[EM] direct democracy / proxy system proposal

Bryan Ford baford at mit.edu
Sat Aug 7 04:02:44 PDT 2004

Hi James,

I don't normally follow this list, but just happened across it and noticed 
your proxy system proposal and the ensuing sporadic discussion on the list.
I've been thinking along very similar lines for a while, and it's nice to see 
I'm not the only one. :)  A couple years ago I wrote and put on the web a 
very rough draft of my ideas, which I referred to as "delegative democracy" 
or "delegative voting" - since it gives voters the power to "delegate" their 
voting power to someone else.  But I actually like your use of the term 
"proxy" better - shorter and more obvious.  My write-ups are at the 
following, still very-much-"under-construction" web page... :)


There are two things on that page.  One is a somewhat long and dry (16-page) 
but moderately detailed PDF write-up that explores the general idea 
particularly from a viewpoint of participatory or direct democracy.  This 
document is probably most closely aligned with your current thrust, but as I 
said, it's long and dry and quite rough.  The other link on the page is a 
sub-page containing a shorter, probably somewhat more readable HTML document 
that takes this proxy/delegation idea and re-applies it in a more traditional 
"representative democracy" framework, forming another alternative system for 
electing representatives to offices or parliaments or whatnot.  I posted a 
message about it on the stv-voting group on yahoo.com a couple years ago:


to which Tom Ruen posted a particularly thoughtful and interesting reply:


This brief discussion was more along the lines of "proxy voting to elect 
representatives" rather than "proxy voting to implement direct/participatory 
democracy", however.  Personally I think both are equally interesting and 
promising applications of the idea, probably suited for different situations.

I'm sure neither Tom nor I were the first to have this idea either; in fact, 
just searching for the word "proxy" on the archives of this list turned up a 
couple very interesting articles, the first of which is a brief exchange 
between Donald E. Davison and George Kokkas in August 1999:


(I hope the long URL survives the E-mail software. :))  Donald's highly 
critical reply to the idea - more or less, that "proxy voting is 
undemocractic" because one person should not be allowed to wield many votes - 
was similar to the reaction I got once when talking about the idea informally 
with a fellow activist in person, and I suspect will be a very common 
knee-jerk objection to the idea that will have to be (and I think can be) 
answered carefully.  (Perhaps Donald is still on the list and would like to 
comment further? :))

Another related message on this list, more recent but still pre-dating both of 
ours, from March 2002:


It's sort of hard to read because it's written in legalese, and I can't tell 
who the author was (who exactly is "election-methods-list at eskimo.com"?), but 
the same central idea is there.

I think this is an idea whose time has come.  Although I don't have time to 
follow any of the high-bandwidth electoral systems lists very regularly, I 
would be interested in working with you and others who feel similarly, 
perhaps on a separate, smaller list, to discuss and explore the possibilities 
further and perhaps work together on some kind of joint web site and/or 
article(s) or whatnot.  Perhaps we could form an informal "proxy voting 
working group" of some kind?


More information about the Election-Methods mailing list