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A typical parliament. Mostly for show.

We Demand Separation Of Corporation And State

18

Corruption

Corruption

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.

So, yes:

We demand a Separation of Corporation and State.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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18

  1. 1
    Henrik

    So, the problem comes down to, how do we seperate them?
    For politicians to be somewhat effective they need short summaries of a more complex problem, basically soundbites. How would we be able to control who does this? And how would we control that the ones doing this doesnt have their own agenda?

    I totally agree that corporations have to have less influence over power at the moment, but I dont really see how this would happen.

    • 1.1
      Foobar

      “but I dont really see how this would happen.”

      It’s simple really. Corporations get their strength from government, so the stronger the government, the stronger the corporations. A limited government is incapable of granting power to corporations, making them face their worst enemy: other corporations and the free market.

      • 1.1.1
        pop

        Weaker government is also incapable of protecting the citizens from the corporations, and what good is any amount of government if it doesn’t have the power to enforce the rights of the people? The answer is more democracy, more accountability and more transparency of the political and decision-making process. If any politician or supporting staff has ties to any particular industry and an agenda, all decisions or materials they produce should be open to public scrutiny and their conflicts of interest laid bare for everyone to see. If someone fails to reveal those connections, they should face penalties that amount to treason — because that’s what it is.

        Something irrelevant:

        Max Keiser of RT America: “[Occupy Wallstreet] already has a political party to affiliate with that is popping up all over the world; the pirateparty is #ows’s political party”

        http://twitter.com/#!/maxkeiser/status/124064963823271936

        • Foobar

          People DO NOT need protection from corporations, unlike the environment, which does need some protection. In a free market people are free to choose what products and services they buy from corporations. The corporations that serve the peoples needs the best are the ones that survive and continue to serve us well. The problems start when corporations use government to legislate situations where they can avoid serving the people, yet survive just fine. With a limited government the problem simply goes away.

        • pop

          The ideal free market you imagine is mathematically impossible. There will ALWAYS be fewer options on the market than you want, there will always be companies trying to rip you off, there will always be industries colluding to rip you off, there will always be employers who unfairly exploit their employees, and there will always be people who don’t know how to vote with their wallets (and if you look at how businesses diversify and all own a bit of each other, you’ll notice that voting with you wallet doesn’t even work).

          And let’s not forget, even if we suddenly decide to make government smaller, what happens to the super-rich monopolies that have already been created through the currently corrupt regulatory system? They won’t simply go away, they’ll just use their massive cash reserves to squash all competition for good — and a powerless government won’t even be able to stop them. A malfunctioning, unbalanced and unregulated free market is a nightmare, not something to wish for.

          Getting government completely out of the picture can’t be the solution (definitely not in the short-term), but getting corporations out of government is definitely a very reasonable start. Let’s take this one step at a time, shall we?

        • Foobar

          Pop, that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last 100 years or so, yet we’re having this discussion.

        • Johnnie

          pop is right. it doesn’t matter what your needs are as a consumer. Corporations will always charge more than something is worth, that is the concept of profit and they not only want to manipulate you into paying what they want you to, they bank on it, it is their business strategy, it is a fundamental part of Capitalism. Capitalism is the only type of economy that isn’t designed for the benefit of the few while requiring the contribution of everyone. We need something better. We need an economy where 100% contributes and 100% benefits. we need socialism. Forget this Totalitarian, Capitalist, wage slavery BS.

  2. 2

    There should be one lawmaking body that is made up of 1 representative to 50,000 or so constituents. There should be no un-elected staff in that lawmaking body. That gives real people access to their representatives, and it gives a regular average person the ability to win a seat simply by walking door to door. That takes big money out of the picture, and it would go a long way to taking lobbying out as well.

    This rather large lawmaking body would have to divide up into committees, and they would have to become experts at what ever committee they are on. Really, I don’t think you have to be that much of an expert to write rules that serve the best interest of the people.

    Clever legalese is often designed to make it seem like the law is in the people’s interest, while in fact it benefits some association of corporations or another. Being fair is not complicated.

  3. 3
    steelneck

    About corporate influence, recently i listened on a lecture by Hans Rosling “Epidemiology for the bottom billion” (from the fourth part on youtube). He said something very good about corporations when he talked about patents and medicine:

    “I always regarded the corporate sector to be like the horse on the old farm, it was the force of the horse that brought food on the table. My grandpa tought me to be very polite to the horse, never talk bad about the family horse, to pet it and we did not eat the horse, it was sacred. But one thing they never did with the horse, they never asked the horse for advice. That is how we should deal with the corporate sector.”/Hans Rosling

    That is a very good way to put it, both seeing the good side of corporations and avoiding the bad side. To put it kindly, you are saying that our politicians have been taking advice from the horse. But we could be more nasty and say the horse are smarter than them, or much worse, that they are letting the horse f**k their brains out..

  4. 4
    Björn Persson

    The idea that civil servants would be apolitical is quite stupid if you think about it. If you’re interested in a topic, and you study the topic, then it’s nigh impossible to avoid forming an opinion. If you have an opinion, and you have influence, then it’s only human to use your influence to further what you think is good. And we don’t want the civil servants to work only with topics that they aren’t interested in, because people who are uninterested in their jobs do a bad job.

    • 4.1
      Scary Devil Monastery

      The obvious solution to this problem is reintroducing the personal responsibility of civil servants again. Every person employed to do a job will first and foremost strive to fulfill the primary criteria of the job. If you could find out that a civil servant had presented erronous or misleading information to his superiors then that servant needs sacking.

      The same way no manager where I work would hesitate a second to lay off an employee who had allowed personal preferences to skew the information they presented to sales, marketing or finance.

      In this most corporations do a far better job.

      Since civil servants are usually exempt from personal accountability over anything but the most flagrant violations it becomes quite easy for them to develop personal agendas.

      Something we see quite often in Sweden. Since we abolished the personal responsibility of civil servants many departments have actually developed agendas of their own which rarely if ever coincide with the task they are ostensibly set to manage.

      The Swedish security police, for instance, is legendary for being unmanageable, and the bureau meant to determine whether asylum should be granted to refugees have a tradition today of celebrating difficult extraditions with cake and champagne.
      I.e. the departments themselves have begun to have their own opinions on the desired outcome of a neutral investigative task.

  5. 5
    Spitz

    Problems are much deeper and here are some reasons why today’s democracy (peoples/folks power/rule) does not work:

    1. Not a direct democracy, through their representatives.
    Opinions and decisions of the people repeatedly distorted to suit the circumstances of the moment, the pressure of party discipline, corruption, bribes, lobbies – that are just some factors influencing every representative. He or she is really just a pawn and unable to take independent decisions but has to maneuver between the circumstances and public opinion to be pleasing to all and save his/her position.
    Macro Examples: Obama promised serious “Change!” (His slogan during campaign), end all wars, change US foreign policy etc. Nothing changed since then. Cameron before elections promised referendum in UK on Lisbon Treaty. Now he changed his mind. Those who still want referendum and believed Cameron, voting for him, are fucked up now.

    2. The existence of mass-media and their influence on the minds and opinions of the masses.
    In the era of classical democracy (ancient Greece) there was no such machine of propaganda, the finest tool of brainwashing, which is called mass-media channels. Today – cinema, television, radio, and countless newspapers and magazines, the Internet, with its unlimited possibilities, outdoor ads – all it can convince someone you want in anything you want. And the crowd will believe that black is not black but white, and that two plus two is five. The biggest threat – television (usually controlled by corporations or governments), Internet has its democratizing influence, ability to fight back.
    Examples: brainwashing on Fox News (Rupert Murdoch), CNN (Time Warner), but also BBC (government) etc.

    3. Secret societies.
    When there are secret, closed societies, hiding their goals and intentions, when there is a conspiracy, when the richest, most educated and influential people stumble into the secret, closed “flock”, a classic democracy unable to function properly. In that situation, the principles of democracy do not provide normal development of society any more, do not protect from tyranny, oppression and degradation.
    Examples: Masonic lodges, Skull and Bones society (in USA), Bilderberg group, Club of Rome, Fabian society, Bohemian grove meetings, RAND Corporation, etc.

    • 5.1
      Foobar

      I believe that in the long run the only working solution is the one advocated by the Seasteding Institute. We need a government startup sector, where governments compete for citizens, instead of acting like monopolies that provide poor service to their customers.

      With governments competing for citizens, we’d have a system that is self-optimizing in an evolutionary way. Now there’s essentially no pressure on governments to evolve to function better, while there is constantly massive pressure to corrupt the operation of governments.

  6. 7
    Robert Wensman

    We need direct democracy, just like Gerald Celente says. Let the people vote on every issue they like, and leave to politicians to decide things they are not directly interested in. REAL democracy is very simple:

    One vote, One citizen, One issue…

    Why complicate things. What we need is politics, not politicians.

    • 7.1
      Spitz

      If we talk about pure democracy, then yes, it was possible in ancient Greece’s polis’s (polis means city-state, city as an independent state). In small communities people know each other and feel more responsible and accountable. All questions were decided by referendum (straight voting).

      Now even referendum idea is screwed by faceless bureaucrats in power. I give you just couple examples in latest EU history. France had referendum on EU constitution. The answer was “NO”. Then the same referendum happened in Netherlands. Same result – people said “NO”. Bit later same happened in Ireland – “NO”. Corrupted EU elite didn’t accept those results and forced Ireland to do the same referendum one more time, they were willing to repeat it unless they will get the right answer. They adjusted EU constitution by renaming it to Lisbon Treaty. Then they got “YES” to that in parliaments of France and Netherlands, where bit earlier people said “NO”. Isn’t this hypocritical? Sure, it’s much easier to force their agenda upon couple of hundred MP’s and convince them than all nations.

      And here is the most recent example. Slovakian parliament voted against bailout package to Greece. EU corrupted bureaucrats didn’t accept this result and forced Slovakian parliament to vote once again on the same issue. They got their “YES” form the second tray.

    • 7.2
      Mikko Turunen

      Direct democracy is a beautiful idea but at least for me it is also terrifying. I can’t express this without sounding like an egoistic asshat but average citizens would make a lot of stupid decisions (for the whole population) because of
      1) They usually do not attempt to think freely. Most working class citizens have their biased views about anything/everything (ironically based on personal experiences about working class citizens, which are of course biased) and it is hard to make them change their opinions even with solid facts.
      This kind of behaviour most likely stems from education system, teaching information/facts instead of thinking, and most of the information is presented as absolute.
      Also different forms of media can leave out crucial facts and/or presenting facts in a specific way that affects which kind of an opinion is formed about anything.

      2) They don’t give two shits about anything that doesn’t affect their lives directly.
      Again lack of free thinking is a major cause.
      Routines bring comfort to many. Wake up – eat breakfast – go to work – do your job well enough to get paid – back to home – eat – family time/hobbying – sleep. Rinse and repeat.
      As long as peoples routines aren’t shaken too much they will conform to the unbeneficial laws and rules. Stack those laws and rules slowly = profit for the corporations.

      Cliché quote time
      “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

      I have been thinking for a system similar to representative democracy that would hopefully serve the citizens better than the current ones we have in use.

      Meritocracy that would “isolate” the decision makers from economy. At the moment the citizens who are elected to parliament make decisions on all possible fields.
      In my opinion it would be a lot more efficient to elect citizens based on merit and give them decision power on a field they have a vast knowledge of. To make this work for the benefit of all citizens it would require that the decision makers can NEVER gain anything personally from their decisions.
      This should lead to a point where wealth mongering people would not even consider politics and the ones that truly want to improve our societies seek into the positions from where they do so.
      The never gain anything part would be expensive, as the elected decision makers should have government paid well above average pensions (potential neutral/chaotic goods might other wise defect to corporations) after they leave their positions and they shouldn’t be allowed to have any other income during and after their electoral season(s).
      So in a sense the decision makers would be martyrs of a sort, they would give up a lot of their individual freedoms in order to make best possible decisions for the sake of their society.

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About The Author

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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