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Have you heard about the recent revolution in Germany? No? A little while ago, 15 candidates of the Pirate Party were voted into the local Berlin parliament with 9% of the city’s votes! The amusing part was that this was quite a surprise to the party itself. You see, Germany has a multi-party system where a party gets the right to enter parliament once they pass the 5% hurdle. So, they were really just hoping for 5%, so they only had 15 candidates. In the end, all of their candidates were voted into office. If they had a few more votes, they would’ve had to leave seats in parliament empty, because they wouldn’t have had candidates to fill them!
So, you’re probably wondering, what does a party called The Pirate Party stand for? Well, they originated in Sweden when the police illegally raided the offices of The Pirate Bay. Fans of this organization protested this injustice had enough, and wanted to fight back within the democratic political system. Since they were fed up with the corporate record companies trying to relatively harmless act of sharing music with the very harmful act of ship robbery, they decided to own the name and call themselves the Pirate Party.
Note that this does not mean that they want to abolish copyright. What they really want is a roundtable discussion with everyone affected in the industry: Sony, Apple, independent artists, consumers, etc. to determine a fair role for copyright in light of the Internet age. The head of the German pirate party recently said in an interview that kids weren’t allowed to play music in kindergarten. When confronted with the issue of music piracy being harmful to the industry, he quoted research to the contrary, where file sharing actually causes people to go out and buy more, because they want the materials in higher quality… it can be free advertising for media producers. Also, since materials stay copyrighted many years after the death of an author, this prevents new artists from taking these old materials and remixing them into their works. So, in this case, copyright actually stifles cultural innovation and production.
The German pirate party aren’t just a single issue party though. Their other key issue is the transparency of government. They believe that official government meetings should be available streamed online. They also have a direct democracy system called Liquid Feedback which lets their members be directly involved issues concerning them. This ensures that they stay connected with their voters and what’s important to them.
Another of their other issues is the legalization of marijuana, ticketless public transport and basic income for everyone. They are amazed that alcohol is legal, which can cause people to become violent, while marijuana tends to make people calmer. As for public transport, by removing ticket controllers and machines, they can save a considerable amount of money. Also, car drivers and bicycle riders benefit greatly by reduced traffic on the road. The viability of basic income is harder to explain, but the basic idea is that it costs a considerable amount of money to run the infrastructure to support unemployment, so instead of having an unemployment division, the government could just give everyone a certain sum every month, so you never need to worry about survival if you suddenly lose your job. It also leaves more room for more innovative job creation, since people can follow their career dreams without worrying about making ends meet.
I realize that’s a lot of new ideas to consider, but rather than just answer with “that’s communism,” I’d ask that you at least think about them rather than just having a knee-jerk reaction. Oh, and the German pirate party’s platform is available in Esperanto. But, not in English… yet. No, I didn’t translate it, but I am aware of five Esperanto-speaking Pirate Party members in Berlin alone. They also passed out Esperanto party brochures at the Christopher Street Day parade. Also, on the German national level, polls are showing 9% of people are planning to vote Pirate Party, which means they will most likely enter the national parliament in 2013.