Monday, June 8, 2009

Share a File, Get Elected to Parliament

I did not write anything about the Swedish court case against The Pirate Bay for their file-sharing operations. I did not even comment when the case concluded with the four defendants receiving a sentence of one year in jail and $4.5 million in damages. However, given my interest in consequences that have been neither intended nor anticipated, I have to confess that I was surprised that the results of this case would escalate to the level of elections for Membership in the European Parliament.

The consequence of the ruling against The Pirate Bay was the formation of the Swedish Pirate Party, founded on the single issue of the reform of copyright and patent law. This, alone, should have been recognized as newsworthy by the American media, considering the number of our voters who make a selection on the basis of a single issue. However, since our media seem to collude with those who believe that a system based on an antagonistic relation between two political parties is the only way to run a participatory government, they let news of the Pirate Party slip quietly through the cracks. We thus have to depend on the BBC for a report that in the European Parliamentary elections the Pirate Party won 7.1% of the Swedish vote. This does not sound like much; but for party leader Rickard Falkvinge it was "gigantic." More importantly, it was sufficient for the party to be granted a single seat in the European Parliament.

That one seat means that the Pirate Party is in a position to participate in the coalition-building processes that take place in democratic societies that have gotten beyond the either/or choices imposed by a two-party system. Our media should pay attention to this. If we are going to have so many voters fixated on single issues, let them have parties that stand for their positions on those issues. Why should such voters have to be victimized by the machinations of a Newt Gingrich and his strategy for building a power base across a panoply of (rarely consistent) special interests? Let those special interests get their "special" seats in the House of Representatives (if they can garner enough votes to do so) and then make decisions about whom they will join on votes not pertaining to the interest they represent. It is hard to imagine any pundit responding to such a proposal in any way other than horror in the face of the chaos that might arise, but would it be any more chaotic than the current broken conditions in the Congress? When the new European Parliament convenes, we should watch that one Pirate Party seat and see whether its occupant plays a serious role in the effective operation of that institution. We might learn something useful about the workings of a democratic representative government.

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