[EM] Free Association / Delegable Proxy FAQ - Political Party FAs?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 2 18:23:46 PST 2006

At 07:12 AM 3/2/2006, Jan Kok wrote:
>Would it make sense for, say, a state political party to organize
>itself as an FA?  Would the FA replace the existing party
>organization, or would it supplement it?  What would be the benefits
>(and drawbacks) of replacing or supplementing a political party
>organization with an FA?

It could either replace or supplement, but my recommendation and 
expectation is that supplemental activity is far more likely to take 
place. Supplementation does not require abandoning any existing 
structure; attempts to bring FA/DP to existing organizations is going 
to run head-on into the Lomax Effect, the persistence of inequitable 
power. Further, initially, FA/DP will be correctly seen as 
experimental and therefore not a basket for most people to toss all 
their eggs in. If FA/DP involved classical organizational structure 
and overhead, the duplication would be a serious problem. But it does 
not involve that kind of burden; our common expectations about what 
organizations -- and especially democratic organizations that value 
consensus -- will be like, that they will be tedious and burdensome, 
is the major obstacle to the FA/DP revolution.

And revolution it will be. But about as gentle and unthreatening a 
revolution as we could imagine. Suppose that some Democratic action 
group decides to adopt FA/DP as its operating structure. (There is 
actually a little interest). What this would do is to create a 
network of Democrats, plus a few others, who have an efficient way to 
consider and, when appropriate, implement new ideas, completely 
outside the existing party structure. As people interested in the 
Democratic Party, they would become able to move that very stubborn 
donkey, which, after all, depends almost entirely on Democrats for 
its life. "Almost entirely?" Yes. But there is something else: 
special interest money, which exerts inordinate influence. FA/DP 
would be an organization of the people; lack of such organization is 
what makes special interest money more than a footnote in history, 
for the people have, in fact, practically by definition, more money 
and human resources.

It is my opinion that DP will act to concentrate trustworthiness, 
that higher-level proxies will, indeed, be worthy of trust.

But the party itself can't be DP unless it wants to abandon the wont 
of political parties to take controversial positions. The FA won't 
endorse candidates, but it certainly will discuss them, and proxies 
will come to their own conclusions and communicate back to those they 
represent suggested action.

>You (Abd) seem to promote the idea that the FA is just for discussion,
>and that political action should be undertaken by "caucuses" that are
>apparently separate entities from the FA.  Isn't that somewhat
>awkward, especially if most of the FA is in agreement about the action
>to be taken?  Can the caucuses use the same communication channels as
>the FA?

Several questions there, but all related to this political question.

FAs are not just for discussion, they are also for coordination. 
Consider proxies as if they were nerve cells which communicate 
bidirectionally. They do not merely transmit information, but they 
filter it. Hopefully, they filter it intelligently! The FA/DP 
structure creates a nerve network containing both afferent and 
efferent nerves. If "most of the FA is in agreement about the action 
to be taken," those who are in agreement are able to coordinate their 
activities, and because they have discovered a consensus, the action 
that they take is highly likely to be effective. But the FA itself 
does not take that action, nor does it endorse it. The most that it 
does is to *report* the results of polls and make available 
transcripts and, ideally, neutral analysis of the various positions 
ultimately taken. *Wny* did most participating members come to agree 
on this course of action? It's a critical question.

The proxies themselves, however, have no restriction on their 
actions. They remain free, and they can and will take controversial 
positions, as they choose. Those they represent, indeed, have trusted 
them to do this. And it is they who will transmit the suggested 
action(s) back to the represented members. Someone you trust suggests 
what you should do, and can explain why and can refer you to the 
transcripts and analysis if you have questions that he can't answer 
or if you find yourself not trusting what is being said to you.

There will be shared channels of communication. There may be a 
mailing list to which all FA members are encouraged to belong. There 
would actually be two ways of belonging to this list: as a regular 
member, receiving all approved mail to the list, and as a special 
notice member, receiving only relatively rare mailings with 
supermajority approval.

This list would be, in effect, the proceedings of the association at 
the highest level; to post to this list, one would have to meet list 
rules, probably the rules which have been discussed recently, perhaps 
that a member holds a certain number of registered proxies. Those 
members would have the right of direct post to the list. Others would 
be subject to moderator approval (and any full member would have 
approval rights). I think that these lists would be able to sort out 
their own rules, and trying to anticipate too many of the details is 
probably a waste of time; sufficient it is for now to consider that 
such a list may be practical (technologically it is trivial).

Below that list, which in a sense defines the FA, at least in its 
internet presence, would be lists that high-level proxies may 
maintain for communication with all those in the chain below them. 
Thus a high-level proxy is a defacto caucus, with what can serve as 
an independent organization. The central association and its list 
could disappear, and the proxies could reconstitute it in a very 
short time and with little effort.

The central association thus becomes expendable! Nothing to fight over.

>Does it make sense for the FA to have no power at all?

Yes. It is, in fact, crucial to the concept, except, of course:

>   For example,
>it should have the power to govern itself, set the rules for
>conducting meetings, etc., right?

Every meeting sets its own rules, the central association may have 
suggested formats and operating principles, but those may be 
disregarded by any meeting. At its own peril, if the suggestions are 
based on deep experience. (And this is the way it is in Alcoholics 
Anonymous. And it works extremely well.)

To the extent that the central association is a meeting, yes, it sets 
its rules. Basically, anyone who can't abide by the rules can 
*easily* create a new meeting. In standard organizations, this would 
be chaos and debilitating, in FAs, it is invigorating. AA saying: 
"All you need to start a meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot." 
AA channels resentment over existing power structures into the 
creation of new ones. If the new ideas are good, they thrive, and if 
they are not, those new meetings just fade away, having done very 
little harm, if any. *There is no property to fight over.*

But does this mean that these organizations are powerless? Hardly. 
They will unite when they need to, when the time is ripe and the 
groundwork has been laid. Indeed, the whole process is like sane 
thinking. It starts with chaos and resolves in clear understanding.

Unlike consensus organizations, which have correctly come to 
understand the possibility of consensus and which *require* consensus 
for action, FAs simply avoid central decision-making entirely; but 
when a caucus has settled on a position and has become large enough, 
it will simply act on its own.

Caucuses can and will form special organizations, perhaps with 
traditional forms, including corporate forms, nonprofit or otherwise, 
to undertake tasks. Sometimes, as with Alcoholics Anonymous World 
Services, Inc., these organizations will have boards elected by an FA 
conference. Legally, however, the corporation is independent and the 
elected boards have full freedom to act as they see fit. And only 
those who support this activity need donate to it. FA members do not 
see their "dues" confiscated, by majority vote or otherwise, to 
further activities with which they do not agree. Indeed, there are no 
dues, just voluntary contributions collected as needed for known 
purpose. In AA, mostly to pay the rent for meeting space, which AA 
groups *insist* on paying, if they are following the traditions, 
because they do not want to become dependent upon any donor.

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