The Political Bazaar and the Political Cathedral

Last night I got an excellent education in politics from a local old master at how they play the game in Lake County, Indiana. Halfway through it, I had an epiphany, that the whole internal system, top to bottom was largely based on “Cathedral” style thinking straight out of Eric S Raymond’s influential essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar and I had long ago decided that the bazaar had the winning argument, at least for this generation.

That moment cleared up a lot for me and clarified my thinking. I was having this discussion because the Indiana Republican Liberty Caucus had just organized a Lake county chapter and I was elected chairman. I was calling around and letting the town chairmen know that there was a new player in town on the GOP’s side and oh, could I stop by to introduce myself and the LC-INRLC at their next meeting.

The old master went on and I paid attention but my entire perspective shifted because I had realized that the fight I was in was a different fight than the one he was describing. Imagine building a cathedral in a bazaar. It’s a bit annoying to the rest of the bazaar but if you’ve got the scratch to reserve that much space, the bazaar will accommodate. Now imagine building a bazaar in a cathedral. The cathedral people will hate you because, inherently, your activities often won’t respect the day to day pieties of the cathedral you’re working in. Nobody has found a perfect solution to this, though the best of the cathedral builders in the software world have learned to make their peace and to change their structure to accommodate the bazaar builders that they rely on and compete with.

The ideological struggle with the left just got company as my top priority. Party building a GOP bazaar just snapped into focus as a major challenge.

4 thoughts on “The Political Bazaar and the Political Cathedral”

  1. I have not read the Cathedral and the Bazaar, or even heard of it until five minutes ago. But at first glance, based on the title alone, it reminds me Claudio Veliz’s Baroque hedgehogs vs. Gothic foxes, one of many iterations of the conflict between networks and hierarchies.

  2. It is all about humility. Linus Torvalds is one of the giants of the 20th and 21st centuries. His rule ?

    “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” I dub this: “Linus’s Law”.

    Ronald Reagan, another giant, said “There is no limit to what can be accomplished so long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”

    This is Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

    I have to say that it would be nice if I got the credit for the things that I have accomplished in my life but it is still satisfying to see them used.

  3. If you look at the essay, one of its interesting features is that it has a non-standard copyright notice. All are given permission to reproduce and modify it. I’m writing up something that starts from ESR’s text and is more specifically aimed at center-right US politicians.

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