In reading the latest news coming out of Germany, where the conservative government currently in power is experiencing massive setbacks as the citizens react to the continued economic climate and the Chancellor Merkel’s handling of the situation, I noticed a very interesting new party that is gaining seats and notoriety: The Pirate Party. In the past week, several mainstream and substream new outlets have covered this group’s latest success, which took 8% of the vote in Germany’s largest state (Schleswig-Holstein in the North of Germany) in the last local election, earning the party its fourth straight coup in getting its members into local parliaments.
The Pirate Party was established originally in Sweden, where it has two representatives in that country’s government. Subsequently it has taken on a life of its own in Germany, where young voters and technologically savvy citizens have gravitated towards it. The Pirate Party was originally formed as a protest against the strict piracy copyright laws. However as the group gained popularity it broadened its views to encompass many other aspects of internet freedom as well as transparency in government. We have written several articles in opposition to SOPA, PIPA and CISPA, so it’s fairly clear where we stand on the issue of internet privacy. The Pirate Party shares this opposition to rampant government intrusions into private data. The party also objects to the existence of the surveillance state, which has continued to grow at an alarming rate since 9/11 here in the US and internationally. Additionally, the Pirate Party has full government transparency as one of its core ideals, and is pushing for a full open system where any citizen can log into a state server for electronic inspection and monitoring of government operations.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the aspects of the party platform that could possibly cause division from the Pirate Party and Libertarians (Der Spiegel dubbed them Left-Wing Libertarians, which is fairly accurate). The biggest issue is the use of government funding for a wide array of programs and services, which would expand the role of government and the burden on the citizens. The most glaring of these is the party’s policy on “Right to secure livelihood and social participation.”An excerpt from the German Pirate Party’s website:
“If an income can only be achieved through work, we must assure full employment to protect all people’s dignity. This is why full employment has been a major goal of our economic policy in the past. There are two paths by which we try to achieve this goal: Through economic measures which aim to create jobs or through publicly financed jobs with the main goal of securing people’s livelihood. These are both detours which require substantial public funding.”
A giant, “NO THANKS” to that, Pirates. Other issues also arise – one in particular is the Pirate’s goal of stripping all copyrights and patents from all forms of business. Obviously stripping away copyright laws would have massive impact upon the entertainment industries, however the bright side of that is that it would completely remove government involvement in that arena. The Pirate Party’s views that no patents should exist in any aspect of business (but especially within the pharmaceutical industry) are alternatively lauded and decried by Libertarians, and there is rampant debate still as to whether patents cause greater good than harm within a free market system.
In my opinion, the problem with the Pirate platform where patents and the pharma industries are concerned draws from their “alternative solution” (outlined here on the NZ delegation’s page). Their argument against the current pharmaceutical system is that lives are lost because scientific discovery isn’t shared freely among all people, due to the patent system, which gives control over the discovery to the company that discovered it. Personally, I feel that there does need to be protection for companies that have spent billions of dollars in R&D to bring these drugs to market, even though the patent itself discourages much further evolution for the drug internally while the life of the patent stands. The Pirate Party argues that government should fund pharma research and that a type of UN for pharmaceuticals should exist, wherein countries collaborate to assist each other with their medical discoveries and meet demands that arise from the populations of afflicted nations. Obviously, increasing government involvement in pharma research would be a terrible idea, especially on this epic scale. The FDA in the US already bogs down innovation as it stands today and having an international collaboration between all nations would only result in even more problems, both with approvals and more so with cures being delayed or denied for political reasons. Countries already practice this with food supplies and existing medical assistance (see the US and North Korea, Libya, etc.) – why would we expect any less with something as important as pharmaceutical breakthroughs?
All in all, the Pirate Party is a group worth keeping an eye on as our global society continues to evolve and rebel against the intrusionary government systems that have come to rule the day. And despite what rifts may exist between pure Libertarian values and the Pirates, I’ll be rooting for them to continue their run at the European polls, as the concepts that they hold dear in regards to personal liberty and privacy are worthy of championing.