Does 'The Future' Need Lobbyists Too?
from the do-we-want-that? dept
Back in April, I wrote about the Hack Society meeting at Union Square Ventures, where Rep. Jim Cooper provided a great quote:
“The past, in general, is over-represented in Washington. The future has no lobbyists.”
That is, indeed, a problem to some extent. Of course, that then leads to a debate about what to do about that if you believe in the importance of disruptive innovation, and fear incumbents holding it back. The answer is not necessarily to “hire lobbyists” and play the same game — because that’s simply not a winnable war. The real answer is change the way things are done. There are a growing number of groups trying to do that, and while some may accuse them of just being “more lobbyists” at first, that severely underestimates what they’re actually setting out to accomplish. GigaOm has a nice summary piece on a few of the groups who are seeking to have “the future” better represented in policy discussions.
It kicks off with a brand new think tank, put together by CCIA, called the Disruptive Competition Project — or Project DisCo for short. Its focus is to highlight the importance of disruptive competition. This is a big deal, since legacy players almost always seek to position disruptive competition as doing something “illegal,” when the truth is merely that they’re disrupting the business models of those legacy players. This is a brand new effort, but with some great minds involved, so I’m excited to see where it goes.
Then they discuss Engine, a group that (full disclosure) I helped put together initially, and remain on their steering committee/advisory board. Engine is really about a two way conduit for education and information exchange between policy makers and the startup ecosystem. Too often we’ve heard that entrepreneurs just ignore policy makers (and equally from policy makers that they never hear from startups). This is often because the entrepreneurs are so focused on getting stuff done and just want government to get out of the way. But ignoring the government is no answer — it’s how we get bad policies that favor incumbent players and stifle innovation. Engine is seeking to change that not by lobbying in the traditional sense, but by opening up channels of communication, and presenting a real data-driven approach to things. Oh, and if you’re a startup entrepreneur, you should become a member — it’s free and it’ll help make sure your voice is heard in policy debates.
Next up, we’ve got the Internet Defense League, in which (again, full disclosure) Techdirt is a member. This was put together by the folks at Fight For the Future — who were instrumental in the anti-SOPA/PIPA fight, recognizing that it would be good to have a bunch of websites ready to respond to existential threats against the internet. With SOPA/PIPA the threat was so large and so clear that they were able to get a bunch of websites to sign on for things like the “Call Congress” day in November and the big anti-SOPA blackout in January. The goal of the IDL is to leverage that effort into having sites prepared to respond when other big threats come along, rather than having to cobble together a new coalition of sites every time.
The final piece listed is TestPAC, Please Ignore, the PAC that was built out of the Reddit community, though isn’t associated with Reddit the company. While this is an interesting attempt to play the “traditional” game with an internet twist, I’m not convinced that playing the game this way is ultimately going to succeed. In the end, we know that the incumbents are almost always going to play the PAC game better than the upstarts. I’m glad that these guys are trying, but I’m much more interested in the efforts that are seeking to really change the game, not just be a new player in the old game.
Either way, it’s good to see that more people are thinking about this, and it’s not over yet. I’m aware of at least three other efforts to really try to change the game in politics and policy to make sure that “the future is represented.” Any one — or even all — of these may fail completely. But I’m encouraged to see multiple groups trying to get involved, and recognizing that ignoring policy is no longer an option.