[EM] DP in a legislature

Jobst Heitzig heitzig-j at web.de
Sun Mar 5 23:30:32 PST 2006

Dear Abd ul-Rahman!

To begin with: It might be the case that what you wrote contains the
answer to what I will ask, but the sheer amount of your postings makes
it completely impossible to read them in my 15 minutes a day I can afford...

Here's the main problem I see when using non-secret proxy systems: If X
can prove to Y that she named Y as her proxy, then people can buy votes:
Y can give X money for naming her as proxy. This would result in a
plutocracy instead of a democracy.

Yours, Jobst

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.
> 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.
>>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?
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
>>      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.
> 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.
> 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?)
>>  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.
> (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.)
>>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.
> 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.
>>      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.
> (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!)
> 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.
> 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....
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