December 16 is the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, and it’s also a day in 2007 when something might or might not happen. We’ll have to see, won’t we? I’m curious how it will turn out.
I’m talking about Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican candidate for President who has as much chance of actually becoming President as I do. (And I’m Canadian.) But the thing is, he’s been quietly raising huge amounts of money. You might have heard of the Nov. 5 money bomb — some guy set up a web site that challenged Paul’s supporters to raise 10 million dollars in a single day, November 5. They raised 4.3 million, which remains the biggest one-day money total for any of the Republican contenders this election cycle. English readers and comics fanboys will recognize Nov. 5 as Guy Fawkes Day, which has turned into something like an anarchist/libertarian holiday, thanks mostly to the comic book V for Vendetta. Now, on December 16, another date with insurrectionary overtones, Paul’s supporters are planning another money bomb, again with the goal of reaching 10 million dollars.
I’m assuming they won’t quite get there, but who knows?* The last money bomb was quite a surprise. But I mention all this (on a music-oriented blog, of all things) because of something surprisingly few pundits have noticed about Paul’s successes: this appears to be the first political campaign to rely almost exclusively on a distributed peer-production model of fundraising. Distributed peer production is what enables the blogosphere, as well as other, more obvious kinds of intellectual enterprises (Project Gutenberg, open-source software, etc.). This, at least, is what I argued in my “Anarchy in the AMS” talk a few weeks back. The point is, the blogosphere can make big things (self-sustaining intellectual conversations) by using the internet to co-ordinate little things (the blog posts and comments of many people). Until now, it had never occurred to me that a politician could do the same thing, only with money. Interestingly, bookmakers are setting odds on how much money the Dec. 16 drive will make, and they’re guessing something like 6 million. According to my limited understanding of such things, the way such figures are arrived at is another example of distributed intelligence.
I’m not endorsing Paul or anyone else, by the way. As I’ve said before, Cthulhu is the official Dial M candidate for higher office.
I do, however, generally endorse the idea of driving around in cars with speakers mounted on the roof and ranting to random passers-by. This seems like an excellent sort of civic engagement.
*UPDATE: The total take for the day was slightly more than 6 million.