[EM] Electing a proportional executive/cabinet

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 22 05:57:59 PST 2006

At 04:40 AM 3/21/2006, Raphael Ryan wrote:
>Ok, so you don't think division of power between the executive and 
>legislature is a good idea ?

Depends on the goal, doesn't it? The purpose of such a division, in 
the U.S. system, was clearly to reserve major power for an equivalent 
of a monarch, which was considered essential. Your proposal dilutes 
the power of that single executive, perhaps, distributing it among an 
elected cabinet.

The key issue is terms. In a system where the executive is elected by 
popular vote, terms are essential, because frequent elections reduce 
electoral participation. Now, if I were, as a single individual, were 
to hire someone to manage my affairs, I would never set a term; 
rather, I would use a standard employment arrangement, where the 
person serves at my pleasure and may be discharged at will, so long 
as I was competent. Why would we collectively do something different?

I'll give a reason: the oligarchy that created and implemented the 
U.S. Constitution was largely afraid of the electorate, feared that 
it would succumb to populist pressures. "Populist" is a term which is 
precariously close to "Democratic." But it implies a manipulation of 
the public by presenting it with plans which look good to a majority 
but which would be disastrous in practice. Think Milosevic.

The fact is, however, that the majority has power, which power can 
only be contained by an oligarchy by preventing the majority from 
directly organizing and acting collectively. The Constitution, thus, 
was, among other things, a device for presenting an illusion of 
popular control, thus co-opting attempts to organize the people 
directly, given that the government was ostensibly that organization, 
"a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

This is a criticism of the founding principles of the U.S. only in a 
technical sense, a neutral sense. It is quite reasonable to assert 
that the Constitution was the best that could be done at the time; I 
am not asserting some malevolent conspiracy, merely observing the 
nature and consequences of the Constitution. And opposition to true 
democracy is still quite common: I've seen it among certain election 
method reform advocates, for example. Indeed, I suspect, it is 
possible that *most* people still think that "people" are unfit to 
govern and without the restraining effect of a republican system 
(which reserves power for an elite, often a wealthy elite) would 
drive the nation into a hole. One still hears the canard that the 
poor would simply legislate transfer of wealth from the wealthy to 
them. The logic behind this assertion is almost unresistable: almost 
by definition, the majority of people do not have the majority of 
wealth (the wealth distribution curve would have to be balanced, and 
it has always been far from that).

So the relatively unwealthy could simply require the more wealthy to 
distribute their wealth. However, such action has not been seen in 
small direct democracies. Why? My opinion is that people are quite 
simply not that stupid; such distribution only would make sense where 
wealth has been appropriated unjustly by a small oligarchy, and 
rarely is inequity in wealth so simple. Such 
take-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor *has* been a platform of 
elitist "vanguard" parties which attained and maintained power at 
gunpoint, not as a true democratic process.

Back to the present point: the balance of power was created (or grew 
out of history) as a method for restraining the power of the monarch 
while simultaneously restraining the power of the people. By electing 
cabinets, one creates, in a sense, a mini-legislature with issue 
czars, fragmenting public policy into fiefdoms, with the overall 
executive structure being restrained by the general legislature. From 
my point of view, this is balance-of-powers taken to a Rube Goldberg 
extreme. I can only vaguely anticipate how this would actually work, 
but I have no reason to believe that it would be any better than what 
we have, and, indeed, plenty of reason to expect that it would be 
worse. I'd think it would be more vulnerable, for example, to special 
interest manipulation, for there would be tighter and weaker foci on 
which to exert special interest power, thus magnifying the relative 
effect of a given level of effort (read "dollars spent") by any 
special interest.

So, at the very least, I would want to see such a system tried in a 
less critical organization, some proof that it worked. I'd want this 
even if I expected that it would be a good idea, much more if, as I 
do, I think it a bad idea.

Note that I consider delegable proxy, under certain conditions rather 
easily obtained, I expect, to be just about perfect as a method of 
creating a government; yet you do not see me proposing it for 
government, except to sometimes theorize here about how it could 
work. Instead, I propose it for NGOs, where organizational failure is 
likely to do much less damage. If it works in NGOs, then we can 
propose it for government, and we will have, indeed, the power to 
implement proposals.

One of my realizations has been that the problem of government is 
quite the same problem as the problem of human organization. If you 
want to create a political party, how is the party to be organized? 
What will work for one, with maximum effect, is likely to work for 
the other; the only difference, really, is in the definition of 
"citizenship," as well as the degree of power that the organization 
will have over its members.

I had written about the direct election of cabinet officers:

> >However, how the general public is supposed to be able to do better
> >is completely beyond me. We don't have the information and even if we
> >did, we don't have the time to analyze it. And we are missing
> >something huge: personal contact with these people.
>It is that it gives the public more control over policy, rather than 
>just pick 1 party and you have to accept everything the party stands for.

Some seem to assume that proportional representation and party list 
are the same thing. First of all, the ultimate proportional 
representation is direct democracy, assuming somehow that all members 
of the public were able to participate legislatively. They are not, 
but proxy representation then is almost exactly equivalent. Every 
citizen has one vote, which may be cast directly or indirectly 
through a proxy. Delegable proxy makes this scalable, and, under good 
conditions (basically an electorate which has come to expect good 
service from proxies, plus a general awareness of the power of 
consensus and the dangers of premature decision by simple majority 
rule, which weakens society even to the point of civil war), remains 
perfectly proportional while being, it appears, simple,  practical, 
highly efficient, and, I anticipate, extremely difficult to corrupt 
(because of the broad distribution of power). And party affiliation 
is not even part of the system: if people choose to consider party 
affiliation, they may, of course, do so. But DP practically makes 
parties a fifth wheel, largely by eliminating representative 
elections entirely (except in the technical sense that I "elect" a 
proxy by appointing him or her).

Asset Voting also similarly could create an almost perfectly 
proportional legislature without needing party lists. It differs from 
Delegable Proxy in that it creates a peer legislature, with every 
member having equal voting power, but otherwise it would function, on 
a large scale, quite the same as Delegable Proxy except, of course, 
that representatives would have terms. In Delegable Proxy, the only 
term is the system latency, which could be less than a day. (If Asset 
Voting is conducted by secret ballot, it would, the same as Secret 
Ballot Delegable Proxy) lose direct responsibility and connection 
between voters and representatives, but this loss would occur in both 
cases only at the base level, so the connectivity created by Asset 
Voting would be *almost* as good as with Delegable Proxy. I favor the 
latter because it is terminally simple, and, note, wealthy people 
able to choose for themselves how corporations would be governed 
chose proxy representation, without exception.)

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