[EM] Free Association / Delegable Proxy FAQ - Should FAs be inclusive?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 2 13:34:46 PST 2006

At 07:12 AM 3/2/2006, Jan Kok wrote:
>Does it make sense for an FA to include people from opposite or widely
>differing viewpoints on an issue of major concern to the FA?  For
>example, would it make sense to have an FA  with pro-choice and
>pro-life people in it, to discuss reproductive issues?  What could
>such an association accomplish?

A great deal, though much of this will depend on the exact 
organizational structure. With traditional structures, not very much 
at all, indeed, a great deal of time might be wasted.

But Delegable Proxy creates an organizational hierarchy with default 
caucuses which form around individual proxies, who can and will carry 
on communication within their caucus, independently of the central 
organizational traffic. So we will answer the question within the 
FA/DP context, not the more general FA context. It is quite possible 
that there could be other organizational technologies that would be 
as efficient, effective, and safe as DP, and for some FAs, something 
simpler may be adequate. However, DP is itself quite simple and can 
remain dormant when not needed. DP does not really add any 
significant organizational overhead.

The example in the question is a good one. What could a general 
purpose political FA accomplish by including both sides (more 
accurately, *all* sides) of a very controversial issue. Consider the 
implications of inclusion as distinct from exclusion.

If an organization is exclusive, it must have an exclusion 
definition, formal or otherwise. A lot of energy can be wasted trying 
to define who are and who are not the true believers in the cause, 
and this keeps organizations weak.

On the other hand, if the organization is inclusive, there is the 
potential for deliberation and negotiation leading to a consensus. 
With a highly polarized issue, complete consensus may be quite 
unlikely. However, people can agree to disagree on certain issues 
while discovering that they can cooperate on others. In present 
political structures, what are really separate issues tend to get 
linked to each other, making it next to impossible to find and 
actually implement potential consensus positions and decisions.

I have a good friend who is politically progressive, in nearly 
everything. But she's an Orthodox Christian, which may be related to 
the fact that she is opposed to abortion. It is not my purpose here 
to explore all the reasoning involved, but this woman is faced with 
difficult compromises if she steps into the political arena. She 
thinks that abortion is murder, but she also thinks that the public 
face of "Right to Life" is thoroughly hypocritical in trying to save 
prenatal lifes but showing astonishing unconcern about, say, Iraqi 
lives or Afghani lives.

*There are a lot of people like that.* Now, what consensus is 
possible between the non-fanatics within the two major camps, 
Right-to-Life and Right-to-Choose? For starters, contraception. Even 
further, it is not impossible for Right-to-Lifers, for example, to 
come to recognize a difference in degree, such that "murder" of a 
fetus, while perhaps a terrible sin, is not the same as, say, the 
murder of a young child. (This is, in fact, the general Islamic 
position, that abortion is a sin which increases in seriousness with 
gestational age, until at birth it becomes identical to normal 
murder. Contraception is not a sin at all.)

It ought to be possible to act politically in furtherance of your 
beliefs about something like abortion without it being linked with 
other issues. FA/DP organizations could make this possible.

Within a general political FA, there would form many ad-hoc caucuses, 
and some formal ones as well. But even within a caucus, say a 
Right-to-Choose caucus, there would be benefit in allowing the 
participation of those who opposed abortion. It is crucial to know 
the other side to be effective politically. You need to know how to 
give the other side enough of what they want that they will stand 
aside, at least, from preventing you to get what you want. The truth 
is that it will be *difficult* to get an RtL believer to participate 
in a pure RtC caucus. But there will exist many caucuses on many 
different issues, so there will be people coming together who 
generally agree with each other but who differ on this particular 
issue. And it will be these people who will be highly motivated and 
in a good position to find consensus.

Can an FA have an organizational position, as, say, "We are opposed 
to abortion"? Not a pure FA, but an organization can be non-FA in one 
aspect and FA in every other aspect. It will be well advised, 
however, to associate itself through membership cross-linking with an 
overarching pure FA. Because of the freedom from ideology of a pure 
FA, there is no cost to this, and by doing it, they would not be 
aiding the opposite side in anything except, hopefully, success 
through finding a consensus. When a consensus has not been found, 
both sides will be relatively weak, since their energy and strength 
will be pulling in opposite directions; they will cancel each other 
out. FA-facilitated activity will only become strong when a consensus 
has been found. And this is exactly as it should be.

Pure FAs attempt to remain in this dogma-free position. But this 
freedom from dogma is not something that is enforced by, for example, 
expelling dogmatic people! FAs don't expel anyone, though meetings 
may act to protect their freedom to meet. "Meetings" may exclude 
people by general agreement of the meeting, but this does not exclude 
the person from the FA, and whatever general rights members of the FA 
have, such as the right to name a proxy, would remain. So an excluded 
member might still, for example, have a vote at the meeting, 
exercised remotely or through a proxy.

But what if a group of opponents of a meeting's consensus tried to 
bring down this meeting by packing it? The freedom of Free 
Associations includes the freedom *not* to associate. Meetings can 
set their own rules; it is just that a meeting following the FA 
traditions will not do so absent necessity. And there is nothing to 
stop the excluded person from associating with other members in other 
contexts. Quite simply, there is no way to pack the DP structure in a 
Free Association, just as there is no way to exclude someone unless 
*everyone* agrees to exclude him. He can simply meet with those who 
don't exclude him.

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