Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shadow Governments?

Shadow government? An idea for the United States

For decades, if not centuries, Britain's parliamentary government has featured an unusual idea - that the opposition party in government should form a "shadow government" featuring "shadow ministers" and even shadow ministerial staffs. This allows the opposition to do several things, including assign responsibility for dealing with issues, prepare for an eventual accession to power, and provide a ready source of commentary to the press and elsewhere on specific issues and fields of concern. The closest thing the US has had to this concept has been the minority leaders and their subordinates (whips, etc.) in the various legislative houses. But since ministries (in the UK) are executive branch departments in the US, there had seldom been anything similar. The closest is the Democrat or GOP spokesman chosen to rebut the now traditional Saturday broadcast by the sitting president.

Of course, since there is much to argue for the fact that, philosophical differences apart, there is little if anything in actual RESULTS to distinguish between the two predominant, and old, parties, in the US, such a shadow administration is, at best, a token.

However, for the Libertarian Party, well outside the informal cartel of government power in DC and all fifty state capitols, the idea of a shadow government offers some potential, indeed.

Modern American government is huge. Even if a single Libertarian party member were able to respond as would be desirable to every pronouncement by a state cabinet member or department head, there is not enough time in the day (especially for volunteers). The same thing can be said of key legislative committee chairs, again at both the state and federal level. However, the appointment (or even, within the party, election) of shadow "secretaries" and shadow "chairs" of key departments and committees would allow for specialization AND time to respond in a given area of interest, as well as a certain legitimacy: "Today, Libertarian shadow Secretary of Defense John Smith condemned Secretary Rumsfeld's call for 50,000 more troops in Iraq" has a better ring than "Libertarian activist and spokesman John Smith condemned..." This will also encourage specialization and additional thought about specific political and governmental problems, which apply both to political/election efforts and to non-political libertarian efforts. For example, a series of web or telephone conferences between the fifty state shadow Attorneys General about how to respond to new mandates on Drivers Licenses would produce some very valuable ideas and information, as well as contacts and possibly, media attention. It would encourage cooperation in various efforts, including ballot initiatives, voter registration drives, and nonpolitical activities such as monetary alternatives and personal defense initiatives.

In addition, by appointing such shadow cabinet/chair positions several years in advance of elections, the opportunities for public speaking and attention in the media would increase. If shadow appointments to all legislative seats were done two years in advance, it would be a way of determining candidates for the elected office well in advance, AND give some more credence to their campaign. Jana Jones, appointed in 2006 as the Libertarian Party shadow County Commission Chair, who has been writing letters to the editor, commentaries, and making press releases for almost a year and a half prior to formally announcing she will run AGAINST the current Democratic Chair, has some visibility (and knowledge) that would otherwise not be there.

As liberty continues to be eroded away at the same rate as soil washing away from a freshly plowed field in Iowa during a cloud-burst, the existence of shadow government officials at all levels may be a valuable survival tool which will keep the present precarious state of affairs from being replaced by some kind of outright dictatorship (military or otherwise). This is really NOT a new idea: the pre-Revolutionary Committees of Correspondence in the Thirteen Colonies were very much shadow governments, and the Continental Congress, itself much a product of those committees, was an illegal or at least extra-governmental organization in the eyes of the Crown and the Crown's governments in the Colonies.

This is not offered as a panacea or as anything but yet another tool to use in the cause of liberty; one which will serve both political and non-political efforts.

If you are interested in this concept and wish to explore it, please (1) share this with other libertarians, (2) respond to this web-site with your ideas, comments, and encouragement, and (3) begin forming your own LOCAL shadow government. Start with your town, housing association, school board, or county.

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