[EM] decision process design: wealth tax

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Apr 11 06:45:51 PDT 2006

As many readers of the EM list know, I'm promoting FA/DP (Free 
Association/Delegable Proxy) structure for non-governmental organizations.

Free Associations are purely libertarian. They not only have no power 
to coerce members, they do not accumulate property or collect 
unappropriated funds from members, thus they do not spend 
member-provided funds for purposes that members do not approve.

The practicality of libertarian concepts in government is generally 
unproven and certainly controversial; however, surely we are free to 
associate with each other using libertarian principles, in a 
structure whose purpose is collective intelligence. FAs generally 
exist to connect individuals with the community which they form, for 
purposes of mutual information, communication, cooperation, and coordination.

The model FA is Alcoholics Anonymous, and the principal founder of 
AA, Bill Wilson, deliberately developed the "Twelve Traditions" -- 
the essential FA principles as applied to the organization of 
alcoholics -- to foment group unity and avoid divisive controversy. 
FAs do not take positions on controversial issues, and they do not 
endorse outside organizations or causes.

*However*, this does not stop members from forming caucuses or other 
organizations which *do* take positions, or from having opinions and 
expressing them. If proposed activities needing property or funds, 
these resources are specifically provided by those who support the 
activity, and are either spent directly or are collected by an 
independent "service board or committee." Thus there is no "taxation" 
without consent.

(Generally nonprofit advocacy organizations collect dues and raise 
funds, relying on the general support of members; then these funds 
are spent according to board decisions. If the organization is the 
only one in its field, this becomes "our way or the highway," members 
don't have line-item vetoes, so we end up with a situation similar to 
that in politics with plurality voting systems: there is no gun at 
the head of the voter to vote for X, but if the only realistic option 
to X is Y, who is worse, the voter has a Hobson's choice.)

AA was fantastically successful in its field, very quickly. FA 
principles work, even though they fly in the face of our coercive habits.

FA/DP is a generalization of the AA principles, with delegable proxy 
added to make direct democracy in the organization practical, should 
the scale become large. However, because it is FA, organizational 
decisions are advisory only, so there is a double layer of protection 
against organizational misconduct.

FA/DP is an opportunity to test libertarian principles in a sandbox 
where harm would be highly unlikely. If libertarianism does not work 
in an FA, then it would not work at the point of a gun, i.e., in a 
government which has the power of coercion. But if it *does* work 
when people freely associate, then it *might* be possible to reduce 
governmental coercion without harm, and we would have the opportunity 
to learn and test how to do it.

The kicker: if FA/DP works to organize large numbers of people to 
communicate and coordinate with respect to politics, there would be 
no need to change the structures of democracy, because present 
democracies are vulnerable to control by mass organization of the 
people. Heretofore, however, efforts to take advantage of this fact 
have utilized oligarchical structures in the "people's party," thus 
leading to totalitarianism instead of "government by the people."

So the BeyondPolitics plan is to suggest FA/DP for all kinds of peer 
organizations. If you want to found an organization and personally 
control it, FA/DP is not for you. But if you believe that democratic 
organization, properly structured, is *more* efficient and more 
intelligent than other alternatives, FA/DP may be what you've been looking for.

Those active in oligarchically structured organizations, however, are 
generally not eager to consider this.... I was banned from the 
Approval Voting list, an activity of Citizens for Approval Voting, 
for allegedly engaging in irrelevant discussion. The decision was 
made unilaterally by the moderator, and complaint from list members 
was apparently ignored.

How is CAV structured? It is a classic PAC, with paying memberships. 
If you join and pay the dues, you can vote for the directors at the 
annual meeting. One catch: you have to personally attend the annual 
meeting in Texas, proxy voting is prohibited. Such provisions are 
common in membership nonprofits, and the reason is obvious: in spite 
of rationalizations, proxy voting allows members to exercise control 
through chosen representatives, and this is considered dangerous by 
those in power, the oligarchy that runs the organization.

My suggestions? If you live near the CAV corporate office, and you 
support the purposes of CAV, and you could spare the time to attend 
CAV meetings, join CAV, your membership will mean something and you 
can personally participate in the management and direction of CAV. 
Otherwise, if you trust the founders of CAV, you can personally 
donate to their cause, knowing that they will decide how to spend it.

But if you are interested in Approval Voting (positively or 
negatively) and you would prefer to participate directly, as you 
choose, or transfer your voting rights to another you trust, creating 
an advisor for you, whom you choose, then join the Approval Voting 
Free Association though registering on the wiki at http://av.beyondpolitics.org

Are these suggestions in contradiction? No. If you are at all 
interested in Approval Voting, you should join the AVFA by 
registering at the wiki. This would allow the AVFA to contact you 
should an occasion arise; your response at that time would be 
completely up to you. The AVFA, as a Free Association, will not be 
soliciting your contributions. If you have funds to contribute, 
either donate them to CAV, assuming you support them and what they 
are doing, or reserve them for use as you see appropriate in the future.

The AVFA wiki has long been listed on Wikipedia as an AV resource. 
There is a list of AV resources on the AVFA wiki. Is CAV listed? No. Wny not?

No member of CAV has been sufficiently exercised to place the link 
there. The Approval Voting list is not dead, but it is nearly so. 
Moderator suppression is not, generally, a good way to encourage open 
discussion. Had the moderator been correct in his position that I was 
damaging the list by "irrelevant discussion," he'd have been 
justified in taking steps, and the obvious step would be to consult 
the readership. He could have taken a poll, easily. And there would 
be other democratic options. However, when he first objected to my 
posts, on the list, members responded and said that they thought them 
relevant. So, next time, he did not consult the membership. I was 
banned without notice.

I've been involved with many, many nonprofits over the last forty 
years. What happened there is not particularly unusual, and I bring 
it up here as an object lesson, not as a personal complaint. Had I 
thought the issue to be of sufficient importance, there is much that 
I could have done. When I did act in the past, elsewhere, the 
ultimate result was an institutional revolt, with the members 
ejecting the founders. I was not involved in this, I merely provided 
the files on which it was based.

But I am not engaged in trying to control any organization, nor in 
trying to punish those who might have offended me. I only offer 
suggestions, which people accept or deny, both at their own benefit or peril.

We have an historic opportunity to make democracy work. We will take 
it or not. I'm merely pointing out that, if we do not take it, it 
will not be because there was no opportunity. It will not be because 
*they* stopped us. It will be because we were not sufficiently 
interested to lift a finger.


(At the instigation of Jan Kok, and inspired by discussions with 
Ralph Suter, there is a new wiki in the family of BeyondPolitics 
wikis: metaparty.beyondpolitics.org, still a blank slate. I'm sure 
Jan will be, when he has time, writing about this in the months to 
come. Metaparty is just what the name implies: a party to organize 
people beyond partisan divisions. But I'll let Jan explain that in 
more detail.)

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