Skip

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Pages of MetaFilter
August 4, 2010 3:54 PM   Subscribe

Congressional candidate (and MetaFilter's own) Sean Tevis (find his previouslies here) and XKCD [Update: nothing to do with XKCD, actually] bring forth a new concept in politics: American Nations, An Awesome and Practical Plan to Re-Balance the U.S. Political System.
posted by scalefree (179 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't see where xkcd comes into this?
posted by edd at 4:05 PM on August 4, 2010


Well, I'm already in the Metafilter nation. Still kind of confused...this is basically a PAC? Advocacy group? Am I too dumb to see this in context? **goes back to re-read**
posted by emjaybee at 4:07 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The comic is so completely xkcd's style, I just assumed he did it. Am I wrong?
posted by scalefree at 4:07 PM on August 4, 2010


But the most important number is 67,000. Why? Because there are only 67,000 people in the Tea Party.

Well, that, and the largest cable news network in the United States.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:07 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Tevis uses what might be termed XKCD-style art, but I don't think Randall Monroe has anything to do with it. There's nothing on xkcd.com about it, to be sure.

Anyway, I'm not sure what separates this from a general call to organize lobbying groups like the AARP, NRA, etc using incentives based on large group bargaining power.

I'm also not sure why we wouldn't get much the same political results from moving to a proportional representation system.
posted by jedicus at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Burbclaves!
posted by kenko at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2010 [22 favorites]


The comic is so completely xkcd's style, I just assumed he did it. Am I wrong?

Well, I'm convinced.
posted by Wataki at 4:09 PM on August 4, 2010


We already have Club For Growth, NAACP, ACLU, NRA...maybe I didn't read this closely enough, but how is this all that different from lobby groups/clubs/etc.?
posted by resiny at 4:10 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


XKCD is usually drawn by hand and occasionally has female stick figures.
posted by NoraReed at 4:11 PM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wait, the Tea Party is the dominant group in America? Bwah?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:11 PM on August 4, 2010


"First Nation" is a nice name, but it's spoken for.
posted by kenko at 4:11 PM on August 4, 2010 [47 favorites]


I donated $5. Nice idea.
posted by mrbill at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2010


This isn't even wrong. "The solution to being divided and partisan is to divide ourselves into even smaller and more narrowly focused groups!"

This is a proposal to replace democracy with a kind of corporatism, replacing the idea of commonly held citizenship with one where your rights and duties are contingent upon what group you belong to. It ignores the practical realities of, say, border control, or thousands of nuclear weapons. It ignores everyone who'se not online. It ignores everyone who still believes in the concept of citizenship. It completely glosses over the question of how the first nation will be run and who will make the decisions. Frankly, fuck your groups and fuck replacing the concept of citizenship with something more akin to a Safeway air miles card.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2010 [29 favorites]


That picture of Sean Tevis looking all serious with his eyebrow half-cocked? It cracks me up for some reason.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2010


I must be dim, because I can't really see what this accomplishes other than bringing in $ to Mr. Tevis. Which makes this all a bit Blue Pepsi-ish

I will also point out that there is a national organization formed to respond to the Tea Party, called the Coffee Party. No idea if they are supporting Tevis' run for Congress.
posted by bearwife at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who wants to nation-squat* on "The Tea Party" nation?

*a term I just invented
posted by 445supermag at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I find two points in the fifth and sixth panels here troublesome.

What I am taking away from panel five is that the First Nation will have to recreate the functions of nearly every part of the government involved in passing out any kind of benefits, whatsoever. Panel six reads to me as if we must recreate Congress, all over again, in that the call is to create a system for deciding what decisions get maid. Perhaps I misunderstand, but I see two facets of government, rendered into the homonunculus problem, over IP.

People have tried to (badly) reimplement most of the functions of the Internet on Facebook. Now, the plan is to (badly) reimplement government over Facebook, as well?
posted by adipocere at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2010


Um, so are we basically talking about voting blocks? Because that's nothing new.

Also: We already took their land, we could do without stealing the First Nations' title as well.
posted by yeloson at 4:14 PM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Interesting, but the first nation part of the concept would be very tricky. It controls whether nations can form, and the terms of the nations. For example: part of what they want to offer is health insurance. Does health insurance extend to same sex spouses? Does the KKK get to form a nation? Does a nation get to exclude people on the basis of race/gender/sexual preference?

Two, why does the superstructure of American Nations need to exist? They seem to say that the 1st nation will "wrangle together the nations to break unhealthy partisanship", but they don't say how? Exactly how will you bring the greens and the libertarians together? Dominists and atheists? Health insurance is awesome and all, but not that awesome.
posted by zabuni at 4:17 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the XKCD question, this page says it's an homage http://seantevis.com/3000.
posted by dolface at 4:19 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, you make a donation here, and... what happens, exactly?
posted by gurple at 4:20 PM on August 4, 2010


Ah, yes, the Goðorð system.
posted by ifandonlyif at 4:21 PM on August 4, 2010


Linked to from the cartoon:

http://patchworknation.csmonitor.com/csmstaff/2010/0421/tea-party-how-big-is-it-and-where-is-it-based/

The Tea Party only has 67,000 members? Why isn't the media reporting this?
posted by JHarris at 4:21 PM on August 4, 2010


The comic is so completely xkcd's style

In XKCD, no one has necks.

Actually, other than the 'stick figures without eyes' aspect, this doesn't really look like XKCD at all.
posted by oulipian at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It ignores everyone who'se not online.

So?
posted by Splunge at 4:22 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


That plan sucks. We need secession. Let the selfish and the easily manipulated do things their way without affecting us. We can have a sane government and maybe even decent news media and they get to turn into Somalia with a bit of "Road Warrior" thrown in.

This is so obvious. I don't get why it's considered distasteful to bring it up.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:23 PM on August 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


>So, you make a donation here, and... what happens, exactly?

$42 gets you membership in the First Nation. Then there's some kind of takeover, and all 'induhviduals' will become subservient slaves of DNRC.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:25 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for the idea in the comic, I'm not sure how having more people donate $1 than the Tea Party has members proves anything. I'm not actually sure how any of this would work.

But the idea of well-informed, or at the least highly-opinionated, individuals constructing voting blocs out of their audience already exists. It's called talk radio. Having more of this, except not exclusively obnoxiously disgusting and evil, would be a net gain.
posted by JHarris at 4:26 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was so with him until the line "I need you to pull out your credit card..."

And this:
$42 - Be invited to join First Nation. It’s prestigious and limited. It’s where the action is. Only the first 10,000 donors at this level or above will be invited. This amount rises every day.
$100 - We'll send a really nice, big thank you card signed by our volunteers. It's not exotic or valuable, but it's genuine appreciation. We'd love to send you more, but we're really trying to conserve our resources and spend thriftily.
$250 - The most expensive t-shirt in the world. Four colors. White. Short sleeves. Limited. Numbered. And signed by Sean Tevis.
$500 - All of the above, plus a framed letter selected from some of our favorite hate mail received from the Tea Party.
$1000 or more - one of the famous DVD videos from Sean Tevis' mom along with Sean's 17-month-old son, Zane, telling you how wonderful you are, because you are. Note: Zane cannot actually speak words yet.
I'm unclear - where does the money go? Is this his campaign fund? Is it tax deductible? The information isn't easy to find.
posted by Miko at 4:27 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


More Hmm
Sean Tevis: Contributions not currently accepted via ActBlue
If you have any questions, please let us know and we'll do our best to help.
posted by Miko at 4:28 PM on August 4, 2010


(I should probably linkify that Tea Party membership URL I posted above: http://patchworknation.csmonitor.com/csmstaff/2010/0421/tea-party-how-big-is-it-and-where-is-it-based/
posted by JHarris at 4:30 PM on August 4, 2010


Well, at least I'm not the only one who looks at this with confusion.

I'm not against a friendlier/easier/Facebooky approach to political coalitions. (One of the existing ones now is the Drunken Nation, which...whatever). If that's all this is, well, ok. AARP doesn't let you design a sexy shield, it's true.

I'm not sure that some of the other stuff he mentions on the blog--like being able to require members to sign contracts if they want to join--are going to fly. But not a lawyer, so whatever.

One question I didn't see addressed was whether you could belong to more than one. (and if you couldn't, who's going to monitor it and make you drop out?)
posted by emjaybee at 4:30 PM on August 4, 2010


In Sweden I attended a university briefly visited at which a great deal of the student governance (including providing some living space, administering exams, distributing alcohol) was run by the student union. But the student union was divided into a bunch of competing entities called nations. These entities were named after regions of the country, but in practice seemed to represent social or ideological divisions rather than geographical ones. A student would choose which of these groups she or he would join, and I assume that group received some money based on the number of members. They had individual ID cards, and bars, and such. I guess what I'm thinking is perhaps governance by fraternity isn't the greatest idea I've ever heard.
posted by ~ at 4:31 PM on August 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


He seems to be running for Fitting the Most Pop Culture References into One Page... award.
posted by Wataki at 4:36 PM on August 4, 2010


$42 - Be invited to join First Nation. It’s prestigious and limited. It’s where the action is. Only the first 10,000 donors at this level or above will be invited. This amount rises every day.

Wow, what a deal.

At least with Amway you get some nice soap.
posted by vorfeed at 4:37 PM on August 4, 2010


Sounds like a good use for Google Wave...
posted by Mngo at 4:43 PM on August 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


Frankly, fuck your groups and fuck replacing the concept of citizenship with something more akin to a Safeway air miles card.

I'd be thrilled if citizenship (in any country) was as easy to acquire as a Safeway card, and I doubt I'm the only one.
posted by ripley_ at 4:45 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show in their uncle's barn.

With 129 members and counting, how could this not work? I mean, if you build something that looks like an airport, the gods of Cargo are sure to land and hand out goodies, right?

Still, any means for embarassing the Tea Party is fine with me. Have fun kids, but don't forget to be on time for dinner.
posted by warbaby at 4:46 PM on August 4, 2010


Is there a Poe's law for wacky utopian and ostensibly leftist reform ideas? Because I honestly can't tell if this is a practical joke, a scam, or crazy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:49 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think that Randall Munroe or XKCD is involved; the artwork is in a similar style, but I don't think it's drawn by him, and I don't know if he's come out in support of the idea or not. So that part should probably be removed from the post.

As to the idea (which I ran across on HN yesterday and have been thinking about), it's interesting, but as the comic itself points out isn't anything that different from what the AARP and NRA already do. You get people to sign up for some sort of material gain (discounts, a magazine, certain types of insurance), and then you try to sell them on your political view.

The only difference between Tevis' idea and what these groups already do, as far as I can tell, is that he wants them to be more broad-based and endorse ... I'm not sure. "Better government" is sort of the goal, apparently, but I think all PACs would purport to be in favor of better government.

He wants a PAC or bunch of PACs that aren't necessarily issue-specific, but the reason most PACs are issue-specific is because they "pick their battles." Given a limited amount of political capital (each member is only going to write a letter to their Congressman so often, you only have so much money for contributions, elections only occur every few years and you generally have to pick from two candidates), it's tough to be all things to everybody. So the NRA concentrates on gun rights issues and the AARP concentrates on issues that affect retired and elderly people and the EFF concentrates on electronic freedom and copyright issues and NARAL on reproductive rights... etc.

Organizations specialize because the alternative is generally less effective. The EFF, for instance, generally doesn't take sides on firearms issues, because to do so would be to possibly alienate part of its membership — regardless of which side of the issue it came down on. Similarly, the NRA is silent on net neutrality. The only way these organizations hold together is because they have a single common cause and pretty much stick to it.

Tevis seems to be suggesting that the problem with these groups is their specificity, but I think that's also why they're so powerful. I don't see how his virtual nations are going to change that.

At any rate it's an interesting idea, and I'm all for more interesting ideas in national politics. But I'm not sold on it enough to send him money (I did send him a few bucks for his more straightforward political campaign a while back). For that, he'll have to do a bit more convincing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:49 PM on August 4, 2010


Sounds like a good use for Google Wave...

Sadly, no.
posted by scalefree at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a proposal to replace democracy with a kind of corporatism, replacing the idea of commonly held citizenship with one where your rights and duties are contingent upon what group you belong to.

How is citizenship not a system where your rights and duties are contingent upon what group you belong to?
posted by ripley_ at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2010


Does anyone else's arrow keys not work on that page?
posted by ODiV at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not think secession is distasteful so much as impractical. It's a bit like one of the purported pleasures in Heaven, which is to look down at the sinners in Hell, writhing in their torment. This sounds schadenfreudelicious until you remember that your mom is out there in, say, Arizona. You don't want your mom used as target practice by Lord Humungous' troops, do you?

Take, for example, Missouri. Fought on the side of the Union (mostly), but was a slave state at the time. Multiply that by however many "sides" there are and enjoy the chaos. Divvying up the nation into physical territories is only slightly less practical than, well, Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribes.

On the other hand, if this system offered dueling in the streets, I ... might be inclined to join. "I see you are pro-skub! Find your sword, sir!"
posted by adipocere at 4:51 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


For those of you who don't remember the previouslies, check them out. Sean Tevis is awesome and I was proud to give money to his congressional campaign. That being said, I read this in its entirety (including the I Like CSPAN part) and I have no idea what this is about. It's a disappointment, because the cartoon with which he kicked off his campaign was both entertaining and completely straightforward about what he stood for and wanted to accomplish. Either this concept is too complicated to explain in a cartoon, or there's no there there, at least not yet.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:52 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he's saying that there should be a large politically-influential group to represent the interests of internet-loving people and compete with special-interest groups, I agree. Unfortunately the "Nations" label is likely to undermine the whole project. We're all in the same nation and most people don't want to change that.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:54 PM on August 4, 2010


Woo. The Diamond Age is a-comin'! Can't we just call them 'Phyles'?
posted by LucretiusJones at 4:56 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmpf, I liked this up to where I found out that "First Nation" wasn't a reference to being a citizen of the United States of America.
posted by hank at 4:56 PM on August 4, 2010


It makes me think of Jennifer Government and its customer loyalty programs... and not in a good way.
posted by knapah at 4:57 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: It ignores everyone who's not online
posted by Bohemia Mountain at 5:00 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's like an iPhone App store for politics, walled garden and shiny icons and all!

According to the Build-A-Nation Toolkit, Nations "need to be non-commercial. Fox News Nation, for example, has a very political environment, but is owned by a corporation and is not free to exercise it's own independent voice."

But on the blog there is another cartoon suggesting that "Corporations can join as a member."

And the entire scheme relies on Facebook to track the population of each nation? How would anyone verify that the people joining these Facebook groups are American voters? I'm not Canadian, can I start Canada Nation and vote to give Americans a government health insurance option?

This guy seems like a genuinely interesting politician, but I think in this case more time seems to have been spent making the campaign shiny-looking than actually thinking through the logistics (the "Build-A-Nation Toolkit" consists mostly of an Illustrator template).
posted by oulipian at 5:02 PM on August 4, 2010


I'm not Canadian
posted by oulipian at 5:04 PM on August 4, 2010


So...yeah. I hope stevis will come in and explain this a bit more, because I like him, but this has me very confused. So, he wants to form a new PAC? Or something? I'm not sure I'm clear on how we're supposed to get from "guy in Ohio tells his 5 million friends about the yellow balloon ban" to "his 5 million friends internally debate the ban." And even if they debate it, then what? Who is in charge of drafting the press release? Who's in charge of making sure they actually debate the issues? Under what rules of debate?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:05 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


So where in this quasi-cult-of-Stephenson do I insert my credit card?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:09 PM on August 4, 2010


Just reached the "MetaFilter Nation" part. Where do I sign up?
posted by brina at 5:10 PM on August 4, 2010


The fact that his evidence for "we are more polarized than before" comes from 60 years ago gives me pause.

In 1804, the sitting Vice-President of the United States, Aaron Burr, fucking shot his political rival in an illegal duel. Call me when Rahm Emmanuel throws a gauntlet at someone.
posted by muddgirl at 5:13 PM on August 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


I didn't find it too confusing, but judging from the HOPPITAMOPPITA in here that probably means I'm missing something. It seems to me (note: I do not have the page open right now) like a sort of co-op structure using the Internet/social media to get bigger numbers from a wider area to then do... something. Not sure how well it's gonna work without an ideological focus of some sort beyond "Look at my superstructure! My superstructure is amazing!" - but it'll be interesting to follow its development (at least, interesting for those into political organization, intentional communities, and escutcheons), provided it doesn't turn into Skynet or something (always a possibility with these SCAAARY NEW IDEAS).
posted by jtron at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2010


Aside from all the other objections to this, I do like that (although it blames partisanship at the beginning, because that's apparently just required) it does recognize that ultimately partisanship is not the problem, it's the solution. This is a call for more partisanship. I'm all for that. Let's just implement it in a more not-confusing way, such as encouraging more people to join a political party, learn about actual issues, and take actions on them.
posted by rusty at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2010


I will say, though, that I was hoping this was a proposal to Balkanize North America.
posted by jtron at 5:15 PM on August 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


The collective buying element, which is presently framed in terms of "rewards," e.g., discounts on insurance, cell phone plans, and movie tickets, is the strongest part of this; the entire plan would probably be more successful if he made the collective buying the highlight, rather than the politics.

This form of tribalism-by-credit-card will probably kick in sooner or later anyway, and indeed, it's already happening (Hey! That $42 is probably cheaper than Glenn Beck University...). While this has a distinct element of 1.,2.,3. ???, 4. Profit! to it, and indeed likely won't appeal to anyone besides a few hundred people on MeFi, Reddit, Slashdot, and Digg, it does point one way forward: In the face of political fracture, fracture efficiently and collectively, ala Costco. His little chart on polarization is sobering-- as the USA's position as We're Number Two gets clearer and clearer, I do wonder what directions a polarized, angry, scared country will want to go... and again, better a distracted and fragmented consumer nation than a suddenly white-hot and aggressive crusader nation.

Shame about the First Nation(s) name choice.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:24 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Read the entire article, and the thread, and I've changed my mind. You want to charge me a dollar to join your NotFaceBook Group? Hah! Dream on. (I admit there's this part of me that says, "But what if?!? What if Calvinists take over the world? Shouldn't I cover my bases? Also, what if I don't sign up, but everyone else does, and I get excluded from the health plan? Maybe I should just join the First Nation now. It's not that much money!" This is the same part of my brain that occasionally urges me to buy lottery tickets. Fortunately it does not have access to a credit card.)
posted by brina at 5:30 PM on August 4, 2010


This is a really shitty post. In fact, it's the worst one I have seen since July 2002.
posted by livingdots at 5:30 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't killed any posts since 1984.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:44 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


$42 - Be invited to join First Nation.

Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong seems like a better deal. And it has Rat Things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2010 [13 favorites]


Right, so what I'm missing is the part where this new form of group identification undercuts the stated flaw in the current system (you just have to get people to distrust the other guy).

Basically he wants internal debate amongst homogeneous groups, however defined. More basically, he's saying we need more reasoned debate on issues rather than partisan attacks.

But in his explanation, it just seems to happen. It's A+B=C BECAUSE I SAID SO.

And I can buy my way into the First Nation?? Great, that's such an improvement over the current system.
posted by dry white toast at 5:48 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Horace Rumpole, I'm interested as to why you think Sean Tevis is awesome, because I respect your opinion. While I share some stances with Sean, and think he would be preferable to many other candidates, I confess I wasn't impressed with his platform. It seems to me that he's got some interesting ideas - and now, maybe some outlandish ideas - about using the net to leverage support for a candidate - but beyond that, I'm not sure that his ideas are winning, progressive political ideas that are going to make a dent. I know he's a MeFite, and I honestly don't mean to disparage, but I still kind of feel that this is stuff being thrown at the wall. I still don't have a sense of clear vision or depth of understanding of political realities. For those who are supporters, why do you think he's awesome?
posted by Miko at 5:50 PM on August 4, 2010


He lost me when the first 10k people who pay 42 bucks get to set the rules. Also, if the Tea Party has only 67k members, then whatever tactics they're using are what this Sean guy should be using. Oh, wait...
posted by simms2k at 5:52 PM on August 4, 2010


I've always like the idea of virtual nations overlaying traditional nation-states. I have daydreamed in the past about the idea of a "Network Republic." I think you still need some kind of physical anchor in today's world order, however.

Maybe a collection of barges or cruise ships, constantly in motion, with helicopters or launches to bring you to/fro the fleet? You could have Net Republic timeshare, spend a few months at a time outside of traditional nation-states and apply for dual citizenship!

(This fantasy is largely brought to you by memories of breathless 90's nettime prognostication and my infatuation with The Culture.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:56 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


We will all be slaves on /b/'s hemp farms.
posted by Iron Rat at 5:58 PM on August 4, 2010


He lost me when the first 10k people who pay 42 bucks get to set the rules.

Yep, a bunch of people stupid enough to give money to a stranger on the internet? And these are the people forming our new government? This could be worse than the tea party.
posted by Dr. Send at 6:03 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Instant run-off voting would encourage viable third parties and thus the possibility of new ideas gaining traction. It has been tested and works in other countries, and even in some state-level US elections.

Also, it is sane. Why not agitate for that?
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:03 PM on August 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think you still need some kind of physical anchor

This isn't just an arbitrary concern; our system of representation is entirely geographical. Given the importance of local environmental/resource issues, I think that's actually pretty important to continue with. One of Tevis' issues is the Oglalla aquifer; how many people here have that on their radar?
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on August 4, 2010


So here's how I'd envision this playing out:

I set out to join a nation. a nation that defines me. So. I sift through all these nations to find the one that represents my political views most accurately. Right? How else would I want to be represented? What other community is better than one that specifically represents my views?
So nations are tailored until they are smaller and smaller because people want accurate representation. Suddenly a system exists of many, many nations each with its own specific beliefs. This isn't a problem, necessarily, as a nation that fully represented its constituents is essentially a way of cataloging democracy. The problem is that intra-nation debate would be nonexistent. Indeed, the more specific one's nation, the less debate would exist within it, dovetailing to none in a block of like-minded individuals. However, if nations are NOT specific... how is intra-nation debate any different than current national debate, the outer bound of non-specificity? Is there an implied "specificity sweetspot?" Where is it? These questions are important and unanswered.

All that said, the idea of cataloged democracy, updated in real time, is somewhat appealing. If your views change, you join a different nation. Politicians could view nation membership along with posted "beliefs" and get an actual depiction of the sentiments of Americans. The cost? Loss of political anonymity, which can lead to another host of troubles. Hm.
posted by Wyatt at 6:15 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought it was a cool idea until the First Nation stuff. Decentralize it all the way or don't bother, because you'll just recreate the exact same problems more messily.
posted by Ryvar at 6:20 PM on August 4, 2010


So if I'm reading this correctly, a bunch of like-minded individuals focused on a specific cause, (a "constituency" if you will,) pass their views upwards towards an umbrella group which attempts to synthesize a consenus set of policy positions. Isn't that what our political parties already do? And in my mind, allowing a political party to offer discounts on travel, cheap data plans, and other financial benefits is no different than outright vote-buying. As a country, America needs to be working on reducing corporate influence, not trading votes for 10% off on car insurance.

Then again, I always did wish I could live in the Snow Crash universe.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 6:24 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think Nation Zero would've been a better name than First Nation (because we live in the zero-indexed age) and as mentioned upthread it's not already taken.
posted by mullingitover at 6:34 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Indeed, the more specific one's nation, the less debate would exist within it, dovetailing to none in a block of like-minded individuals.

Check out the Anarchism Reddit for a counter-example. They are both like-minded and prone to extremely heated disagreement. 'Intra-nation debate' is facilitated there, not made superfluous.

There are other subreddit examples of this.
posted by edguardo at 6:43 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, I rather like the sound of Zero Nation.

Plus, most of the people I meet already think I'm a total Zero.
/rimsh0t
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:47 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This idea is fun and silly, though it's unclear what it gets me in terms of the tangible benefits described by paying my $1 to $42.

Also, the way I can't use my up and down keys to scroll on that page MAKES HULK VERY ANGRY!!!

I vote the xkcd links be removed, it ain't his work. It does point out how easy it is to cop the style of xkcd for ill and think it's his work. Not that there's any upside to that, though the OP seemed to think Randall Munroe was involved in this site, so, there's that.

Additionally: yes: First Nations has a pre-existing meaning. Boo to overloading it.
posted by artlung at 6:51 PM on August 4, 2010


So Tevis is a mefite? Then isn't this the perfect place for him to defend and explain further? Could we invite him to do that now?
posted by sunnichka at 6:52 PM on August 4, 2010


"First Nation" was a bad choice of names, yes. But I don't know that it's worth tossing the entire thing overboard just yet. Sure it's just like voting blocks, and just like PACs, and all those other things, but *active* membership in those has never been available to Just Anyone before, in terms of immediacy and engagement, and it can be now.
posted by tzikeh at 6:55 PM on August 4, 2010


I noticed this when mathowie retweeted stevis on Twitter so I retweeted it too. I feel so ashamed of that sentence.

It should be noted that the Tea Party and Glenn Beck have already co-opted the "Nation" concept; I saw a "9/12 NATION" bumper sticker on an SUV yesterday. (And Beckist or Beckite or Beckshovic bumper stickers aren't that common 'round my neighborhood)

Still, I would seriously consider declaring citizenship in a MetaNation.

Although, as an alternative to the already existing NetRoots Nation, I'd propose a NetWits Nation. For people with a sense of humor. Who want to laugh at all the other "Nations".
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:01 PM on August 4, 2010


I'm thinking the most dangerous people in politics are the people who claim the solutions to government are simple if you'll just trust them and sign up.

Or the people who claim the solutions are too complex for you to understand, but please trust us and stick around.

Ok, everyone in politics.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:01 PM on August 4, 2010


Horace Rumpole, I'm interested as to why you think Sean Tevis is awesome

I think what I responded to so strongly was being addressed by a political candidate who sounded like a real person with a sense of humor and a wide nerdy streak who hadn't been buffed to a high gloss by consultants. Someone who was leveraging the power of the internet in a really intelligent and clever way. Someone who came into the thread here and admitted that maybe he hadn't given one of his platforms enough thought, and revised it based on the concerns we expressed.

I don't have any plans to move to Kansas, so I probably won't have a chance to vote for Sean Tevis for anything (FYI, I misspoke; it was his state rep race I contributed to). While I think his issues look good to me, what's really important is that as far as I can tell (and I'm not usually accused of being insufficiently cynical) he's a decent, thoughtful, fairminded, smart, honest guy. Goddamn, we could use more of that in our politicians.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


There are alternatives. Especially considering that if this were to actually catch on, there might be an affiliation of Native Americans that would want to use the First Nation designation for their "American Nations" metapresence (blargh, that's an awful looking word.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


Stevis is a MeFite?

stevis
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


And BTW, I would probably vote for the xkcd guy should he run for Congress. I'd maybe move to his district too.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


say it three times fast: metapresencemetapresencemetapresence
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


This idea is stupid and sounds like a scam.

I am already on facebook and that is free.
posted by empath at 7:02 PM on August 4, 2010


Can I just set up Canada Nation and vote to give Americans a government health insurance option?

**sighs wistfully**
posted by emjaybee at 7:04 PM on August 4, 2010


I am already on facebook and that is free.

Or so they would have you believe.
posted by Splunge at 7:04 PM on August 4, 2010


It's kind of surprising to me that anyone would think this was drawn by Randall Munroe. For one thing it's not even drawn! The figures here are assembled from simple lines and curves (might've been done in MS Paint for all I can tell), while XKCD is drawn freehand (and by "freehand" I don't mean without a computer).

Also, I think it's kind of irresponsible to leave this FPP as it stands now that we know Randall Munroe has nothing to do with this project.

Also: they don't do a very good job of telling me how this will solve anything.
posted by ErWenn at 7:09 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


If belonging/not belonging to a group is as easy as saying "Yes" or "No," it's hard to see what said group could possibly represent.

Let me introduce an example from history.

Until the sixteenth century, there was--for all intents and purposes--a single Church in Western Europe.* The Church had various rules and took various positions on various issues. Membership in the church was really important. No one wanted to mess with their eternal souls by getting excommunicated for stepping out of line.For example, when the Pope decided that priests were no longer to preside over trials by ordeal, they went away almost immediately.

This meant that the Church constituted a pretty significant form of social control. Even the Emperor--both Roman and Holy Roman--did what the Pope wanted a lot of the time.

Along comes the sixteenth century, and, well, that sorta stops working. Some places more quickly than others, but within a relatively short period of time, what the Pope wanted stopped mattering politically, and within a few centuries, it even stopped mattering socially and culturally. Why?

Well, one can make the argument that when there are a bunch of other churches in town, getting kicked out of one isn't that big of a deal. You can just go join another one. This is exactly what happens in America today, and is the reason that church discipline, for good or ill, is almost impossible in this country: you don't have to listen to anyone telling you something you don't want to hear.

Here's the money bit: political parties are about getting people to act in concert. The entire game of politics is enforcing party discipline, both in this country and elsewhere. The reason the GOP is such an effective political force, even in the minority, is that they've got party discipline to beat the band. The reason a coalition government in the UK is such a tricky balancing act is that you've got to get everyone on board.

But the only way that party discipline works is if there are consequences for not toeing the line. For the GOP, the consequence is that a more conservative challenger will primary you with a good chance of winning. For the Dems, the consequence is... well f*ck all, to be honest. Which is part of their problem.

And now comes this guy proposing that political parties be replaced by entirely voluntary associations which compete on benefits. As if political action were the same sort of thing as choosing whether to buy this brand of toothpaste or that one. This not only completely overlooks the fact that politics, morality, indeed even theology, are all wrapped up in an ideological mass which is really hard to untangle, but it has no room for a single person having policy preferences which are in tension if not outright conflict.

But more importantly, if politics really is the art of the compromise--and it certainly seems to be--then groups which cannot enforce discipline on their members are actually a significant step back from two strong parties with non-overlapping ideology. You can't "wrangle" somebody who has no interest in sticking with any particular group. You can't say "boo" to them, when it comes right down to it.

Look at the groups which have exerted political power in past centuries. The vast majority have been bound together by ties which were, at best, not entirely voluntary. Family. Language. Ethnicity. Religion, which until the nineteenth century wasn't considered voluntary by most, tied as it was to the first three. Geography. Military prowess (now there's a non-voluntary organization if there ever was one). Even where there wasn't some obvious demographic tie, there was an oath, and until recently, oaths had power. But in any case, your membership in the group was based on something you hadn't entirely chosen, and your continued membership in the group was dependent upon acting in concert with the group, even taking orders from authority figures where appropriate.

Now our word isn't even our bond; but this guy wants to make it so that all you need to do is chuck another $10 at a different "Nation" and, presto chango, you belong to an entirely different group! He wants to put cheap calling and data plans on the same level as most fundamental social ties, the things which have defined human interaction since the dawn of recorded history.

I need to stop ranting. This is just depressing. I'm going to go have a stiff one and go to bed.

What you think about religion does not matter a whit for the purposes of this example. Work with me here.
posted by valkyryn at 7:29 PM on August 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


So what happens when one of these nations decides that all the other nations are stupid and wrong? Seems like we're setting ourselves up.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:32 PM on August 4, 2010


They are both like-minded and prone to extremely heated disagreement. 'Intra-nation debate' is facilitated there, not made superfluous.

Indeed, intra-nation debate is facilitated because there exists diversity of opinions/beliefs on a host of issues even though they share the commonality of anarchism. This "nation," then, is not overly specific. However, perhaps a certain anarchist will create a nation that believes in anarchy AND gun-control. Members of this nation would have one less thing to debate, but would be "better represented." The quest for accurate representation would spawn more specific nations ad infinitum thereby eliminating healthy debate.
My point was that any specificity limit or requirement (or lack thereof) would be arbitrary.
posted by Wyatt at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2010


5% nation?
posted by robotot at 7:34 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Quick note: I just spoke to Randall Munroe, and he tells me that a) this is the first he's heard of this and b) he's completely unaffiliated with it. Could someone update the FPP text?
posted by teferi at 7:36 PM on August 4, 2010


I predict splinter factions. Mark my words people! How long before the Blue and the Green meet in combat on the Grey? Shall we drag the White and the Forest Green into our strife? And what about the buffalo?
posted by Splunge at 7:37 PM on August 4, 2010


To be precise, he tells me:
This is the first I've heard of the idea, and while I'm a fan of anything presented in stick-figure form, I'm skeptical that separating everyone into as-homogoneous-as-possible echo chambers and then asking them all to agree is really a solution to anything.
posted by teferi at 7:38 PM on August 4, 2010


As Guernsey Halleck points out, isn't this straight out of Snow Crash? I.e. distributed republics, except that those didn't have geographic boundaries.

Also, it kinda seems like this must be sort of what political parties are in countries with proportional representation, minus the hocking of insurance and credit cards et cetera. In the U.S. wouldn't we just end up with two giant virtual nations?
posted by XMLicious at 7:38 PM on August 4, 2010


MetaFilter: as-homogoneous-as-possible echo chambers echo chambers echo chambers echo chambers echo chambers
posted by Splunge at 7:40 PM on August 4, 2010


Could someone update the FPP text?

The mods won't do that unless scalefree asks them to.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:42 PM on August 4, 2010


The fact that his evidence for "we are more polarized than before" comes from 60 years ago gives me pause.

Seriously. Wasn't there even, like, some kind of a war-type thingy or something? The Civil something-or-other? Oh, and I also seem to recall a revolution of sorts happening some time before that, which may or may not have involved tea in some way. I think there was maybe also a war then too.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:45 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Surely the MeFi nation has a voice in this debate and can get the mods to change it?
posted by Think_Long at 7:45 PM on August 4, 2010


Isn't this basically the NRA model?
posted by clvrmnky at 7:47 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think some pretty smart guys came up with a pretty good system in Philadelphia in 1787. The fact that from time to time, one group or another cannot get their entire program through isn't cause for a complete redo of everything. Once that seal gets broken, you have a complete redo of the government again and again.

Take France. We've had the same government since 1789. In the same period France has had an Absolute Monarchy, a Republic, a Directory, a Counsulate, an Empire, two separate and totally differnt Constitutional Monarchies, a Second Republic, a Second Empire, a Third Republic, a Fourth Republic and a Fifth Republic.

In 1787, France was the greatest power in the world. It is now a second-rate power and has less economic and political power than it did in 1787. The many changes of government have had a big impact on the country and have caused it a lot of trouble.

Mere frustration that we cannot get our program through in a small, 2-4 year window is not reason enough to change the political system in the way proposed.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Put another way, why must we have the unity that is demanded here? The budget is getting passed, the country is defended and all have the ability to say what they want. The fact that there is division in the country is not, in itself, a bad thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 PM on August 4, 2010


This is the stupidest fucking thing I've seen all week.

Also, for someone who's "passionate about government transparency", he's pretty mum on what exactly he intends to do with this money. (Maybe because he's not part of the government yet?)
posted by equalpants at 7:57 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


$42 - Be invited to join First Nation. It’s prestigious and limited. It’s where the action is. Only the first 10,000 donors at this level or above will be invited. This amount rises every day

So the people who get to decide the rules are limited to the first 10,000 people who put down $42?

I'm not liking this.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2010


Where does it say we're limited to just one "nation?" I thought you get to choose multiple nations to join. You join whatever "nation(s)" interest you, and you have common ground with the folks in your various & sundry "nations." so the gay 2nd amendment absolutist pro-choice NASCAR fan Sportster riding dahlia breeder would find common ground with the straight sanctity-of-marriage pro-choice NASCAR fan Gold-Wing riding pro-medical marijuana guy. The "common ground' is the key. We can't effectively talk to one another if all we talk about is how we differ. It's a lot easier to reach consensus if you're negotiating with someone with whom you have some commonality.
posted by Floydd at 8:03 PM on August 4, 2010


I think what I dislike about this the most is that the comic has absolutely fuck-all to do with that first row of panels.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:03 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Horace Rumpole, for your explanation. I guess there is a 21st-century Mr. Smith Goes to Washington kind of down-home, direct, regular-guy, from-my-tribe, net-savvy, info-populist appeal to his presentation - I remember during his recent rep run that the feeling that he was all those things was pretty compelling to people here and across the net. Maybe he'd be great in office, I dunno. Personally, I like pragmatist candidates, and I think this latest move sort of signals to me that his read on things is a little idealistic and ideological, rather than focusing on simple, direct improvement in observable conditions.

Since the whole political system's rife with corruption and distancing through and through, maybe I should be happy when a regular person tries to step in somehow, some way. I'm just not that enthused about throwing support behind someone whose ideas seem, well, sort of half baked - any more so than I am when they are on the other side of the ideological divide from me.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on August 4, 2010


Could someone update the FPP text?

The mods won't do that unless scalefree asks them to.


Perhaps they will if Mr. Monroe emails them and asks them to?
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:13 PM on August 4, 2010


It's the same internet can-do spirit that kept Firefly on television and elected Sean Tevis to Congress!

What a surprise, all I have to do is cough up money. Oh and it's not about partisanship but the donations are being processed through ActBlue via a Democrat politicians campaign website. The more that things change. I don't see anything to suggest that this is other than an exotic pitch for a political donation. How exactly are these funds going to be used? Doesn't say. Doesn't promise anything besides the typically worth less than worthless "rewards" ("look honey, more shit to throw away!").

Final fun fact - the pitch is suggesting the group envisioned could offer services and incentives on per the model of the AARP (this itself I think maybe legally uncertain if it didn't detach itself from a partisan political campaign - something to which the idea never should have been attached in the first place if it was to be taken seriously for what it claims. But anyway). The group's supposed "tipping point" is 67,000. The AARP claims membership around 40 million. I'll, uh, sign up later. Money's kind of tight right now.
posted by nanojath at 8:18 PM on August 4, 2010


Miko, I don't disagree with you, and I will say that ever since his first race he's had the feel of somebody casting around to recapture the lightning in the bottle. I think he'd be more effective trying to effect local change than these super-ambitious, revolutionary ideas.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:20 PM on August 4, 2010


Contrary to the usual MeFi snark and pessimism, I just donated.

I put my money where my mouth is...

You may now resume your pontification.
posted by Argyle at 9:24 PM on August 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


The mods won't do that unless scalefree asks them to.

I've got no problem with that.
posted by scalefree at 9:26 PM on August 4, 2010


Hi, this is Sean Tevis.

Sorry, I'm late to the game. My MeFi-BatPhone is on the fritz. There have been many comments so I'll attempt a summary response.

I agree that this idea is too big for a comic. It should have been a book with chapters - a little less cheerleader-ish and little more business plan, but it did do exactly what I needed, which was to get the idea out into forums like this and let people tear it apart and tell me where it sucks.

Unlike most people, I think that's a good thing. A great thing, even. Thank you.

I believe the economics are sound. I believe the pieces are there to make it happen. I am absolutely sure that the need to fix unhealthy partisanship and mitigate the effects of special interests is more important than even most people here realize.

I've been involved with politics for two years and, well, it's a little like goatse. Once seen, you cannot unsee or forget, although you wish you could.

There seems to be an alarm about "First Nation" being corporatist, or possibly a hegemonic king-maker or something. I'd be the first person to fight something like that. Also, it's a poor name. I didn't realize the Native American tribes in Canada referred to themselves as this. And I've noted that the term Nation confuses people a bit, too, so we'll probably revisit that as well.

Mancur Olson suggested offering generic benefits to attract people to his large groups.

The difficulty in that is where do these benefits come from? Small groups don't have the resources to put that together. So we came up with "First Nation" - something large and stable enough to put together core packages of benefits for any other Nation to offer to their members.

Then there's the problem of what groups should be able to get them? A group of 10 people? 1000? 10,000? First nation would have to set some kind of criteria.

It's a non-profit. There are a dozen ways you can set it up to avoid it becoming a king-maker.
We realized we could also use First Nation as a watchdog group. They're not necessary for this part of the system to work, but it could be effective.

Congress voted on a financial overhaul bill last week, for example. First Nation *could* have polled the other Nations to see how they felt about what needs to be done, what they'd like to see. The Nations don't have to respond at all. Or they could challenge each other to debates.

The financial industry had lots of lobbyists involved in the bill, but there were few, if any, representatives from consumer protection groups or similar. In this scenario, I'm pretty sure at least one or two Nations would propose some new ideas or have some comment on what was passed.

They'd try to convince other Nations to lend support. This "encompassing coalition" of Nations could sway the direction of financial overhaul to something that's beneficial to the larger public rather than the bank lobby.

These aren't special interest groups.

I'd join a Science Nation, for example. What's their agenda in financial regulation? None. But I bet some of the people there might have some interesting and good perspective on what should be done. These are "general interest groups". If the bill being discussed were about funding a supercollider, on the other hand, then I think you could say they're biased. And the other Nations would know it.

<>

I thought that creating a framework and raising awareness would rally people to start building and creating. After seeing comments here, on Reddit, and elsewhere this week, I now believe that the best way for me to make this system happen is to not talk about the benefits of this system at all. It causes people's defenses to go up. The best way is probably to create a quiet little virtual credit union and offer large groups some cool services and work quietly to bring us back together.
posted by stevis at 9:54 PM on August 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


> Isn't this basically the NRA model?

The NRA has 4 million members. If they'd discuss and voice their opinion on, say, copyright reform, trade agreements, energy policy, or any other issue beside firearms, then they'd be a Nation. Until then, they are only a special interest group, not a general interest group.
posted by stevis at 10:06 PM on August 4, 2010


I would totally vote for Alan Ruck.
posted by Evilspork at 10:11 PM on August 4, 2010


Ah, hey again Tevis! What you see here is Metafilter at its most snarky, but that's just how we are. I don't think it's necessarily a bad plan. I completely agreed with your summation of the problem, it's all accurate, and you may have presented a good plan that may help move us towards a solution. But it is a positive contribution, which I'm not seeing a whole lot of at the moment, perhaps because they are so easy to tear down. But we need them, and it's becoming increasingly obvious we need them from sources that aren't the usually ones making the pundit rounds.

Please, please keep us posted on this.
posted by JHarris at 10:14 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get the point about having general interest groups weighing in on all sorts of issues. What i don't get is how that reduces partisanship. Also, is the money donated on your sight a campaign donation?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:41 PM on August 4, 2010


I think he'd be more effective trying to effect local change than these super-ambitious, revolutionary ideas.

To me, kind of the beauty of this idea is that isn't all that super-ambitious.

He's not talking about tearing down the two-party system and replacing it with Facebook groups, or anything. He's proposing that we leverage the Internet to amplify our individual voices within the social theater, which badly needs to happen.

If you think about it, how do we know what percentage of Americans supports, say, gay marriage? Polls and elections, right? Polls are random samples of a few thousand people, extrapolated out to measure the aggregate opinion of each of the 200 million voters of the entire country. They're conducted by a handful of polling firms with varying levels of legitimacy. And elections? Once every two years seems like a reeeaaaally slow refresh rate here in the 21st century, wherein I know what most of my friends have for lunch just about every day--often when they are still merely in the idea stages.

To supplement these two options, what's so undesirable about a web-driven system whereby you can essentially 'tag' yourself (I don't like the 'Nations' term either, and that's really what he means) on the issues relevant to you? If I'm anti-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-gun control, and pro-health reform, for instance, I join the corresponding groups. Now, anyone at any time could do a query on the social structure and get an exactly accurate up-to-the-second snapshot of the opinions of the electorate.

As an outgrowth of this social platform, I can engage fellow group members in discussion and debate--since I'm not competing with 200 million other voices (most of whom will never agree with me about anything anyway), but only a small subset that has common ground with me, my contribution to the overall dialog is much more meaningful and actionable.

We've all thought to ourselves at one time or another that a two-party system simply cannot provide the granularity we need, as our society progresses and social issues grow more and more nuanced. The general idea here is good: like 'bloggers' did in the 2000s, we'd be using the Internet to 'crowdsource' the political narrative. (Decade-specific buzzwords! Wheeee!)

Also, I don't quite get the recurring charge that there's something sketchy about his asking for donations. He's running for office. He's fundraising. It happens. He's not saying "give me money for ??? so I can change the world," he's saying, "donate to my Congressional campaign. I've got ideas about how we can start decentralizing the marketplace of ideas."
posted by silentpundit at 10:51 PM on August 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


"That one small act of donating is what keeps US divided"

How do we mean this? Prove it?
posted by deep thought sunstar at 11:15 PM on August 4, 2010


If the total number of people beats the Tea Party, and this causes the media to focus its attention away from the TP to its polar (and sane) opposite, I'm more than willing to donate a buck.

Which I did, and I'm Canadian, so this makes it kind of funny and ironic to me somehow.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 11:17 PM on August 4, 2010


Lonesome no more!
posted by Gratishades at 11:31 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stevis, you seem like a good guy, but I think you need to scrap this and start over.

So far as I can tell from the comic, you are proposing a system wherein people 1) join interest groups that 2) use the resulting collective bargaining power to secure 3) good deals on credit cards, car insurance, etc. and 4) lobby the government.

At first blush, these Nations look like any other interest group, but I think they're actually less useful. You say that Nations are different because they have opinions about everything; under your scheme, the NRA would become a Nation by issuing opinions on anything other than firearms. But why is the NRA's opinion valuable here? Similarly, the Science Nation would be "biased" when it talks about science, but would be, you claim, a beneficial influence on financial reform.*

Do you see where I'm going with this? The only difference between a special interest group and general interest group in your scheme is that the general interest group pushes for policies affecting things outside of its self-identified area of expertise or concern. Why would anyone care what these groups said? Because they have lots of members? Well, those members definitively do not care about how these general issues are resolved -- or else the group would be a special interest group! How could such a group even represent its members interests if the members do not agree about the issues, if they even have strong feelings (or knowledge) about the general issues in the first place.

The whole thing appears to boil down to a variation of "special interests are bad." That's fine for a sound byte, but you can't found a political system on it, especially with such a hazy idea of what makes them bad. In the comic, they seem to be bad because their members care about and are effective lobbyists for their issues. The Nations would be, what, apathetic and ineffective? More removed from direct petition of government through the Zero Nation regulatory system?

If you've got a system that's so shockingly simple and obviously good that you can't see why it isn't already being done, consider that there is more to the problem than first appears. It might turn out that the answer really is that obvious, but usually, it's just more complicated than you thought.


*I'm skipping over the questionable assumption that economics is not a science.
posted by Marty Marx at 1:04 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere: "... the First Nation will have to recreate the functions of nearly every part of the government involved in passing out any kind of benefits, whatsoever. Panel six reads to me as if we must recreate Congress, all over again ..."

I was expecting that panel to be a setup to "... but wait, we already have all this in place!"
posted by brokkr at 1:38 AM on August 5, 2010


Polls are random samples of a few thousand people, extrapolated out to measure the aggregate opinion of each of the 200 million voters of the entire country.
The accuracy of polls comes from how many people they sample (assuming they sample appropriately), not from the relative size of the sample to the population. You rather make it sound like the latter.
posted by edd at 1:39 AM on August 5, 2010


Remember the time michael moore interviewed a south park creator about columbine and followed it with a south park style animation so people with casual awareness would assume the south park guy made it?

Same thing here with xkcd. It seems a bit reputation usurper to me.
posted by beardlace at 1:54 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Randall Munroe doesn't own stick figures, and neither was his comic the first or last stick figure comic to be created. The art style isn't really the same since these are made with a vector program and XKCD is hand drawn. And it's really the same art style he used last time. The only person who implied that Randall Munroe might be involved with this is the author of the FPP, which really should be edited to remove that implication.
posted by JHarris at 2:18 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


But why is the NRA's opinion valuable here?

You don't want 4 million votes? You'd be happy for your only political opponent to have those 4 million votes?

Sean - over time, might nations simply form treaties (probably on big issues) until effectively we're back to two mega nations, aligned with the two major parties - an axis and allies sort of deal? Or do you think some sort of external force might prevent that, forcing the two parties to make deals with a wide range of interests?

(I'd also be terrified of a world in which all the smart, interesting, decent people couldn't agree because we're also smarter, more interesting and more decent than those smart, interesting and decent guys, so we end up with an impotent League of Nations deal while the mouth-breathing goose-steppers rapidly fall into line behind a monolithic nation, happy to let all sorts of hellish things happen so long as their narrow interests got up as well. "Wear this brown shirt and we'll give you free cable and discount gas for your SUV!" This seems to happen a lot.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:46 AM on August 5, 2010


Delany described a political system very similar to this in Triton. I highly recommend it.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:00 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


You don't want 4 million votes? You'd be happy for your only political opponent to have those 4 million votes?

If you mean to say that you have a group of 4 million people who care about a set of issues enough keep an eye on pending regulations and legislation, organize around them, donate money to campaigns, and above all get out and vote on those issues, then you've just described what we already have with special interest groups.

Nations won't deliver information, money, or votes better than special interest groups because the only difference between the NRA and the NRA Nation is that the latter has views about copyright. If the NRA members care about copyright and NRA Nation is representing their view, we're back to the existing system. If the members don't care about copyright, no one will care what the NRA Nation has to say, not least because it won't be able to pull any money or votes from its members.
posted by Marty Marx at 4:16 AM on August 5, 2010


Before stevis stepped into the thread, I was pretty sure this had to be a hoax designed to be an educational tale for the people who fell for it, as it is such an apparent parody of the status quo. Buying your way into having a voice? An oligarchic group which sets the rules? Solve division by further division? Unify by unspecified backroom "wranngling?"

After stevis stepped in, it's gone back for me to just being a painfully bad solution to an imaginary problem, no "snark" intended. The fact that there are two camps with no common ground isn't a problem. In fact, that there are clear choices instead of blurred choices is a plus, especially ifor those from the "both parties are the same" persuasion. The "problem" is that both camps are currently of roughly equal numbers, a situation which won't last. I'm sad to see stevis's campaign fall into this ditch.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:24 AM on August 5, 2010


@stevis: I disagree.

Local NRA chapter members are urged to vote on and support any number of platforms. This is exactly how they have cemented themselves as a such an effective voter bloc -- they have essentially become a general-interest group wrapped up in the flag of a special-interest group.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:13 AM on August 5, 2010


Local NRA chapter members are urged to vote on and support any number of platforms. This is exactly how they have cemented themselves as a such an effective voter bloc

And, as I indicated above, these ties are more than the purely voluntary move to belong to this group or that one. They're appealing at minimum to ideology, if not to things like race and class. None of these things are as simple or fungible as joining AAA, which as far as I can tell is the direct equivalent to these proposed "nations".

Ugh. Hate using that word in this context. "Nation" has always meant more than just voluntary membership in a consumer bloc.
posted by valkyryn at 6:35 AM on August 5, 2010


5% nation?
posted by robotot


Of Casiotone!
posted by workerant at 6:51 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


@clvrmnky: Good to know. It sounds like there are precedents, then - at least at a chapter level.

@3.2.3:
> "The "problem" is that both camps are currently of roughly equal numbers, a situation which won't last."

Why do you think that? What do you see changing? I'm curious.

> Clear choices instead of blurred choices is a plus, especially for those from the "both parties are the same" persuasion.

They are not the same, except for possibly corporate donations and influence.

Also, if you don't want to see more of the same, I invite you to try and come up with a solution and start a conversation about it.
posted by stevis at 7:31 AM on August 5, 2010


The NRA has one thing going for it that most political groups don't: the direct sponsorship of the domestic armaments industry. Which in turn benefits directly from militaristic conservatism in politics, so there is a powerful direct feedback from the federal budget that funds the NRA.

Most people seem to think that the NRA got transformed as a result of the gun control legislation following the Kennedy assassination. Nope, it was the Goldwater campaign and the passage of civil rights laws that enabled the transformation from a civilian marksmanship organization tied to the Department of Defense into one of the most powerful political lobbies.

So what is being proposed here is not like the NRA.
posted by warbaby at 7:42 AM on August 5, 2010


"'$42 - Be invited to join First Nation.'

Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong seems like a better deal."


I was going to ask what forty-two dollars was in Kongbucks.

but then I ask what everything is in Kongbucks, because I love saying "Kongbucks."
posted by Eideteker at 7:51 AM on August 5, 2010


Also, if you don't want to see more of the same, I invite you to try and come up with a solution and start a conversation about it.

This, it should not need to be pointed out, does not constitute an argument for your proposal. One need not be able to write a good play, direct a good movie, or solve society's political problems to know a bad play, movie, or proposed political solution when one sees it.

I submit that we are looking at one right now.
posted by valkyryn at 8:12 AM on August 5, 2010


I don't understand the reference to Mancur Olson at all. Didn't he say that small, fragmented interest groups - like the ones you propose - would destroy democratic governments by bleeding them dry over time?
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 8:32 AM on August 5, 2010


[Made a small update to the thread noting the nothing-but-stick-figures-in-common thing.]
posted by cortex at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


@r_nebblesworthII Yes, Olson did say that about special interest groups. And then he said that if these groups changed their behavior to start acting as coalitions then we'd an economic benefit. They'd be general interest groups.
posted by stevis at 9:28 AM on August 5, 2010


So it's facebook for government?
posted by Mick at 9:37 AM on August 5, 2010


It ignores everyone who'se not online.

So?


Yeah, fuck poor people, and the elderly for good measure.
posted by muddgirl at 9:53 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


NoraReed: "XKCD is usually drawn by hand and occasionally has female stick figures."

Also: elbows, and the default background is not a blue to white gradient.
posted by Reverend John at 9:59 AM on August 5, 2010


Does it still cost $42 if you're an anarcho-syndicalist commune where people take turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week, but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting??
posted by Twang at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been involved with politics for two years and, well, it's a little like goatse.

While I have my reservations about this idea, the fact that we have a congressional candidate familiar with goatse is surely a sign of... well hell, I'm not sure what it's a sign of but I'm sure you could work that into one hell of a campaign ad.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2010


the fact that we have a congressional candidate familiar with goatse is surely a sign of

See, I find this problematic. Just because somebody hangs out on the internet and is familiar with this or that meme or smart about ways of using the web to get publicity or funding does not inherently make them a great political candidate. There's a "one of us" vibe that bugged me during the last go-round: "I barely know anything about this guy but I know he's my people, so here's $$$!"

Of course, it's everyone's money to do with as they wish, but if your goal is to raise the bar for political candidacy, it's important to recognize that's not what raising the bar looks like - it's relatively unthinking support and acceptance based upon a couple of adopted cultural markers. It should take more than dropping a few references to garner support. It's no less important than ever - in fact, in this age of easy obfuscation and image-over-substance, it's quite a lot more important - to look at ideas, efficacy, and character and to turn the spotlight away from personality and marketing factors to focus on civic issues and their solutions.
posted by Miko at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's sort of like, goatse or XKCD as the equivalent of the flag pin.
posted by Miko at 1:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My questions aren't getting answered, so I'll ask them one more time (and put them directly to Mr. Tevis if he is still hanging around the thread).

Exactly who is collecting this money? To whom are donations paid? It appears on the surface that these donations will go to Mr. Tevis' political campaign. Isn't this a wholly inappropriate method for collecting donations to supposedly support organizations that are supposed to transcend the failure of the American two party system? How is this money going to be spent? Is Mr. Tevis prepared to make a public promise that none of this money will be spent on his political campaign? What is going to happen to this money if not enough is collected to effect any sort of serious actualization of the principles espoused in the comic? Will it be returned?

To be clear I don't think Mr. Tevis is trying to pull a fast one, but this execution of the idea does strike me as ill-conceived and poorly thought through.
posted by nanojath at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2010


See, I find this problematic. Just because somebody hangs out on the internet and is familiar with this or that meme or smart about ways of using the web to get publicity or funding does not inherently make them a great political candidate. There's a "one of us" vibe that bugged me during the last go-round: "I barely know anything about this guy but I know he's my people, so here's $$$!"

Of course, it's everyone's money to do with as they wish, but if your goal is to raise the bar for political candidacy, it's important to recognize that's not what raising the bar looks like - it's relatively unthinking support and acceptance based upon a couple of adopted cultural markers.


Well, I can't speak to JaredSeth's interest or lack thereof in Sean Tevis, but I did support him in his last go-round, even though I do not live, nor have I ever lived, in Kansas. But I didn't just support him because of the cool comic--the "one of us" vibe is what *drew* him to my attention in the first place, at which point I read through his position statements, looked at what he was trying to do, and then made a decision to support him. I think everyone needs candidates they can relate to, but for me, that's just what gets you in the door. If it had turned out that all of Tevis' positions were ones that I did not support, comic or no I would not have donated.

That's exactly why, this time, while I am interested in what he is trying to do, I'm still confused (even after his updates here) as to what that is, and so I am reserving any support until I can figure that out.

But I still think it's cool that there are people trying to break into public office who know how to talk to me (and are authentically part of the culture, rather than just spouting off what a consultant told them to say), because that means that it *might* be more likely that my ideas and thoughts are taken seriously.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2010


It's sort of like, goatse or XKCD as the equivalent of the flag pin.

That would be the worst lapel pin ever.
posted by nanojath at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, Olson did say that about special interest groups. And then he said that if these groups changed their behavior to start acting as coalitions then we'd an economic benefit. They'd be general interest groups.

Ok....so how exactly do these groups change their behavior and start acting as coalitions? Why would they do that--what's the motivation?

So I'm getting a little better sense of *what* you want to accomplish, but I still have no idea *how* this is supposed to come about. It feels a little bit like underpants gnomes might be involved.

And I do seriously want to know what your plan here is. If it was supposed to be revealed to me in the comic, then that failed, because I do not understand how this transformation to coalitions is imagined to take place.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2010


If it had turned out that all of Tevis' positions were ones that I did not support, comic or no I would not have donated.


I'm sure that's true. But meanwhile, what about the other many candidates around the country whose views also align with yours - maybe even more closely - but who have not caught the attention of MetaFilter because of this cultural appeal to its user base? If the yardstick is really "good candidate" rather than "has cultural appeal within my peer group," then why does that yardstick get thrown away because someone's page goes viral? What about the other good - maybe better, in terms of alignment with you and efficacy in campaign - candidates?
posted by Miko at 7:37 PM on August 5, 2010


Holy god, look at the quote in here:
"I'm one of the few people that not only could have this idea," Tevis said, "but get it in front of several million eyeballs."
Think we've got enough dilettantes-with-egos in Congress already, thanks.
posted by equalpants at 9:14 PM on August 5, 2010


Mr. Tevis - you still have not addressed the question about where exactly this money is going. That's a pretty damn important question. Would you care to clarify?
posted by stoneweaver at 5:22 AM on August 6, 2010


I think we're just a few of the several million eyeballs.
posted by Miko at 6:26 AM on August 6, 2010


Don't know why I didn't think to check this until now, but I guess he's probably pretty busy this week; they just had their primary on Tuesday. (He lost.)
posted by equalpants at 6:52 AM on August 6, 2010


So, this Tevis guy seems like kind of a flake, but why aren't more internet geeks running for office?
posted by empath at 6:57 AM on August 6, 2010


It's a great question, empath. I can think of a few reasons:

1. Most people don't run for office, of any stripe whatsoever. A very small fraction of people from any subgroup have any interest in pursuing office, so internet geeks would be no exception.

2. Running for office tends to require a lot of people skills and presentation skills. That's definitely not to say that internet geeks don't have those - many do - but it's probably safe to say that some significant percentage of internet geeks are less skilled in the social arena, or have less desire to spend most of their time in public interactions and procedural activities, further reducing the number of internet geeks whose interests might otherwise overlap with officeholding.

3. Running for office requires a lot of time and money, and serving in office requires a ridiculous amount of time and effort that is not spent doing what you love - hanging out on the internet.

I do wish that there were more internet people in government. Every time I go to a licensing bureau or deal with town hall or anything, really, it blows my mind how badly the systems are set up and how poor communication is. There are so many simple fixes, if only the right people were interested in government. So finally, a lot of the absence of this kind of thinking in politics can be put down to the general lack of serious interest and responsibility for democractic governance that's just common in our culture these days. People feel they have other things to do that are more important to them, and don't see serving the public as something they'll find very satisfying.
posted by Miko at 7:09 AM on August 6, 2010


But meanwhile, what about the other many candidates around the country whose views also align with yours - maybe even more closely - but who have not caught the attention of MetaFilter because of this cultural appeal to its user base?

What about them? If they want the support of some internet nerd in another state, then they need to find a way to let me know of their existence. Is it unreasonable to expect that they should ask for my support? Why isn't there anyone else thinking about new ways to make appeals to voters?

Politicians use cultural appeals to specific user bases all the time. All Tevis did was go after a base that maybe has not been spoken to so clearly by *one of its own.*

For me, one of the problems is that so many people running for political office look and sound the same, their messages all look the same, nobody stands out. For example, last year in Memphis there were 25 candidates for mayor. 25! And the only ones who stood out were the local crazy guy from the planet Zambonia, and the former pro wrestler Jerry Lawler (yes--Jerry Lawler ran from Mayor of Memphis). I listened to interviews the local NPR station did with the top 5-polling candidates, and they all said variations on the same things in the same ways, and none of them sounded at all like they were talking to me.

So yeah, Sean Tevis at least stands out. I really, really wish more people would.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 7:56 AM on August 6, 2010


Jerry Lawler ran from Mayor of Memphis

The appearance on Letterman with his main opponent must have been awkward.
posted by cortex at 9:00 AM on August 6, 2010


Is it unreasonable to expect that they should ask for my support?

Of course not; asking for support is what politicians do. What I think is unreasonable is for voters to award their support to candidates without applying the same standards of evaluation that they would to any other candidate.

What Tevis is doing is not dissimilar to what organizations like EMILY's List, or in fact, many conservative organizations do - raise money and awareness reaching out for a support from a community that is defined in some way other than geographically (which the political system uses to define representation). The difference is that in the case of an EMILY's list, the community is defined by support for a specific issue. In other cases, the community is defined by an appeal to cultural similarity. I think that appeal to cultural similarity, while it is frequently deployed as a very effective tool by politicians of all kinds, is a tactic that doesn't bring out the best potential in American democracy. It's a shallow reason for voting that puts more focus on personality and image than issue, which is one of the most concerning issues in politics for me.

Tevis has an interesting approach in his use of the web, and I also wish more people would use it (Obama certainly did, to great effect, and the vast numbers of staffers and strategists his campaign trained will, I'm sure, have a very visible impact on all future elections they become involved with - I don't think it's something we need to rush to support, because I think at this point it's inevitable). However, if I begin to investigate his candidacy, my sense is that he is a decent and nice guy coming from a good place, but has a fuzzy grasp of the issues, is ill-informed about his opposing candidates and how he differs from them, and has centered his campaign on something that's more like a thought experiment than a practical plan and which excludes and/or confuses a large portion of the electorate. I don't think these are political values or habits I want to see proliferating. Meanwhile, looking at his opposition in the primary I find a candidate I would be more disposed to support - Cheryl Hudspeth, a woman, with significant nonprofit leadership experience in progressive community issues. If I were voting in the primary, this would be an easy decision for me to make.

What concerns me is that many are hailing Tevis' efforts as an example of true systemic change or groundbreaking politicking. But what I see is as old as democracy - a tribal appeal triumphing over a serious discussion of issues and a comparitive evaluation of candidates on merits that say something about their potential efficacy. There's certainly nothing wrong with Tevis' jumping in; every American has the right to do so. But I would like to see us insist that our candidates not only stand out, which would be most welcome, but also have substance and seriousness, do their research and address the issues. The web-fundraising approach plus a really fantastic platform with strong arguments and a strong grasp of the issues should be unbeatable. Here, I think the problem is simply that no matter how many people may admire his gumption and unconventional approach, the electorate just isn't convinced by his campaign.

I really don't mean to be personally hostile; I'm thinking politically.
posted by Miko at 9:14 AM on August 6, 2010


I am coming back to apologize for being needlessly nitpicky and cranky about it. I do admire Sean Tevis for being willing to take on representative office - more of us should do that. There's a lot to be learned from his successes, and work like this may well move some more effective leaders into office now and in the not-too-distant future. So forgive me for being a little over-pundit-like in my take on the events and better luck in your next run, stevis.
posted by Miko at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2010


Well, Miko, it looks like it's just you and me here now. Everyone else has gotten bored and moved on.

Anyway, you said:
In other cases, the community is defined by an appeal to cultural similarity. I think that appeal to cultural similarity, while it is frequently deployed as a very effective tool by politicians of all kinds, is a tactic that doesn't bring out the best potential in American democracy. It's a shallow reason for voting that puts more focus on personality and image than issue, which is one of the most concerning issues in politics for me.

I feel like maybe we're talking about different things here...I am not at all saying that I would support or vote for a candidate *just* because of an appeal to cultural similarity. I agree with you there. What I am saying is that the appeal is what gets the candidate noticed, at which point I then evaluate his/her positions to see if I want to actually lend my support. That is what I did during Tevis' first campaign, two years ago. I saw the cartoon, thought it was neat, and then read through the rest of his website, read the discussion here on MeFi, read his responses, and then made a decision to offer him my support, based on everything I heard.

This time around I saw the cartoon, was confused, came to this thread, and frankly, am still confused about what he is trying to do. So I have not yet given any money, nor do I know if I will, because I'm still unsure what his plan is (and maybe it is too fuzzy and ill-defined). I want him to succeed, because I think he probably does have some good ideas, but at this particular point in time he needs to do more to clarify them before I can think about signing on to this project. And who knows--maybe he will clarify his ideas and it will turn out that I don't really agree with him, in which case he would also not get my support.

But I would like to see us insist that our candidates not only stand out, which would be most welcome, but also have substance and seriousness, do their research and address the issues.

All I was trying to say earlier was that for better or for worse, they have to stand out first before many people (and I will plead guilty to this charge) will take the time to look at their positions and make a decision. I certainly share your desire to have candidates with substance and well-informed ideas.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:55 AM on August 6, 2010


Gotcha. I don't think we disagree.
posted by Miko at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2010


Secession is a bloody stupid idea. It was a crazy idea in the 19th century when Southern plantation owners ignored the fact that they were pissing off their primary trading partner and industrial base for a war they couldn't pay for and couldn't build for.

Today, it's an insanity as there's no reasonable way to partition the United States given that there's more political differences across neighborhoods than across regions.

And it's the response of the privileged coward. We've spent the last 150 years fighting on the premise that the rights of American citizen apply universally. Urban and rural, northeast and southwest. If you think that basic principles like equal protection under the law and due process should be vulnerable to local politics you are part of the problem.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:18 PM on August 6, 2010


Didn't secession in the case of the Civil War nearly succeed? I thought that Lee was ridiculously more successful than anyone expected him to be and was effective in convincing the North that he had a much larger force than he really did, most of the Northern generals preceding Grant were spectacularly incompetent and gun-shy and refused to engage him, and that the Democratic Party of the day was nearly effective in persuading the Union into a cease-fire which would have effectively been a victory for the South.

I, and I believe most everyone else, think that it's obviously much better the way that things turned out. And I agree that I can't see any way to make secession work today. But it seems to me that it was a pretty rational course of action for the Southern aristocracy at the time.
posted by XMLicious at 7:35 PM on August 7, 2010


Didn't secession in the case of the Civil War nearly succeed

What does "succeed" mean? If they had actually pulled off a truce or a defeat, the new nation would have collapsed due to lack of infrastructure and no available investment funds.
posted by Miko at 7:23 AM on August 8, 2010


I would think that at least the same thing could have happened as happened during Reconstruction. Didn't the Southern states have millions and millions to throw at subsidizing railroads? The economy was agriculturally based before and afterwards, so if the South got along economically after a defeat I would think they'd get along economically after successfully seceding. Especially if they'd managed to get a cease-fire or better solution within just a year or two when most of the defeats had been losses for the Union.

If by "no available investment funds" you're saying that Northern investors wouldn't take the same interest in the South that they did during Reconstruction, that doesn't seem true to me. Once they shook hands and said "Shucks, we waz just kiddin', bro" I'd think that it would be business as usual. Abolitionists would hold protests around Southern embassies but surely places like New York, where they were rioting and burning down black orphanages during the war, would have few qualms about dealing with the South.

And once hostilities were ended maybe Europeans would have invested some of the cash they were making via taking over South-East Asia in Dixie.

Not to mention - if they didn't get conquered by the North they'd still have all of the slaves; emancipation itself was the biggest hit economically because all of the "human capital" of the aristocracy had evaporated. If they'd really needed to raise money (though I'm still not clear that they would, at least not in all scenarios) they could simply start selling the slaves to Caribbean or Latin American nations or colonies.

Another point - what about the stuff that happened out West? What if the South was in control of Nevada for the Comstock Lode and the Nevada Gold Rushes? Texas when the oil boom started? If they'd built the Panama Canal?

Also, if the armies were freed from conflict with the Union they might have tried to take territory from Mexico or maybe take over Cuba and its tobacco business that would boom during the next decades and in the real timeline would become the Tobacco Trust for Sherman to break up... conquering some of that would've gained them further resources.
posted by XMLicious at 12:30 AM on August 9, 2010


I'm not that into speculative history. But these two:

Didn't the Southern states have millions and millions to throw at subsidizing railroads?

Yeah, but it came from the North, routed through Congress into rebuilding infrastructure programs. The Confederate currency had collapsed.

The economy was agriculturally based before and afterwards, so if the South got along economically after a defeat I would think they'd get along economically after successfully seceding.

Not easily. Remember - the Union destroyed Southern infrastructure. Burned over fields and market buildings, destroyed equipment and seed and food supplies, burned bridges, tore up roads. Coming back from that would have been a slow process involving serious scarcity and probably starvation in some sectors. It's possible the South could have attracted investment dollars from Europe to get the cotton economy going again, but that would have become politically sticky pretty shortly anyway, and with cotton markets emerging in India and elsewhere at the same time, there's no guarantee it would have been a big draw.

What if the South was in control of Nevada for the Comstock Lode and the Nevada Gold Rushes? Texas when the oil boom started? If they'd built the Panama Canal?

With what money or manpower? I guess you're assuming a whomping Southern victory. What I'm assuming in my conjecture is closer to what happened in reality - the two sides fighting a devastating war of attrition, running the same way it really did until the last days, when they agree to a truce and carry on as independent states. There's no way that, given the pre-war conditions, the South would have actually triumphed and come out looking strong. I'm basically picturing both sides coming out of the war with the resources they really did have at the end of the war. Without Reconstruction, the South would have been pretty blasted. Foreign or Western expansionism would be totally out of the question for years to come. This all assumes, also, no widespread slave uprising 9quite likely given the history of other slaveholding countries in that era) or increased Underground Railroad activity.
posted by Miko at 7:28 AM on August 9, 2010


Yes, I would agree with you that if the war ran for the full four years before any truce, including the casualties and naval blockades and everything, the South would be hard pressed to do anything. The massive Union destruction of Southern infrastructure, Sherman neckties and all that, came well into the latter half of the war IIRC.

I was thinking in terms of - to my knowledge there were fairly large contingents of Democrats pushing pretty hard for Peace very early on in the war. And of course there were many early, dramatic military victories by Lee to help that along. I've always gotten the impression that it was to a great degree the steadfast dedication of Lincoln that enabled things to turn out the way it did and that the entire course of the war would have been very different if not for his involvement and to a degree his stubbornness.
posted by XMLicious at 2:23 PM on August 9, 2010




DAYTON — About 30 local businesses are participating in a program to link conservative consumers with businesses owned by conservatives to help support the Tea Party.

Handy list for all your boycotting needs.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:49 PM on August 14, 2010


My basic view is that were it not for the occasional brilliance of Lee, the Confederacy would have collapsed much earlier in the war as they lacked the guns, ports, navy, funds, and market to defend themselves. The economic prospects of the South depended on piggybacking on the industrial revolution of countries with increasing abolitionist sentiments, and Lee's desired peace would have been tragically short-lived in the face of Union expansionism and abolitionism.

The whole thing depended on England stepping in to break the blockade and force the war to two fronts, but England would have been a reluctant ally with deeply divided loyalties and economic interests.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:42 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


The whole thing depended on England stepping in to break the blockade and force the war to two fronts, but England would have been a reluctant ally with deeply divided loyalties and economic interests.

They'd also begun cultivating cotton in both Egypt and India so when the supply from the South was cut off, they simply ramped up the production in those colonies. Which the Southerners didn't expect to happen.

Another thing to note: as I understand it many in Europe were dumbfounded at what the Union was trying to do. "You're a pipsqueak little colony, and you're going to try to bring an area the size of all of Europe under military interdiction? Are you serious?" They then readily adopted a number of the technologies and tactics developed en route to winning the war, of course.
posted by XMLicious at 6:48 PM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older Let's all Wave goodbye   |   Grounded but still working Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post