Three Policies to Rule Them All

In March of this year, Rick produced his ‘Pirate Wheel’. A system that tried to set out his view on what the Pirate Party stands for. I, myself, had my own version, one that was based on 3 legs or pillars, without which there is (in my opinion) no stable support.

It seems to be a truism in Anglo-politics, that a ‘single issue party is a waste of time’. Same with a 3, or 5 issue party. That, in fact, if you don’t have a comprehensive plan on every conceivable topic, you must a waste of time, because you’ve ‘not thought things through’. The idea is one that seems to resonate, but isn’t all that true when you think about life. How detailed are the rules and regulations you have to follow every single day? Do you need a specific set of instructions for handling each and every junction as you travel to work/school, do you need to plan out ahead of time what you plan to say to people you might meet? No, of course not, that’s crazy, but that’s what is ‘expected’ when a political party runs for election.

Society runs on a series of generalisations. “this sort of thing is bad“, or “when something like x happens, do y” and so on. Those are the best kinds of instructions, the ones that are general enough to cover almost all situations, and simple enough to be understood easily, while being flexible enough to follow. The more things are mired in detail and specifics, the less flexibility is left to deal with the unexpected.

Many political parties put out manifestos before an election. They’re usually full of specific promises the party makes of the direction it wants to take legislation and policy. “We will make schools better by introducing standardised testing on the molotov scale thrice-annually” or “we will re-adjust the corporate tax rate to be 12% per annum for all companies with a net income over $20million, and 10% for those under that”. They are very definitive promises, which are great in theory, but terrible in practice, because they hold a party to a definitive position. If you don’t make it to that goal, you are attacked by your supporters for breaking your promises, if you go past it, you’re ‘gone too far’ according to your opponents, and that assumes you can do that policy anyway.

There’s also a polarisation issue. If you had two candidates, Al, and Bob. Al is pro-choice (meaning he’s not opposed to abortion) but anti-union. Bob is Anti-abortion, but pro-union. If, as a voter, I’m pro-choice AND pro-union, where do I go? I have to prioritise my views, especially in a system like the UK or US where a handful of major parties dominate politics, thanks to a First-past-the-post voting system), which means I’ve already started to lose out as a constituent, which means no matter what, I’m not going to be happy with my elected representative no matter what, being locked into a manifesto position means being stuck.

Politically, therefore, a ‘full service manifesto’ is not smart. So, what’s the alternative?

When I reformed the US Pirate Party in 2007, I approached it as having only three ‘policy positions’.

  1. Increase in Government Transparency and accountability
  2. Increase in Personal Privacy
  3. Reform of Copyright, Trademark and Patent Laws.

These three things – although it might not seem it at first glance – encompass just about every topic between them that a traditional ‘full service’ manifesto does. On reflection, I’d probably add a fourth one to the list – All laws must be evidentially based, with the evidence released to the public. The thing is, most laws are passed on public opinion, and public opinion tends to be shaped by selective information release, or via media talking points.

The US economy is in a huge mess, because of extensive lobbying, and under-the-table deals. Point 1 will do away with much of that. When cons and swindles can’t be hidden away, they tend to not be attempted, or even suggested, certainly not when accountability is added in. It also leads to a more fact-based approach to legislation, because lies and distortions will come back to bite people further down the road, when it can’t be buried out of public view.

In fact, it’s very hard to find an issue in which these three topics can NOT be applied.

The majority of laws passed today are championed either through some sense of obligation (we said we’d do it, so we must) regardless of it being the right solution, or because of some back-room machinations, between lobbyists and politicians that wouldn’t happen so easily. Especially if there are some real teeth to it. Intentionally lie, on the record (once might be a mistake, and a simple public retraction will fix it, multiple times is deliberate) and expect to be removed from office.

It comes down to this. As a whole, we don’t trust politicians. We think better of used car dealers, than we do politicians, and we’d not let either watch our kids, yet we give them the power to control not only who can watch our kids, but even if we get to keep our kids.

What’s needed are not gimmicks, or catchy slogans. What we need, are politicians we can trust to work in the best interests of the country, and of its citizens, rather than for a handful of people who’ve paid a lobby group and a PR firm. The other up-side is this. Within these limitations, there’s still a broad spectrum, of views possible, by method and by position. For instance, Marijuana. Many say that it’s safer than alcohol and tobacco, and should therefore be legalised. Others say that it should be allowed, but tobacco banned, since tobacco is extremely hazardous. And there is a third position of banning the both of them. All three positions have facts supporting them. When the facts are kept at the forefront, then it’s going to be down to the public will, rather than who can make the catchiest slogan and trick the most people.

Of course, this is my views, and my opinion, and Rick’s Pirate Wheel is certainty more comprehensive. However, as a basis you can’t go far wrong keeping this simple premise in mind.


  1. NameOfMyChoice

    Well written, Andrew.

    Glad to have a mind and tongue like yours behind the PPI.

  2. Rev. Smith

    I think that you described, most eloquently, the essence of the pirate party, or the basic ideology if you will. However, I would like to argue that just like liberalism has the words: brotherhood, freedom and equality – the basic ideology must be in a context in order to say anything meaningful, ipso ergo not being platitudes. Since no-one can change the world in a day, not even by a well planned and performed revolution, there is a need to give examples or describing the next planned movement to get to the idealogical utopia, preferably in a measurable way. By this you can be oppose to some parts of the party (as in your example) if this is made AFTER the NEXT election and still vote for the party.
    To put it different, what you have presented is a pirate party “road map”, but you have to say which roads to take in order to get to your destination, to get as many voters as possible… or perhaps sea chart is a better choice of words.
    If I should make a parable with liberalism again- if you just say that you are pro brotherhood, freedom and equality, you may be anything within the whole political scale in the US, Sweden, Germany and UK, depending on what you emphasize and to what extent each part of the slogan is used.

    1. Andrew Norton

      Oh certainly, and there is a more comprehensive sea-chart, it’s the Pirate Wheel, linked at the bottom. This is more of a TL;DR version.

  3. Ole Husgaard

    A Danish translation of this text is now available at

Comments are closed.