Friday, September 21, 2007

Could we keep NAWL open ourselves?

In the comments on this post about NAWL, Mike injects some libertarian advice into the dialogue by pointing out that as much as it's a drag that NAWL is closing due to lack of government funding, even reinstating their funding doesn't mean it can't happen again. Any organization (or for that matter any individual) that relies permanently on government funding to stay afloat is vulnerable to the whims of the government of the day. The vulnerability increases in direct proportion to the the group's opposition to government policy.

The Court Challenges Program is a perfect example. The "Government Can Do No Wrong" crowd couldn't understand why a group that advocates against government policies in court would even qualify for government funding. Thinking people know that it takes constant pressure to make the government do its job, serve the people, and acknowledge equal rights, which are usually only given under duress. So a group like NAWL, which exists to help maintain a level playing field within the law for the people bound by it, is vulnerable. Governments don't want the people to have the power to slap them around, so if it's politically palatable to their base, a government will take any opportunity to get rid of organizations that help give people that kind of power.

The worst nightmare of a recalcitrant government is a powerful, privately-funded lobby group. One only has to look at Focus On The Family's incredible reach into the White House for evidence. Although they're widely ridiculed by White House staffers, they've still influenced government to the point where presidential nomination campaigns include such travesties as "Values Voters Debates". There's a big difference in that FOTF also donates huge amounts of money to all and sundry, but the principal is the same: FOTF won't shut down if a different government takes power and cuts off their funding, because there is no funding. Their execrable work, privately funded, goes on regardless of who's in power.

If $300,000 is the difference between keeping NAWL open or shutting it down, should We The People not be able to make that happen? 300,000 people donate a loony, that kind of thing? NAWL has already launched a "Stayin' Alive" campaign and will seek private and corporate sponsors, and maybe we can make the difference. And in the process, make NAWL even better.

Because real power is never having to say "I owe you".