HOWTO win the nerd vote

Matt "Metafilter" Haughey's laid out a 10-point plan for winning the nerd vote that I heartily endorse -- this is a platform I'd stand up and salute if any politician had the guts to endorse it. The points are: Broadband everywhere, universal healthcare, no federal tax on Internet purchases, renewed commitment to education, renewed commitment to science, real changes to transportation, early voting by mail, revamping copyright, a better job from the patent office, and open government.
1. Broadband Everywhere. I want crazy South Korea/Japan style broadband I've heard about for years: 100Mbps (upload and download) fiber connections for less than $50/month with unlimited bandwidth and the ability to run your own servers. I know the US is a big spread out country and it makes this stuff somewhat difficult/costly, but it's an ambitious goal with a ton of payoff. We don't have manufacturing jobs in the US anymore: we don't make things, we don't build things, we don't sew things here, but we do have lots of ideas and inventions.

The economy of the future in the US is going to be intertwined with the internet and if every man, woman, and child in America has all the internet access they could ever need and could quickly program, build, and deploy their own stuff on their own mega-fast lines, we'd have a million and one programmers and designers and crafters and more contributing to a new vibrant future economy. If fiber everywhere is too much, at least get 3G coverage in more places.

How to get my nerd vote


  1. It wouldn’t hurt to send all the jocks to forced labor camps and cover horned-rimmed glasses and dental appliances under universal healthcare either.

  2. Our country is way to large for “broadband everywhere” to be a likely outcome in the near future. We are too spread out to make it useful and profitable at this point in time. But “universal healthcare, no federal tax on Internet purchases, renewed commitment to education, renewed commitment to science, real changes to transportation, early voting by mail, revamping copyright, a better job from the patent office, and open government.” seems like logical platforms to run on in the first place.

  3. Though I, for the most part, agree with that platform, I don’t know if most nerds would agree with it. I just have this vision of most techies having a libertarian streak. Thus the Ron Paul phenomenon.

  4. “universal healthcare” isn’t a nerd thing, it’s a left-wing thing. Ignoring my personal feelings on the matter, it has absolutely nothing to do with core nerd issues.

    “Early voting by mail” is just an invitation to fraud and voter intimidation.

  5. #2. I’ll settle for “Broadband NJ”. South Korea has a population density of 493/km². New Jersey’s is 438/km².

    For that matter, I live in Hudson County, one of the higher population dense areas of the nation (5,036/km²) , and they still don’t offer FIOS to my address.

  6. I slightly dislike this ‘too large’ argument. EU states as a whole are also large, and some have a similarly low population density. None the less, we appear to have broadband working almost everywhere.

    Not that I want to appear too rabidly capitalist as opposed to corpratist, but you guys should really stop exclusive telecom supply contracts under antitrust law.

  7. @N: You can already vote by mail with an absentee ballot, and I haven’t heard about widespread fraud or intimidation related to absentee voting.

    @IMAJICATION: I think the nerd-libertarian connection originates from a background of alienation from the mainstream or desire to be left alone. Basically, a lot of nerds like the idea of being independent, and an anti-government philosophy plays directly to that kind of identity. For most people, anti-government sentiment manifests as a leftist philosophy like anarchism. But, to make a generalization, nerds tend to be of a higher and more comfortable economic class than average. So for the most part they probably have little difficulty providing for their very basic needs, and so are more likely to relate to the right-wing libertarian narrative of “every man for himself” eschewing the idea that society should cooperate in providing for people who can’t provide for themselves.

    Also, nerds tend towards the male (though this is changing), and libertarianism is def a masculine world-view.

  8. The Devil is in the details, of course.

    Were I a candidate, I could easily promise most of those things (and probably deliver), but I bet Cory wouldn’t like my way of doing it.

    #1: Broadband everywhere: Ok… So there’s really only one way to do this…

    #2: Universal healthcare: With caveats. All children and minors should get 100% coverage. Basic needs policies should be made available at prices that can be afforded at minimum wage. These policies should be provided to people who are receiving unemployment benefits. Additional coverage comes with cost to the individual. I think this is really important, as it prevents a situation where there is a board of people deciding if you deserve to be treated. Instead the individual makes the decision, but everybody can still have their basic needs taken care of.

    Go back to teaching high school students how to take care of themselves. This should cut back on the number of doctors visits for simple colds, etc.

    #3: Constitutional ban on sales tax.

    #4: Cap federal student loans at $18k/year. Refuse to issue loans to attend schools that charge more than $28k/year. Refuse to issue loans to attend schools that spend a disproportional amount of undergraduate tuition on the graduate program. Federal student loans have enabled schools to raise their tuitions to the point where the burden of paying for an education is what it was, but now you also have the burden of large debt when you graduate. This is unacceptable.

    Expand public universities. More classes, less sports. Revenue from sporting events must be spent within 12 months on reduced tuition.

    National testing requirements for graduation from high school. Make diplomas mean something. To make this work, schools should be funded such that people can continue to attend school until they’ve learned enough to pass the test.

    (Tie in to #5) National curriculum. Eliminate local school boards. Stop spending hundreds of millions of redundant dollars making the same decisions in thousands of communities across the country. (This will also stop some of them from making stupid science related decisions).

    National primary and high school dress code. Kids should be concentrating on learning, not on who’s wearing the latest fad outfits.

    #5: One step further. Mechanical and Electrical Engineering should become high school classes, just like physics and chemistry.

    #6: Build the infrastructure required for electric vehicles (grid, and nuclear, or solar if you’re in a solar friendly region). Regulate emissions, not consumption (it’s the emissions you care about, right?) Stop ignoring trucking and air transport.

    #7: Move election day to “election weekend”. Use Open Source electronic voting. Maintain local registration, but establish a national voter registry. Allow people to vote at any poling place they wish. Eliminate absentee balloting by mail.

    #8: Going with Cory again. Execpt that Cory should wish he was a little more himself and a little less Lessig. “The internet changes everything” is one of the biggest gaffes in copyright law history. I believe that it is the one sentence that lost him the case. There are so many better things he could have said…

    #9: All laws should be in the public domain. All US governments should be required by law to make their laws accessible online. Representitives votes should still be allowed to be kept secret so they can vote in the way they deem proper even if it is against popular opinion.

  9. I was going to complain that this doesn’t really reflect typical nerd values, but then I read the article where he says “my nerd habits, my nerdy business, and the way my live my nerdy life.” (emphasis mine) So, really it is just Cory’s interpretation that this is how to win the nerd vote. There’s a difference between some guy talking about what he would vote for vs. representing an entire culture (one which has been co-opted by ironic hipsters who think they’re nerds because they use a computer).

  10. While I heartily support that, I think it would have to be a 3G network. Where I am, satellite internet is the only thing out there. We are 100 meters from the nearest cable line. Our neighbor across the street, who has to use dial up, can see the cable box from her deck. Our next door neighbor tried wireless internet through AT&T, but apparently we are in a pocket where everyone around us has it, but we don’t. So, because I take online classes and want to be a web designer and developer, I have to deal with paying $50 a month for 785kbs *average* speed (during the busy times, I often only get error messages), with a download limit of 200mb an hour. If I try to play an online game or download anything of use, they’ll enable the “fair use” clause and strangle my connection. This strangle can last anywhere from 24 hours to a month. Even trying to watch a fast loading movie can strangle my connection. Oh, and the latency is slower than dial up. I can’t even use dial up because I need a broadband connection for school. Needless to say, something needs to be done. We’re not even rural, we’re a suburb of a small city! Bah!

  11. “We don’t have manufacturing jobs in the US anymore: we don’t make things, we don’t build things, we don’t sew things here…”

    Wrong. It’s heading that way, but it’s still wrong, and when it does become true, we’re screwed.

  12. That’s odd, I expected a lot of politicians to have endorsed it in the comments. Call me naive.

    Allow me to be the first then, on behalf of my spouse Jan Creasman, candidate for Iowa House. She’s running against a right-wing Republican who votes against education, never mind science, and needs all the help she can get!

  13. How is this different than a kid writing a letter to Santa?

    It’s easy to win votes by promising to give everyone what they want. That’s the difference between a candidate’s job and a politician’s job. A politician actually has to deal with the the fact that A.) there aren’t enough resources in the world to give everyone everything they want (a subset of economics, the study of scarcity) and B.) that many of those desires are mutually exclusive.

    Less Santa, more Solomon.

  14. To follow with increases to education, I would also add:

    1. Doubling NASA’s budget
    2. Doubling NSF / CDC budget
    3. Doubling NIST budget
    4. Doubling DOE budget (not for nukes, for research (hopefully not research into nukes)
    5. Increasing university endowment funds for new faculty hires and greater student support
    6. Creating tax incentives / loans/grants for green innovation
    7. etc.

    I am sure you can come up with many more, but there are a lot of great things the government already does that are just waiting to expand and improve the nation as a whole (i.e. NASA) they just need actual support once again.

  15. Okay, granted that Matt Hauley wasn’t pitching this to all geeks…

    “Political geeks” is a term for people want their party or candidate to stick to principles rather than maneuver for constituencies. This platform, though it has some bits I like, is mostly a collection of technopork. I’ll bet tech-geeks tend to be political geeks even if they’re not libertarians.

    #7 zikzak: “I think the nerd-libertarian connection originates from a background of alienation from the mainstream or desire to be left alone.” Definitely some libs come from that angle. But my main model is that nerds like to understand systems, and once they see a simple or “right” way to do something, they don’t like a complex, arbitrary, or marketing- driven way.

    (Btw, libs approve of charity; they just think making it compulsory is disingenuous.)

    “Also, nerds tend towards the male (though this is changing), and libertarianism is def a masculine world-view.”

    That’s like saying science and math are masculine world-views. If girls are even more discouraged than boys from grabbing the tools of understanding and BS detection, we need to reencourage them.

  16. In the 30’s the Government of the United States created the Rural Electrification Administration which pushed power lines into areas where no self respecting capitalist would ever have dared to run a line. Not enough customers. Electric was necessary to be a part of America as it grew in unprecedented ways with the advance of this new electric stuff.This happened because there was a need to spread a technology, a president who felt it a duty of the folks who owned the factories to pay high taxes so as to benefit the workers in those factories, and an acceptance of Socialism in the general population that made soaking the rich for the money they “earned” by owning factories. That could be done today, to wire the country for broadband.
    From what I’ve heard about from countries with socialized medicine & my own experience as self employed & paying my own health insurance, I say let’s try Socialism. Capitalism just allows the greediest & most ruthless to rise to the top.
    There are some things the government can do very well, even best. All in all it is up to each & every one of us to make up our version of this list & get it to our elected officials. & work to elect officials who will listen.

  17. politicians hate and fear the web. Until they can figure how to exploit it, use it and control it, don’t expect anything but lies and empty promises. Or you could make new politicians.

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