The Pirate Wheel, Revisited As Broad Ideology

The Pirate Wheel has been my model for putting the pirate ideology in a wider perspective. One year after the first draft, I have spoken to a lot of pirates all over the world and it’s time to revise the model to summarize the impressions.

Six years after founding the first Pirate Party, it is obvious that the pirate ideology is more than a reaction against a crackdown on privacy, culture, and knowledge. We are defending and leading a connected, decentralized, resilient lifestyle where we don’t accept gatekeepers of the truth or our culture. Rather, our ideology centers on being empowered with rights that our parents didn’t have.

As I started working on summarizing this ideology, I realized that all political programs I have read are flat. They are a bunch of enumerated opinions, focusing on what the opinions are, rather than why the opinions are what they are, which is required for deeper understanding. Also, I have a very deep feeling that this is more than a convenience; it is a requirement when you live the connected lifestyle, that should be taken for as granted as citations on Wikipedia.

Therefore, I’ve rewritten the policies into a policy tree. Players of Civilization will recognize the concept immediately from Civ’s technology tree. It shows what conclusions and policies derive from which observations and principles.

At the core, at the hub of the wheel, we have to identify what has changed in the sociotechnical landscape that gives birth to a new ideology. And really, there is really one small detail that has changed. One small thing that has enormous ramifications: everybody has been given a voice. Where everybody could listen in to broadcasts before, every same body can now send or broadcast their own messages as well, without restrictions. This is the one thing that has changed, and from which everything else stems.

The policy tree of The Pirate Wheel. Click for details.

The image above is a PDF where the initial boxes are clickable for more information.

The hub and first box – Empowerment – leads to eight principles: Privacy, Transparency, Ticks, Humanism, Diversity, Resilience, Swarm Economy, and Quality Legislation.

These principles, in turn, combine to conclusions. For example, Privacy and Transparency combine to Accountability. Transparency alone is not enough to achieve accountability — you also need the privacy to examine the affairs of government without fear of retaliation.

Conclusions and principles, in turn, combine to form actual policies in this model. (The PDF here has short summaries of the intended policies; the boxes will link to full pages with more elaborate explanations soon enough.)

If there’s anything that’s totally off in this model, I’d very much like to hear your comments.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Crosbie Fitch

    More easily summarised as Natural Rights – which precludes creating privileges or quasi-persons such as copyright and corporations.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      The concept of Natural Rights can easily be co-opted or hijacked by special interests, I fear. Just look at how the copyright industry have successfully injected their special interest into many constitutions around the world.

      That’s why I chose an explicit path rather than a referential one.

  2. Tjabo

    I really like this “Civilization”-style approach on this Policy-tree. It gives u a nice overview, and not to complex. Ive had the same thoughts in my head, and this is a great visualization of those thoughts.
    Thumbs up!

    1. Johann F Weiss

      I like the idea but it’s a bit hard to read with the overlapping lines. Might be better to either use the colours from the principle boxes or just use 2-4 random colours and alternate each line.

  3. Phil Hunt

    One thing you’ve omitted is democracy as a principle. This leads to the conclusions that democracy can be subverted by undemocratic (non-proportional) voting syems, and by the influence of corporations donating large sums of money; policies that prevent these things follow naturally.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I have come to the conclusion that democracy is only valuable as a tool to defend civil liberties and means of participation. The principal question is how we defend human rights and inclusion, and democracy is the most effective way to do that, but at its worst, democracy is three wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for dinner.

      Therefore, democracy is a consequence of the principles rather than the other way around.

      1. Phil Hunt

        The principal question is how we defend human rights and inclusion, and democracy is the most effective way to do that


        at its worst, democracy is three wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for dinner

        Yes, and the alternative is often one wolf and three lambs and the wolf deciding to eat the lamb. In a society, someone has to make the decisions. So you either have majority rule, or rule by some minority or other. The former isn’t perfect, but the latter seems to me to be more prone to bad outcomes.

        Therefore, democracy is a consequence of the principles rather than the other way around.

        Then we have:

        Principles: civil liberties, participation

        Consequence: democracy

        Policies: getmoney out of politics, proportional representation

    2. Zacqary Adam Green

      Democracy is empowerment.

  4. Cesar

    Your link is broken; “Ticks” is linking to “Privacy”.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks, fixed.

  5. Børge / forteller

    Is it supposed to say TOD2 and TODO3 under Healthcare, or were you going to fix that before publishing it?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      They are indeed todos. This is a living document.

  6. plockett

    The only thing which initially seems a little off is the way Transport, containing “Free Public Transport,” links to Sustainability, containing “Tax pollution. Foster solutions that lack transport.” It seems contradictory. Public transport pollutes, but rather than taxing pollution, making use cost free would be subsidising pollution. Offering that subsidy would also encourage more use of transport.

    I also think that a link from “privacy” to “taxes” would be appropriate, given the implication that the tax system should not be an unlimited opportunity for the state to violate the privacy of individuals.

    1. Børge / forteller

      Less transportation is better, of course. But it is impossible to have a society without any transportation at all. People need to move around to be social and engage in society. Some people can not do this by walking or biking because of physical handicaps, living too far away, or other reasons.

      When taking all this into account it is clear that public transportation needs to be prioritized. If not people will keep using cars, which are much more polluting, unsocial, noisy, takes up too much of our public space, etc.

      This means free public transport will, of course, pollute some, but far less than the system with personal cars that we have today. Please have a look at

      1. Paul Lockett

        I agree that in general, well organised passenger transport tends to be less polluting than cars, but I think it has to be viewed as less bad, rather than being good. It still burns fuel and requires space, so I don’t believe it is something which should be subsidised. I’d rather see high levels of fuel duty and/or road charging, with market forces factoring those costs in to deliver the least polluting modes of transport.

        I have a couple of major concerns with free passenger transport. It will tend to encourage increased travelling, possibly resulting in more pollution. It will also encourage people to use passenger transport rather than cycling or walking.

        1. Johann F Weiss

          True, using buses that run off of fossil fuels is going to be ‘less bad’, but what about better alternatives. Electric trains will be just as green as the fuel you use to generate your electricity and we do have viable sources of green energy.

          I don’t think free public transport would cause less walking/cycling. Many people legitimately enjoy both of those activities and with proper infrastructure (bike paths, safe bike lockups, etc) it is often more convenient for short trips. When the distance is to great or you don’t have enough time, you need a non-human powered method and public transport is by far more efficient.

          1. Paul Lockett

            “Electric trains will be just as green as the fuel you use to generate your electricity and we do have viable sources of green energy.”

            We do, but at the moment, we aren’t generating all of our electricity from renewable sources, so electric transport is currently inherently polluting. I think your point is valid, but it will only really come into play when no electricity is being generated from fossil fuels.

            “I don’t think free public transport would cause less walking/cycling. ”

            It may not cause a massive increase, but one group for which it may have a significant impact is children. In the longer term that could have larger impacts.

    2. Rick Falkvinge

      First, it is hard to fit all that needs to be said into three short lines. When I wrote “solutions that lack transport”,I was thinking primarily of RepRaps or other 3D printers.

      You’re right that there should be a direct or indiret link from Privacy to Taxes.

    3. Carnops

      There are sustainable public transport solutions available.

      One example could be compressed air bus for city centers.

      It’s true that actual public transportation is quite pollutant ; here in Belgium, 80 % of electricity is produced with uranium so trains and trams are not really sustainable. Buses and raw material rail transport run with diesel…

      The only way to make public transportation really sustainable is to explore clean energy production (solar, wind, tide, …)

    4. Samuli Pahalahti

      I don’t like public transportation, because bureaucrats can decide when and how I’m able to move. Owning a car, a motorcycle or a bike, being a part of carpool, or just walking is much better – it is decentralized system! People can go whenever they want wherever they want.

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        This is a very good point that I hadn’t anticipated. Thank you.

      2. Paul Lockett

        That’s true if passenger transport is municipally owned or directed. If, as is often the case with buses, there is an open market, where any potential provider is free to step in and operate services, it’s isn’t as much of an issue.

  7. Aleks Lessmann

    Again, you give good food for thought. I’ll be munching on it for a while, and then maybe have some comments on it. Pity you won’t be at Offenbach.

    Thanks for this.

  8. Børge / forteller

    The Pirate Wheel? Don’t you mean The Pirate Ship Helm?

  9. Ingmar

    “The economy must be as decentralized and anonymous as possible.”

    Do you include abolishing income tax in favor of sales taxes to that? The government collects massive amounts of financial data about people via income tax, and a lot of other info can be derived from that. Sales tax again is anonymous.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Yes, absolutely. This is not visible in the little space I have, but you can find a trace of it under the Privacy page, where I write that Privacy of Finance must be restored, and that governments will have to rely on publicly observable data or indirect means for its tax base.

      Although I prefer the VAT model over the sales tax model. There is a slight difference.

    2. Paul Lockett

      Sales tax is only anonymous on one side, so while it may be an improvement on income tax when it comes to anonymity, it still requires that the state has an extensive ability to invade privacy. Land taxes are an even less invasive option.

  10. JP

    Maybe it’s worth focusing on policies that emphasise access over mobility? I know that’s the way some Green parties have slanted it, and it fits nicely with Humanism and the Swarm stuff.

  11. Zacqary Adam Green

    I love the addition of Resilience in there. That’s the thing people don’t seem to think about enough: the fact that systems that keep breaking down, having crises, and needing emergency repairs every decade or so isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. We should be anticipating the problems we might have and nipping them in the bud before they happen. That’s not alarmism, that’s good engineering.

    But overall, everything’s spectacular. This is one of the clearest, most concise explanations of what we should be striving for in the 21st Century that I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait to see the deeper-level principles explained on their own pages.

    Oh, by the way, on the Ticks page, you spelled it “Encyclopaedica”. Too many c’s.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      1) Thanks!

      2) I can’t find that word on that page?

  12. Travis McCrea

    I think I like the old one better, while this new one is much more comprehensive – I feel the old one allowed people to be pirates without being burdened with different ideologies that can create divide.

    Most of what is stemmed was things we already believed in, for sure… but there are many (some?) very conservative people who identify themselves as Pirates due to our protections of civil liberties and for our stance on copyright and patents (our core values – in my opinion).

    Sure everything in here is great, but it was beautiful before… because people would see the vauge ideas and say “yes I can agree with that” and then as time went on and they were more involved in the movement they would see the importance of above. However, if this was the list of things we believed in when they first took a look at the movement, they might not have wanted to partake in the first place.

    Just my opinion 🙂

  13. Christopher Wood

    “Humanism” is totally off. I agree with it generally, but one particular sentence contradicts itself and the rest:
    “The secular scientific view of the world is not considered an acquired belief, but stands on its own as an analysis and a set of facts rather than a belief.”

    It’s a view of the world which is acquired; no-one is born with it. You’re effectively saying that this particular worldview is true, over and above all others which disagree with it. The majority of religious people and people of faith would not agree with a secular humanist view, by their own definition of faith or religion. You are effectively excluding them from the Pirate ideology – why?

    Just take out that sentence and it would be fine. You could change it to a sentence about secularism, as in separation of church and state – but that would still exclude all Muslims. Better to just leave separation of church and state as a given, rather than explicitly alienating a large chunk of the population.

    There’s just no need to get into epistemology.

    1. Travis McCrea

      This is exactly what I mean from my above statement. keep things general. Humanism as a concept is great, but not when we start limiting who can identify themselves as pirates.

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        I do not write this to make all people agree with it. If I did, I would have written “kittens are cute” or something to that effect, then added “but dogs are okay too”.

        People are free to believe whatever they want privately, just like I am, but people who believe that dogma should supersede the scientific evidence-based method are essentially trying to reverse 200 years of civilization’s progress and undo the Enlightenment. I will not fight to make that subset of people feel “included”; rather, I feel that this attitude is outright dangerous to lawmaking and governance.

        This chart is my attempt at writing what I, personally, think needs to be valued over the next century in general and the next 40 years or so in particular.

    2. Rick Falkvinge

      Actually, that sentence is key. Without it, there is no concept of evidence-based policymaking.

      And yes, I am saying that the scientific method of hypothesis => experiment => theory trumps a non-provable belief every single time.

      Also, it makes clear that scientific finds should never be placed on equal terms with dogma; e.g. this silly thing of giving creationism equal time with evolution in some fundamentalist American state schools. Giving Christianity the same rights as Islam (and as Liberalism and as Flying Spaghetti Monsterism for that matter) is fine, and actually, the only just thing to do. Giving either of them the same treatment as scientific progress is anathema to everything we learned during the Enlightenment.

      People are and must be free to believe whatever they want, but this has nothing to do with policymaking except for making room for all kinds of such beliefs.

      1. Rick Falkvinge

        On the other hand, if what I write above can be reworded into a more general form, all the better.

      2. Christopher Wood

        The whole “acquired beliefs” rhetoric doesn’t make sense, since no-one is born knowing how to conduct good scientific analysis. It is acquired but nonetheless a good and proven framework for determining truths.
        “Further, everybody may adopt whatever beliefs they would like after birth, be it a political worldview, a religious one, or a combination thereof. This is called an acquired belief. No such acquired belief may be discriminated against in favor of another one, and no distinction is made from a human rights or discrimination perspective between different adopted views. Further, government or public services may not give one acquired belief advantages with the public before any other.

        The secular scientific view of the world is not considered an acquired belief, but stands on its own as an analysis and a set of facts rather than a belief.

        Good will against humanity stands as a foundation for policymaking, and is always based on scientific analysis, not on acquired beliefs.”

        should be replaced with simply

        “Good will for humanity stands as a foundation for policymaking, and is always based on scientific analysis.”

        I think this would be sufficient – you don’t need to defend the efficacy of scientific analysis.

        So far as effective policy goes, it doesn’t matter why someone believes something; what matters is whether their position has the burden of scientific evidence. For example, someone might believe in sustainability for religious reasons; this doesn’t make sustainability less credible, rather we judge sustainability to be good because of the scientific evidence for its efficacy, regardless of the believer’s worldview.

        The first paragraph needs to be removed because any ideology necessarily discriminates against opposing ideologies. We absolutely do want to discriminate, for instance, against a belief that a suicide massacre is a good means of achieving political goals, and we will discriminate against anyone acting on such a belief.

        Our discrimination is ultimately not based on scientific facts, but on values: that human life is valuable is not a scientific fact. Science can tell is that allowing suicide massacres is unhelpful for the survival of our species, but it doesn’t tell us whether the survival of humanity is a good idea.

        1. Rick Falkvinge

          These are good points. I’ll revisit that page and try to reword it in line with your suggestions (but I tend to like writing more rather than less, so I won’t just shorten it).

        2. Rick Falkvinge

          The “acquired beliefs” serves an important purpose, by the way: it equates religious dogma with political dogma.

          1. Björn Persson

            It is however true that scientific knowledge is also acquired. Perhaps you could instead distinguish between baseless beliefs and beliefs based on scientific evidence?

          2. Christopher Wood

            So long as you don’t endorse scientism (the self-contradictory idea that the only true or valid beliefs are scientific ones).

  14. Samuli Pahalahti

    Do pirates really need universities? Or even the whole school system?

    Now we have the internet with lots of quality information to be studied independently. We have sites like Khan Academy that are really good for providing a platform where anybody can be either student or teacher or both. We just don’t need universities anymore – they are a relic from medieval times, from the era when books were scarce.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      This is an excellent comment. All I know at present is that the current education system has vast inefficiencies. Sorting children by age of all things?

      I believe more thinking is needed here, but yes, the school concept is hopelessly outdated.

    2. leoon

      Engineering students need special equipment, medical students need their victims, these things are scarce––in a way. Students also need an excuse to move out of their parents’ house and any humanist government needs the ability to ensure all children a proper education.

      (Maybe some people still read this page after 8-and-a-bit-months.)

  15. Adam

    for the tax solution, why not use the debit tax?
    the details of the transactions could be anonymised.

    1. Ingmar

      Based on a quick look at the link, I can’t see debit tax working with Bitcoin or other non-government controlled currencies, as it requires banks to do the tax collecting.

  16. steelneck

    Ohh, but Rick, our parents did have some of those rights, they just did not have the technological means that we have today. In many cases the pirate(misplaced word) ideology can even be considerad a bit conservative since many of us speak of rolling back a lot of the recent political decisions.

    All the old established political parties have their roots in the industrial revolution, except the greens that formed under the mostly current post-industrial era (when the revolution was over and society had become truly industial all the way). Now we can see a new revolution based on disruptive technology, at the same time as lesser developed countries are in the middle of their industrial revolution, all those previous non-industrial countries are becoming more and more industrial, many times from outsourcing initiated from our side. Their factories, often owned by us, can many times be looked upon as giant RepRaps by those who control them.

    A lot of the Marxist ideas can still be applied and to this we can still be pro or conservative in the old sense, even if those questions becomes smaller and smaller as time goes by and development carries on. The old farming society did fade into obscurity while the industrial revolution lasted, but farms and farmers still exists today, though they are few compared to that time but still _very_ important to us all. The same will apply to industries in the context of new developments. Do not try to apply new ideas to the old, and do not try to apply old ideas to the new. The new landscape requires new ides to be applied, just as Marx was trying to apply new ideas to what was a new landscape in that time and the troubbles that needed some solution at that time. Think of it, who will be the trash proletarians in a digital society? There are lessons to be drawn from history in this revolution just as in every major change through history.

    I actually do not see that much of an ideology in your policy tree, it is policies plain and simple (nothing wrong in that per se), that still lacks the formulation of a general ideology. Under the industrial revolution the new ideology that parties either liked or was against(conservative) basically was about equality viewed from the horizon of the control of the means of production, with the goal of a classless society. Though the path to it was quite different between socialdemocrats and pure communists with conservatists on the other side and liberals somewhere in the middle, though liberals have been clumped together with conservatists lately.

    What is your general goal for the society with the policies? Formulate that answer and you will be myck closer to forming a bit more concrete ideology. Can i help?

  17. Robert Wensman

    I am happy to see a mention of “living space” and “pollution” in the Tax box :-).

    It would be great if the pirates would join the land tax movement! Land pirates and information pirates could unite!

    Land tax movement (in swedish)

    1. Paul Lockett

      I completely agree. I’ve long been a supporter of land value taxation on economic and moral grounds, but increasingly, I’ve seen significant privacy benefits.

      In a world of crypto-currencies and strong privacy rights, it is really the only tax system which would be viable, as transactions and transfers could easily be hidden, rendering taxes on them, such as income tax and sales taxes, unenforceable. Things which are geographically fixed cannot be hidden in that way and land registers already tend to be publicly available.

      The valuation method used to levy the tax could even be made decentralised and self-enforcing on the internet, by allowing each landholder to submit their own valuation, on the understanding that any other person would be able to buy the land by meeting that valuation.

      I believe it is the perfect system of taxation for the pirate movement.

  18. T

    The actual policies are almost unimportant; what is important is the process used to arrive at policy. We do not have to agree on conclusions, debate is good. If the process is good, policy will be robust and adapt to our needs.

    I don’t like the idea of it fossilising into ideology. Sounds like dogma.

    I like the pirate process.

  19. T

    And yes to the land tax! Tax wealth and the rentier economy, not income!

  20. Q

    If I can chose ONE thing to do I would chose a copyright reform. Becouse it changes EVERYTHING. Now people lives in a scarcity regime of Culture an it don’t help in any change in their lifes. Imagine a future when people have a real access to Culture and we are part of that. Probably, people would vote better. And it changes everything.

  21. James O'Keefe

    It would be easier to follow if you were able to distinguish the source of the lines. Color coding them might help.

  22. Andrei

    Why not add “citizen supported” to the quality legislation option? For the first time in history it is possible to know in real time the opinion of everyone who has access to the internet, and that would make true participatory democracy possible. The Internet can potentially make the cost of organizing a referendum zero or almost zero, so why not take advantage of this and ask the public about the laws that directly affect them? This could be implemented at first for major laws and then for less important ones, and it could be organized monthly, for example.
    Admittedly, there are lots of things to consider here, like the general level of education of the public, the amount of votes needed to change specific laws (50% or 66%), the public’s willingness to read the laws that affect them, or the technical and security aspects of the system, but in theory this could become viable in 20-30 years or so. If the goal is a more open, transparent government then i think participatory democracy should be a part of it.

  23. Andrei

    Also, here are a few technical suggestions about the Pirate Wheel :
    – you could make the Pirate Wheel vertical, to underscore the importance of Empowerment, or even wheel-like, with 8 principles radiating from Empowerment and subsidiary principles radiating from there and so on.
    – you should add comments directly to the pirate wheel section, so people can comment directly on it and not on articles about it, like this one
    – you should make it a priority and send it around to all Pirate Parties for comments and review; this has the potential of becoming the ideological bedrock of Pirates and get the movement out of the narrow “one-issue party” zone. On the other hand, many principles here are so radical and so new that many people will tend to reject them first hand, at least for now. I live in Romania and just describing these principles to the average Romanian would make them laugh or look at you funny.
    – the blue box with the explanation at the end of the Quality Legislation article contains the info for Swarm Economy 🙂

Comments are closed.