[EM] Free Association / Delegable Proxy FAQ - What is FA for?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 2 12:58:47 PST 2006

At 07:12 AM 3/2/2006, Jan Kok wrote:
>What sorts of organizations would be be well served by the FA model?
>Are there some sorts of organizations that should NOT use the FA

FA is not only ideal for nearly all kinds of peer organizations where 
the primary purpose is discussion and deliberation (i.e., the 
essentials of consensus formation), but it is in fact used for that, 
quite commonly, but absent the name and the formal understanding of 
the concept.

Because one aspect of the FA concept is an avoidance of a 
concentration of power or funding (same thing) in the organization 
itself, as distinct from the members individually or as they freely 
choose to cooperate, a pure FA is not appropriate for anything 
involving significant property.

Because FAs never exercise sovereignty or control over their members 
(nor of subsets of members, which I call caucuses), FAs are not 
appropriate for governmental institutions themselves. However, they 
*would* be quite appropriate for any organization of citizens who 
wish to, shall we say, bring an existing government into a more fully 
democratic and functional model.

An FA would be appropriate for a political party that wants to bring 
in everyone. It would not be appropriate, in itself, for a party with 
a defined ideology. However, a caucus within an FA could have special 
membership requirements, and would have its own structure. The 
caucus, considered all by itself, would not be a pure FA.

It should be realized that the FA characteristics are close or even 
identical to many or even most associations in the early, informal 
stages, where the an organizational ideology is not clearly formed 
and association activity depends totally on voluntary participation. 
If there is an expense, someone kicks it in, perhaps others toss a 
few dollars in a pot to reimburse it or to spend it in the first 
place. If you belong to such an informal association and you don't 
like the project which the majority wants to undertake, you don't 
have to contribute to it.

However, sooner or later, without a clear understanding of the 
hazards of power, nearly all organizations become oligarchies of one 
kind or other. Alcoholics Anonymous was a very rare exception because 
the founder, a stockbroker, knew the history of temperance 
organizations and was quite aware of how they had lost their way. He 
wanted to keep AA as inclusive as possible, and even the book that he 
wrote, which has been called the "Bible" of AA, really is only a 
report of a few people's experience and a general consensus which 
developed around certain ideas in it. Somehow, AA managed to avoid 
actually turning the Big Book into a true bible, even though 
sometimes some members treat what is in it as dogma. AA members are 
quite free to disagree with anything in the book, and even though the 
founders were Protestant Christian, AA came to embrace Jews, Muslims, 
atheists, and, indeed, just about everyone who has a problem with 
alcohol. If you think you might have such a problem, and you come to 
realize that you might do better with help, AA is always available, 
has no dues or fees (another one of the traditions), will impose no 
dogma on you, not even the supposed dogma that alcoholics can't take 
a single drink. As to that alleged dogma, the real position of AA is 
more or less, "Try it. If it works for you, fine. However, do realize 
that thousands of us also tried it and we found that the only way we 
could stay sober was to avoid drinking alcohol entirely. Perhaps you 
are different. Let us know what happens." Essentially, the purpose of 
AA is to facilitate communication between alcoholics and people who 
suspect that they may have a problem with alcohol.

All we have done with the Free Association concept is to generalize 
this: a Free Association forms around some shared interest, and it 
exists to facilitate communication and voluntary coordination around 
that interest. It is our view that formalizing Free Association 
characteristics will allow organizations to remain in a position to 
develop true consensus. Once a consensus appears on an issue, action 
becomes easy, the Free Association isn't needed for action in itself. 

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