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What's this all about?

The two-party system has failed America. Both the Democrats and Republicans have failed to serve the people, catering instead to well-funded special interests. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, huge budget and trade deficits, the financial collapse, low wages, high unemployment, social divisions, environmental neglect, rampant lobbying, public subsidies to Wall Street, scandals involving top government officials, citizen surveillance, and a general lack of leadership and relevant ideas have weakened public confidence in government. Third-party politics, while untainted with those failures, suffers from a lack of credibility that its candidates can win.

So what’s to be done? This web site is dedicated to the proposition that a new political organization can lift our nation out of its quagmire. The forces of history have advanced to a point of fundamental change making this organization possible. Our mission is to bring about a transformation of government and other major institutions so as to make American society more responsive to people and more responsible in terms of environmental policy.

This new political organization is called "Gold Party". Would this be a “third party” like others? Yes and no. Yes, it would have a structure separate from the other political parties. No, it would not be a conventional third party. It would be unique in its structure of control. It would be a revolutionary party, in some ways akin to the old socialists but also respecting the free market. Mass mobilization through personal incentives would be its chief aim.

This party would be anti-totalitarian, devoted to freedom including free speech, decentralized in its power structure, balanced between entrepreneurial freedom and reasonable government regulation. At the same time, it would fight plutocratic encroachments upon people's personal freedom and employment. It would resist the security state.

The main focus of attention would be economic. Integrating people - all people - into productive jobs that maximize labor efficiency while bolstering income from jobs would be the goal of a government taken over by this party. This party would not idolize poverty. It would avoid wars. It would not pit people against each other on the basis of religion, gender, ethnicity, or race. The goal would be to make everyone affluent to the extent that human ingenuity and the earth’s resources can afford this, recognizing environmental limitations.

What designs or mechanisms would make Gold Party different from other political parties? What makes us think we will succeed where other parties have failed? First, it builds upon an existing model of successful insurrection. Second, it offers incentives for individuals to contribute to a political organization that other parties lack. Hard-working, dedicated individuals would own what they have built.

Essentially, Gold Party combines insights gained from local political activity with the untested concept of a point system that mimics money in its motivating power. The goal of this party is initially to grow to the point that it can take over the government. If enough people are committed to the party and its ideals, anything becomes possible.

Motivation to join Gold Party, to convince other people to join, and then, when the party has reached a certain size, to effect a political revolution that transforms both government and the larger society would be the key to realizing this dream. Gold Party would advance itself through grassroots communication.

There is no other way to overthrow the plutocracy. Government officials must communicate with voters through expensive newspaper advertisements, robo-telephone calls, or radio or television commercials to be elected to public office. Unless they are independently wealthy, the candidates must raise lots of money to pay for campaign advertising. Wealthy donors, expecting something in return, step up to the plate. Then, after the candidate is elected, the well-heeled special interests employ an army of lobbyists to enact legislation favorable to their industry or cause. This system will remain in place so long as elections are beholden to the commercial media and there is no competing power source.

Although the aim of Gold Party is to capture the U.S. government, this would happen through elections rather than force of arms. No sensible person would be in favor of an armed insurrection against the government especially when other options are available. This peaceful revolution would take place by force of persuasion and by providing party members with incentives to aid its cause. We are out to change society through focused political work.

A Landlord Organization as a Model of Political Action

With respect to an existing model of political activity, a landlord organization in the city of Minneapolis called Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee showed how a relatively small group of people could effectively fight City Hall. (Visit its archives.) There were maybe thirty active members of this group that confronted the political establishment in a city with 380,000 residents. Who would have thought that such a group could defeat the entrenched politicians? But they did. They beat them decisively.

The members, who owned property mostly in poorer neighborhoods, were widely reviled as “slumlords” in the city’s political culture. They were seen as “irresponsible” business owners who had brought crime into particular neighborhoods by failing to screen their applicants properly and by neglecting building maintenance.The Minneapolis police department had a multi-million-dollar budget to employ “community police” who would work with non-profit neighborhood organizations and block clubs to promote an ideology of shifting the blame for crime upon private-sector landlords. After being targeted by politicians and the police, the property owners typically were punished by aggressive building inspections augmented by police.

Keep in mind that Minneapolis was and is a one-party town. The mayor and twelve of the thirteen Council members belonged to the Democratic Farmer-Labor (DFL) party while the remaining Council member was politically independent. Also, the city’s sole daily newspaper, the Star Tribune, was generally unfriendly to these landlords, both in its editorials and news reporting.

Previously, most landlords in this city tried to keep a low profile in hopes that city officials would leave them alone. In contrast, the Property Rights group went after the politicians with two-by-fours (figuratively speaking) over a period of five or so years. They picketed City Hall and a police precinct station, protested building demolitions, spoke out forcefully at public meetings, and once even shut down a meeting of the Minneapolis City Council. They also conducted “crack tours” to show visting dignitaries how easy it was to purchase crack cocaine on Minneapolis streets under the nose of city police when building owners were being punished for "tolerating" the same activities.

The group also held monthly meetings that were videotaped and shown on cable television. A member published a free-circulation newspaper. Gradually, the idea sank in among city residents that “people cause crime, not buildings”, that city police rather than landlords were the ones responsible for dealing with crime, and it did not make sense for Minneapolis officials to be tearing down structurally sound houses at the same time that they sought funds to build more “affordable housing.”

The payoff came in the 2001 municipal elections. A sign often displayed at the landlords’ televised meetings during that year listed the mayor and four City Council members (including the Council president) whom the group wished to have defeated and four City Council members whom it wished to reelect. All four of the favored candidates were reelected. The mayor and three of the four disfavored candidates were either defeated or motivated not to seek reelection. The man who succeeded the incumbent mayor in 2002 was a three-time guest speaker at the landlords’ meetings.

What were the elements of their success? First, the landlords refused to be intimidated by the overwhelming political power directed against them. Not bothering to disguise their identities, they spoke out forcefully against their adversaries in City Hall. The group chose to advance its cause through protest activities rather than through attempts to persuade elected officials by reasoned arguments or campaign contributions.

Just as important, the group had its own communications capability. The free-circulation newspaper and the cable-television show allowed the landlords to tell their stories to a wider audience. Even if their megaphone was smaller than most, the message went out in an unedited form to voters as an expression of real people. It had a cumulative effect. People seeing someone else stand up to abusive authority inspires imitation.

A lesson to be learned from this experience is that groups operating in a hostile political environment cannot count on “working within the system” to gain favor if that means trying to convince the decision makers to change their minds. It seldom happens. A more effective strategy is to bypass the system. Instead go directly to the people.

But, alas, movements come and go. That also happened to Minneapolis Property Rights Action Committee. The organization today is a shadow of its former self. The weeds in city government have grown back. Political movements cannot be sustained forever by ideological fervor or charismatic leadership. If they happen to succeed, they often become complacent and fade. If they fail, they just fail. What has staying power is moneyed interests - the lobbyists and developers and public-sector unions and politically well-connected nonprofits that hang around City Hall seeking financial favors.

A System of Weighted Voting

The second part of the Gold Party concept has to do with motivation. This is based on a simple insight. If money controls politics, let’s see how money does it and then mimic its operation.

Let’s suppose that you invest money in a business. You own and operate this business. Someone in that situation is motivated to work hard to attract a growing number of customers and make money. The success of the business equates with success in monetary terms. The more money a business makes, the more money the owner has. He can spend this money however he pleases or he can pass the money along to his children. In other words, there is a permanent beneficial result of having worked effectively to build a business.

Compare that situation with the situation of a volunteer in a political campaign. Presumably, he donates time, effort, and money to the campaign because he believes in the candidate’s qualifications to hold public office or he believes in the package of policy proposals which the candidate advocates. If the candidate loses the election, he has nothing to show for the volunteer work. If the candidate wins, this candidate alone becomes empowered to cast votes or make administrative decisions. Those who helped him get elected are now out of the loop. Except for a few lucky individuals offered a job, there is no "ownership" interest in the candidates's success.

Maybe the candidate, now a public official, will be grateful to his former campaign supporters and be inclined to vote the way they want him to vote. Maybe he will hire some of them in government jobs. That's entirely up to him. The majority of campaign volunteers will, at best, be left with a sense of satisfaction at having participated in a winning campaign. Then, when seeking reelection, the elected official will have less need of those who initially “brung him to the party” because incumbent officeholders can attract money and support from financially interested groups.

Political parties hold conventions to nominate candidates for public office, elect party officials, and adopt platforms. The party members who show up all have an equal vote in making decisions. This system provides little incentive to help build an organization. If its members expend unequal effort on behalf of the party but receive an equal reward, the rational approach would be to claim as much of the reward as possible while offering as little as possible by way of contribution.

Active, hard-working members of a political party do, of course, tend to gain more influence than the average party member. Even so, the difference in status resulting from party work remains ill-defined. Compared with money-based distinctions in the business world, political distinctions lack clarity and definition. People want to know where they stand in terms of internal position.

If politics mimicked the business world, then members of a political party would receive quantifiable credit for the work they do in building the party and electing candidates. The more credits a person receives, the more say he or she would have in party affairs. Such a system might be embodied in a system of unequal voting based on a member’s credits or points. Visit a page on this site, "point system", to see how this might work.

There are two motivations which may matter to politically interested persons. First, they will be hoping to have government pursue a certain program of action that advances their interests or matters to them. Second, they may be hoping to gain something personally from the party’s victory.

The Gold Party program caters to both needs. First it has a legislative and administrative agenda in case the party takes over the government. It's important to keep the party unified during the period of organization building and not become too hung up over issues. Therefore, the proposed issues would be subject to a national referendum once the party is in a position to exercise government power. The second part of the program would be to convert Gold Party points into U.S. currency, rewarding members in proportion to the points they have at the time of conversion. The laws would be changed to permit this one-time conversion of party points into money. Presumably most or all members would be in favor of this provision.

A New “Spoils System”?

The idea of rewarding party members with government-furnished money may offend the political sensibilities of Americans. But that’s how the world works. The idea of awarding high-level jobs on the basis of “merit” is largely a myth. Politics always plays a part in the selection of individuals for jobs, especially at a higher level.

In nations with a totalitarian system of government, party membership equates directly with leadership positions in society. Boris Yeltsin was once asked why he remained a member of the Communist Party if he no longer believed in its ideals. “Party card” was his short but honest answer. Being a communist in the old Soviet Union conferred tangible benefits. Party membership was a requirement of high rank in the socioeconomic hierarchy.

In the United States, jobs are usually awarded by criteria other than membership in a political party. We say that education “qualifies” a person to hold certain positions. Except in some technical positions, however, the correlation between course content and the requirements of real-life employment is quite weak. In fact, personal connections, demographic identity, mode of speech, dress, and conformity to the prevailing values of the group (including political ones) count for far more than what we would admit. The "knowledge" gained from education to do a job is less important; politics matters more. When this myth is punctured, it may hit many people hard.

In our society, corporate and professional power have effectively merged with political power. We live in a plutocracy more than in a democracy. If Gold Party takes over the government, that would change. After a brief period, the fusion of political and economic power would end. Party members would dislodge the plutocrats and their minions from positions of government power but keep the free-enterprise system (with a more broadly based ownership) in place. We would then have at least two power structures, the economic and the political, each checking the other’s abuse.

 

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