A quote flashed by in the night in my Twitter flow: We Demand Separation Of Corporation And State. This was the most mediagenic soundbite I’ve seen in a long time, one that I took immediately to heart. While it was quoted in a context of Occupy Wall Street, it relates to everything we do.
In the Swedish Pirate Party, we sometimes talk about Lessig’s Journey and how it relates to our experiences. Lawrence Lessig started out by creating Creative Commons, and after ten years, realized that more is needed to fight the creepage of the copyright monopoly; that it is a symptom of a much larger problem. He is now fighting corruption full-time instead. Our experiences are similar, although we have chosen a different route: where Lessig and similar people tries to fix the system from the outside, we try to fix it by flushing corrupt politicians and their power from the inside.
The problem isn’t necessarily Parliament; the problem is that Parliament doesn’t have the real power in the first place. Yes. Read that sentence again: the problem is that Parliament doesn’t have the real power in the first place. During the fight against software patents in Europe, our now-MEP wore a T-shirt with the slogan “Power to the Parliament”. It is very pertinent.
Here’s the thing.
We elect people to Parliament to make decisions that are in the public interest. The problem is that no human can possibly have knowledge in all domains, and so, elected decisionmakers are dependent on decision support material to analyze the situation in the light of their ideologies and priorities. This support material is provided by civil servants, who are supposed to be apolitical.
This is where corporate lobbying comes in. They know to court the unaccountable, invisible civil servants and provide them with “helpful material” that gives these people a completely lopsided view of reality. Because they know what the Catholic Church knew in the middle ages before the printing press: if you can control a decisionmaker’s background knowledge, you control their decisions. This happens completely under the radar and corrupts the entire system.
Therefore, Parliament isn’t really in power. The people who supply people in Parliament with decision support material are. Nameless. Unaccountable. Courted.
Also, and much worse: the civil servants all too frequently appear to have agendas on their own. I sometimes meet such servants who deal with the copyright and patent monopolies; when I spoke to one such civil servant, Christoffer Démery in the Justice Department, he said something I’ll never forget: “Well, our views on the topic [of the copyright monopoly] aren’t the same as yours.” He openly had a strong political opinion on a subject where he supplies decision-support material to the actual and elected decisionmakers. Stefan Johansson, one of his colleagues, have often given presentations at the Swedish Association For Copyright. Both of them have ties to the American industry interests for a stronger copyright monopoly (hint: the links).
This process is indicative of clear corruption of the system as such, not just of the individuals named.
It gets even worse when the executive politicians don’t even see it as a problem. When the Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, announced new powers for the copyright industry that even surpasses those of the Swedish Police, she held the press conference in the very offices of the copyright lobby — with the lobbyists as support personnel who explained the details to the assembled press! When corruption has reached the level that ministers don’t even reflect on the fact that this is Very Bad Corruption right in front of the TV cameras, and that a minister in the cabinet shouldn’t present a new law like this, then things have gone completely bonkersway off the road.
We demand a Separation of Corporation and State.
This article is also available in other languages: Russian.