Libertarians: the party of computer geeks

Declan McCullagh compared the W3C standards of political campaign sites and found that Libertarians resoundingly trounced the competition. The article — On Web standards, Libertarian candidates win — also paints libertarians as being massively stocked with techies and web entreprenuers (Thanks Jason Talley!):

Of approximately 1,000 campaign Web sites surveyed two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, only 35 passed the validation tests created by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C. Seven of those were created by Libertarian candidates, some of whom have degrees in computer or electrical engineering or count themselves as free-software aficionados. (Republicans came in a close second.)

Call the Libertarians the political party of geeks, for geeks.

“I’ll be the first to admit that we do have a lot of geeks in the party, and I’m one of them,” Shane Cory, executive director of the national Libertarian Party, said Wednesday.

Cory believes tech-savvy Americans are drawn to the Libertarian Party because of its principled support for individual rights, lower taxes, and fewer government regulations. “We take a look at the issues before us and try to find solutions to them, just like you’d troubleshoot a PHP script or HTML.”

What really caught my eye is that the LP doesn’t seem to just talk about being the party of geeks, the core staff at the very top is a who’s who of geekiness:

The list of board members for the national Libertarian Party is no less geekish: a software engineer; a database consultant; an author of a book on Linux system administration; the CEO of a Web application company; and the creator of PocketMoney personal finance software for Palm handhelds.

“Can you find another political party with a tech-savvy board like this?” said Cory, the Libertarians’ national chairman. “I can tell you it’s not going to happen.”

Even Michael Badnarik’s former job before going into politics was as a programmer.

As a bit of background, I actually came into the (L/l)ibertarian fold from reading the uber-geek website Slashdot years ago and constantly seeing references to libertarian ideology, so it’s not much of a surprise. I’ve even needled people like Stephen Gordon to focus national fundraising efforts in geek havens like Silicon Valley.

36 Comments
  1. I was born libertarian. Then I sold Vic-20s, Osborns, Franklins, Timex-Sinclairs (2k RAM!) and Atari 400’s, etc. My last job in retail was managing an Egghead Discount Software store in 1990.

    Machines should be the slaves, not people.

    The other group in our camp are the yoga instructors, chiropractors, acupuncturists and naturepaths. They are individualists, too.

    Both groups have members who are inconsistent in their politics, but they can be won over with education. They’d be libertarian if they knew about it.

  2. Smither is a bit geeky himself:

    # Received a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Houston.
    # Incorporated Circuit Concepts, Inc., in 1978 and has worked as an Independent consultant since then.
    # Taught as an Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Houston for 14 years.

  3. I’ve even needled people like Stephen Gordon to focus national fundraising efforts in geek havens like Silicon Valley.

    If only we could pull together to focus on the millions of pissed off internet gamblers… we would see MANY elected Libertarians this year.

    Anyone have any expertise on herding cats?

  4. Re web design standards: interestingly, this is the same issue as English only vs. bilingual, trilingual, etc. and I think should be considered the same way.

    In my opinion, the only factor one should consider when communicating is “what works best?” If you feel you’ll reach more people by meeting these standards or publishing in Spanish, you should do it if you want to reach them.

    Logical.

    Incidentally, I found the LP because my ballots listed the professions of the candidates underneath their names; the R’s and D’s were all politicians, and the L’s were teaching physics, or doing chemistry, programming, or some kind of engineering. Reason enough to vote for them!

  5. As a bit of background, I actually came into the (L/l)ibertarian fold from reading the uber-geek website Slashdot years ago and constantly seeing references to libertarian ideology, so it’s not much of a surprise.

    I used to constantly post on Slashdot about libertarian ideology, with a Libertyboard.org link in my sig. Does that site name ring a bell to you? (It is now under new management and looks different than it did when I ran it.)

  6. Not that surprising. One of the main skills one learns in computer programming is finding unintended consequences caused by logical flaws. Unintended consequences is precisely what our huge, arrogant, highly-centralized government excels at!

  7. California prints ballots with the occupation of the candidate beneath their name. Usually, they’re in some elected or appointed government job, running for a higher office if they’re R’s or D’s.

  8. [quote]Cory believes tech-savvy Americans are drawn to the Libertarian Party because of its principled support for individual rights, lower taxes, and fewer government regulations. [/quote]

    I’d have to say that, as a geek, one of the things that drew me to the Libertarian Ideology is that its the most consistant and logical… and… just makes sense. I think the geeky tend to be a little more logical, so naturally, Libertarian is the way to go.
    (Plus I love Liberty)

  9. Deived, that’s actually pretty much what I said originally. Something like “Libertarians approach issues with logical reasoning. . .” I won’t fault Declan for not catching it all as I was rambling.

  10. On the one hand this is good. Some geeks are making a ton of money.

    On the other, it would be nice to see the LP reach out more to non-geeks.

  11. “Libertarians approach issues with logical reasoning”

    Which is also one of our problems. Coming up with a workable, stable set of rules and power structure for a society that respects peoples’ freedoms while balancing conflicting interests is more an art than science. It requires logic, systems analysis, compromise, people skills, pragmatism, a sense of proportion, and on and on.

    Somehow we libertarians have gotten sidetracked by a conceit that we are oh so perfectly logical and consistent. As far as I can tell, Ayn Rand was the fountainhead from which this conceit sprang.

  12. Some geeks are making a ton of money.

    More important, it means that libertarians are in charge of the freakin’ infrastructure of the fastest-growing medium in the world. Newspaper circulation is declining and broadcast television has already declined. But, the Internet continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

    The traditional media has treated us like dirt. So, it’s poetic justice that we are becoming the media.

  13. You need only look a little bit at the dot-com industry in it’s pre-burst bubble. PayPal was founded by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin. Peter Thiel is an ardent believer in capitalism and shares a nifty set of libertarian ideals. He now runs a hedge fund.

    The Internet, contrary to the socialist tendencies of the creators, was the perfect platform for libertarians to grow on: virtually unregulated and, for a time, very private. There are thousands of companies doing business today based solely on the foundation of a free and competitive marketplace. eBay itself, although lobbying questionable positions at times, exemplified this to a point for some time before government began to push harder against such industry giants to crack down of fraud and the like.

    (cont….)

  14. What the LP really needs to do to take advantage of this is to put together a techno-brain-trust of volunteers that can put together websites for people. We can create a platform (or use an existing one like civic space), standard professional templates to choose from, integrated donations, and a bevy of other tools for active candidates. What I would like to see down the road is an “ad” platform that would allow campaigns to advertise on local websites and track online ad spending.

  15. Nerds/geeks/smart people get it…you can’t get something for nothing. Government, which by definition lives as a parasite off of its citizens, does not create any new value; it just consumes value. Hard work, creativity, innovativeness, risk…these things transform that which surrounds us (the natural world) into things that others value.

    Plus, as others have mentioned (and as many non-libertarians would agree), libertarianism is internally consistent. Smart people aren’t satisfied when things don’t jibe. Drilling into problems until you reach a consistent explanation is at the heart of the scientific process. It’s also, I’m guessing, how many people become libertarians. They strongly agree with libertarians on one issue (like low taxes), and when they expand their thinking beyond that one issue they realize that if they want the government to stay out of their financial lives, then they must also want the government to stay out of their personal/social lives.

  16. White Marriott: I’ve thought of this on occasion (truck trailer billboards), but most truckers own the rig not the cargo item, so it’s not much of an option. On the other hand someone with an entrepreneurial spirit could potentially make a killing building a vinyl stick-on advertising outfit that wooed transfer companies as client “publishers.”

  17. Julian: pffft, Masters degree and a lifetime of engineering expertise and you insist on calling yourself a redneck.

    Call me when you have a 1975 Trans Am sitting on cinder blocks in your front yard.

  18. “Where does this leave people like me, educated redneck hardhats?”

    In a barrel, hammered shut, taped over and tarred black, with an aircraft carrier anchor attached via a 100 foot chain wrapped around, then placed in a tanker container and welded shut, which would then be dropped in the deepest, deepest part of the Marianna Trench, that would then be nuked so a million tonnes of rock cover you….aaaaahhhh….it’s SO peaceful now.

  19. “Can you find another political party with a tech-savvy board like this?” said Cory, the Libertarians’ national chairman. “I can tell you it’s not going to happen.”

    Actually, Mr. Cory only thinks he is the national chair – or has Bill Redpath resigned already?

    Anyway, a thought on geekiness. In the real world, geeks are geeks because they possess nerd skills but not people skills. Politics requires people skills and no algorithm will help. Logic rarely enters the political realm and no amount of theoretical sophistry explaining the logic of freedom can convince the average voter as well as passionate appeals to emotion.

    Learning how to instill fear, loathing, and greed in people would probably generate more votes than any rational presentation made by a geek pretending to be mainstream. This seems to work well for the Republicrats.

    Now, go have fun scaring the shit out of these witless bastards – it’s Halloween!

  20. Better yet, tap Silicon Valley for a Libertarian billionaire vice-presidential candidate, so the LP presidential nominee has a chance to be heard (and seen) in 2008.

  21. I’ve only heard of a couple of famous businessmen in Silicon Valley who have self-identified as libertarian: Peter Thiel, mentioned above, and T.J. Rogers, who technically, is located north of Silicon Valley. It leans pretty liberal around here. Maybe other posters on this blog know of other rich Silicon Valley libertarians?

  22. Mike Laursen: I studied the donation patterns from the 2004 Badnarik campaign so I’m not talking out of my ass here. A lot of large sums came from the NorCali area surrounding Silicon Valley.

    Of course a lot of geeks are liberal and tend to only notice social issues, but when you reach out to them on fiscal liberty issues as an adjunct to those social liberty issues, they easily flip. Being that they tend to be extremely busy with their work and don’t have time to be active, they are more likely to donate instead of volunteer.

  23. Looks like Colin Hunter is (or was) active in the Republican Liberty Caucus. He’s also a financial backer of antiwar.com.

    I first heard of antiwar.com when I was telephoning through a list of registered Libertarians in the Silicon Valley area and got the answering machine for antiwar.com. I forget the name that was on our calling list, but it was one of the other founders of the website, not Colin Hunter.

  24. 17/18:
    Follow up with an easy and effective way of distributing “news releases” from each campaign throughout ALL participating libertarian sites/blogs. The web will be saturated with current and updated libertarian news.

    Call it a “Brain-Trust”… when a release is made in anywhere all participating sites/blogs receive the release as well. Releases would have to be done by ‘authorized’ individuals from each site/blog. Some controls would need to be in place, but it takes some of the herding out of the mix… no!?

  25. 17/18:
    Follow up with an easy and effective way of distributing “news releases” from each campaign throughout ALL participating libertarian sites/blogs. The web will be saturated with current and updated libertarian news.

    Call it a “Brain-Trust”… when a release is made in anywhere all participating sites/blogs receive the release as well. Releases would have to be done by ‘authorized’ individuals from each site/blog. Some controls would need to be in place, but it takes some of the herding out of the mix… no!?

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