[EM] Trees and single-winner methods

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Mar 20 20:18:47 PDT 2007

At 03:02 AM 3/20/2007, Juho wrote:
>On Mar 20, 2007, at 7:02 , Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> > 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?

Well, yes. But I note that the issue is one of power. If the citizens 
have the *power* to make decisions directly, that power is amplified 
by the ability to name a proxy. As long as the citizen retains the 
*right* to vote directly, the system is, in this aspect, a direct 
democracy. Even if the citizen normally exercises the right through a 
representative or proxy. I prefer that the proxy be chosen, it is far 
less open to abuse than what has been suggested by some, that a proxy 
be assigned by some process. (And election contests for 
representatives are a kind of process that takes away the freedom of 
the individual to choose representation.)

Direct democracy is what exists in peer organizations by default. 
It's interesting to look at the history of town governments in the 
U.S. In New England, towns organized themselves, and this is how it 
came to be that there are direct democracies functioning there. In 
most places, towns were organized by the state, they were creations 
of the central government from the start, first under royal 
authority, then that authority continued to be centralized after the 
revolution. And even in New England, state governments chipped away 
at the powers of local government....

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

That tends to be more of a rationalization for it than a reason to 
deprive the citizens of the right to make decisions for themselves. 
Sure, we want expertise. But, consider this: perhaps you are not an 
expert on medical matters. So should a medical governor be appointed 
to make medical decisions for you?

Generally, I think we agree that the substitution of expert opinion 
for individual opinion should take place, in individual matters, with 
the consent of the individual!

It is a bit ironic that in some fora I've been accused of elitism by 
wanting to set up proxy representation. In fact, my position is that 
the one who decides when it is appropriate to vote directly and when 
it is appropriate to delegate authority should properly be the voter 
himself or herself. I would not take this away, in the matter of 
voting on collective decisions, even if the voter is incompetent or 
insane. It is only a vote, not control, it will not, by itself, cause 
the incompetent or insane decision to be implemented.

By taking this power away, by forcing it to be exercised only by 
others, not subject to the free discretion of the voter, we lose the 
true power of democracy, which is essentially independence of the 
decision-making process from coercion. I'm not an absolute 
libertarian, but I have come to consider that liberty is essential in 
intelligence. Constrained intelligence is not intelligence, it is 
predetermination and prejudice.

> > 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 :-).

What I'm saying is that free people have the right to make their own 
decisions, governing themselves. Solve the problem of how to make 
collective decisions in a large group, maximizing consensus *and* 
efficiency, and you will have a tool that can transform society. What 
Juho is doing here is to confuse the "current decision-making 
practices" *of the society as a whole* with those of an independent 
and voluntary group. Not to worry, this is a standard confusion!

The problem, indeed, is that we think of "how we make decisions" as 
being the official and legal machinery that produces law and order, 
largely through coercion. But this actually begs the question. My 
discovery has been that separating intelligence from power, 
separating *voluntary decision-making process* from the legally 
binding process, frees intelligence. It becomes purely advice. But, 
done properly, advice from a source that is Trustworthy by Design (TM) :-)

And then people, well-advised, already have the power to move the 
legal machinery. Where they don't, they can get it in short order!

> > 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.

And that is exactly what I'm suggesting. I have a suggested solution. 
It may not be ideal. But it's a little like some of Warren Smith's 
work. It isn't ideal, but it's the best we have. And anyone and 
everyone is invited to improve it, tear it apart and put it back 
together or don't, criticize it, or whatever.

My goal at this point is for the concepts to become more widely 
understood; further to find applications to test them. Fortunately, 
FA/DP is extremely simple and relatively fail-safe. Indeed, the 
principal hazard is that the FA simply becomes a more traditional 
power structure, and the temptations are legion.

Setting up a proxy list is about as simple as can be imagined. It 
isn't necessary in a Free Association that proxies have legal power, 
just that they function as links between the individual and the 
organization when needed. In a small, new organization, they won't be 
needed much. But consider this list as if it were the Election 
Methods Free Association. This diffuse group already is much like a 
Free Association. As an Association, it doesn't take any 
controversial positions. It isn't collecting funds to be disbursed by 
group vote. If something needs to be done, a member simply does it. It works.

But it also has some limitations. Without formal process, it has 
difficulty developing and measuring consensus. It cannot easily form 
action groups, what we call caucuses in FA/DP-speak. Members come and 
go and no larger structure is built. It is not ready for substantial 
increases in scale; if too many people join the list and start 
participating, the traffic goes up and people start to drop off. DP 
is designed to deal with this.

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