Office products. While the first versions had a few bugs, the latest seems to work very well indeed. I use it almost exclusively these days. The small ISP I work for also uses is as the standard office suite.

    Episarch- I did read what you said. And my point is that the OSS model is an appropriate one specifically because it does not require market domination to effect change.

  26. OSS is not the way to make money if you plan on selling software licenses. However, there is a market in service, support and expertise. See Red Hat and SuSe/Novell for example.

    Plus, if you take Linux for example, it ends up being that commodity stuff that you build your product on top of. Think cell phones, routers, tivo, etc.

    Plus, I don’t think this party plan has much to do with the output… it’s just inspired by the OSS/distributed/Paul style of organization.

    PL:

    OpenOffice is great. I use it, on Linux, at work and exchange docs with MS users quite often. Altough, if it were up to me 90% of docs would be plain-text.

  27. In neither case were the parties killed off by upstart rivals. Instead, their demise led to the creation of upstarts (first the Whigs and then the Republicans).

    Well, third time’s a charm, right?

  28. The weren’t smart enough to enact legislation freezing competitors out of ballot access.

    You sir, are a cynical bastard. BTW, that is a compliment.

  29. You sir, are a cynical bastard. BTW, that is a compliment.

    Thanks, and I’ll take it that way.

    There are three ways of looking at life: optimism, pessimism, and cynicism. Only one of those approaches reality.

  30. In neither case were the parties killed off by upstart rivals. Instead, their demise led to the creation of upstarts (first the Whigs and then the Republicans).

    Accepting that interpretation, is the Republican party on the road to self elimination? The largest base, the Religious Right, is rapidly falling out of favor with the rest of the party.

    As to this RU Sirius business, diffuse forces rarely have any success in politics.

    What about the democratic party? Unions, African Americans, social democrats, government employees, feminists, nanny staters, et al. The whole shebang is a motley collection of competeing interests. Yet they soldier on.

  31. Episarch- I did read what you said. And my point is that the OSS model is an appropriate one specifically because it does not require market domination to effect change.

    I think we’re cross-talking here. I agree with you. It’s just that I think its appeal is limited because it is not perceived as being “profitable”. So you get less support than there are people that like the idea, just because some people who like it still think it won’t deliver.

  32. Open source politics. Is that where people are allowed to debate, run for office, and vote? Sounds strangely familiar, for some reason.

  33. My take on the demise of the Whigs is that they were unable to unite on the main issues of the day. The rising abolition movement in the North were being ignored by the party bigwigs because they were afraid of losing support in the south.

    As the abolitionists became more united in their voice, the defections from the Whigs to the nascent Republicans killed the party. When the elections of 1856 came around, they were unable to mount any response to the question of slavery and secession.

    If the modern Republicans make the same mistake of trying to please the social conservatives while ignoring the growing desire for non-intervention, they may face the same fate.

    As for the Democrats, I suspect that their days of dominance are pretty much over. Their unity seems to come more from opposition than to progress.

  34. Accepting that interpretation, is the Republican party on the road to self elimination? The largest base, the Religious Right, is rapidly falling out of favor with the rest of the party.

    Probably not. Following the Civil War, the two-party system became much more ‘hard-wired’ into our politics. Instead of dissolving, the existing parties have tended to morph when the political winds change. Both the Democrats and Republicans have changed basic philosophies several times since 1865. Plus, it was deep regional divisions that killed both the Federalists and Whigs, and that has declined as a force in American politics.

    If the GOP suffers a wipeout next year, there may be some third-party rumblings among various disaffected members of the coalition, but I doubt it will amount to much–anymore than it did for the Democrats in any of their recent historical defeats.

    What about the democratic party? Unions, African Americans, social democrats, government employees, feminists, nanny staters, et al. The whole shebang is a motley collection of competeing interests. Yet they soldier on.

    That’s not the point. Both parties are large coalitions. But both have strong central leadership and direction. An ‘open source’ political organization would, almost by definition, have *no* effective leadership, and so would tend to drift and have no real voice. A software program is simply not a very analogous product to political activity, IMHO.

    As a matter of think-tankery, I can see open-source activity being a viable alternative to the problems of ‘cult of personality’ and fundraising-oriented thinking that afflicts so many think tanks. But for direct political activity, you’ve got to have people firmly in charge of the ship, I believe.

  35. As the abolitionists became more united in their voice, the defections from the Whigs to the nascent Republicans killed the party. When the elections of 1856 came around, they were unable to mount any response to the question of slavery and secession.

    It was the crack-up of the Whigs that led to the formation of the GOP. There may have been some rump surviving Whig Party afterward, but it was a toothless beast and was supplanted by the GOP remarkably quickly.

  36. It was the crack-up of the Whigs that led to the formation of the GOP. There may have been some rump surviving Whig Party afterward, but it was a toothless beast and was supplanted by the GOP remarkably quickly.

    Y’know, rereading what I just wrote makes an interesting case for what would theoretically happen if the GOP cracked up. A fundamentalist political party that was economically populist but culturally conservative could possibly attract a lot of people in flyover country. I can see many southern/midwestern white Democrats also being attracted to such a party.

    But I still think that any fundamental shift in U.S. politics will occur under the Democratic/Republican rubric, even if the underlying philosophies shift dramatically.

  37. Hey all. I knew I could count on the comments section of the Reason blog for snappy dismissals and interesting digressions. Like Nick, I’ve never been a joiner. Well, there was the Yippies in the early 1970s — being a psychedelic warrior at 18 in 1970? Why didn’t everybody join? And then there was the Church of the SubGenius, where I learned to pull the wool over my own eyes.

    So I guess we’ll offer hipster badges of radical ambiguity on the network so maybe people can join and still express that they’re too cool to join.

    More seriously, I would point out that QuestionAuthority is a separate organism that you can help to create without worrying about electoral “success” — and I think the activities I’ve suggested in that post are comprehensible and doable and important… and that the program and ideas ought to appeal to people here.

    And as for Open Source Party, I think of it as a different kind of a party — and I’d like to redefine success. So, if this stuff happens in a big way with an enthusiastic and creative group and it results in still other activities that are not necessarily electoral in nature, I’d consider it a success:

    “We will have online conferences, social networks and wikis, we will have meetups, we will have parties, we will create games that model likely real world responses to our proposed ideas”

    I would consider that a success. I have also suggested in a follow up on the new MondoGlobo Social Network — http://mondoglobo.ning.com/ — that we’ve established for ongoing plotting and mucking about with these concepts — and also just to have a social network — that people don’t need to get too hung up on the conventional definitions of a political party — that the emphasis doesn’t need to be on fielding candidates, although I like the idea of OSP as a breeding ground for “Unity” candidates who carry the memes out to Libertarian Party, Green, what have you.

    Finally, re: Open Source Party, it has the potential for that emergence thing that seems to be happening in the net age. So again, if people are making incredible wikis, and posting vids, and creating games, and blogging etcetera it may well find itself emerging in a way where it’s influence surprises people — myself included.

    I think it could be fun, so come on in. Or not… whatever…

    best
    RU

  38. Episarch-I think we are cross-talking. I think you have a fair point about the profitability of OSS, although I wonder if there is some sort of tippping point at which a few OSS packages will supplant the traditional stuff.

    For libertarian types, though, I think the idea of changing the system through actions at the margin is the only plausible one.

  39. I like the ideas, and the anti-authoritarian slant, but it kind of reminds me of the Apathy Party from Futurama:

    Fry: “Now here’s a party I can get excited about. Sign me up!”
    Apathy Party Guy: “Sorry, not with that attitude.”
    Fry: “Ok, then screw it.”
    Apathy Party Guy: “Welcome aboard, brother!”
    Fry: “Alright!”
    Apathy Party Guy: “You’re out.”

  40. But are these guys real libertarians? I’ve run into so many “anti-authoritarian” groups that were unashamedly socialist in the economic domain, that I no longer equate anti-authoritarians with libertarians. Even if they use the L word.

    I suspect that these guys are really the “Hip Gay Hackers in Favor of Taxing Rich People Party”.

  41. Well, I just joined. The way I look at it, for libertarians to achieve even a small morsel of our goals, we are going to need a bigger tent. If we need to join forces with pot-smoking socialists and racist scumbag state’s righters to end the drug war, then so be it. If we need “Hip Gay Hackers in Favor of Taxing Rich People” to end state spying, fine.

    The point is that we need to start addressing common issues that can bring about enough pressure for change rather than try to create a small alienating movement more devoted to its purity of thought and principle than actually winning battles (over winning some mysterious war).

    The other point is that if libertarians do join then we have a chance to influence the debate there and, perhaps, have an additional outlet for our heretical ideas. We might even find converts who already questioned authority but did not have an ideological reason for doing so.

  42. propose a Liberal/Libertarian/Other unity party that will develop ideas and solutions to America’s political problems through an Open Source process that will be engaging and fun.

    So the text of legislation will be peppered with ***ERIC IS A FAG*** throughout. I like it.

  43. But are these guys real libertarians? I’ve run into so many “anti-authoritarian” groups that were unashamedly socialist in the economic domain,

    Brandybuck, lemme fix that for ya:

    But are these guys real libertarians? I’ve run into so many “anti-authoritarian” anti-establishment groups that were unashamedly socialist in the economic domain,

    Get familiar with the difference. It’s extremely important.

    Libertarians are usually anti-authoritarian, but we aren’t necessarily upset with elements of the establishment. Things that work, work. Like, most libertarians are pretty pleased with the Bill of Rights. The socialist groups you refer to want to tear down the establishment (which they see as intrinsicly capitalistic), but have no qualms about installing a dictator. They often don’t like the Bill of Rights– they see it as an impediment to an egalitarian society.

  44. Ehn. The party proposal has 7 points, most of which are pretty damn vague – and the last three are utterly meaningless in their vagueness. “Let’s do this! (I foresee a wild debate about this topic that may or may not resolve in the form of any change whatsoever.)”

    I’m not interested in joining a political party in order to pointlessly argue fundamental issues with people who completely disagree with me. Hell, I’m not even interested in doing that in blog comments, which is why I’m not already seeking out Greens and such to argue with today. Political parties have purposes beyond “cool stuff happening” and founder ego trips.

    I am vaguely curious about what they’ll come up with in a year (if they’re still around).

  45. And the next guy who talks about the internet as a “land without scarcity” needs to share the details on the free service he uses that gives him infinite bandwidth and storage.

  46. After reading his ridiculous “proposal” you consider the rantings of this lunatic to be serious thoughts concerning political change?
    No wonder you don’t consider Ron Paul a nutjob.

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