[EM] proxies and confidentiality

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 1 19:30:00 PST 2006

At 03:54 PM 3/1/2006, Paul Kislanko wrote:
>But this gets back to the original problem with Proxies. As I wrote it above
>it is an "all-or-none", so if I agree with A on 3 issues, B on 2, and C, D,
>E, F,... on one each then I can either be lazy and say "whatever A says"
>even though A doesn't represent my opinion on a majority of the issues, or I
>can be responsible and select "I'll vote for myself, thank you".

Some considerations of delegable proxy have imagined proxies being 
chosen on an issue-by-issue basis. I don't think that those who 
propose this have really understood the political problem, and this 
proposed solution is far, far too complex.

Right now, we have systems where we elect or seek to election one 
person to represent us. We may be concerned about issues, and present 
political systems really seem to want us to focus on "issues," but I 
think it is a mistake. I think the major issue, almost the *only* 
issue, with regard to the selection of public servants is what is 
sometimes called "character," though I would include in character 
intelligence as well as integrity. Essentially, a representative is 
going to be making decisions for us or on our behalf. We are setting 
ourselves up to be fooled and disappointed if we simply try to choose 
those who we think agree with us. Preferably, we should try to choose 
people who we think might make even *better* decisions than we 
personally would. We do this with doctors, lawyers, and all kinds of 
professionals, routinely. And the more wealth we have, actually, the 
more we do this, the more that responsibility, usually, is delegated.

What is crucial, however, is that the individual have the right to 
decide whether or not to trust a representative, how long to trust 
this person, whether or not to revoke the proxy or to otherwise 
interfere with it by, for example, directly voting. Who decides 
whether the proxy is likely to know better or the voter is likely to 
know better? *The voter.* That power should be sovereign, 
inalienable. Government rooted in this kind of representation will be 
much closer to full, non-coercive democracy than anything we have yet seen.

This is the basic point: I ought to have the absolute right to choose 
who represents me. If I don't have that absolute right, the 
representation is not of me, but of a system which chose the 
representative, which might have some input from me (and under 
present conditions, often completely disregards my input.)

>Not to mention the folks who would say "I agree with A on 3 issues, B on 2,
>and C, D, E, F... on one, but I ONLY care about the one that I agree with F
>on so I'll give him all my votes" (this is what has happened in the US over
>the last 8 years to make the US the mockery of democracy).

Issue-oriented voting is a disaster for precisely this reason. And 
politicians *love* to inflame these issues. And lots of people fall for it.

But with direct democracy using delegable proxy, you can have your 
cake and eat it too. If you most agree with A, and by this you 
consider that you trust A, you can give your proxy to A, but if A 
happens to disagree with you on your favorite issue, you simply vote 
directly on that issue, for you will follow it and know when votes 
need to be cast. You don't have to follow all the stuff that you 
trust A to handle properly. You don't have to vote for F just because 
F agrees with you -- or, more often, pretends to agree with you -- 
thus sacrificing every thing else.

You would choose as your proxy someone who will relieve you of as 
much of the burden of making direct decisions as possible, you will 
choose, essentially, someone you generally trust.

Delegable proxy, if the conditions are right, will create networks of 
trust. What are the right conditions? The most important one is that 
people expect to be able to communicate directly with their proxy. 
Otherwise it will be Paul Newman or Clint Eastwood, i.e., far too 
many people will vote for image over substance. (This is not in any 
way a comment on the politics of these two, they are merely examples 
of people who might attract proxy votes based on their fame and 
image. I greatly prefer that people assign proxies to people they 
*know* -- and who know them.)

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list