[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
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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