[EM] Free Association / Delegable Proxy FAQ - DP and proxy questions

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sat Mar 4 19:55:20 PST 2006

At 07:12 AM 3/2/2006, Jan Kok wrote:
>About DP:
>In political or government organizations that deal with many different
>issues, wouldn't it make more sense for people to have multiple
>proxies to represent them on different issues?  For example, I might
>have a hard time finding one proxy who would represent my views on all
>the issues that concern me.  I would like to have one proxy who is an
>expert in voting methods and supports my favorite method to represent
>me regarding voting reform; I'd like another person who specializes in
>drug war issues and supports my views to represent me regarding drug
>war issues.  And so on.

What makes sense is to have organizations to deal with each issue; 
then the "universal* organization (i.e., the government, or, much 
more easily, the general political advisory organization) would 
synthesize the various general agreements that form in the 
specialized organizations. The general political organization proxies 
should be chosen for general trustworthiness; for them expertise in 
specific areas is not necessary.

>For communication from the top down, it seems to me that existing
>newsletter mechanisms work reasonably well.

Who controls what is in the newsletter?

>   For example, I get
>newsletters from various legislators and PACs that tell me about
>upcoming and past legislation, and how those legislators voted or
>intend to vote.  In a DP organization, those communications need to
>get passed down in a timely manner, so people can discuss items of
>disagreement with their immediate proxies, or switch proxies if they

Proxies will use newsletters to communicate with those they 
represent, but that communication should not be and will not be 
limited to this. Proxies will communicate *directly* with those whom 
they *directly* represent. It's not just information that is being 
passed, it is personal analysis, recommendations, intuitions, etc., 
and the communication is back-and-forth (made possible if direct 
proxies are not to many for a given proxy.)

Switching proxies should not be routine, someone who is constantly 
switching their proxy probably should look at themselves. Why is it 
that they cannot find someone to truly trust? Is it that nobody is 
trustworthy. Probably not!

Yes, people would discuss items of interest with their direct 
proxies, whether in agreement or disagreement, both are important. 
But if a person anticipates, or discovers, that their proxy will or 
has voted contrary to their own conviction, the simplest remedy is to 
vote directly. Only if the action raises an issue of trust would it 
be reasonable to consider switching proxies. If one finds oneself 
constantly intervening to vote direct in this way, then, of course, 
switching a proxy could be more efficient. If you can find one to accept you.

This aspect of DP as I envision it is crucial: proxies must *accept* 
the proxy, for to carry a proxy is a burden, accepting it is 
accepting the right of the one represented to communicate with you, 
perhaps to telephone you or meet you in person. Should proxies be 
effective without acceptance? I think it is dangerous. It's 
necessary, of course, with secret ballot proxy, but in open systems, 
I see no advantage; an unaccepted proxy does not represent a real 
communications link. It does, if not fraudulent, represent an action 
of trust; but I would prefer to see proxies responsible for 
determining that the proxies that they receive are not fraudulent. 
Direct communication would be part of this validation process.

(Email addresses are easy to multiply. One person may have many email 
addresses. In an FA, it does not matter so much, since a fraud is 
much more wasting his own time than that of the organization by 
multiplying addresses, but FA/DP organizations will be a possible 
model for subsequent adoption of DP in governmental organizations; 
why not work out the kinks when it is easy and when mistakes won't do 
much harm?)

>How does one become a proxy?  How does one rise in the hierarchy of proxies?

You become a proxy when a member of the organization chooses you, 
and, I suggest, when you accept the choice. There is no action that 
one need take to rise in the hierarchy; indeed, as a fractal, the DP 
structure is likely to be self-similar whatever the scale. All you 
need to do is, on the one hand, to participate in whatever level your 
proxy status allows, and, on the other hand, maintain communication 
with those you directly represent.

(Those who want to rise in the hierarchy may well be not the ones one 
would want to rise, i.e., the most trustworthy. In an FA/DP 
organization, being a proxy is a job, it takes work, but the DP 
structure distributes the work so that no individual is overburdened, 
unless, of course, they take on too many proxies.)

It would help to remember that DP is a formalization of what already 
happens informally and spontaneously in peer groups. People talk to 
each other, and people stand in for each other; if one person is 
absent from a meeting, another will fill the person in on what 
happened. DP formalizes this so that it becomes reliable and more 
thoroughly inclusive. But it isn't something totally new. Cells 
communicated with each other before nervous systems evolved. Nervous 
systems did the job faster and more reliably.

There are no known functioning formal DP organizations as this is 
written. It's been tried, briefly, by Demoex in Sweden, and 
apparently it worked, though not necessarily without perceived 
problems (the one reported to me was that one person ended up 
representing almost everyone, which was seen as a problem; I'd say it 
was a feature, not a bug, but if that person thought it was too much 
of a burden, the simple remedies would be (1) not accept so many 
proxies, and (2) recommend to those members whose proxy one does not 
accept that, if they trust you, instead name So-and-so as their 
proxy. If there is nobody else willing to serve as intermediate 
proxy, I'd say that the organization is not ready to take on the 
responsibilities of government, as Demoex was attempting. (I'd be 
very interested in receiving reports of how Demoex is doing....)

However, there is a proposal being made, sometime in the next few 
months, to use DP in a Parent Association at a school. The mechanism 
would be simple: a list, probably on a wiki, would be editable by 
parents. On that list they enter their name and name a proxy, and the 
proxy acknowledges with an acceptance. The naming and acceptance 
constitute an agreement on the part of the proxy to keep the parent 
informed, as necessary, in the judgement of the proxy. And it 
constitutes an agreement on the part of the parent to be available to 
communication from the proxy.

There are already class reps to the Parent Council. Many parents may 
decide to choose their class rep, others may choose someone else. 
And, of course, some won't do anything. All we can do is to make it 
all very, very easy.

One effect will start to become clear early on, I expect. We will 
start to be able to measure how connected the parents are with the 
actual Parent Council meetings. Looking at the list of proxies and 
the list of those who actually attended, we will be able to estimate 
who is getting news and who is not. And we can act to bring those 
completely absent (not there in person or through a representative) 
into the organization, not in any way that demands that already busy 
people put in more time, but in a way that makes it easy to remain 
connected. Every parent will know exactly where to take concerns. 
There are already problem resolution mechanisms, but often the 
parents don't know about them, and sometimes parents feel awkward 
taking a complaint about one teacher to another staff member. With 
DP, they can take it to their proxy.

(In a small organization, delegability is not crucial; however, 
delegability will still add something, and will reduce "absenteeism." 
The class rep system is pretty unreliable. DP is not intended to 
replace the class rep system, but to supplement it, to create 
alternate communication pathways based on relationships of trust and rapport.)

This completes a set of answers to the questions asked by Mr. Kok. 
Any reader is welcome to move these questions and answers to the 
beyondpolitics.org/wiki, if that has not already been done, and to 
edit them if it seems that there are errors or that the ideas could 
be better expressed. What has been written here is the opinion of the 
author and does not represent any official position of BeyondPolitics.org.

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