[EM] direct democracy / proxy system proposal - comment

Bryan Ford baford at mit.edu
Sun Aug 8 04:08:31 PDT 2004

On Sunday 08 August 2004 03:33, Paul Kislanko wrote:
> Except for terminology changes, this seems just like what we have now in
> the US.

ALL modern large-scale democracies involve some notion of indirection that can 
be vaguely labelled "representation" or "proxy voting" or whatever, because 
no matter how you cut the cards, not everyone can be directly involved in 
every governmental decision all the time.  But the similarity does not extend 
beyond this must superficial level.  What's important is the _structure_ of 
the representation - the details of how the system actually works, not just 
the use of vague buzzwords like "representatives" or "electors" or "proxies".  
(Did you actually read either James's proposal or mine?)

> "Electors" are our proxies for the selection of President and Vice
> President, and we elect Representatives to Congress as proxies for for
> having all of us get together and vote on every issue.

US presidential electors are in no way similar to the proxies James is 
proposing.  For starters, the people (which includes me, one of the millions 
stuck under this godawful electoral system) do not actually vote for 
electors: they vote for a party or presidential candidate, who _appoints_ his 
electors for a particular state, and the electors for that state in turn vote 
for their candidate in the electoral college if the candidate wins the 
popular vote in that state.  From the point of view of Joe Average, the 
existence of the electoral college is practically invisible, except for its 
mysterious effect (due to the statewide granularity of the electoral college) 
of sometimes causing the candidate who _loses_ the popular vote becoming 

In contrast, the whole point of "proxies" in James's proposal (or "delegates" 
in mine) is that everyone has the _individual_ choice not only of _whether_ 
to use a proxy at all (versus just to participate directly), but also of 
_who_ exactly their proxy will be.  In our proposals, the idea is that you 
can choose basically _anyone_ to be your proxy and vote in place of you - 
meaning your proxy can (and should) be someone you know directly and actually 
trust - not just someone you hear about on TV.  It's about giving voters more 
choice in how they participate - and the US electoral college system 
certainly gives voters no such choice.

Similarly, the existing US congressional representative system provides no 
such choice either.  Every few years the ruling representatives of a given 
state (NOT the voters) get together and divy up the state into little 
geographic districts, and then depending on which district you happen to fall 
into, you get only one or - if you're _really_really_lucky_ and live in a 
rare districts where there is any contest at all - at most two viable 
candidates to choose from to "represent" you.  And if you're in the losing 
minority in that district, you get no representative at all.  Where's the 
choice here?

In James's proposal (and mine), the people (NOT the established 
representatives) get to define their own "districts" or constituencies 
individually, by selecting any proxy they want on whatever basis they like.  
All the people who delegate their votes to a given proxy effectively form a 
constituency, regardless of where they live geographically.  Less 
popular/powerful proxies can then re-delegate their voting power to other 
proxies to form larger, more powerful constituencies - again, according to 
their _own_ choices, not according to the whims of some gerrymandering 
committee set up by the established political elite.

> Adding another layer by having us elect electors to elect representatives
> dose not seem to me to make the democracy more representative.

Again, you seem to have missed the point entirely - the proposal isn't about 
adding or removing layers, but about making the representative structure work 
according to _individual_ choice.  You don't have to use proxies at all; you 
can just participate directly (or not participate at all) if you wish.  If 
you do want to use a proxy, you get to decide exactly who your proxy is, and 
the decision is exclusively yours.   You don't have to fight with 646,951 
other pre-selected people in your district over the choice of your 
representative.  (See 


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