[EM] Trees and single-winner methods

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 21 12:02:34 PDT 2007

At 02:02 AM 3/21/2007, Juho wrote:
>On Mar 21, 2007, at 5:18 , Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> >> > 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.
>My words were intended to (lightly) refer to the fact that the
>perception of the government and the people/groups in power differs
>quite a lot in different countries, and also between individuals.
>Some see the "machinery" as us or representing us (as agreed in the
>elections). For some the "machinery" is a burden to the people and
>even an enemy and something to fight against and to be free from.

My observation is that few, here in the U.S., really perceive of the 
government as "us." In small towns, it would be common, with respect 
to that town's local government, but the inhabitants of such a town 
will think of the state government as "them." I talking about 
something more subtle than simply approving or disapproving of 
government. I'm talking about a sense of ownership and participation. 
The distance between the people and the government is huge. Watch how 
people, even those who theoretically support, say, the present 
administration, will use "they," rather than "us." There is very 
little sense of participation, except for a few.

It is clear that the decisions of a sovereign body are not usually 
the decisions of the individuals who may participate in it, but I do 
think it's possible for there to be far more sense of participation 
than we find common. It is possible for a citizen to say, "We don't 
all agree on this, and my own opinion is different, but we decided to 
...." Indeed, some of us say things like that already. I just don't 
think that it is common to think this way. If I don't like the 
election outcome, I don't ordinarily say, "We chose Bush." Right now, 
a lot of Democrats are taking ownership of the electoral process: "We 
spoke clearly, stop the Iraq war."

As I've written, I'm not a Libertarian. That central machinery may be 
necessary. What I'm pointing out is that if the process by which the 
people find consensus is confused with the machinery of sovereignty, 
intelligence is lost. The machinery might use the results of the 
process, just as we may use the advice of a physician or other expert.

When decisions must be made, minority opinion is lost. When decisions 
are made about issues of fact or advisability, the same thing 
happens. I'm chary of even decisions made by consensus, for I've seen 
today's consensus bind the future; indeed, it is common.

Rule of law is necessary in functioning social order, but it can be 
poisonous to intelligence. Order and law are necessary, even there, 
but should be content-neutral in so far as is possible.

> > 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.
>We may also agree that when the presence of a policeman makes me stay
>below the speed limit, that's a form of positive coercion. We have
>thus democratically decided that sometimes coercion is what we want.

In other words, Juho agrees with me. Coercion is undesirable, 
generally, but may also be necessary, the lesser of a number of 
evils. The speeding example is interesting. The argument is that 
speed limits are necessary for public safety. However, there are two 
kinds of speed limits: the Basic Speed Limit, which is that it is 
unlawful to drive faster than "reasonable and proper," and posted 
limits. Turns out that posted limits are *frequently* -- at least 
around here -- set below the actual highway standards, which, among 
other things, disallow setting speeds below the 80th percentile speed 
of actual unimpeded traffic (and with no apparent officers 
watching....). The argument would be that the lower speeds are safer.

Which is not necessarily true. First of all, it's known that people, 
in general, ignore speed limit signs and most people simple drive so 
that they feel safe. Experiments have been done where speed limit 
signs were adjusted and actual travel speeds measured. Essentially no 
effect. So what is the function of speed limit signs? Well, where a 
posted speed is drastically low and is accompanied by road hazard 
signs, there is an obvious function, a specific warning. But, more 
routinely, speed limit signs exist to make it simpler to prosecute 
speeders. It's simpler to prove that someone was going 40 mph in a 25 
mph zone than that the person was travelling unsafely.

I did, in fact, get exactly that ticket, and I researched the process 
by which the speed limit was set. 80th percentile speed was 42 mph, 
according to the traffic study which must precede the placing of 
speed limit signs on state highways. From the traffic study, I was 
travelling safely. But I "broke the law." Now, driving through that 
section of road, one will readily observe that almost nobody is 
travelling 25 at that point. Just down the road, it narrows, and I 
and nearly everyone else moves at 25. The sign was placed, I found, 
after extensive pressure from the Board of Selectmen of the town. 
What's the effect? Well, easy income. Inquiries developed many 
friends who had been stopped there and who, when they were able to 
show some connection to the town or the arresting officer, were let 
off with no ticket. It's a tax on outsiders. Easy.

And phenomenally expensive. In Massachusetts, had I simply paid that 
ticket, I'd have incurred additional insurance costs of approximately 
$1000 over the next couple of years. This is in addition to the $170 
for the ticket itself. So, of course, I appeared, and I was ready....

I was found responsible at the magistrate hearing so I appealed. At 
the next stage, rules of evidence apply and the arresting officer 
must appear and testify. No show. Not responsible. And, I'm told, routine.

However, I also began to suspect that something more was happening. I 
had revealed my legal theory at the magistrate hearing, and this 
theory, if sustained on appeal, would have made the prosecution of 
speeding tickets in Massachusetts much more difficult. The legal 
theory is simple and fairly clear, but it has never been tested at 
the appeal level. Indications are that it is quite rare that simple 
contested speeding tickets actually go beyond the actual court trial. 
Most people are unaware that they can easily fight these tickets.

And the next two times I got a speeding ticket in Massachusetts, and 
contested them, the tickets were lost. I showed up at the magistrate 
hearing and .... no ticket. Coincidence? It's certainly possible!

My point? Well, people don't think of the police stopping them for 
speeding as "us." It's "them." Coercion does that. Coercion may be 
necessary, but it is also harmful, so there better be a good reason. 
Too often, the reason is not sufficient to justify the harm; it is 
simply that we have coercive habits.

We see coercion even in the mechanisms of democracy. It's illegal in 
some places to not vote. I've seen EM people argue here for this or 
that election rule because it will "force" people to vote, allegedly, 
in a better manner. Approval is good because it "forces" people to 
consider compromises.

(I think Approval is good, but the "forced" aspect is a limitation, 
not a feature. It's good, I agree, for voters to consider compromise, 
but not good to force them to do so.)

> > 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.
>How do you link this to Montesquieu and separation of powers? (free
>citizens => advice => rules/laws => governance => coercion =>
>citizens as subjects of the government ??) In some sense and/or to
>some extent the "official machinery" may already provide this
>(separation of powers to a "free intelligence"/legislative and
>governing parts).

Intelligence is a kind of power, but it is abstract. Democracy works 
as well as it does in current implementations because there is some 
degree of independence of intelligence from power.

The chain given considers citizens in two aspects, as noted. Citizens 
advise. They advise each other and they advise public institutions. 
Citizens are at the other end of the chain as subjects not with 
respect to advice, properly, but with respect to action, behavior, 
social order. While there are exceptions, advice and other behaviors 
are different in kind. Advice is information and analysis, behavior is action.

The problem, the harm to intelligence, arises when the loop is closed 
and coercion begins to affect, not merely behavior, but advice as well.

Further, even coercion of behavior causes social breakdown, to an 
extent. So, properly, coercion will be limited to what is necessary.

> >> > 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.
> > 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.
>I'm a bit confused of the name "Free Association". What does the
>freedom refer to? Free of what? Is it free of the democratically
>elected government and other decision makers? That's maybe one aspect
>of the proposed system, one possible stepping stone towards it and
>even a possible benefit but maybe not the target. Is it still "free"
>if it is part of the "official machinery"?

If it is part of the official machinery, it is not free, most likely. 
Free Association is a technical term I coined to refer to an 
association with a certain set of characteristics. It's free in a 
number of respects. It is free in that it is not coerced. Membership 
in a free association is solely at the choice of the member. You 
can't be expelled from a Free Association. Again, necessity allows 
what may otherwise be forbidden. The Association is a Free 
Association in other ways: freedom of association includes the 
freedom *not* to associate. FA meetings can set their own rules; 
these are the rules of the meeting, not of the Association.

It is free in that there are "no dues or fees."

FAs are actually the default organization of peers; but peer 
organizations very often devolve rapidly into something else, 
particularly if they see some success. Power structures appear, etc.

Another important aspect of the FA is that it is "free" from bias. 
The FA does not take positions of controversy. You can join an FA 
without thereby endorsing *anything.* Except possibly the simple idea 
of association itself, of free discussion and voluntary coordination. 
So you can join the Range Voting Free Association and be totally 
opposed to Range Voting. Indeed, we'd invite you to do so!

While existing FAs aren't using delegable proxy, except the 
proto-associations like the RVFA, DP adds an additional freedom, the 
freedom to participate indirectly.

For a real-world example, U.S. courts often mandate AA participation 
for people convicted of drunk driving. AA has no opinion on this. 
Many AA members dislike it, and will refuse to sign the cards 
provided by probation officers. But others will sign. The official 
machinery is *using* the FA, but the FA is totally independent. It 
does not receive its support from the official machinery. The courts 
don't subsidize AA meetings.

Some treatment centers host AA meetings. There would be some level of 
distrust of these meetings among AA members, because they aren't 
fully independent. But AA isn't rigid. Individual meetings can and do 
violate the Traditions (which would include total self-support and 
autonomy of meetings), and few get exercised about it. I've seen a 
meeting secretary decide to impose his own opinions on the group. It 
happens. Members may object, may just ignore it, may simply go to 
other meetings. They know that this secretary isn't AA. Nobody is AA.

Even the General Service Conference is just an advisory body; one 
with prestige within AA, to be sure, but GSC doesn't tell meetings 
what to do. Rather, meetings advise *it*, and it essentially 
expresses the consensus that has developed, without imposing it.

>Note that a typical citizen maybe seeks safety and stability, not a
>revolution :-).

Sure. Which is why I consider premature political action, especially 
if it involves destruction, quite foolish.

But I'm pointing out that if enough people belonged to a political FA 
(which means an FA that is interested in politics, not one that is 
partisan, in itself), and if this FA was DP, the people could control 
the government, without breaking a sweat. It would not be the FA 
controlling the government; the FA merely provides the 
communications, it would be the people.

Indeed, the people already control the government, only they are 
asleep, so they act in accordance with their dreams, those of their 
own, or those induced by the dream masters.

I'm suggesting that the people awaken, not in the sense of Awaken and 
Throw Off Your Chains, but in the sense of simply allowing group 
intelligence to arise. I'm not attempting to prejudge what that 
intelligence will decide, and I would certainly advise caution!

Instead of waking up and thrashing about, which in the stupor of 
recent sleep can do a lot of damage, just wake up and look around. 
Smell the coffee. And start to talk about it.

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