[EM] Free Associations (was: Trees and single-winner methods)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Mar 22 20:00:44 PDT 2007
At 03:50 PM 3/22/2007, Juho wrote:
>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.)
A Free Association is an interest group. You join if you are
interested in the topic of the Association. A party is typically
created by a group of people with a shared political agenda. This
can't be a Free Association (unless it opens itself up to abandon, as
a "party," its platform). Parties also typically collect resources
and spend them according to the decisions of some executive body. FAs
don't collect and spend money beyond the bare minimum necessary for
the FA communication functions.
However, note that an FA caucus can be quite equivalent to a
political party. It may be associated with an actual party, but the
FA and the party are strictly independent; the party and the caucus
may share membership, though.
A political party could have a DP structure, and it might decide to
take on some of the other FA characteristics, but if it takes on all
of them, it would be a bit strange to call it a party at all.
However, there is Metaparty. http://metaparty.beyondpolitics.org
This is Jan Kok's project. So far, very little happening. There is
also the Boston Tea Party Free Association. The Boston Tea Party is
an offshoot of the Libertarian Party; the associated FA is wide open....
>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
>- members may be against the basic targets of the FA
Just to make it clear, members can endorse anything they want, but
they do not properly do so in the name of the Association.
There is some kind of minimal "power structure," but it only
addresses and controls the details of "meetings," which include
mailing lists and wikis. If the membership structure is DP, or is
otherwise rooted in a multiplicity of direct social contacts (as is
the case in AA), if a meeting goes astray, the members who don't want
to follow that path simply set up their own meeting. The saying in AA
is that all it takes to start a meeting is a resentment and a coffee
pot. AA grows in this way, meeting times expand, and there comes to
be a great diversity of meetings. They are mostly connected by
meeting lists and they may send a rep to Intergroup. My own
experience wasn't in AA itself, I've never seen an AA business
meeting, but in other programs, anyone can start a meeting, claim it
is a meeting of the program, and it gets put on the meeting list.
I've never seen any attempt to abuse this; I suppose if there was
something egregious, Intergroup might do something about it.
>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).)
FAs and formal parties are quite different, but they can coexist;
indeed, this is the plan. The FA is always more inclusive. FAs,
however, can split and merge extremely easily.
Something might start as what would become a caucus within a larger
FA. For example, there has been a little bit of interest from some
Democratic Party activists. What if a Democratic FA/DP organization
started? Because of the Democratic in the name, there is a little bit
of conflict with the FA definition, but if this association doesn't
take positions beyond some kind of special invitation for Democrats
to join, and the activity initially may focus on issues important to
Democrats, the FA could broaden; but the name would have to change.
More likely, the FA might attach to something like Metaparty.
FAs exist to communicate, coordinate, and cooperate. In the end, what
they produce is advice. Action is undertaken by the members. If
action requires funding, the members who support the action put
together whatever is necessary, which could include creating an
organization for that function. They could use traditional structures
for this, or they could use DP. Depends.
Any traditional membership organization could, generally, profit from
having an associated FA/DP organization. It advises the control
structure of the membership organization, and it advises its own
members how to act with respect to the traditional organization.
Those who enjoy special power under the status quo might feel
threatened by this, but if an organization is actually functioning
according to the benefit of its members *as understood by the
members, through trusted proxies*, it should have nothing to fear.
Those who have special power before the FA might continue to have it
afterwards. If they are trusted.
>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).
The problem is that this encourages and even requires polarization.
Polarization is not the same as dialectical process; rather, the
former becomes somewhat rigid.
Remember, the basic concept here is how to create intelligent
structures. The DP network actually follows, at least loosely, what
happens in biological neural networks. Traditional structures, even
when theoretically democratic, devolve into top-down, authoritarian
structures, to varying degrees. And such structures are limited by
the intelligence at the center. The ultimate example of this, of
course, is dictatorship, which is severely limited, in the end, by
the intelligence of the dictator.
(Successful dictators use the distributed intelligence of their
subjects; unfortunately the model is not stable, for such
centralization falls into the hands of those who are not so skilful.)
>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".)
Setting aside the possible uses of proxies within formal power
structures -- which is actual practice in corporations and really
ought to receive more attention -- "formal parties," if organized
traditionally, have been tried over and over again. They are subject
to certain hazards, and ultimately they succumb to them. But hope
springs eternal.... hey, let's roll that stone up the hill again.
Large-scale FAs have never existed, outside of the very narrow-focus
examples of AA et al, because the organizational structures haven't
been developed and used that could handle the scale.
DP, I imagine, is the key. While it is certainly possible, and some
people are working on it, for DP to be used in more traditional
organizations, i.e., political parties (Demoex started with DP), the
FA context seems to be relatively fail-safe. There is nothing that
requires it to be the only effort undertaken.
But it is so easy to set up an FA/DP organization, and the potential
is so great, that I'd really suggest it. Problem is, very few people
see the need for it. If they could see operating FA/DP organizations,
many of them would understand. So there is a bootstrap problem.
In any case, we are making baby steps. Sooner or later, this
collection of small steps will start to walk.
(The difference between an FA/DP organization and a simple ad-hoc
loose association, such as this mailing list, will become apparent
with time. FA/DP organizations should accumulate more weight,
gradually, as people participate, move on, and leave behind a proxy.
The proxy can bring them back in if and as needed. Other advantages
appear as the organization grows. DP can create an organizational
body, again, as needed.)
More information about the Election-Methods