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United States Pirate Party (wikipedia.org)
99 points by wslh on June 26, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 65 comments

It is tremendously difficult to get a broad-but-shallow movement like the Pirate movement into political office in a first-past-the-post system like the U.S.'s. Since the U.S.'s democracy is so weak and unrepresentative, a political movement can have 3%, 5%, 10%, even 20% of the U.S. population on its side and still get zero seats in the legislature. It will be almost impossible for the Pirates to elect even one congressperson until they're polling over 20% nationally, which obviously is a huge huge hurdle to overcome.

The knowledge of how large that hurdle is reduces the incentive to participate.

It's a shame that a country which wants to think of itself as the world's foremost democracy is so undemocratic in its electoral structure.

Your logic is correct about the snowball's chance in hell most 3rd parties have in the US, but the editorializing weakens your comment, IMO. You're right in some ways, but there is no perfect electoral system. A representative democracy like here in Italy carries risks of its own: that a small party will hold the critical votes needed for a majority in parliament, and so hold a much larger party 'hostage'. That is quite undemocratic in its own way, and also leads to "weak" democracy because it's often difficult to hold fairly diverse coalitions together long enough to do anything coherent.

When you examine the history of 'strong' governments, you will see that a 'weak' government is the lesser evil. So, while this criticism of proportional representation is factually true, it is not a bad thing.

What if small parties' votes are inconvenient to every budding dictator? Why should a large party have even more representation and power than its fair share of votes? Isn't that deeply undemocratic, in principle?

Agreed. PR has its own problems and allowing marginal parties a place in government also means that you're going to have fascist and nationalist parties represented in your legislature as many European countries do.

you're going to have fascist and nationalist parties represented in your legislature as many European countries do

You mean, people with different opinions than yours (and mine) can be represented in government? Isn't that great?

It depends. If your opinion is that fascism is good, then it's a bad thing for you to have representation in the government where I live.

I'd be careful about regarding all parties that are "nationalist" as in some way extreme - the UK has national parties in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland that are all part of mainstream politics (the Scottish National Party even forms the government in the Scottish Parliament).

On the other hand, we do also have the British National Party - which probably does correspond to your ideas of what a "nationalist" party is like.

Having fascist and nationalist parties is a demonstration of democracy working, is it not?

That assumes that democracy is the goal. America traditionally holds that freedom is more important, although there have been small-d democratic movements that seek to violate the rights of minorities.

The point of having elections in America isn't because democracy is awesome. It's because elections serve as a check on government power.

America traditionally holds that freedom is more important

Much to its own detriment, since Americans have never managed to agree on a coherent definition of "freedom" that results in a workable society.

Don't forget the hammer and sickle waving communists, either.

There's something to be said for being inclusive, but there's also something to be said for not giving a platform and a voice to every nutjob out there, either.

It's a balancing act...

"I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." --Voltaire (1770)

There is _nothing_ "to be said for not giving a platform and a voice to every nutjob out there." The balance must always lie with not restricting speech. If that means that a nutjob (as you call it), gets to say unpopular things, then so be it.

There's a difference between free speech, and sitting in parliament. By platform and voice, I meant that people in parliament are, well, kind of important. They get interviewed, they get on TV, they are in the papers, their words are on record, and so on.

It's not a matter of restricting speech, it's a matter of restricting the power to govern. It's Europe that actually bans fascists from marching down the street bearing swastika banners, and yet they still get elected to parliaments.

It is worth noting that some of the censorship of Nazi/Fascist ideas can be traced back to laws imposed by the Allies after WW2:


Once these kind of rules get put in place what politician is realistically going to ask for them to be repealed?

[Personally, I would leave these laws in place while there are people alive who suffered directly from the Nazis].

The power to govern is, in effect, speech, so by limiting ones ability gain political influence, you are limiting speech.

The ability of small political parties to gain representation in government is, I believe, a good thing, even (perhaps especially) when the views of those small parties are unpopular. Even those with extreme views have a right to express them.

Now, while I believe that all people have a right to speech, they do not have a right to be heard. There's an important distinction there. If someone cannot get elected due to extreme or unpopular views (I, for instance, will not vote anyone who holds various social stances that I consider detestable), that's acceptable. Not being able to get elected due to a mandated ban on your position is not something I can accept.

I'll grant you, the ability to gain office with extreme views has had some pretty dire consequences in the past, but I still cannot bring myself to believe that, even in the most extreme cases, limiting speech is acceptable.

> The power to govern is, in effect, speech, so by limiting ones ability gain political influence, you are limiting speech.

What? No, this is ridiculous. The power to govern is the power to use organized violence to achieve your goals. Limiting the ability to gain and exercise political power is exactly the point of any kind of liberal form of government.

I believe the relevant idiom here is "the solution to 'bad' speech is not limits, but more speech".

If someone is a nut, don't censor them, mock them. It's much more effective.

So you want a democracy as long as people who you strongly disagree with don't have a chance at representation then.

That's not what I wrote.

The concept is that, in a first past the post system, thanks to Hotelling's law, the trend is towards the center. That has both positive and negative aspects, and I was merely pointing out that there are some positive aspects.

I'm not saying that the system in the US is perfect, either - it clearly has drawbacks as well. Just that there is no one perfect system, and that the US system does have some advantages.

The trend in the US is not towards the center, if viewed from the outside.

I'll answer for myself. I don't want a democracy, but if we have one, I certainly don't want the slightest bit of fascist representation in it.

I'd rather have some fascists in the government than have the whole government end up as fascist in the attempt to make sure that they are absolutely excluded.

As for not wanting a democracy, what would you prefer?

Every society is "democratic" in the sense that the people with the power and desire to rule are the ones who make the rules. Of course, a person without a gun has less power than a person with a gun, and a person with a fighter jet is more powerful still. So, if by "democratic" you mean all individuals having an equal voice, then I would say that fascism is by no means a demonstration of democracy working. Of course, if a significantly large and powerful group of people in a democratic society want to switch to fascism, it will almost certainly happen, and I guess the morality of fascism is another argument altogether.

Have you looked at the actions of the Republicans lately?

I believe it was phrased better by those much smarter than I:

No matter the voting or electoral system, somebody will be disenfranchised.

wget http://www.usconstitution.net/const.txt; grep "democracy" const.txt | wc -l

The United States is a Federal Republic that has become progressively more democratic over time. As originally set out in the United States Constitution (ratified in 1788), the only part of the federal government that was to be directly elected was the House of Representatives. The direct election of Senators did not become the law of the land until the 20th century while the Supreme Court and, technically, the Presidency are still not directly elected. These controls were put in place to buffer the entire system from popular fads and hysterias.

This, a thousand times. Of course the US doesn't look as democratic as some would like. It was explicitly set out to NOT be democratic.

The fact that we're now trying to "spread democracy" abroad is anathema.

Thats not entirely true. The first 70 years of US history is about half the country wanting a democracy (Jefferson, Madison, the Democratic party) and half wanting a more centralized govt (Washington, Hamilton, The Federalist party, The Republican party). In fact the US Civil War was a war between a republic government and a democratic government. The issue was decided fairly definitively when the republican country won the war.

By the time the democrat party recovered from the war, they had changed significantly. By the early 20th century, both parties were de facto republicans, but they distinguished themselves along class barriers rather than government types.

The way third parties tend to work in the US is, once their ideas become somewhat popular, one of the main two parties absorbs it into their platform (with the other taking a stand against it).

So I think it would be a success if, for example, the Democrats took a stand against copyright abuses, rather than both parties being in the pockets of Disney, Microsoft, MPAA, etc., as they are currently.

The republicans are actually many more times likely to be on the piratepartys side. The Democrats are in The pocket of Hollywood.

Do you have any evidence of that? It's my understanding that both parties are in Hollywood's pocket. I feel like the odds are roughly 50-50 either way, which is why I picked a party at random for my example.

There was a long thread a while back where the different beneficiaries of hollywood where listed. I am pretty sure that the Democrats where listed there.

Let me see if I can dig it up.

Edit: http://projects.propublica.org/sopa/

HN comments:http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3439620

Remember that the Republicans are already positioned to be at least a little anti-Hollywood because of the culture wars, and because most of the moguls in Hollywood are incidentally quite liberal.

Neither party is ever going to go for this. You would have an easier time getting file-sharing recognized as a religion.

"Ever" is a long time. These parties are ultimately beholden to the electorate which keeps them employed. They'll stand by their corporate donors right up until the Pirate values seem lucrative enough or popular enough to affect their bottom line, at which point they'll consider revising their platform.

Thankfuly most citizens believe people deserve to be rewarded for their work. They may partake in illegal downloading but they don't pretend it is noble.

You know. It sounds so simple yet it isn't really.

When you start to dig into this you realize that there is no clear definition of what constitutes "ones own work" and I think you are missing the point of what the pirate party is all about.

People never really got rewarded for their work. Instead people around the people doing the work did.

It's not as simple as you seem to suggest.

the last time IP issues came up for a vote, it was mostly Democrats doing the right thing, and some Western Republicans (Darrell Issa being a towering figure). The Southern bible thumpers all voted for more restrictive IP regulation.

On a related note, I don't particularly begrudge the representatives from LA voting the way they did. Looking out for their constituents is their job.

This actually happened in Europe, the Green Party adopted some of the Pirate Party's platform on copyright reform to avoid losing their base.

Don't hold your breath on that… I've pretty much lost hope that either of the two major parties are going to deal with their corruption issues. Thank god we still have the Libertarian party.

Can you give an example of an interest group with over 20% of the US population support but has no representation in government?

Anybody against copyright. Anybody against government torture. Anyone against war. Anyone against more bailouts for bankers. Anyone against maximizing executive power in the office of the Presidency.

These are all positions supported firmly by both the Republican and Democratic Party that have a large percentage of the population opposed to them.

In a proportional representation system, we would have people in government that supported the issues above. Not a majority, necessarily; but more than the 0% of support that exists now in government (well, Bernie Sanders).

Suppose the Occupy movement was running a slate of candidates for Congress, and that Congress was elected proportionally - your party gets 22% of the votes, you get 22% of the seats. What percentage of seats do you think would be occupied by Republicans and Democrats after the next election?

Really, 0% of people in Congress support any of those issues? I think at least part of it can be explained away by the representation system. Only so many issues are important enough to have the representatives represent us for.

Some of them do have representation, but only under the flag of "Democrat" or "Republican", like the religious evangelists and the "Tea Party" are represented by Republicas, unions and Hollywood by Democrats, and so on. It's close to impossible to form a movement around a 3rd party, that can actually get in the Government.

In some countries, several parties get elected to office and form a coalition to govern together. In America, the coalitions are formed before the election inside the party itself, and some factions can even switch parties. For instance, after LBJ signed civil rights legislation, the segregationists switched to the Republican Party.

In American politics, the goal of third parties is often not to get elected themselves (because as others have pointed out, thats hard) but to push the issue on the two main parties.

The Pirate Party is a great example of what I hope is a continuing trend towards the death of nationalism. PP is a global political party whose candidates have shared values where national borders are essentially irrelevant. We're an increasingly global people and thus far have only shown the power of that in internet lynch mobs and DDOS attacks. It will be interesting to see if other global political parties like the Pirate Party emerge in the next few years.

I was on PPI conference in Prague few months ago and I have to agree

yes, there are internal issues, some of them are purely bureaucratic, some of them are caused by inbalance of (relatively) strong pirate parties in continental Europe and weak rest, some of them are ideological.

But in the end, we are all on the same boat and that's what counts.

Any movement will fracture as it expands to include more people. Is fracturing across subideological lines better than fracturing across geopolitical lines?

Pirates agree that there is differences between nationalities but they keep together in a few core values that is hard to get fractured by them:

* civil rights (in and out the net) * copyright and patents reform * open government and open data (transparency, accountability)


Disclaimer: I'm from Spain and we share these values, although we claim too for citizen participation in government through direct/liquid democracy, which is the current difference between some pirate parties and others, but they all tend now to this due PP-DE success.

Also, we keep working together in projects like PP-EU (European Pirate Party), aiming to be present around Europe in the next European elections: http://jay.lu/?p=2184

That PPI map is heavily outdated. There is 68 pirate parties around the world. ( Counting nation states. )

How does a party get "officialy registered"? From the wikipedia article i see the Greek pirate party marked as "Active, unregistered" even though we could vote for them in the recent elections.

I think it means registered at the PPI.

Yes, the PPI (which consist of representatives of pirate parties of the world) has to vote for you on... I think annual conferences

you can either become (I think) an observing member without the voting rights, or full member with voting rights.

That is right, although they announced in Praga to hold more conferences per year.

What is wrong (in parent comments) is the meaning of being "registered". The map shows which parties are officially registered in their countries.

For example, PP-Sweden doesn't belong to PPI (oh, surprise!). Swedish representatives couldn't travel to Belgium because of eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_eruptions_of_Eyjafjallaj%C...

Ah right, thnx.

I have to agree with Lessig, why use a pejorative term to brand yourself? We on HN know what they stand for and what the problems are with IP and copyrights. We can see past the emotions brought up from the word pirate; but can the general populace?

I think they chose that as a FU to the companies calling them Pirates, but I feel they played a bit into the MPAA's hands with that one; the name may end up hurting them more than helping them.

(The Tea Party on the other hand, chose the perfect name for their movement, even if the group itself has been co-opted by more powerful, malignant forces)

Does anyone here at HN identify themselves as a member of the Pirate Party?

I am involved in re-registering the Polish Pirate Party.

(not very active) member of the Swedish pirate party, I helped distribute ballots to where I was voting in the last election.

I vote for them, does that count?

Catalonian party here ;)

Visiting their home site, it seems they're trying it again. I'm glad to see this. It sort of fell apart once before.

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