I do not think I have come to a personal conclusion as of yet, but at the very least I can offer some sort of critical analysis which may lead to future decisions.
The way I see it, paid membership may be required in the long run because things cost money in this world. Like or not, the Party will begin its life in the system it wishes to destroy.This isn’t a preference, its a fact. Can you rationally run an organisation without an income (not that it has to be a large income, quite the opposite.) I would question just how much choice we have in the matter.
From personal experience, I have been running an organisation for two years and I chose not to charge membership, believing that creative endeavours should be for their own sake. As noble as this idea may have been at the time, it left me the sole financial funder. Like, come on, I’m a University student, I don’t have money! It meant I had to work extra hours in a menial job. So what if I moved? What if I lost my job? Circumstances chance and if the sole funder were to hit hard times, the whole ship sinks.
It really may be a necessity to socialise the expense of this movement in the current UK climate.
It may also be of some worth to consider the values which the party stands for. A Meritocracy isn’t communism, there is no ‘absolute welfare,’ your presence within the party has to be of value to the organisation. Thus we cannot really expect a vast or popular following like Pirate Party. It’s a privacy related movement at its core. Privacy is massively popular and topical in European culture right now. And lets face it, we are as popular as the chicken pox!
In my view, we are going to operate on a small membership for a long time, and it may require funding to survive because we won’t be ‘propped up’ by popularity or generous donors from the public.
But, I do emphasise, the fee does not have to be a lot. Like come on, I’m a penniless student, I was able to contribute something. I just forewent my weekly consumption of sugary sweets.
I do think, if this is going to work, we are going to have to make personal sacrifices. Is it fair? Hell no, but the whole point of our existence is to MAKE things fair. We may have to take some punches, but its not about US, it is about future generations.
Okay, now to critique the Free membership proposal.
Free stuff is awesome! People actually feel good when they gain something without personal expense. Buying something is a trade off, an equivalent. So the reward mechanism in your brain doesn’t kick in, but things that are free. It is like being given a gift. It feels good. You are absolutely correct it will make faster growth. But who will join in that case? People who are proven to make sacrifices and are willing to think of the community over themselves, or some subculture rebels who just want to get in on the next free thing which makes them feel good and ‘alternative.’?
Think about this too, the Pirate dudes work the privacy line, like the Greens work the Environmental line, the Conservatives the Low Tax line and Labour the welfare line (until recently anyway.)
What is our line? Meritocracy is not something you can make into a soundbite. Even equal opportunities for every child is a good one, but to what extent is it meaningful dramatically? What does that line, which is what most people will absorb actually tell you? Not very much. To be honest, it sounds kind of like an NGO like Oxfam, like we are about to go an build schools for african kids. Very noble yes, but it relates NOTHING to our grander revolutionary goals and dramatically it PROMISES nothing.
“We promise to protect your privacy, save you from global warming, lower taxes, give your free health care etc etc” Those statements are promise makers. They attract the masses. Quick, to the point, not complicated.
We aren’t like that. Meritocrats are people who look beyond the obvious, who actually go and read something and think about it. To what extent to what want to ‘grow’ quickly when we attract people who aren’t meritocrats! They may agree with us on a simple level but to what extent do they support or enhance the dialectical evolution of the group? Indeed when they sit a ‘Meritocratic Challenge’ and they lose, they will feel bad and excluded and the high from free membership may have long departed at that point.
And yes you mentioned you have systems to filter out the fakers, but again, do we want a reputation of rejecting lots and lots of people? That would make us seem elitist and harsh to the extreme.
I guess what I am really trying to tease out, isn’t whether or not we need to pay, even if we pay the maount is miniscule. It is the social and cultural effects of the IDEA of paying?
In what way does either choice alter the perception of the public? How will it effect the ‘decoding’ of our message? The choice we make must be the one which supports our cause the very most.
So all of you serious Meritocrats, think of that, what does Party Payment SAY about us? What does it IMPLY to the public mind?