[EM] The wiki questionaire

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Jun 16 16:21:29 PDT 2005

At 11:12 AM 6/16/2005, Kevin Venzke wrote:

>Does this mean you feel a system is "unfair" unless *every* voter can
>select a representative? That sounds difficult to implement.

Yes, it *seems* that way. But, in fact, this is standard practice in 
corporate governance. Every shareholder can either appear at the annual 
meeting and vote directly, or may designate a proxy to participate in his 
or her absence.

In other words, this is not some wild-eyed idea, proxy representation, it 
is *standard practice* in business. Generally, at common law, any right can 
be exercised through an "attorney in fact," which in corporate governance 
is called a "proxy."

Simple to implement. Actually, simpler than elections.

Delegable proxy, which is what I'm proposing, is more complex to conceive 
but only slightly more complex to implement. It is complex to conceive 
because the organizational structure would be a fractal, quite possibly 
self-similar regardless of scale. This result is a happy one: self-similar 
structures are scalable. Nervous systems are fractals, formed through 
certain basic associative properties of neurons. It is *truly* not a new 

The core of the implementation is (setting aside secret proxies, a 
complication which is only advisable under conditions where citizens are at 
risk for openly designating the "wrong" proxy) a public list of assigned 
proxies. A member of the organization may change their assignment of proxy 
at any time. Practical considerations might result in a short delay, but 
that's a detail. A member also effectively cancels the proxy, on a meeting 
by meeting or vote by vote basis, by showing up at a meeting or by voting 

The same list of proxy assignments creates delegable proxy by considering 
that the right of the proxy extends to proxy assignment itself. So if A 
names B and B names C, then, in the absence of A and B, C represents all three.

> > Such
> > systems may still "elect" officers, but probably, as with proxies, they
> > would not have terms. In other words, the election process is continuous,
> > whenever a majority of the electorate wants to make a change. It would be
> > more like hiring officers to serve at will than like electing them. A
> > deliberative process.
>This is what is already done under parliamentary systems, correct?

Yes, I think so. In this case the "parliament" has become fully 
representative of the people, and it can conduct its own elections 
according to whatever process it deems appropriate, and it may separately 
act to ratify election results. It can also change its mind.... that is, it 
can fire as well as hire.

> > But until such systems are in place (I do expect that eventually they will
> > be), we are faced with elections by secret ballot and with terms and such
> > limits. That is why only two elections (in the example given by Mr.
> > Benham). It is a practical limit, not necessarily a full expression of
> > democracy.
>It seems to me it would be rather chaotic if a representative/proxy could
>lose his job overnight.

Again, this idea is common on first contact with the proxy concept. But, in 
fact, proxy assignments would not normally change quickly. Proxies who were 
actually active at meetings would probably represent quite a few people. 
Only if the proxy really flubbed the job would all of those change their 
assignments at once. This kind of structure has been called "liquid 
democracy," but one writer disliked the word because it implied, 
incorrectly, that the structure would have no stability. Proxies have no 
term. They serve at the pleasure of the member. The relationship is 
voluntary and is based on trust. And, with delegable proxy, it becomes 
possible for proxies to be chosen on a very small scale, making it possible 
for each direct proxy to have substantial personal contact with the person 
represented. (In the public system; again, this becomes impossible with 
secret ballot, which also establishes terms.) While I'm proposing that the 
relationship of member and proxy be free of all but the most necessary 
regulation, I think that citizens will recognize that having a proxy who 
does not promptly return your phone calls would be an undesirable 
situation. And persons serving as proxies would probably realize that 
having ten thousand people trying to call you every day would be not 
terribly nice. In an active organization, my guess at the optimum might be 
about twenty people directly choosing each proxy. If a proxy was requested 
to serve by more, the proxy might well recommend a member of their tree to 
be chosen instead, or another trusted person.

So, through delegable proxy, the communication is direct and personal at 
each step, but a high concentration of representation can still take place, 
where one person might represent millions of people. Or more. All through 
voluntary assignments of proxies, and the structure that is thereby formed.

Further, suppose a proxy is attending a meeting on behalf of a number of 
people. Those people all decide that he really blew it, they don't trust 
him any more, and they revoke their proxies. But he still represents 
himself. He can still vote, but now just only one vote. If he has the trust 
of the others at the meeting, he can still speak and enter motions. 
(Depending on the number of members who "belong" to a meeting, depending on 
how many people actually show up, meetings might choose to limit who can 
directly address the meeting or enter motions by right to those who hold a 
certain number of proxies. But they can always give permission to others, 
or others can indirectly address the assembly or enter motions through any 
other member who *does* have sufficient proxy trust.

Really, it should work. I've been working on the idea for over twenty 
years. Originally, I had a much more rigid idea of a communications 
hierarchy: ten people meet and discuss issues, then choose one of their 
number to represent them at a higher meeting of ten people, etc.

National election in 10 days, based on face-to-face contact. The idea came 
from one fairly common suggested process for breaking down large meetings 
into smaller ones.

But then I realized the fly in the ointment: each meeting only chooses one 
person. How can one person represent the diversity that would be likely at 
each meeting? I thought that perhaps meetings would form based on affinity, 
but that adds a whole, and totally unmanageable, level of complication. How 
do these people find each other, etc.?

But then I realized that it was not essential that one person be chosen. 
There might be as many people chosen as there were effective factions. 
Where travel expenses are involved, each faction pays the expenses of its 
delegate. Which does provide a certain level of motive to find agreement. 
And this thinking took me to delegable proxy. Others have thought of it 

It was only in the last few years that I realized how this utopian vision 
could actually come to pass, bypassing the institutional resistance. That 
got me off my duff.

>  (Or, perhaps you're talking about elected *officers*
>having terms. But we can already avoid electing officers. Do you think a 
>representative should have a term?)

No. Not at all. No term for proxies. I'm not sure that terms are 
appropriate for officers, either; officers should be like employees of the 
body politic. The body politic can fire them at any time. Yes, there might 
be a contract, there might be some cost to it, but, especially with 
officers who have the character of leaders or representatives of the whole, 
it is essential that they maintain the trust of the whole.

Again, I think that the DP process will create relatively stable 
institutions, able to change quickly when needed, but not likely to make 
drastic changes absent necessity.

But my immediate work is not with governmental structures. The governmental 
problem is both the same and more difficult. It is the same organizational 
problem, but the conditions are different. I'm recommending Free 
Associations coupled with Delegable Proxy for peer NGOs. The Free 
Association is a very substantial organizational protection, FAs depend on 
the members entirely for the exercise of power, they do not collect power, 
they do not discipline their members, they cannot punish their members 
(except collectively by shunning or other social means). Some anarchists 
and libertarians would like to see government resemble a Free Association. 
Personally, I much prefer we see, more broadly, how Free Associations work 
when applied to a variety of problems that are quite difficult enough, 
before taking the risk of implementing them in governments. Besides, this 
approach sidesteps the major difficulty in change, moving existing 

But there still is the basic inertia that comes from the deeply rooted 
belief that I find most people have that real change is impossible, which 
belief, being bleak, sometimes alternates with periods of false hope and 
action. This, indeed, is the biggest obstacle.

(The false hope is that by electing someone better, without changing the 
system, the outcomes will be better. Yes, they might be. A little, and for 
a little while, until the rock rolls back down the mountain. The system 
that we have produces most of the negative effects we see. It is not even 
that it is a bad system, it is better than much of what came before. But 
compared to what could be, it is primitive and inefficient and oppressive.)

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