[EM] Trees and single-winner methods

Juho juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Mar 20 00:02:19 PDT 2007

On Mar 20, 2007, at 7:02 , Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

> The point I make again and again is that it is actually only a very  
> small step beyond trusting a candidate for an office and trusting  
> the candidate to elect someone to the office.

Yes, in some settings the difference may not be dramatic.

Note also the difference between cases where the elected candidates  
elect some external candidates to the office vs. when they decide  
which ones of the elected candidates themselves will get a seat in  
the office. The latter case case is more "subjective" than the first  
(more "objective") case.

> You are not required to know the candidate personally. However,  
> Asset *allows* you to vote based on this.

Correct, proxies in general can be used in both ways (short steps or  
long leaps) (if there is no requirement to use the short steps).

The cases where the intermediate layers/proxy electors are used only  
for electing the top level representatives vs. the case where there  
are also permanent intermediate layer representatives could be  
classified as two different cases. Also the "optional" proxies could  
possibly be contacted between the elections but the final decisions  
are probably deliberated (discussed in public) only at the top level.

> Unstated, entirely, was the method by which the five were elected,  
> and whether or not they have equal voting power. And why five? Why  
> not one or ten or ... whatever number the village chooses to send.  
> What if every villager can *choose* a representative, does not have  
> to compete with anyone else? TANSTAAFL, who is going to pay for the  
> reps expenses? Well, those who chose him or her, that's who!

- the method => didn't even think of that, any reasonable one goes
- 100 => I picked a safe small enough number of people that 1) one  
person can typically know well enough personally to decide reliably  
whom to vote, 2) to be in contact with whichever of them will be  
elected, and 3) the elected candidates have time enough to be in  
contact with all their supporters
- 5 => a wild guess that allows some limited style proportional  
representation without being too large to make "half of the  
population" involved with representing the community, and to keep the  
number of layers manageable (100 / 5 = 20, which tells how many times  
more citizens the next upper layer will cover)
- equal voting power => probably yes (what else?)
- expenses => probably voluntary work at lower layers (I think that  
is a quite common practice in many societies also nowadays), maybe  
some small compensation for lost time and traveling

> What would actually happen, I think: villages would generally  
> choose one or two reps. Rarely, three.

They might be mandated to do it as agreed. Maybe in societies with  
two-party tradition the thinking would favour choosing two  
representatives. One is fine as well (maybe for one-party  
countries :-), but also to leave the representation to civil servants  
or mayors). Societies with traditions in proportional representation  
would maybe like numbers higher than 5.

> My original concept was a U.S. presidential election held in nine  
> days, through meetings of ten a day. Ten meet and elect the best of  
> them to the next level. Etc.

Note also the difference between permanent village (etc)  
representatives elected for doing all kind of numerous decisions vs.  
groups that meet only once for one purpose.

> But what if you don't agree with the rest of your "ten"? Systems  
> like this can, because of how the blocks are put together  
> ("districts") fail to find a true majority winner, much less  
> represent a population more thoroughly.

Yes, there will be some problems if the number of representatives is  
too small to allow proper proportional representation and if the  
number of layers is high. Already having one additional intermediate  
layer (instead of citizens electing the representatives directly)  
adds distortion. The US presidential elections are an example where  
the full power of one state will go to support one of the parties  
(multiple elected candidates though, but single minded). Note that in  
my civil servant / mayor example above I expected them to represent  
the whole population in some kind of "proportional spirit".

> If it was going to get complex, why not go all the way? Why not  
> make it a fractal, with no fixed group size; people choose their  
> own representative, who chooses his or her representative, etc?  
> Fractal Democracy (TM), Patent Pending. :-)

I think stability, guidance and familiar rules and laws and practices  
are also a positive think to have in a society :-).

> The relationship with "those at the lower levels" is actually  
> impossible to maintain.

The point in my example was simply to demonstrate that one needs to  
find a balance between "closeness" and "directness" in the  
relationship between the elected and the electors.

> It would be more useful to look at precisely what the weaknesses  
> are of direct democracy, and how they can be addressed and  
> ameliorated without losing the strengths.

Do you mean "direct democracy" in its traditional(?) meaning - a  
system without representatives / direct decisions by the citizens?

(Note that one of the targets of representative democracy is also to  
increase the level of expertise among the decision makers.)

> Solve the decision-making problem *outside of government*

Careful with this :-). In a working democratic society the current  
decision making practices should ideally be seen as the rules that  
*we* set :-).

> Solve that problem and apply it to, say, a political party. If the  
> theory of the solution is correct, this party will be more  
> successful than competitors, and thus it will be more able to  
> mobilize votes and resources more effectively. And thus win  
> elections or change laws. If necessary.

I agree that all established systems have the risk of stagnation and  
maintaining current power positions. Good generic ways needed to  
avoid and fix such phenomena to grow too strong.


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