Readings: Tea Party, etc.

This is about a bunch of articles that I have been reading.

Richard Branson: Five Secrets to Business Success. They are:

1. Enjoy What You Are Doing.
2. Create Something That Stands Out.
3. Create Something That Everybody Who Works for You is Really Proud of.
4. Be A Good Leader.
5. Be Visible.

From the National Journal Magazine, How Tea Party Organizes Without Leaders. This article is a great introduction to what the tea party is and how it operates. Some excerpts:

Though headless, the tea party movement is not mindless. . . If they succeed, or even half succeed, the tea party’s most important legacy may be organizational, not political. . . The tea party began as a network, not an organization, and that is what it mostly remains. . . (the movement probably could not have arisen before the advent of free conference calling), they began to talk about doing something. What they didn’t realize was that they were already doing something. In the very act of networking, they were printing the circuitry for a national jolt of electricity. . . The Starfish and the Spider, a business book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, was published in 2006 to no attention at all in the political world. The subtitle, however, explains its relevance to the tea party model: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.

Traditional thinking, the book contends, holds that hierarchies are most efficient at getting things done. Hierarchies, such as corporations, have leaders who can make decisions and set priorities; chains of command to hold everyone accountable; mechanisms to shift money and authority within the organization; rules and disciplinary procedures to prevent fracture and drift. This type of system has a central command, like a spider’s brain. Like the spider, it dies if you thump it on the head.

The rise of the Internet and other forms of instantaneous, interpersonal interaction, however, has broken the spider monopoly, Brafman and Beckstrom argue. Radically decentralized networks — everything from illicit music-sharing systems to Wikipedia — can direct resources and adapt (“mutate”) far faster than corporations can. “The absence of structure, leadership, and formal organization, once considered a weakness, has become a major asset,” the authors write. “Seemingly chaotic groups have challenged and defeated established institutions. The rules of the game have changed.” . . .

. . . tea partiers say, if you think moving votes and passing bills are what they are really all about, you have not taken the full measure of their ambition. No, the real point is to change the country’s political culture, bending it back toward the self-reliant, liberty-guarding instincts of the Founders’ era. Winning key congressional seats won’t do that, nor will endorsing candidates. “If you just tell people to vote but you don’t talk about the underlying principles,” Martin says, “you just have to do it again and again and again, in every election.”

The tea party movement is of interest to me because I feel that something similar has to happen for India to get out of the rut. The Congress party is successful in what it does — which primarily amounts to keeping India poor and powerless — and the BJP sort of had the opportunity to take India on a path to economic recovery but they were largely incompetent and ineffective.

I spend a significant amount of time working on figuring out how to get decent governance in India. I am working on putting together what we call “United Voters of India” — an association of people who have the power to bring about change.

The change we are seeking will have a sequence. Education –> Understanding –> Change in behavior. Which is, cultural change is the outcome of education and the cause of political change.

Talking of change, a brief article about Robert Cialdini’s work, “Using the Science of Influence to Improve the Art of Persuastion“, which lists “six universal principles of influence–those that are so powerful that they generate desirable change in the widest range of circumstances.” Excerpts:

Reciprocation. People are more willing to comply with requests (for favors, services, information, concessions, etc.) from those who have provided such things first.

Commitment/Consistency. People are more willing to be moved in a particular direction if they see it as consistent with an existing or recent commitment.

Authority. People are more willing to follow the directions or recommendations of a communicator to whom they attribute relevant authority or expertise.

Social Validation. People are more willing to take a recommended action if they see evidence that many others, especially similar others, are taking it.

Scarcity. People find objects and opportunities more attractive to the degree that they are scarce, rare, or dwindling in availability.

Liking/Friendship. People prefer to say yes to those they know and like.

Moving on to something entirely different, here’s something that I am learning. I don’t know anything about financial markets. I thought I would get myself an education on them on the web. I have been following Yale University Prof Robert Shiller’s course on financial markets on the web.

The course description is:

Financial institutions are a pillar of civilized society, supporting people in their productive ventures and managing the economic risks they take on. The workings of these institutions are important to comprehend if we are to predict their actions today and their evolution in the coming information age. The course strives to offer understanding of the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths and imperfections of such institutions as banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, and the future of these institutions over the next century. [Link: Academic]

Lecture 11 of 26 is on “Stocks.”

Watch it on Academic Earth

Author: Atanu Dey


10 thoughts on “Readings: Tea Party, etc.”

  1. Atanu

    I read Branson’s article. As always, he keeps it simple and makes sense.

    Thanks for the tea party link. I never quite understood them. Looking forward to your political change ideas for India. Can’t see the rot that is happening.

    The Academic Earth website is great. Lots of courses. Great stuff.


  2. Hello Sir,

    May I ask you, what’s your opinion about changing a government by being a part of the system itself. In other words, younger generation of India should be encouraged to join CIVIL services and then ,like Kiran Bedi, should be committed to nothing but a change. Although these kind of effort done by Manjunath Shanghumam and Satyendra Pathak, but I think there fete shouldn’t discourage but encourage us.



  3. The organization of tea party might be interesting to understand, but I think their ideas and objectives border on being a little nutty. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are the main motivators, and they usually succeed by fear mongering. They are predominantly white, mostly 50+, border on far right, and their worldview even appears a little racist.

    Great link to the academic earth. Thanks.


  4. Well the Tea Party is certainly tapping into popular discontent. However, many of their leaders are also unqualified and quite ridiculous. Probably signals people are fed up with both the Democratic and Republican parties: A good article on wsj on what it means:
    By Peggy Noonan
    Why It’s Time for the Tea Party The populist movement is more a critique of the GOP than a wing of it.
    This fact marks our political age: The pendulum is swinging faster and in shorter arcs than it ever has in our lifetimes. Few foresaw the earthquake of 2008 in 2006. No board-certified political professional predicted, on Election Day 2008, what happened in 2009-10 (New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts) and has been happening, and will happen, since then. It all moves so quickly now, it all turns on a dime.
    But at this moment we are witnessing a shift that will likely have some enduring political impact. Another way of saying that: The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.
    Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party’s innovative, broad-based network: “In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists,” there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals “move the movement.” Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. “In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale.” Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: “The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history.” “It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties.” “Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement.”
    To read more:


  5. I wouldn’t like to see a Tea Party-like movement for India simply because it is rooted in misdirected anger. Once the economy picks up (or you have a Republican President), you’ll see this movement disappear. The 60s anti-Vietnam protests and civil rights movement during the same era are worthy movements to emulate.


  6. Hi Atanu,

    How about writing something about UID project and Caste Census; especially given the fact that former (uid like) project was trashed in UK by its citizens.
    Would like to read about these on this blog.



  7. The problem is that any movement (whether innovative in its organization, or not) ends up being used by one or other corporate or political group. Ultimately, you need a leader with the utmost integrity and, who cannot be corrupted. Don’t see any out there in the tea party group.


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