Efficient Politics

Originally published in Green Party of Canada Living Platform, Efficient Politics was an influential 2004 paper that helped to define or spark a split in the Green Party of Canada in 2004. It refuted and thus competed directly with Green and Growing by David Scrymgeour. Its original introduction described it as "a political party governance process paper on the list of process papers" on GPC protocols.

It was a position paper insofar as it proposed "a common consistent reflexive approach to apply green politics and the Six Principles both inside and outside a political party, to test its policies internally before they are advocated externally." In other words, clear party protocols.

This paper advises leaders and officials of any party to
&"make policy easy to share" and discuss, keeping the debate focused on policy not persons, avoiding ad hominem and remaining troll-friendly

The original 2004 text, last modified on January 30 2005:


Efficient Politics by Craig Hubley

An Efficient Politics is not easy to achieve. If it was, we would perceive poiltics as already operating as well as it could.

Obviously, we don't. And there's a lot we can do about it.

For technical advice see GPC intranet priorities and the Lean Green Machine view. For an associated outreach and organizing strategy see Breaking a Million and the vision of the GPC as a learning organization. The administrator guidelines and terms of use were also informed by the Efficient Politics model. See also other GPC Governance and Political Party Governance resources, e.g. Living Agenda.

make it easy to get policy answers

First, Leader-driven parties that change their minds on a whim - notably Liberals - simply are not accountable to the public. No amount of party platform comparison during an election will tell you that the party will change its mind on a whim after the election. For some this is a reason to obscure, hide, or ignore policy. For those who act In Defense of Politics, as Bernard Crick put it, the answer is to make it very easy to find out what any party thinks NOW on any issue.

Consider integrated systems of answer recommendation that combine the official platform with Policy FAQ and Answers to Questionnaires given during the most recent election by the actual candidates, and even position papers by the current Issue Advocates who seek to sit in Cabinet. Is it "democratic" to allow parties to maintain and publish multiple conflicting answers, so that they can pick the one they find most expedient the day after the election ? This is rule by men not law. It can only be crushed by consistency:

Make it easy to get the best answers, so that members of the public and press will quickly find the contradictions - they will thus become better answers still. This is the same open source and open content strategy the GPC advocates for software - why is it any less applicable to policy?

Adhering to a set of naming conventions for international Green Party policy based on the GFDL corpus namespace and then extended with a system of standard Green URIs that are stable across at least two or three election cycles, would go a long way towards making it easy to find and refer policy:

make policy easy to share

Once the policy can be found, it can also be easily shared: Candidates, supporters, advocates, and even detractors would find it easy to remember and rattle off such stable URIs on call-in radio without fear of the URL and 404 problem that arises when media organizations weasel changes in their URIs.

Finally a series of simultaneous policy wikis set up for many organizations or parties sharing concerns would help also to identify and address factional conflicts that have kept people who agree on values, from agreeing on policies. It may be easy to convince Foreign Affairs Canada for instance to expand its existing online consultations to exploit wiki best practices to quickly research, and respond to, global crises.

On a partisan level, the Global Greens need some help that the GPC is well-positioned to provide, to get some much-needed policy exchange going, perhaps to backcast to fixed time horizons of interest, like the 2012 end of Kyoto phase I.

The nonpartisan simpol.org could also be enabled, and if it and the GG are using mediawiki, it would be easy to keep the GFDL corpus up to date with current policy research. A single heavily-translated knowledge base for all global policy! Once everyone learns wikistyle, the barriers begin to melt. However not all the barriers are technical:

To remove legal barriers from sharing even across hostile parties, adopt Terms of Use based on well known open content licenses. The GPC has already done this and will encourage other parties to do so - so we can all quote inputs freely to each other's forums using the very open CC-by license. Keeping some rights reserved is fine if these are predictable and restricted to commercial purposes - the CC-by-nc-sa license allows nonprofits to Share Alike while for-profit agencies, including those contracted to nonprofits or governments, would have to apply for licenses - and perhaps pay royalties, especially if their use is too selfish.

the net is not enough

Not everyone uses the Internet. Not everyone should or will. Until there is public zero e-waste hardware everywhere, it defies sustainability to replace paper with computers, since e-waste is by far a bigger problem than pulp consumption - paper is renewable and recyclable while toxic waste isn't. Beyond that, the sheer complexity and centralism of hardware and network infrastructure and boot images is not what a permaculture or organic farm or legislator should be spending too mcuh time on. Make it easy to avoid the net:

The mark up and mail back process proposal, for instance, suggests that it is relatively easy and cheap to take Rank a Plank into snail mail if the will is there. Likewise Rank a Plank Live would be a good way to demonstrate that a party cares about more than just those who haunt the web.

To further integrate net, live, mail and radio and phone work, consider a reflexive intranet in which all control verbs and domain verbs are treated more or less the same. If one uses Simple English where possible and a disciplined exact technical English where not, words will mean just one thing whether they appear in print, on screens, or on the radio.

parties as protocols

A political party is composed of factions and tendency groups. Consider writing interest group briefings for all such groups that can be identified, and making sure to add all key concepts that are of concern to those groups to the list of policy terms so that people unfamiliar with that group and its concerns, learn such terms.

But to look at parties as interest groups defeats ecological wisdom and participatory democracy and maybe even ((nonviolence. Greens must see parties as systems or means of achieving consensus on difficult long-term goals and ideals.

This is best achieved in parties as it is in other distributed and contentious infrastructures like the Internet - with protocols to make transactions between people much more predictable. Internally, one can make protocols a lot more rigorous so that the routine aspects of the party operations become predictable.

Resist the urge to confine political party governance to a few people in a closed clique, even an elected group like the GPC Council. Instead, open up the process of asking what needs to be done in specific well-understood circumstances:

manage distributed volunteers

Governance by Tom Manley and Green and Growing by David Scrymgeour propose a centralized staff-driven command and control approach to managing the Green Party. This is in direct contradiction to modern management theory, and the party's commitment to decentralization, bioregional democracy and participatory democracy.

Beyond its ethical problems, it's a formula for failure: to displace volunteers will be both expensive and ineffective. The NDP paid over $600,000 per MP to elect 19 MPs in 2004. This approach will break the Greens before it elects anyone.

But it is hardly surprising that those who do not know how to do their jobs, believe that no one else can do them better. Nor that those who have only worked in Canada under the worst managers in the world, don't understand management. This is a problem with people, not process:

Once the genuine dead weight is removed, those who do not understand what commit verbs really mean and who can't distinguish deference from inference and who think they can be Issue Advocates without mastering the Living Platform, and the Two Per Cent Team is out of the way, the young talent they are driving out of the party now will be more than willing to fill their posts. Once that has occurred:

A volunteer centred approach will yield the best results. By no means should fulltime staff displace volunteers - the best people one can hire and convince to move to Ottawa or to Toronto are inferior to the best people one can find willing to do telework from Moose Jaw. A Lean Green Machine is necessarily going to rely only on managers of volunteers as fulltime staff, and will never restrict elected officers to a governance function. If the people elected to do the job don't do it, there must be an officer protocol to remove them and replace them with new people eager to make the attempt.

cross fertilize and co-opt

The most serious mistake is to refuse to let members hold membership in another federal political party. This was a new addition to the GPC Constitution and IT MUST GO. The Green Party of Ontario passed a resolution making it a duty of Greens to co-opt those they ran against. This might from time to time be facilitated by holding a membership in another party.

Beyond that, it shows simple respect and lets Greens advocate changes inside other parties that make politics work better. So far every legislator that has pushed forward a Green initiative has been a member of another party. Let "Green" be a virus - not a competitor to the dominant parties but a carrier of memes.

Greens operate with the highest of the twelve levers - with clear goals, ability to self-organize, an explicit mindset in the Six Principles and willingness to transcend even these, and party loyalty, to get what is best for the biosphere. Turning them into mere also-rans is absurd. Lobbyists are not restricted in what parties they join, and good Greens are lobbyists of the most sincere and effective kind.

practice green economics inside the Green Parties

Good greens are also tireless exploiters of inefficiencies - they scrounge, re-use, and should make every use of tax deduction to achieve a green tax shift at least on a personal scale:

Greens advocate accounting reform and even monetary reform, a green tax shift and even more radical green economics. Yet they prove every day that they don't believe what they preach, Greens refuse to eat our own dog food - what we say the Government of Canada should do, Greens do not do as a Party.

Beyond GAAP we find higher liabilities for doing damage to ecosystems - yet the Green Party insists on hiring staff who pay taxes on their labour, and also insists on buying things or reimbursing expenses at retail when it could have bought them in bulk for all members at wholesale. It plays no role in the creation of a green economy, not even a service economy.

Integrating GPC Fundraising with the growth of the green economy that depends on the Greens to clear its barriers to success is essential. It is the only way to build an exponential growth curve, and create positive feedback in the economy towards a green future. This matters more than discomfort in anti-capitalist members of the GPC. Greens are not leftists, or at least not all of us. If tax deductions go to green business or members, then they are far more likely to be spent sustainably. If you give the money to Chapters or Bell, it is a sure bet to end up put into unsustainable business practices.

Such foolish hesitation to apply what is preached as policy is not only sub-optimal, it is shameful. It proves to the public that there is no truth whatsoever in green economics. Some programs that practice what is preached, like the Green Telecom or Green Wilderness Adventures of the Green Party of Ontario, are even being attacked or going dormant. This despite their profound success in achieving a regular stream of donations and indoctrinicating participants to become the green leaders of the future. This is indefensible - such programs and similar ones like the Green Book Club actually REPLACE PURCHASES THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE MADE IN THE GREY ECONOMY and so do immense good. The service or product purchased can be sourced by people who apply touch criteria, and the brand name is of great value. A similar approach is that taken by Mountain Equipment Co-Op which has a track record of responsibly produced top quality outdoor gear. Heck, I'm wearing quite a bit of it now!

They practice what they preach. Why can't the parties?

spread the virus

Canadian public accounts reform - a timely proposal to make public accounts reflect GAAP, ISO 19011 and Natural Capitalism constraints - can only follow on the above. It's going nowhere until the Greens prove on a small scale that these approaches work.

Consider what the Civic Efficiency Group is doing. It advocates approaches that it actually uses in its own work. It has a policy of advocating nothing that it isn't actually doing on some scale - even a small scale. Sincerity spreads the virus of sincerity better than any amount of propaganda ever can.

best practices

Think about civic best practices, wiki best practices, sustainable trades best practices and every other way you can learn and teach. Leaning and teaching must become second nature. You should be learning a living all the time.

Reflexivity is a best practice - this paper has proposed that a common consistent reflexive approach be applied both inside and outside a political party, to test policies internally before they are advocated externally. This is what the public has a right to demand: that we research deeply, practice sincerely, prototype in the highest-stress circumstances we can manage, and propose as legislators only what we are sure will work in our own operations. Let's apply the Six Principles and green politics as deeply as we possibly can. We do more with less, and the public will notice that:

If we are consistently and creatively efficient, it is a foregone conclusion that the public will want us to join or form the Government of Canada, as we will have proven that our own internal practices are the most efficient politics of all. This too is just politics as usual: one wins by besting one's rivals and convincing them of one's sincerity, not by command and controlling them into submission. It's long past time parties learned this.

practice political virtues

Finally the political virtues should become a mantra. Ten Habits of Well Beings aren't enough - you have to be nicer about it, even nicer to idiots. Yes some people are idiots even in the Green Party - stupidity is not a monopoly of any one party. It will take patience and skill to achieve the above to any significant degree. Grand visions like a Lean Green Machine are simply not a substitute for much hand-holding and detail work. If you are willing to spend forty hours just preaching something, you should be willing to spend at least forty more dotting i's and crossing t's and making refer links, correcting bad page names and so on. These are virtues.

Even if no one will ever thank you for it.

Not even the trolls.