[EM] Re: "Proxy ranking" versus "proxy approval"?

Bryan Ford baford at mit.edu
Sat Aug 14 01:39:24 PDT 2004

Oops, one more argument in favor of "proxy approval" that I forgot to include 
in my last message...

Suppose that a large and highly active system or direct democracy eventually 
forms around the proxy voting idea, in which people with many different 
interests and specialties are concurrently deliberating on thousands of 
issues in hundreds of interrelated categories or topic areas.  In such a 
large system we wouldn't expect any single person to be able to participate 
directly in more than a few specific topic areas, or even to be able to 
_select proxies_ individually for each topic area.  Instead, we would expect 
most people to participate directly one or a few topic areas, delegate their 
votes to specialists in a slightly wider group of topics areas near their 
primary focus, and finally delegate their votes in all the other more distant 
topic areas to "generalists" whom they know and trust to be generally 
representative of their ideals and interests.  A participant may want to 
select one or more generalists as his default proxies for "all topics" , or 
may want to assign different generalists for a few very broad, "high-level" 
topic areas, such as "environmental issues" or "civil rights", that may each 
have many sub-topics.  These generalists would in turn typically delegate 
their voting blocks to people they know who are more specialized in the 
respective sub-topics, and so on.

Now, unless we artificially impose the somewhat unnatural restriction that all 
the topic areas must form a strict, hierarchical tree structure, the "proxy 
ranking" scheme runs into a problem.  Suppose that there are two broad topic 
areas "animal rights" and "pollution", and there's a more specialized topic 
area "meatpacking industry" that's a sub-topic of both "animal rights" and 
"pollution".  Suppose further that I have registered two _different_ proxies 
in "animal rights" and "pollution", but haven't registered any proxy 
specifically for "meatpacking industry".  If both proxies vote differently on 
a "meatpacking industry" issue (and I don't), which one gets my vote in the 
proxy ranking scheme?

In the alternative proxy approval scheme, of course, there's an obvious 
solution: my vote simply gets divided evenly among _all_ the proxies I've 
selected in _any_ of the topic areas that apply directly or indirectly to the 
issue at hand.


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