Creating a Geonomic Political Party in New York State
The political two party system is like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two similar parties going up and down in popularity - neither solving the urgent problems of wealth inequity, natural resource depletion and resource abuse, corruption at every level of private and public institutions, and vast sums of money being devoted towards unproductive activities (CDOs, Derivatives etc.) The People from Tea (Taxed Enough Already)-baggers to Greenies - urgently want resolutions, but they don't have a party to explain and promote the solutions for them. In desperation, people vote for "Change" from one party or another Change from the Democrats being more government intervention with progressive ideals, unfortunately usually meaning more taxes; Change from the Republicans being less government intrusion into business in order to spur innovation and job-creation, yet more intrusion into our bedrooms and lifestyles - as if that was where the problems listed above originated.
Neither approach works because they don't get to the core cause of the related problems of wealth inequality, lack of innovation, and social injustice, due to monopolies on natural resources and the consequent corruption. We need to leave the squabbling Tweedle brothers and look for a new paradigm, one that goes beyond traditional, and often, self-serving, right-left schisms. As Arianna Huffington has pointed out: "It is not right vs. left, it is the top elite vs. the rest of us.' Unfortunately, she stopped after prescribing more oversight and regulation, as well as diagnosing the already well-known moral failings of players from Goldman Sachs to Bernie Madoff. But we've been here before with Enron to Jack Abramoff - and without fundamental reform of the political economy, we'll be here again.
Like so many others, Huffington didn't get to the core of the issue.
Why The Two Current Dominant Parties can't meet The Need:
Both parties are beholden to special interests a little more Defense Contractors and Private Healthcare for Republicans, a little more unions, Teachers, and Lawyers for Democrats, but these are just different ingredients, some possibly healthy on their own, in the same foul stew. Often the parties will switch positions just to preserve the illusion of being opposed to the other side. Lately, the Republicans have been defending Medicare a program they have tried to gut since its inception! At the same time, the Democrats have become Fiscal Hawks!
The partisan system has gotten so cynical that the party out of favor the Republicans only have to be the party of "No,' sitting back and doing nothing, while the country suffers and the Democrats can't get their programs off the ground. It's gotten so cynical that each party counts on the other to obstruct and agitate the opposition, while changing nothing significant and claiming "Obstruction! Filibuster!" from the other side. However, the status quo benefits both parties. Incumbents benefit from large, reliable donors who are satisfied with incremental change, or no change at all, and who don't want "Creative Destruction" (in energy, healthcare, entitlement programs, or even de-escalation of the wars (where, exactly, would all those returning former soldiers find work in today's double-digit unemployment economy? Tip: The Defense industry has gone from 2% of GDP in 2000 to 8% of GDP in 2008.))
Why can a Geonomic Party (GP) succeed where other third parties have failed, or at least been marginalized?
As Carl Milsted points out on his site www.holisticpolitics.org, the last successful political party was the Republican Party! The problem with most new political parties is they don't aim for the middle of the American Electorate. The Green Party picks off voters from the far left with its near Socialist platform, while the Conservative Party or the Libertarian Party picks off voters from the far right with its value-centric (Conservative) or laissez-faire (Libertarian), prescriptions. These parties become narrowly focused, or even, as in the case of the Marijuana Reform Party, single-issue parties. None of them reaches where the broad swath of Americans live the Center. This is where the votes are. This is how you win. Just as importantly, by picking off traditional left or right voters, these fringe parties produce winners from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Read the following analysis from http://www.holisticpolitics.org:
Voters tend to vote for the candidates with whom they agree. A candidate near the center will have more voters in agreement than a candidate off in the radical fringe.
Consider a congressional race in a liberal district. Suppose the radical liberal elements decide to run a radical socialistic Green candidate. Meanwhile, the conservative minority gets behind a barely conservative Republican. And let us suppose there is no Democrat in the race (because the liberal activists got behind the radical Green). If the voters vote for the candidate closest to their views, the Republican wins!
See the following chart from holisticpolitics.org for an example of how this works:
Green vs. Republican
Even though the Republican is to the right of the center of this district, the Green is so far to the left that moderate leftists end up voting for the Republican.
We have the converse scenario with a hard-right Constitution Party candidate vs. a moderately liberal Democrat in a conservative district.
Democrat vs. constitution
In either case, going with the radical party produces election results in the opposite direction of the radical party's goals! For this reason (and others) most radical liberals hold their noses to support moderate Democrats and most radical conservatives hold their noses to support moderate Republicans.
Holistic Politics makes a cogent analysis and goes on to show other ways why a new party must pull voters from the Center to win.
A Geonomic Party could do just that!
A recent Washington Post poll showed that:
"Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are overwhelmingly negative about Obama and the Democratic Party more broadly, with nearly all dissatisfied with the administration's policies and almost half saying they are "angry" about them. About three-quarters have a more basic complaint, saying Obama does not stand for "traditional American values."
A Research 2000 Poll found that:
"Forty percent of self-identified Democratic voters say they are "not likely" or "definitely" won't vote in next year's Congressional elections."
My own recent poll on Obama's signature issue, Healthcare, posted on Progressive sites OpEdNews and DailyKos, asked, before the Senate started debating the legislation:
Op Ed News:
Is the current bill better than nothing?
Yes, it is a first step:
No, throw this out and start over:
77 votes total
Is the current bill better than nothing?
Yes, it is a first step
No, throw it out and start over
139 votes total
Now, the question may seem loaded, or a case of placing the bar too low, depending on your point of view, but it's worth noting that even among Obama's supposed liberal "base" there is deep dissatisfaction over the issue he has already spent most of his first year intensely involved with.
Beyond that, on both sides of the political spectrum, there is a feeling that Congress has been bought and paid for by the Healthcare industry. We can substitute the financial industry, the coal lobby, or any number of Establishment industries for "Healthcare" and the message will be the same.
Henry George understood the endless opportunities for corruption as well as anyone; after all, he lost to "Tammany Hall" in his first run for mayor of New York City. The Georgist/Geonomic Single Tax would eliminate most of the avenues leading to corruption then, as now, by taxing away the Rent for natural resources, such as land, upstream before legislators get to counteract natural law with their subsidies, taxes, and myriad deadweight disincentives. Without so much fiscal flesh to fight over, the economic vultures will have to fly away.
The Party that can fundamentally change the political system so that the opportunity for corruption is eliminated will gain an advantage. A Geonomic Party could be such a party.
Sample Platform Items
The first two items below form the core of Geonomic (or Georgist) economic thought and a modern, socially just, progressive, and liberty-promoting, party:
o Untax the rewards of production: Wages, Capital, and Sales (this attracts the entrepreneurial Right)
o Tax the use and abuse of products of nature, not Man, i.e. Natural Resources heavily thus "Taxing what you burn, not what you earn." (This attracts the Progressives and Greens)
Together, these policies are fair something everyone from Tea Baggers to Greens agrees is alarmingly lacking today. Furthermore, they are the basis of the Single Tax something as easy for short-attention-span Americans to comprehend, as it is Socially Just. Today, nothing is more important than the economy and jobs. Only Geonomics offers a way to encourage growth in the economy without the usual destruction of natural resources and with a chance for all to participate - thus creating jobs. These are the "Hard Promises."
Now, here are some "Soft Promises" in a GP platform:
o There will be much less opportunity for corruption if there are fewer "kinds" of taxes, subsidies and other fiscal items to manipulate to lobbyists' wills. First, fire the loophole-hunting lobbyists, accountants...and then the lawyers. This alone will save billions in unproductive work.
o By ending the monopolies on Natural Resources (i.e. making them too expensive to simply retain without using them productively), new entrepreneurs would emerge with inventions, businesses and JOBS! (This attracts the beleaguered Libertarian wing of the Republican Party - long an uncomfortable fit with the dominant, highly intrusive, Social Regulator wing of the party).
o Speculation would be greatly diminished on land and Commodities, because they would be taxed directly, eliminating the profit potential from driving up prices. Even the towering derivatives market has a foundation in natural resources. Collect the Rent from those which, rightfully, belong to all of us as they are products of nature and the overlying markets will be reduced, or even disappear, saving trillions in destabilizing and unproductive activities.
o Other benefits of a Geonomic economy: Sparing the environment, Preventing urban squall, Lowering housing costs to affordability again, Stopping the spread of the human population into remote wilderness by taking away the subsidies for it, Enhancing cities to make them more desirable places to live, Ending most profit from obligation, etc.
George understood very well the destructive effects of war on both people and economies. He would have been aghast to discover that America has been involved in a military action somewhere at least once every decade since WWII - until today, when we actually take on wars two at a time!
In Foreign Policy, as at home, Geonomics would encourage paying the people and not their corrupt rulers the true value of their natural resources, whether they want to sell them to us or use them in their own countries. Anything else is theft; it doesn't matter if it is theft domestically or from abroad.
The GP would end support for corrupt regimes that steal resources from their own people. This would end conditions that foster jihadist/terrorist movements, populated by destitute young men whose natural resources have been stolen along with their opportunities. Taliban fighters make roughly double what young Afghan men make on average in Afghanistan, in a land where employment opportunities barely exist.
We are currently spending a million dollars per U.S. soldier per year in Afghanistan. Even our military planners admit we cannot win (whatever that means) by military means alone. For example, perhaps it would be better to simply buy the Afghanistan poppy crop, and sell it back to our pharmaceutical companies for making legitimate drugs, rather than trying to eradicate it* along with the innocent farmers and villagers who get in the way.
A Geonomic party therefore, would be supportive of the Human Right to Natural Resources and consequent opportunities, in ALL countries. This puts pressure on countries suffering from the Resource curse, as well as ratcheting down the hostility with some of our Socialist neighbors like Venezuela and Cuba. It also sets up a powerful counterexample to supposedly Communist China, now more ruthlessly capitalist than even the United States.
Freedom of Religion and Speech are, or should be, a given, under a Geonomic Platform by definition a new party is pushing the boundaries of freedom of speech and assembly itself.
George recognized that man seeks to satisfy his desires and therefore, prohibitions against illegal drugs are bound to fail. Realistically, it might be only palatable to the American public to think of legalizing Marijuana, not harder drugs. This would end 60% of the income of illegal gangs in Mexico, for starters. The money we squander on fighting this losing War on Drugs which is really a War on Desire would be better spent treating excessive drug use as a health problem. Similarly, locking people away for victimless crimes like personal drug use and even some prostitution could be seen as a basic denial of freedom to pursue some desires, or even as a denial of the basic right to "Land' since it's hard to think of a lesser plot of land for someone to live on than a jail cell.
There are many other issues to consider, and specific party planks to create, but the ones above would give a Geonomic Party a broader scope than many, if not most, small parties have.
Overview of ballot access in the U.S.
(From www.Answers.Com - additional comments in square brackets [ ])
Each state has its own ballot access laws to determine who may appear on ballots and who may not. According to Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.
New York: A new party or independent candidate may gain ballot access for one election by collecting a set number of petition signatures for each office (or 5 percent of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election in the jurisdiction, if that is lower). A new party that wins 50,000 votes for governor is recognized statewide as a political party and qualifies to participate in primary elections for four years. This total can be and often is obtained through electoral fusion. Candidates may gain access to primary election ballots by being "designated" by a relevant committee of the party or collecting signatures equal to 5 percent of the party's enrollment in the jurisdiction, up to a set number for each office. A candidate seeking the nomination of a party to which she or he does not belong e.g. for purposes of fusion must be authorized by a relevant committee of the party.
See also: Qualified New York Parties
Other obstacles facing third parties
The growth of any third political party in the United States faces extremely challenging obstacles, among them restrictive ballot access. Other obstacles often cited as barriers to third-party growth include:
- Campaign funding reimbursement for any political party that gets at least 5% of the vote --- Implemented in many states "to help smaller parties", the typical result is to help the two biggest parties;
- Laws intended to fight corporate donations and all loopholes being so long that a team of lawyers is needed to navigate the laws;
- The role of corporate money in propping up the two established parties;
- The allegedly related general reluctance of news organizations to cover minor political party campaigns;
- Moderate voters being divided between the major parties, or registered independent, so that both major primaries are hostile to moderate or libertarian candidates;
- Politically motivated gerrymandering of election districts by those already in power, in order to reduce or eliminate political competition (two party proponents would argue that the minority party in that district should just nominate a more centrist candidate relative to that district [A Geonomic Party would do exactly that!]);
- Plurality voting scaring voters from voting for any candidate other than the lesser of evils, who is reported to have a chance of winning; [Instant Runoff Voting could be another plank in the GP platform].
- The absence of proportional representation;
- The public view that third parties have no chance of beating the worse of (two) evils, and are therefore a wasted vote; [This objection effectively disappears if votes are taken equally from both parties, from the middle, as John Anderson did in the Presidential election of 1980 (7%) and Ross Perot did in 1992 (19%). Numbers that large can change the debate. Smaller elections are easier to "swing" than large ones too].
- Campaign costs of convincing interested voters that the party nominee has a chance of winning, and regaining that trust after an election where the third party got the third most votes (not a problem with Instant Runoff voting or condorcet voting);
Claimed problems with the two party system
- Two party systems tend to be moderately polarizing, with few centrists elected.
- Usually at least one of the parties has a majority in the legislatures, especially after gerrymandering.
- A moderately polarized majority running the state could turn it to tyranny of the majority, though the filabuster, bicameral legislature, and governor tend to mitigate this.
- Centrist voters tend to be independent, or split between the two parties, or not vote at all, and thus rarely have the majority necessary to win the primary in either party. Their primary vote serves mostly to pick the more centrist of the two in the top two runoff, and to elect the more centrist of the two moderately extreme candidates in the general election.
- If ballot access is difficult, and political parties with their freedom of association have the right to exclude voters from their primaries, then it is possible for a district to have one candidate on the general ballot, and a large portion of voters unable to vote in the primary, thus not being able to vote at all.
Think a Geonomic Party would be too small? Take a look at a list of political parties in the state of New York:
- America First Party
- Communist Party
- Conservative Party
- Constitution Party
- Democratic Party
- Freedom Party 1994-1998
- Green Party
- Independence Party
- Integrity Party
- Liberal Party
- Libertarian Party
- Marijuana Reform Party
- Natural Law Party
- New Party
- New York State Right to Life Party
- New York State Taxpayers Party
- Republican Party
- Save Jobs Party (2004-2006)
- Socialist Party
- Socialist Workers Party
- The Rent is Too Damn High Party*
- Working Families Party
Creating a Caucus instead of a New Party
One prominent Georgist, Jeffrey Smith, founder of The Progress Report, has suggested joining an existing caucus, such as the Democratic Freedom Caucus, instead of creating a whole new party from scratch. While this idea has some merit, the DFC has existed at least since 2006 within the big tent of the Democratic Party and many people have never heard of it. Would a party have more prominence than a caucus? Well, how many people have heard of the parties above vs. the Democratic Freedom Caucus? You decide.
Still, the DFC does espouse Georgist/Geonomic principles, among others that do not contradict Geonomic principles, so it is worth displaying those here and thinking about whether:
A. We want to incorporate those into a new party, and if so,
B. Whether we want to try to recruit members of the DFC into a new Geonomics Party.
DFC Platform (Geonomic sections highlighted)
The Democratic Freedom Caucus (DFC) is a progressive, pro-freedom caucus in the Democratic Party. The purpose of the DFC is to promote individual liberty, constitutional democracy, and social responsibility. Activities of the DFC include electoral campaigns, legislative advocacy, and education of the public.
A) Personal Liberty
Freedom of speech, press, religion, belief, philosophy, lifestyle, and political activity shall not be infringed. Individuals should have the freedom to engage in any activity that does not violate others' freedom. Liberty also includes the right to legitimate self-defense.
B) Economic Liberty
1) Property rights based on justice. There are two forms of property:
Human-made products, such as cars, houses, and machinery; and land, which refers to spatial locations, along with the natural resources within those locations. Each individual has the right to keep the rewards from his or her labor. However, since no person made the land, property in land needs to be treated somewhat differently from other types of property, to prevent over- concentrated ownership of land and natural resources.
Taxes on income, sales, or buildings all take away the rewards of labor, so they are the most harmful kinds of taxes. The least harmful tax is a tax on land location value, or on extraction of natural resources, because those are not products of labor, but are fixed resources.
2) End corporate welfare. Government should not subsidize special interests. Licensing laws should not be monopolistic.
3) Consumer protection. There should be strong laws against business fraud and false advertising.
4) Worker protection. There should be strong laws against fraud in employment practices, such as misleading workers about the safety of work environments.
5) Environmental protection. There should be strong laws against polluting the air or water that others must use. Government should not subsidize developers.
6) Free trade between free countries. We should phase in free trade with other free countries at the same time that we are phasing in freedom within our own country, by removing the obstacles that hinder productivity here. It is unjust to allow imports of foreign products made with slave labor (in countries with very little freedom, the workers' lack of freedom can sometimes border on slavery).
C) Limited Government.
1) Essential government services. Government should only provide those services that cannot be provided adequately by the non-government sector at this time, and which are necessary for the public interest. Government should not provide any services that can be provided adequately by the non-government sector.
2) Government incentives. For those essential services that need to be provided by government, we should attempt to introduce incentives for government efficiency.
3) Constitutional democracy. The U.S. Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution) should be enforced. Government at any level should have a clear bill of rights, which should be enforced.
4) Jury rights. The right to a genuine trial by jury is one of the most important means of preventing government from violating its constitution and individual rights. Juries should be informed of their traditional right to judge the constitutionality of a law, in addition to judging the facts, as applied to a specific case. Neither prosecution nor defense should be allowed to pack a jury so as to make it biased or unrepresentative.
5) U.S. defense, not world police. The military should defend the territory of the United States, rather than being the world's policeman. Our military should certainly not be used to prop up foreign dictators, or to subsidize multinational corporations.
D) Social Responsibility
In cases of essential services, such as infrastructure or assistance for the needy, there should only be cuts in these services if adequate services can be provided in the non-government sector. Recipients of government assistance also have a responsibility to help themselves if they are able. A goal of government assistance should be to try to get people to the point where they can take care of themselves, if at all possible.
more information, contact: Democratic Freedom Caucus
email DFC (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DFC Platform DFC State Chairs and Regional Representatives Freedom Quotes
Get Involved Guide for Activists Principles of the DFC Students Welcome to the DFC
January 2009 July 2008 August 2006
Friends and Allies
ACLU Concord Coalition Drug Policy Alliance Saving Communities
Tax Pollution, Not Jobs: Carbon Tax Center
The Democratic Party The Progress Report
Maine DFC Maryland DFC Missouri DFC
-- Scott Baker, Henry George School, Common Ground