[EM] DP in a legislature

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Sun Mar 5 04:53:46 PST 2006

I elect members of school district, village, town, county, state, and 
national legislatures.  I am ready to invest more time than many are 
willing to invest in government, but there is no way I will support a 
system that demands that I invest enough time to participate intelligently 
in all those bodies.

I did not mention referenda last time but, just as they are used in 
present governments, they could be used for a limited number of 
describable issues.

Seems like some issues must be done by the legislature for practicality. 
For example, balancing taxes and expenses for a budget seems beyond doing 
except for a legislature to debate the balancing.

Thus I assume a legislature with about as many members as now, doing their 
own voting as now, with referenda when that works, and other voters not 
getting involved beyond identifying proxies and voting in referenda.

Voters with "common" desires will have no trouble finding suitable 
proxies.  Those with less popular opinions can be lucky if the whole state 
has enough voters who think alike to appoint one legislator.

On Fri, 03 Mar 2006 22:30:16 -0500 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> At 05:17 AM 3/3/2006, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>>My topic is a legislature, which represents all the voters in the
>>district.  They appoint via proxy, rather than electing, members of the
>>legislature, such as a senate.
>>Responding to Jobst:
>>Y must know if X is Y's proxy, to be able to judge whether it is time to
>>switch proxies.
> Actually, if Y does not know the identity of his or her proxy, that 
> person is not a proxy, as we have been using the term. A proxy is a 
> personally chosen representative, as distinct from an assigned or elected one.
> [For secrecy]
>>Others would do elections.  Seems they can get secrecy.  They also lose
>>ability to redo proxies until the next election.  Finally, the multilevel
>>proxies with opportunity for communication look good to me - but hard to
>>set up via election.
> Secret-Ballot Delegable proxy, like the initial Asset Voting 
> proposal, would be secret in the initial assignment of proxies, but 
> open in the subsequent assignments. Rather obviously, for there to be 
> responsible government, *somewhere* the identity of the 
> representatives must become known. Delegable proxy can boil down 
> representation until it reaches a manageable and efficient assembly, 
> and I think we assume that the members of the assembly must be public 
> figures. There seems to be little harm in what is public being larger 
> than the assembly, and, indeed, it could be much larger.

Initial assignment means little because it only happens once.  A proxy can 
last forever so long as both voter and proxy holder are willing.

My coercion topic was protecting voters from being ordered to please  

someone else in their selection of a proxy.
> Secret Ballot, in my opinion, is only necessary under conditions 
> where there is reasonably possibility of voter coercion or 
> intimidation. When a proxy represents a certain minimum number of 
> voters, it becomes possible to devote public resources to the 
> protection of these proxies, just as public representatives are now 
> protected. In any case, no citizen would be forced to serve as a 
> proxy who was not willing to take the risk involved. I do not think 
> there is any way to protect through secrecy any level in a delegable 
> proxy system higher than the primary assignment of proxies. Thus 
> secret ballot proxy systems would probably lose, to some degree, one 
> major advantage of delegable proxy: its ability to create efficient 
> and manageable *personal* communication between the public as a whole 
> and those who represent the public, made possible by a totally free 
> assignment of proxies, even to the point where a proxy may only hold 
> one vote other than his or her own. (But more commonly might hold, 
> say, twenty, a very manageable communications burden for unpaid volunteers.)
>>Seems like time for debate.
> What we need is discussion, and we need something else. In the FAQ 
> which is being written (and posted piecemeal here), it will become 
> clear that FA/DP organizations are not merely communication fora, but 
> that they also have decision-making mechanisms, or, more accurately, 
> mechanisms for developing and measuring consensus, since FAs, except 
> with regard to simple organizational business, don't really make decisions.
> My goal is to see a much wider understanding of Delegable Proxy (and 
> what I think is an inevitable precursor, at least, Free Association 
> Delegable Proxy. If government were a Free Association, it would be, 
> essentially, libertarian, but I'm not a Libertarian nor is Delegable 
> Proxy Libertarian, in the sense of advocating libertarian government 
> (which may be an oxymoron). I'm convinced that libertarian principles 
> are appropriate for Free Associations, but am far from convinced that 
> they would work in government, and certainly not now, if ever.
> However, where freedom of thought and discussion is important, the 
> mechanism which facilitates discussion must be free of coercion, 
> hence libertarian.
>>Do not understand your statement about forcing.  Partly because the record
>>keeping should prevent loops.
> Actually, all that is necessary is that loop members know that they 
> are in a loop. If every member of an organization names a proxy, 
> loops are inevitable. The only problem is where a loop ends up 
> unrepresented in a discussion or poll because *no* member of the loop 
> participates. Loops are one of the first problems that people think 
> of when they actually start to consider the implications, but they 
> are not really a problem, particularly if members of loops are 
> notified, which may be automatic whenever a loop is formed (assuming 
> some kind of automated system), or which could simply be a 
> notification when all loop members are "absent" from a "meeting" or poll.

Members of the voting body apply by indicating that intent, rather than 
naming a proxy.  Then, if not holding enough proxies to be in the voting 
body, they must name a proxy to get represented.

Not clear about how to prevent loops - though that is essential.

>>Some thoughts on design for a senate, etc.  (here voters do proxies
>>instead of elections and, as I describe it, can amend their proxies
>>whenever they see need):
> I.e., this is not a secret-ballot system
>>Need to maintain a current list of voters.  New ones register; old ones
>>die; some move into a district; some move out.
>>      A district must appoint (rather than elect) multiple senators -
>>likely one district to appoint the complete senate.
> The original thinking that led to my own formulation of delegable 
> proxy went through a stage where the idea was that voters would meet 
> in small groups and elect one of their number to represent them to 
> another small group composed of those similarly elected, etc. The 
> initial idea was to hold a Presidential election in 10 days, starting 
> from scratch, where every "round" in this election involved 
> face-to-face meetings of perhaps 10 people. The first and most 
> obvious problem was in this election of a single representative. 
> Though there is a possible solution, the meetings could be 
> essentially preselected for strong affinity, I eventually came to the 
> idea that a meeting could send on more than one representative, and 
> then, even simpler, that people could assign proxies; the structure 
> becomes chaotic, a fractal, which at first seemed a disadvantage 
> until I realized that nervous systems are organized as fractals. It 
> may be hard to visualize, but it would be self-organizing, like 
> biological structures, and the functioning would be relatively simple.
> Forcing proxies to be assigned within districts may not be harmful 
> when the districts are large, but I don't see any reason for it 
> except where the district is the district of the entire assembly, 
> i.e., is its jurisdication. What if the person I most trust in the 
> world lives across town, in a different precinct. Why should I not be 
> able to give my proxy to him, to represent me in the city council?

It is essential that a district assign more than one assembly member, to 
give voters a choice.  Likely reason for splitting the assembly into 
multiple districts is to ensure representation from each such district.

> Indeed, my most active current project is for a Parent Free 
> Association at a private school. The Parent Council currently 
> consists of Class Representatives, which are theoretically elected by 
> class. It's an obvious way to do it, but the fact is that Parent 
> Council at this school and at other affiliated schools are famous for 
> passing in and out of existence every few years. Class representation 
> is *very* spotty. Many parents don't even know who their class rep 
> is, for they did not attend the meeting where the rep was elected. 
> Communication is quite poor.
> Class reps are like district representatives with a small district. 
> You may or many not have *anyone* in the class with whom you have 
> good rapport, and good rapport is an essential element in building a 
> strong organization.
> It is not that class representation is wrong, it is just that it is 
> neither complete nor necessarily efficient. What I'm proposing is 
> that parents be encouraged to name a *personal* representative, on a 
> public list, someone they would most trust to represent them and to 
> inform them of what they might need to know of Parent Council 
> activities, if they are not themselves present.
>>Any voter offering to be a proxy holder needs to offer a "platform" to
>>identify what kind of action they offer.
> This is political thinking, and it really assumes quite a gap between 
> proxies and those they represent. Delegable Proxy opens the 
> possibility for choosing on the basis of something much better than 
> platform, which is all too often something that a politician tells 
> you he supports in order to get you to vote for him, and *maybe* he 
> will follow it. And maybe we are all better off if he does not, for 
> politicians will promise the moon.

A platform can be simple, such as "all the parents of students in the XYZ 
school".  Even such could split, based on disagreement as to how the 
school is to operate.

> I'd suggest, instead, choosing proxies based on a simple 
> characteristic: you trust the person. And, more than that, you have 
> access to the person. This is why, once people realize what a proxy 
> is, they would no more choose Clint Eastwood as their proxy than they 
> would choose him to handle their affairs when they were on vacation 
> or incapacitated; i.e., only if he was actually a personal friend and 
> available for the task.

Got to find someone I can trust to back my interests.  Can be that no 
personal friend qualifies.

> It is this possibility of easy access that is what sets delegable 
> proxy apart from all other representational systems that I've been 
> able to imagine.
> And, I'm sure, that is why biological systems are organized in a 
> similar way. You don't have one neuron linked to a million sensors.
>>      Both lone voters, and those who already hold proxies, can offer
>>their collection to this holder.
> I'd never do it without a personal conversation.
> Many people, presented today with such a system for public 
> governance, would not know what to do. Fortunately, proxy democracy 
> will almost certainly see broad adoption in non-governmental 
> organizations, so, by the time it hits public life, they will know what to do.

Not quite.

Agreed they can practice in private groups, but it is a BIG step from 
there to governing.

> This aspect of the discussion is largely moot: if a proxy system is 
> set up, proxies and the public will do what they will do, the rules 
> would not state anything, I'm sure, about public statements of 
> platform. Personally, were I willing to serve as a proxy, I would 
> *not* issue a platform. Platforms are either useless fluff intended 
> to attract votes, or they actually bind a sincere politician who 
> wants to do what he promised and who therefore is inflexible when 
> faced with information which would lead him to something contrary.

Assuming you WANT to be an active proxy holder, you will discover a need 
to attract enough proxies to get yourself a seat in the government that 
you wish to be in.

> Platforms and the debate around them are useful under present 
> conditions because they *can* give us a glimpse into the character of 
> those who debate them, and some idea of how these people might 
> function. But, we might note, politicians often disappoint, perhaps 
> more often than not, when measured against their platforms.
> With DP, sure, you can change your proxy at any time, but this also 
> makes platform not nearly as important. Indeed, if what we are 
> talking about is direct democracy with delegable proxy, i.e., 
> citizens may vote directly on any issue if they so choose, and 
> especially if citizens may see how their proxy voted and remove their 
> vote from his by directly casting a vote, platform becomes *much* 
> less important. What matters much more is that the proxy serves well 
> as a communicator and analyst.

I cannot picture a significant percentage of voters being willing and able 
to invest the time to prepare to vote intelligently on the many issues 
each government must attend to.

As you mention below, town meeting governments find themselves overwhelmed 
by all but the simplest collection of town-level problems.

>>      Note that there are many possible platforms - positions with few
>>backers end up with no one both offering a platform AND getting enough
>>proxies to get seated in the senate (access to abortion easier or harder
>>and access to drugs easier or harder are reasons for 4 platforms for the
>>4 basic combinations on these two issues).
> In a DP system as I foresee it, there would be multiple ways to be 
> heard in a "Senate." The proxy system does three things: it allows 
> decisions to be made without the direct participation of the voter, 
> which is especially valuable when the voter has no opportunity or 
> inclination to become properly informed; it is a means whereby 
> citizen concerns can be communicated to the assembly of the whole; 
> and it is a means whereby the whole can communicate and explain 
> decisions to the citizens.

While anyone can write to their legislator, no legislator or legislature 
can find time to respond to an unlimited amount of detailed voter comment.

> However, suppose the citizen has a critical concern and the citizen's 
> trusted proxy, on that particular issue, refuses to carry the concern 
> to the assembly. If this causes the citizen to lose trust in the 
> proxy, then the remedy is simple: change the proxy assignment. But 
> what if this is a simple disagreement and the citizen does not 
> consider that it renders the proxy otherwise untrustworthy? There is 
> nothing to prevent the citizen from approaching any other person with 
> the concern, and if this person is willing to pass it up, this person 
> passes it (and explains it) to *her* proxy.
> The fractal structure of DP, if the organizational habits are right, 
> allows personal communication to become general communication. While 
> some might worry about the "telephone game" problem, the loss of 
> information in transmission, that problem only exists when there is 
> no parallel redundancy, such as written communication passed up -- or 
> group edited on a wiki.
>>      Perhaps this holder offers communication with those voters whose
>>proxies are held directly.

Topic is how to solve the problem of a holder finding more proxies offered 
than the holder is willing/able to handle your way.  I say the holder 
should not object when a proxy is offered - just not promise impossible 
support, and leave it to the voter to choose between accepting what is 
offered here, and looking for a holder with more time.

> It think that is essential. Sure "distant" DP might be a vast 
> improvement over elected representation, but it will be a pale 
> imitation of what it might be if communication is open.
> (It is for this reason that I've considered that proxies would not be 
> effective until *accepted*. A proxy who is too busy to accept another 
> "client" might suggest one of his existing clients to the 
> applicant.... This is very different from what we see in the 
> political sphere, where we expect politicians to seek us and to sell 
> us on voting for them. That, indeed, is a formula for creating all 
> the mess we see today.... When a corporation wants to hire an 
> executive, they search for him or her, and I think they might be very 
> suspicious of someone who spent millions of dollars to get them to 
> hire a particular candidate. After all, if I want to pay *you* to 
> allow me to handle your affairs, what would you think?)

Someone wanting a seat in an assembly could find seeking voters to be 
essential to getting the seat.

>>  If so, there almost HAS to be a limit as to
>>how many voters this offer extends to - not necessarily all voters whose
>>proxies are held.
> The offer can and should extent to all givers of *direct* proxies. 
> Not to indirect. Those who have named a lower level proxy communicate 
> with the higher level through their lower level proxy, the one whom they chose.
> *However,* I do expect some broader communication than that. A 
> high-level proxy might, for example, operate a mailing list for all 
> of those represented, and this list might extend and include those at 
> lower levels.
> Where a high-level proxy represents *many* people, such as millions, 
> that list could not be unmoderated. But proxies will work all this 
> out themselves, it does not at all have to be part of the structural 
> rules. The structural rules, in fact, can and should be *very* simple.
>>Secrecy of proxies:  NEEDS to be doable, yet parts of my proposal require
> Secrecy is doable at the primary level and even there it does inhibit 
> realizing the full value of the system.
>>The senate needs rules.  Some should be standard - likely based on
>>Robert's Rules.  Some need to be tailorable - some easier than others.
>>Basic coding I use below:
>>      E - easy to modify, for little problem with manipulating.
>>      H - hard to modify, where there can be excessive temptation to
>>modify for wrong reasons.
>>      HH - REALLY dangerous to change.
>>Size of senate:
>>      E - to increase - when present membership sees value in letting in
>>other viewpoints, and that bigger is practical.
>>      H - to decrease - can be temptation to lock out annoying members
>>holding few proxies.
> The problem is not as difficult as it might seem, *if* voting in the 
> senate remains completely open, i.e., if it is a direct democracy 
> with respect to voting, if not with respect to generating universal 
> traffic (i.e., speaking to or entering motions before the whole 
> assembly). The rules are subject to vote as in Robert's Rules; the 
> rules restricting *full* membership actually benefit everyone, so 
> there should be no problem in getting the membership to accept them. 
> After all, Town Meeting governments devolve into City Councils, 
> resulting in a loss of citizen power, because citizens realize what a 
> pain it is to deal with tedious meetings. As long as the rules 
> changes, and any decision at all, really, must receive the approval 
> of the required majority of all who vote, personally or by proxy, 
> there is no problem with restricting full membership. It will be 
> self-regulating.

I say that you cannot have individual voters mangling Congress by avoiding 
the rule that they must get there via representation.  Drop this rule and 
millions will descend on Congress - your turn to THINK before offering a 
claim that your millions can be handled without the system grinding to a halt.

> (If for some reason membership is restricted too far, a majority of 
> those speaking before the assembly might be promoting a certain 
> agenda, yet the agenda would fail to receive majority approval. In 
> order to get majority approval, you need to allow broad participation.)

Again, I say the voters participate via their proxies.  Take that away and 
it is your turn to describe how to make it work without the molasses 
turning to sludge.

Note that I leave it to the assembly to decide how many members is workable.

>>Puzzle:  Size of senate has to be kept practical.  Yet potential number of
>>platforms approaches number of voters.  My best thought is that the small
>>parties have to develop a platform that enough of them can share to have e
>>holder of enough proxies to get on the floor of the senate.
> Again, I think platform secondary to character. It is quite possible 
> for a representative of character to fairly represent the views of 
> people with whom  she disagrees.

Holders offering popular platforms will have no problem attracting proxies 
(unless there are too many potential holders - in which case some will 
have to give up).

My topic here is a collection  of misfits who do not get represented 
unless they can attract a holder willing to represent their diverse views.

> DP, by the way, makes political parties rather unnecessary. I'm not 
> sure they would continue. They would not be needed to fund elections, 
> because there would be no elections as we understand them. Everyone 
> who wants to be is represented, there is no need -- or means -- to 
> "beat" the other party. Rather, controversy will devolve into issue 
> controversy rather than platform, party controversy.

Agreed the politics changes - not clear whether parties would remain a 
useful label.

>>      Size of senate has to be kept manageable.
>>      Do not see a voter having a voice or vote except via a holder with
>>enough proxies to qualify for a seat.
> Exactly. The exact number I would leave to the vote of the assembly, 
> assuming that this is a *full* vote, not merely the vote of the members.

Explain how you make '"full" vote' work.  The voters DO have the right to 
sign up with holders whose platforms conform to their desires.

> (I've assumed, generally, direct democracy, membership restrictions 
> are only about those things which must be restricted to avoid 
> communications overload, i.e., addressing the whole and entering 
> motions. It is these things which require either the action of a 
> qualified proxy or the permission of the assembly (presumably upon 
> the motion of a qualified proxy).
>>Puzzle:  Power of individual senators has to be limited.  If one senate
>>held and voted a majority of the proxies, that senator would have a
>>monopoly on voting.  Make the limit a percentage of votable proxies
>>votable by one senator:
>>      H - to make limit over 25% or under 10% (my offer).  Over 25%
>>encourages concentrating voting power too close to a monopoly; under 10%
>>discourages reasonable concentrations.
>>      E - to vary limit between those points.
> I've thought about this. The problem is moot in Free Associations, 
> but it could be a serious one in government. However, if votes are 
> held in stages, where all qualified proxies cast their votes first, 
> and then there is a period in which those not qualified (on down to 
> individual citizens) may cast their vote independently, the problem 
> disappears. There is no power problem even if there is a superproxy 
> (which might be defined as one who represents everyone, or, perhaps 
> more usefully, as above, i.e., one who represents a majority of votes 
> and thus theoretically able to make decisions directly. But only if 
> those represented continue to consent!)

Again, the task is to design a structure that:
      Can get the assembly's job done in less than infinite time.
      Keeps voters from mucking up the works by voting without attempting 
to understand the issue being voted on.

> So I don't recommend a limit. *As long as the proxies are revocable 
> at any time and as long as direct voting by a citizen (or lower level 
> proxy) removes that citizen's vote from the high-level proxy's total.*
>>Write-in votes?  I sympathize but, when I try to think farther my head
> Fractals do that to ya.
> Fortunately, we can try all this out in NGOs, including discussion 
> and advocacy groups, where failure will not cause serious harm.
>>  I do say that a voter can retract his proxy, but this leaves him
>>mute until s/he finds a more acceptable platform to back (this voter can
>>even do a new platform, but remains mute until attracting enough proxies
>>to demand a seat).
> This problem only exists if direct voting is not allowed. I see no 
> reason to prohibit it, and plenty of reason to facilitate it. You 
> visit the Senate, and a motion is being considered about which you 
> have an opinion. Perhaps you listen to the debate. And when it comes 
> time to vote, you go to a terminal which is set up for members of the 
> public to vote. You enter some identifying information and a 
> password, and you cast your vote. And that vote is recorded and, 
> indeed, reported. Imagine this: The vote in the Senate today on the 
> bill to establish a fund for the support of frumindillys passed today 
> by a vote of 603,507,276 to 1, the only dissenter being Mr. Contrary 
> from Hokokomo.

FEW have time or ability to visit the senate.

> And when it turns out that frumindillys are really bad for the 
> environment, won't Mr. Contary look good?
> Seriously, the vast majority of votes cast in the Senate, even if 
> remote voting is allowed (i.e., internet voting), will be cast by 
> proxies, and probably most of them by qualified proxies, i.e., those 
> with debate rights. But the very fact that everyone can vote if they 
> so choose solves the problem of exclusion. There is very little harm 
> in excluding some from debate if they are *not* simultaneously 
> excluded from the decisions themselves.
> Today, we are both excluded from debate, the vast majority of us, but 
> also from decision. The former is necessary, but the realization that 
> decision and debate could be separated has been one of my better moments....

  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
  Dave Ketchum   108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708   607-687-5026
            Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
                  If you want peace, work for justice.

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