Liberty is Prosperity

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Anti-politician

This post was a letter to Glenn Reynolds sent as a reply to his post, A third party threat? at


Could someone win a high profile office by being everything a politician usually isn't?

Since politicians are widely perceived to be dishonest with hidden agendas, there is room in the minds of voters to create a new category, the anti-politician. This is a mind share that no one has yet successfully tried to create and occupy.

The idea is to use the web to gain celebrity by disclosing every candidate detail from the day of initial announcement. And it better be true, since the blogosphere will vet it. In a culture that values novelty, celebrity could be attained by being the best disclosed candidate in history.

Tell the possibly juicy stories of youthful indiscretions- drug use history, sexual history, and any run ins with the law. Publish the educational "permanent record". Post tax returns. List medications taken. Disclose business and relational failures as well as successes. Share stories of shameful incidents that will drive voter interest while establishing the candidate as a truly transparent individual. Set a new standard for true and full disclosure without victimizing others with the disclosure.

The full disclosure should extend to an elaboration back to first principles of how policy choices would be made. For example, if a libertarian believes in public policy choices that maximize liberty, a prospective open book congressperson would not only disclose how they would vote on the issues, but the logic that backs up the choice starting with the maximize liberty proposition.

Then, when elected, every vote would have the rational behind it published. If a vote ended up being made because of party affiliations, horse trading, or special interest pressure- disclose that in detail. Keep an open dialogue with constituents. Listen to special interests and even accept their donations but post a summary of every such interaction on a web site.

One brave open book anti-politician could set the stage for many more to follow. The new paradigm could become contests between candidates who fully disclose every detail of themselves and their philosophies and agendas and those who don't.

Our new technologies are affording an unprecedented opportunity to break the curse of sound bite politics. Just as the book on journalism is being rewritten by an army of Davids, the book on political strategy could be rewritten by a single David.