21st century Vikings
By Scott Sumner
This Washington Post article caught my eye:
REYKJAVIK, ICELAND — The party that could be on the cusp of winning Iceland’s national elections on Saturday didn’t exist four years ago.
Its members are a collection of anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks. It sets policy through online polls — and thinks the government should do the same. It wants to make Iceland “a Switzerland of bits,” free of digital snooping. It has offered Edward Snowden a new place to call home.
And then there’s the name: In this land of Vikings, the Pirate Party may soon be king.
The rise of the Pirates — from radical fringe to focal point of Icelandic politics — has astonished even the party’s founder, a poet, Web programmer and former WikiLeaks activist.
And that’s not the only new party in Iceland:
Outsiders may regard the idea of a government run by Pirates as a joke. But “the voters think a joke is better than what we have now,” said Benedikt Jóhannesson, leader of another insurgent party that is even younger than the Pirates and has also earned substantial support.
Jóhannesson hastens to add that he doesn’t see the Pirates as a joke. His buttoned-down party is made up of technocrats, academics and business executives, a far cry from the punk-rock, hacker spirit of the Pirates.
But the two may be in coalition talks after the election if, as expected, no party comes anywhere near the majority needed to govern. He may not agree with the Pirates on many issues, he said, but at least they share a belief in the need for fundamental change.
The article is a bit vague on their political views:
The Pirates have spelled out their positions on issues from fishing quotas to online pornography to Snowden. (Party leaders offered him Icelandic citizenship if he can find a way to get here.) But on some of the biggest questions facing the country, the official party position is to punt to the voters.
Whether Iceland should join the European Union, for instance, is a debate that has raged in the country for years. But the Pirates have not taken a stand, insisting instead that the matter should be decided in a national referendum.
Some of the party’s signature proposals, meanwhile, are vaguely defined. The Pirates were born in Sweden as a movement to counter digital copyright laws. But the party’s proposal to make Iceland “a digital safe haven,” much like Switzerland is for banking, is hazy on the details.
To party devotees, that’s fine. The Pirates, they say, are less about any specific ideology than they are about a belief that the West’s creaking political systems can be hacked to give citizens a greater say in their democracy.
“We are not here to gain power,” said Ásta Guthrún Helgadóttir, a 26-year-old Pirate member of Parliament. “We are here to distribute power.”
But I do like that final sentence. Cool party symbol too:
Iceland was a pioneer of democratic governance; let’s hope they can also pioneer decentralization.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a rapidly growing movement of young people in Brazil who favor libertarian policies.
And look who was just elected mayor of South Africa’s largest city:
Herman Mashaba is a millionaire tycoon, an ideological libertarian and self-proclaimed “capitalist crusader” who lectures his listeners about the evils of big government and minimum wage.
He is also, shockingly, the newly elected mayor of South Africa’s biggest city. That’s a revolutionary phenomenon in a nation dominated for 22 years by a left-wing ruling party, whose cabinet ministers tend to be communists and union leaders.
Less than a month after winning office as Johannesburg’s mayor, Mr. Mashaba is already energetically putting his free-market ideas into action. He is distributing thousands of title deeds to impoverished residents, trying to create a new class of landowners. He is plotting with private developers to turn the city into a vast construction site, and he is pledging to use small businesses to slash the unemployment rate.