[EM] working paper on delegable proxy voting
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Nov 15 10:55:24 PST 2005
At 12:01 AM 11/14/2005, James Green-Armytage wrote:
> Issue independence: Even when there are multiple issues on the same
>ballot, I should have the option of indicating separate proxies for
>separate issues, while still voting directly on other issues, if I choose.
James is one of the delegable proxy pioneers,
along with myself, Mikael Nordfors, and the guy
who came up with "Liquid Democracy," whose name
escapes me at the moment (possibly because he has
to some degree disowned it?) I'd be interested to
know of any other early writers on the subject.
(Anything during or before 2002 is of interest;
my own concepts go back to the 1980s, but I don't
have written evidence and I was not actively promoting the ideas.)
It appears that delegable proxy was independently
invented in at least three or four different places.
Having said that, and noting that I agree with
nearly everything James wrote in the paper he posted, I here disagree.
The whole point of a proxy is to represent a
person to an organization. Issues will arise at
meetings that could not be anticipated; the proxy
acts in one's absence. Corporate proxies function
in this way. Yes, with *different* organizations,
one can and people do appoint different proxies.
Within one organization, however, setting up
alternate proxies demolishes the simplicity of
single proxy designation, and it vastly confuses
delegability. I'm not denying that somewhere,
sometime, this might be a good idea, but it is
going to be quite enough of a task to get the
relatively simple concept of single delegable
proxy implemented. If there is a need, delegable
proxy organizations will be, I believe, quite
readily amendable. This is part of the concept,
indeed: delegable proxy is, among other things,
an idea-collection network, where ideas are filtered by friendly filters.
So I *highly* recommend starting with single
delegable proxy. Any issue where the member
thinks his or her position is sufficiently
different from the routine proxy's position, and
if the member thinks it important, the member can
always participate directly, and if some issue
needs to be presented at a higher level for which
the member does not enjoy full participation
rights, parallel representation, informally, will
be easy. And the informal rep would simply advise
the member, if needed, to vote directly when a vote comes up.
But I don't think that will be necessary very
often. I think people will largely let their
single proxy handle the business unless they have
a personal and special interest, in which case
they will participate more directly.
An important key here is the separation of voting
rights and discussion rights. In an FA/DP
organization (FA stands for Free Association)
members always have the right to vote directly
(just as with corporate proxies, and subject only
to practical limitations), but they do not
necessarily have the power to grab everyone's
attention. In a very large organization, there
would be, I would presume, a basic organization
mailing list, to which every interested member
could subscribe who wanted to follow the central
activities of the organization. But that list
would have different classes of membership. Some
members would have the right to post directly,
others would have to have posts approved. Note
that any member who has direct posting rights can
effectively approve messages even if not a
moderator, simply by forwarding them to the list.
In a DP organization, a proxy level (number of
people represented, directly or indirectly) might
be a simple way to determine who gets full rights.
But FA/DP organizations would not start with
restricted lists. They would start, I assume,
with open lists, and restrictions would only come
into use when traffic began to exceed what a
majority of members considered acceptable. And
there is a great deal of thought that has been
put into these ideas, but I won't repeat it here.....
Unlike other representative organizations,
though, restriction of participation does *not*
bring with it restriction of the right of
decision. There is good reason to restrict full
participation in large organizations; the
problems of intractable meetings are the reason
why New England towns abandoned Town Meeting when
they grew large enough; but this rationale does
not apply to voting rights, and *especially* it
does not apply when the internet makes it
possible for large numbers to follow a debate and
form intelligent opinions about it, and to
participate in polls. As to the argument that
many or most voters are not qualified to make
decisions on public issues, I respond that this
may be true; however, first of all, people, when
they can easily find good information, make much
better decisions than we might think, and,
secondly, the question is *who* decides who is qualified and who is not?
I submit that if we want a democracy, the one who
decides is the voter himself or herself. Under
delegable proxy, the voter either participates
directly, or leaves it to a trusted proxy. And if
that proxy, again, considers himself
insufficiently informed, or is otherwise unable
to participate, then there is the next level proxy....
I'd suggest keeping that very simple. If it is
simple, it does not take complicated software to
keep track of proxies, and while there may be a
central database, the real proxy system is
intangible, in the relationships between members,
who can recreate the whole structure quickly even
if the central site disappears or is hijacked.
Organizations often lose their way because
gatekeepers pursue their own interests.
>If corporations were required to allow for delegable
>proxy voting, then I as a small stockholder could potentially delegate my
>votes to nonprofit organizations that shared my values with regard to
You can do this now. Without delegable proxy, it
is only slightly more complicated.
If I understand correctly, a shareholder can
designate *anyone* as proxy. It may even be
possible, correct me if I am wrong, to designate
a corporation, a legal person, as proxy, in which
case the legal representative of the corporation is the effective proxy.
So I think you can do this now. Even if the rules
require a person (not a corporation) to be named,
one would simply name the person recommended by
the nonprofit. I don't think that the proxy must
be himself or herself a shareholder. That proxy
has the right to attend and vote simply by holding a proxy.
Another writer seems to have misunderstood this
proposal. There was no proposal that a nonprofit,
or any other organization, represent shareholders
who have not chosen to permit or implement this.
If I want to delegate my proxy for shares in
Microsoft to, say, a nonprofit organization
promoting open source software, that is and
should be my absolute right. This takes nothing
away from any other shareholder; essentially, if
you think that this is foolish, fine. You don't
do it. It's my money at risk from owning the
shares, and so it is my right to participate as I
choose, just as it is yours to do likewise.
There is no need for changes at law. Shareholders
interested in delegable proxy can simply form an
independent association to create the structure,
and that association can recommend to members
whom to designate as corporate proxy. Delegable
proxy organizations, theoretically, should be
highly efficient and so the organizational
overhead for doing this should be trivial. All it
would take is a few shareholders interested in
making it easier for themselves to be effectively
represented at the annual meeting.
Large institutional shareholders already hire
proxy firms which do exactly that. FA/DP
organizations of shareholders would make it
possible for small shareholders to exercise
similar power, for, collectively, they do have
the resources; the trick is to coordinate those
resources without creating a serious
organizational burden (which would defeat the
purpose). And there is no intrinsic conflict of
interest between large institutional shareholders
and small shareholders, so they might share
resources, a possibility which could benefit both.
I think that as soon as one such organization
exists for shareholders in a major corporation,
it will be successful, and it will be
imitated.... this is one of the possible
implementation paths I see for delegable proxy.
*It is not necessary to change the laws, nor the corporate rules.*
But if changes do become necessary, such
organizations could rather easily develop the
power to cause them to be implemented. The power
is in the hands of the shareholders *already*,
but they keep expecting the cart to lead the way.
More information about the Election-Methods