[EM] Free Associations (was: Trees and single-winner methods)

Juho juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Mar 22 12:50:47 PDT 2007

On Mar 21, 2007, at 21:02 , Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:

>> "Free Association"

>> 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!

I'm trying to analyse the difference between parties and Free  
Associations. The formal machinery calls established political  
groupings of people "parties". They are clearly part of the  
machinery. In most countries people are free to form new parties.  
(Depending on the current political system they may have different  
chances of becoming really influential parties.)

The Free associations that you described seem to differ from parties  
roughly in that they have a very limited set of rules and are  
therefore more "free" than the traditional parties. I noted at least  
the following possible differences.
- one can't be expelled
- no permanent rules (only per meeting)
- no fees
- no power structure
- does not take positions of controversy
- members don't endorse anything (except the existence of the  
association itself)
- members may be against the basic targets of the FA

A party with very relaxed rules could be a Free Association. Maybe  
people are also free to choose whether to influence via FAs of more  
formal parties and the system could support a mixture of these two.  
(In this case FAs could be part of the "official machinery" (but only  
lightly regulated if at all).)

> 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.

Hmm, maybe I'm trying to point out that the formality of the groups  
(FA vs. party) is a flexible concept, and that some people might feel  
that "controlling the government" is possible also by having rather  
rigid parties that the voters can choose from (and trust that hey  
will efficiently drive the policy that is written in their program).

> 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.

It seems that what we are looking for is a political system that  
allows people to influence and not get e.g. the feeling that whatever  
way they vote, the professional politicians (and potentially also  
lobbyists) will promote their own goals, never mind the voters, and  
will never give anything more back to the voters/citizens than  
promises. I'd call that a "working democracy". Free Associations  
(="very free and informal parties") could be one tool in achieving  
that but I think also formal parties, different political systems,  
voting methods etc. can be used to achieve that. (Same with proxies  
and "continuous elections".)


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