In the rest of this blog, I’m feeling my way (preliminary or rough thoughts) to defining shadow organizations. Intuitively, I believe in the value and influence of “shadow” organizations as critical alternatives. Anyone who writes an article that evaluates the actions of others is essentially “shadowing” their behavior. This has value in many ways, such as spreading ethical values, upholding them, overcoming disinformation, critiquing and holding public figures accountable, developing new information, providing alternative views, and providing monitoring of public policies. Shadow opinions enter the stream of human communications that influence social behavior in unexplained and complex ways.
The first time I heard about a shadow organization was when Karl Brunner and Allen Meltzer started the shadow Federal Open Market Committee, in order to provide an alternative view of what the FED’s policies should be. They shadowed the FED’s press releases after their meetings with releases of their own. They had a shadow group that met and produced statements. They got publicity. They didn’t call for the end of the FED, and Meltzer still doesn’t, but they stood for monetary restraint. Karl, after all, was Swiss. Karl, whom I knew personally, was always independent and critical. Meltzer was perhaps less so, although feisty. Meltzer was on the Council of Economic Advisors of two presidents, and his statements tend to be more ambiguous.
Shadow organizations are steps in the direction of alternative governments or alternatives to governments, which is one reason they are worthwhile. Another is that since they are more free from the influences of money and politics, they can comment more accurately on issues and policies.
Washington think tanks are generally heavily influenced by donors and politics. Their personnel move in overlapping circles of government, business, lobbying and consulting. They are not shadow organizations due to the lack of independence and due to a lack of focus and continuity on one area. Still, one can find valuable information and insights in reports being produced and circulated by them. The same is true of governments themselves since they are typically divided and have competing departments and interests within them.
If I had to isolate the important factor in all this, I’d say it’s competition in the communication of ideas. The governments attempt to dominate the social conversation and present a view that supports their policies. Their dominance is dangerous. The mainstream press and tv channels are supposed to shadow them and critique them, but they parrot the government usually. A good many internet web sites are instead shadowing government actions and statements. A shadow organization like the shadow FOMC and the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War has both a narrowly-defined mission and a continuing presence. It has to build reputation.
I think that America could benefit from having an ongoing shadow Supreme Court or maybe several of them that would hand down alternative opinions. It would benefit from having an alternative Congress that would produce and publicize alternative bills to the ones that Congress passes. An alternative presidency would be helpful too. When the out-of-office party has a person who gives an alternative speech after a president does, that is like a shadow presidency.
Ron Paul is a one-man shadow. Of course he has an organization helping him. He continually produces high quality speeches on most important issues. He provides real alternatives. Gary North is a one-man shadow when it comes to the FED’s releases.
There is just a change of focus, or a twist, involved in being a shadow organization. The Libertarian Party could do it. It could start to follow issues of the day in real time and provide shadow libertarian alternatives to each. That’s different from writing up general policy positions and standing on them.6:51 am on May 14, 2012 Email Michael S. Rozeff