From Iceland — Píratapartýið ("The Pirate Party") Interviewed

Píratapartýið (“The Pirate Party”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013

Píratapartýið (“The Pirate Party”) Interviewed

1. Briefly describe your party’s general agenda in one sentence.
The Pirate Party is the political movement of the Internet. We are where the Internet and society comes together. We bring about new methods of solving problems, methods designed to solve problems in a fast paced and changing world. Our primary concerns are freedom of speech, civil rights, direct democracy and open access to data.
2. Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
The Pirate Party is an international movement originating in Sweden in 2006. Currently it has over 250 elected representatives in Europe, including the European Parliament members Amelia Andersdotter and Christian Engström. There are active parties in roughly 60 countries. The movement was created to deal with issues affecting the Internet, such as censorship, surveillance, and copyright reform, but because the Internet is affecting everyone’s lives, the Pirate Party has since expanded to cover more general issues as well.
3. Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
The Pirate Party is a global political party with a high degree of international coordination.
4. What do you consider the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
Icelandic politics have not yet caught up with current and on-going international debates regarding civil liberties, open governance, and international trade. Traditional politics are suffering from post-crash myopia wherein everything is about digging the same trenches and fighting the same fights as hundreds of years ago. We need to get ourselves out of that rut, come up with a sensible stance on foreign policy, respond to threats to the Internet, reconstruct our civil service to be more open and agile, and through transparency and more direct democracy make Iceland more hospitable both for people and businesses.
5. What do you admire about the current coalition government and what it accomplished in the last four years? What do you dislike? What will you do better?
The current government has prevailed in the Icesave dispute and attempts to grow and diversify the economy after the crash. The government attempted to keep many in their homes with loan extensions and dismissal of predatory loans. They’ve done well all things considered, but have often demonstrated strange priorities.
6. Was the financial crisis in 2008, and the problems Iceland now faces, in some way caused by government policy and action or the lack thereof? Is your party in some way responsible for this? Why or why not?
We have no reason to refute the results of the financial meltdown research committee. Their report gave a detailed story about a severe lack of transparency and democratic oversight, and collusion between banks and the government.
The Icelandic Pirate Party did not exist then, and none of our members were in power during the crash. We bear only the same responsibility for the crash as the general public: we ignored a bad thing happening right in front of us. This merely reinforces our commitment to bringing transparency to a situation that was caused by lack of accessible public information.
7. Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
The Pirate Party considers monopolistic behaviour to be damaging the economy severely. A number of factors are driving this: some bad laws, a lack of transparency, and too much focus on big industry. What we need is a lot of small industry! Ninety-nine percent of companies in Iceland are small, and their business environment is in shambles. The Pirate Party believes that Iceland’s economic future lies with making it easier for small companies and start-ups to operate. We aim to create conditions for a first class hosting and web infrastructure haven. This means strong privacy and free speech laws closely linked to Nordic ethics. Iceland has the potential to be a global leader in data warehousing and green data if we use it right.
8. Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
Those terms don’t properly describe what the Icelandic Pirate Party wants to do regarding financial regulation. We want to increase transparency and accountability in the financial sector, in part by making ownership and transaction information of financial instruments (such as stocks and bonds) available to the general public. This is an astoundingly simple thing to do, and it’s simply outrageous that it hasn’t been done yet.
9. Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
The common services need to be paid for. The Pirate Party wants changes in the education system, in line with the Finnish method. It wants changes in the health care system, for example, in reforming how the system deals with drugs, in line with the Portuguese method. We believe that concessions should be made to provide benefits for those who work in the health industry that will keep nursing and physicians from leaving for jobs abroad. We would also like to see changes in the civil service regarding default open data access and public information, which should make civil service cheaper. We believe in transparency for the people so they can audit where their tax money is being spent—and we think this can lead to participatory budgeting later down the line, so that the public can decide their own service and tax levels. On the short term though, we need to reduce regressive taxes. Politicians tend to focus on income tax, because that’s the tax we see the most, but VAT is a lot more toxic to low income and middle class people, because it’s regressive. We need to shift that burden around.
10. Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
The Pirate Party is against monopolies, even on the production and circulation of currencies. The state can choose which currencies it accepts taxes in—legal tender—but should not limit which currencies are in circulation. There is a lot of research that suggests that we can strengthen the króna by allowing it to exist in an ecosystem of specialised alternative currencies. Joining the Euro is not a magical solution: it can solve certain problems and should be considered, but it has its own problems too.
11. Do you support the newly passed law removing an expiration date from Iceland’s capital controls? Will your party work to lift these controls? Does it have a timeframe in mind?
Currency controls on the króna are an impediment to many things in Iceland. Foremost amongst these is international investment and companies from abroad opening businesses domestically. Currency controls should only be lifted gradually and as the economy becomes strong enough to resist currency speculation.
12. Do you believe that the collapse was more than an economic one? If so, what else failed in 2008 and does it still need fixing?
Many unsafe banking practices contributed to the downfall of the economy. This was a direct result of poor interbank loans between the Icelandic banks and shoddy bookkeeping coupled with the belief that these entities could do no wrong. The government was duly responsible for failing to enact oversight or take action and minimize the damage. For more details please read the report by the financial meltdown committee.
13. How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
Bringing back affordable housing for Icelanders may be best way to serve households. Part of the solution may lie with a return to the “union housing blocks” (félagsíbúðir) that existed before privatisation of the loan markets.
Iceland being a cold place, everyone should have a roof over their head and not have to worry about lacking one. Everybody needs to have good options for having a home to live.
14 What is your stance on Iceland’s application to the European Union? Do you ultimately think Icelanders’ interests would be best served by being part of this coalition?
The Pirates do not take a stance for or against joining the EU. Pirates will however insist that the decision be made with a public referendum. The Pirate Party has drafted stances for either of the paths Iceland chooses to take.
•    If Iceland does join the EU, Iceland should be a single electoral district in European Parliament elections, Icelandic shall become an official EU language, Iceland be exempted from the data retention act (2006/24/EC), and exempt from the regulation on enforcement orders for uncontested claims (1869/2005/EC).
•    If, on the other hand, Iceland does not join the EU, the Pirates believe that Iceland should renegotiate the EEA contract in order to ensure Iceland’s legislative independence.
15. What is your stance on the new constitution that was called for in the wake of Iceland’s financial crisis? Are you for or against pushing the current draft through parliament? Why or why not?
The Icelandic Pirate Party would like to see the new constitution adopted. It comes directly from the people and is a shining example of direct democracy in action. The draft as it stands today is ready for adoption and should be passed.
16. Will your party do something to protect the land and its resources? Is a more stringent regulative framework needed to ensure conservation of the environment?
The ownership of natural resources clause in the new constitution has all the answers we need. The regulatory framework only needs to make sure that all involved have an equal voice when it comes to harvesting or conserving the environment—keeping in mind that future generations may also be stakeholders.
17. Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
Yes it is. Keep up the good fight and enable the people who are in the thick of things. There aren’t many (if any) legal issues of gender inequality left fortunately but we have to keep our eyes open.
18. Where do you stand on immigration issues?
Immigration policy has a lot of facets. A more specific question would be appreciated. A general issue question gets a general answer: Immigration comes in two flavours. The people coming into the country and the people already there. Iceland should definitely be more active in recruiting people from other countries and learning about other cultures.
19. Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
Government is a community issue. Religion is a personal issue. These issues should not be mixed.
A secular government is overall the most beneficial for everybody as the emphasis should be to reach decisions appropriate for everyone but not a single religion. The Icelandic Pirate Party sees the inherent benefit from a separation of church and state.
20. Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
If their issues align with ours we see no problem cooperating. We only oppose bad ideas and bad execution of ideas. We mean to adopt new methods of doing things, methods developed in the software business where things change fast, methods that are designed to solve problems incrementally with full participation of all stakeholders, most importantly the people.

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