This morning, the German Pirate Party hit double digits in a nationwide poll. That was a landmark event, no matter how you look at it. As the first double-digit poll reverbs in the five-year-old Pirate Party community, I’d like to take some time to reflect on these and the next five years.
Not only is the German Piratenpartei polling at double digits, by the way: they are also in Kingmaker Position, holding the balance of power between the German political blocks. If this was the next election result, that means that they can ask for basically anything and make it happen in Germany and Europe. Next German elections are two years out, but this is already turning a lot of policymaking around.
(Side note: with polls around these numbers, it is imperative that the party leader with support is available to be visible faces of the party on all available media time. While completely not my decision, I would therefore suggest that some of the Berlin money for assistants go to hiring the PPDE federal party leader and one admin person at the federal level. That’s how we did it in PPSE and it has worked well: after all, a Pirate Member of Parliament don’t need an assistant to print their e-mails and tell them what’s happening on Twitter. Same goes for any other PPxx in the same situation. But anyway, that’s beside the point of this article.)
After founding the first Pirate Party, I had expected the PPSE [Pirate Party Sweden] to be alone in the world for the first couple of years, until we had had our first major success (which happened in 2009, in my fourth year as party leader, when we took two seats in the European Parliament and became the largest party for voters under 30). Instead, four sister parties sprung up just in the first week as news of the party’s foundation hit social media — then, meaning mostly Slashdot. Most of the ones in place now already existed by our 2009 success. Today, the Pirate Parties International lists 61 Pirate Parties that have started or are starting — we exist in practically all corners of Europe and the Americas, and with a scattered presence in Asia, too.
At the set-sail, I imagined that five percent in an election would be all that we needed to convert our narrow agenda into actual policy. But as five years have passed, I have realized three connected things:
- The old parties are not just assaulting free speech and exchange of opinion in general. They are assaulting the entire lifestyle and outlook of success of the entire young generation, turning free market mechanisms into mercantilism and corruption. The venerable kings of the hill are locking their privileges into law, and this goes way beyond copyright and patent monopolies.
- This means that we are not just a party for the free exchange of TICKS (tools, ideas, culture, knowledge, and sentiments). We are a lifestyle party for the entire younger generation, starting somewhere at 35-40 years of age. This lifestyle — digital natives, as some have called it, or the connected generation which I prefer — is being actively condemned and demonized by the old parties.
- As a result, the young generation today is feeling completely disenfranchised. (We once had a poster with a girl alone at a laptop, using the same image twice. Under the first, we wrote “ANTISOCIAL” over the image, signed with all the oldparties’ logos. Under the second, we wrote “SOCIAL” and ours.) All of this taken together means that we are not primarily a five-percent party for technical people, but closer to a twenty-percent party for a connected generation, including the technical people. The first sign of this materializing was PPDE’s strong breakout of the five-percent area.
One example of the Hindenburgean policymaking of oldparties is when one of the major Swedish parties left Twitter yesterday, citing “lack of manpower”. One can’t help but wonder if they have manpower to read the news? It’s not lack of manpower, it’s lack of a basic knowledge of today’s conversational landscape. (Translation by Google; not perfect but good enough:)
They call themselves “People’s Party The Liberals”, but have been nicknamed “The Nightstick Liberals” (batongliberaler) by the Net generation, being anything but liberal in the light of that lifestyle.
This is why it’s so important that we show other people that we live our policy. Just as, which we can painfully see above, so do the oldparties. They treat all of the net and the younger lifestyle with disdain, not just second priority, but ninth (somewhere after carbon paper).
So, I feel this movement is starting to ask more questions, relevant questions, that go way beyond the right to exchange of TICKS and the right to PAT (privacy, accountability, and transparency). What is society? What are common obligations, and what are individual rights? With everybody having a voice, I have come to the conclusion that we live in more disruptive times than any in the pre-connected generations has thought possible.
Here are a few examples of things that have emerged as probable policies for the worldwide Pirate Parties:
The job market will turn completely upside down. There are no lifetime employments and barely any fixed employments at all. There are barely any workplaces. Rather, people work where they like with what they like. In cafés, from home. Some projects give money. Others don’t. As long as people get enough money to put food on the plate, most work will be in for other kinds of rewards — peer recognition or impact. This is what I refer to as “the Swarm Economy”, and a precursor is clearly visible in the Open Source economy. Extrapolate it to the entire society. This has three major effects. First, there is no requirement to be loyal to an employer. Second, the strong unions in Europe stand to lose all of their power because of the dismantlement of the structures they depend on — just like there would be no more need for quit-smoking aids if tobacco would disappear overnight. Therefore, the unions will strongly resist these changes, as their current power is more sweet than their ultimate political goal. (Humanity in a nutshell.) Third, we will see some kind of Basic Unconditional Income that rethinks the value of work, recognizing that much of society already depends on unpaid volunteer work. For example, the two key mobile operating systems — iOS and Android — are both built on volunteer work, BSD UNIX and GNU/Linux, respectively. Yet, this volunteer work which builds our entire next-generation industries is not counted as production.
New, stronger and more anti-corruption safeguards. More than ever, there is an understanding — no, an expectation — that power corrupts. We are not immune. No one is.
Energy policy will be rewritten. With some legacy from the Greens and mixing in our own demands for transparency, accountability and evidence-based policymaking, I believe in solar, water, wind, and thorium power; not so much in traditional nuclear uranium power. (Biofuel is an abomination — taking food from the starving to put it in the diesel engines of the rich?) I also believe in strong decentralization of the energy production, both for energy-resilience reasons and anti-corruption ditto. This means that government needs to re-regulate off-grid production to incentivize decentralization; as it is written today in Sweden, at the request of Big Energy (of course), there is no financial incentive at all to make your own energy.
Military doctrine will have to be rewritten. It needs to assume that nothing can be kept secret, with the exception of personal cryptokeys. This is basically a complete rewriting, rethinking and rebuilding of the entire military. And of the diplomatic corps (hello, WikiLeaks). It also implies that accountability to the public will soar to new highs.
As cities have roads and light, so will they have net. It is perfectly reasonable to demand that municipalities provide wireless networking wherever there is already streetlighting. The cost of Wi-Fi is lower than that of streetlighting, and the masts (lampposts) are already there. Some old telcos will protest this, citing unfair competition from the public, to which I say a strong “meh“. The Fire Brigade was once private, too; evolving society realized it was a common interest, and the private fire brigades disappeared. Infrastructure (roads, etc) has always been a public interest.
Tax policy will have to be rethought inside out. In the near future, governments won’t be able to see the wealth, income, or transactions of their citizens. We need to come up with new tax bases, reusing old ones or introducing entirely new ones.
I haven’t updated my “The Pirate Wheel” to reflect this yet, but will in the coming week.
This is just a sample. There is much, much more coming. For a decades-out sample, try the evolving RepRap and imagine when we can make most of our furniture and tools in our homes. Transport needs will shift dramatically, and more kings-of-the-hill will protest venerably. (It is already possible to construct assault rifles at home by downloading public drawings and pressing the “construct” button. If that doesn’t make oldparties scream, what will?)
The Pirate Parties worldwide are in the process of going from “party for tech people” to “party that demands privacy, accountability and transparency, and support for a connected lifestyle”. This is a lifestyle that the oldparties don’t live, and therefore, they don’t — can’t — understand it. This is going to change everything.