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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    arcan, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 7:02pm

    can we make lobbying an execution-able offence?

    would solve SO many problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 7:17pm

    Of course the future needs lobbyists, otherwise you will be out of a job Mike.

    Don't shoot your career in the foot!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 8:06pm

    apple has a future lobbyist, why else would they try to get the galaxy banned from even being sold in the US, damn those pesky rounded corners, if they only had not stolen that idea from apple......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 9:31pm

    Would be nice but...

    It's a nice thought, Mike. I guess you just have more faith in humanity than I do if you think silly little things like facts can ever matter more than money and power to politicians or that the general public can be made to see what's good for them or even care if they do see.

    That's the main reason I say if we don't have lobbyists and play the corruption game, we're going to fail. Yes, we managed to get SOPA/PIPA more or less killed in the States and they've done well on killing ACTA in Europe. We've also seen pretty much nothing of the sort on CISPA or TPP just a few months later. I really do not believe we have the backbone to make a sustained fight of it in numbers large enough to achieve a situation we can call a win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 11:27pm

    Re: Would be nice but...

    You may not trust humanity, but you can count on human nature. When there is a direct threat to something the public has come to enjoy and expect, they will speak out. Governments around the world are VERY aware that they now have to be careful with any legislation that impacts the internet. The days of back room deals may not be over, but now people are learning just how often they occur and why, and are not pleased with it.

    It's actually a very interesting construct, since governments want to hinder communication which only makes all those people communicating pay more attention to what governments are doing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 1:23am

    the present lobbyists will put a stop to this by lobbying for a bill to be passed. change what happens in the future when what has been happening til now has been so (profitable) successful? you're kidding me!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 3:11am

    defeated B4 U TRY ?

    Serious note.... out of solidarity:
    (we have the same fight)

    Don't give up.
    You have to tell everyone you know.(your peers/general public)

    If a ( whats that statistical number...hmmm? ? ? ) #Now_I_Remember
    IF a "shitload" of people can be convinced that Obama is not American.... you too can convince people.
    Fact's are weapons .... use them AND abuse them.

    Remember...Abuse them.
    Who cares if you piss people off with facts ? (it slowly sinks in)
    I pissed you off with the exact same subject
    Not like I give a shit if facts annoy anyone. Why should I.

    "Truth hurts" is your cry of....... ""checkmate" , "deal with it""

    BTW... the people are already mostly convinced.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 3:18am

    99 problems but a lobbyist is 99% of them

    Would it solve the problem of a Homeless person stealing my underwear from my washing line ?

    "No"... well then.

    I do wonder how the RIAA/MPAA has so much power tho.. #NotRelatedToLobbying?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    TDR, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:38am

    So what is the IDL going to do about the MAFIAA itself? The very existence of those organizations is a continual threat to the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    what do mean?, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 7:00pm

    of course the future needs lobbyist.

    do you have any idea how hard it is to find firewood where i am?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 8:57pm

    Re: 99 problems but a lobbyist is 99% of them

    I don't know about the RIAA, but the MPAA has been in bed with the government for almost a hundred years.

    1920's - Establishment of studios in Hollywood.
    1930's - Hays Office censorship, FCC created
    1940's - Hollywood goes to war with gung-ho propaganda
    1950's - Blacklisting witch hunts
    1960's - Breakdown of studios, creation of MPAA
    1970's - Copyright extensions, movies attack institutions
    1980's - Corporations take over Hollywood
    1990's - Tax credits for Hollywood films
    2000's - Fox News

    The government knows that movies and television have a huge influence on the public, and by giving Hollywood lots of political power, they can always threaten to take it away if Hollywood truly gets out of line and turns on the government. The fewer companies controlling the business the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 9:12pm

    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.

    That's called lobbying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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