[EM] Trees by Proxy

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Mon Mar 26 19:01:11 PDT 2007

At 08:50 PM 3/26/2007, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>On Mon, 26 Mar 2007 10:23:10 -0400 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>>Proxy voting is not normal for legislatures.
>Hooray!  I am proposing proxies as a method of electing a 
>legislature, not as a means of torturing how they perform their tasks.

One might think so. However, what I was proposing was allowing direct 
voting, even at the legislative level, where practical. This has no 
effect on "how legislators perform their tasks," only, possible, a 
small shift in how votes are tallied. It might be limited to the main 
motion only, rather than all procedural motions (because of possible 
delay introduced). Note a proxy legislature, which is what Ketchum 
was proposing -- it appears -- is quite different from standard 
practice in that each legislator has different voting power. This 
*does* complicate voting, even without direct voting being allowed. 
Direct voting complicates it a little more; with computers this is 
actually not an issue. It could have been done without computers, BUT

There is a simpler solution, which is Asset Voting is used to create 
a peer legislature. Such a legislature would operate in the standard 
manner, though votes might be multiplied by the quota. If Direct 
Voting were allowed (this means that *constituents* can vote), it 
would get a little more complicated, but not impossibly so. It would 
not delay or burden the legislators, unless you think that being 
unable to pass legislation that is so unpopular that citizens turn 
out in droves to vote against it and are able to overcome the huge 
advantage that the elected representatives would have from all those 
default proxies.

If it would be so difficult for citizens to change outcomes through 
direct voting, why bother with it? Well, first of all, if proxy 
voting is allowed, some of those citizens might move more than a few 
votes. But aside from that, it is the principle of participation, of 
representation being a voluntary power that voters have, not a 
restriction on them, aside from what is minimally necessary.

Such a system would be designed and implemented in such a way as to 
be practically unnoticeable to the legislators. It would not 
interfere with how they do business, normally.

By the way, if direct voting *does* change outcomes, there is a good 
chance it would change them in ways I would not personally like. I'm 
not trying to change the system to get what I want, but to improve 
democracy so that government really does reflect the will of an 
informed electorate. Essentially, in the long run, I trust this more 
than I trust my personal politics.

>>>      For some legislature to do this would be to make up their own luck.
>>>>(2) Proxy assignments can be revoked at any time by notice to the 
>>>>affected bodies by the principal.
>>>Since I propose EXACTLY this, sounds like carelessness.
>>>Actually, he wants them to take effect instantly - something I see 
>>>as too destructive.
>Abd cannot see the difference.  I SAID that a proxy can be revoked
>at any time.  The statement Abd offered agreed, probably unintentionally,
>since it says nothing as to a delay before the revocation takes effect.

"Revoked at any time," in the context of the discussion, clearly 
meant with *no* delay beyond the notice itself. In other words, when 
the notice is delivered it is effective. This is standard business 
practice, it is extremely odd that Ketchum would interpret it otherwise.

What Ketchum means by "revoke" is "initiate the revocation process, 
which is fixed at such and such a time."

"Revoked at any time by notice" means that when the notice is 
delivered, it's revoked. Not 10 days later, not 10 minutes later. 
Immediately. If the bank is about to ink the mortgage, upon 
arrangement by your proxy, and that notice gets there as the bank 
officer is lifting her pen, it's over. Proxy canceled. No mortgage. 
Which, of course, you could do yourself were you there. That's the 
point. Proxies have no term of office, they are like employees who 
serve at will.

Once again, the question was asked, numerous times now without an 
answer: *why* limit the revocation of proxies? Ketchum has come up 
with two answers. The first is a word in answer, but not really an 
answer. it would be "too destructive." Presumably as opposed to a 
"little destructive," or "slightly bad." The second answer has been 
explicit, but it can be inferred: Ketchum assumes fixed participation 
rights and that these rights could shift immediately if a proxy were revoked.

Never mind that this would be rare as a consequence of a single 
revocation, unless it came from a high-level proxy holding a large 
chunk of the representatives voting power; this problem comes from 
the assumption that the participation rights necessarily follow the 
proxy assignments. That is an unnecessarily rigid provision that I 
doubt would actually be used, for there is no harm at all in allowing 
a representative to continue for a time with participation rights 
even if the representative falls below the standard level. The actual 
votes cast would depend on the proxy situation when the polls close 
on a motion. Not what it was when the candidate was admitted as a 
full participant. Sure, a prolonged loss of voting power could 
eventually result in a loss of participation rights, but there is no 
need that it happen in an unpredictable and "destructive" manner.

>Abd mentions common law.  Hard to tell when that applies, for it 
>applies ONLY WHERE there is nothing newer to replace it.

He's correct. However, common law represents centuries of experience 
and practice. Replacing it with statutory law is one of the great 
complexifiers of modern life. Statutes represent what seemed like a 
good idea at the time the statutes were passed, and quite often they 
make things worse than the common law situation.

I'm not at all proposing that common law supersede statutory law, 
that wouldn't be correct. But when I mention that something is 
common-law, I do so to point out that it is not my new-fangled and 
idiosyncratic idea. It represents centuries of thinking and is 
commonly much deeper than seems to be noticed by some.

Common law is basically deeply informed common sense.

>>>While a legislature should have some rule making ability, I 
>>>believe experience has shown that much of the rules BETTER be standardized.
>>The rules *are* standardized, but they are subject to change by the 
>>legislature. This isn't too difficult to understand, and it is 
>>beyond me why Ketchum seems to argue with it.
>AND, when a legislature gets into this, they had best understand 
>what is permitted for them to decide.

*Of course.* But what if they don't? And who is it that permits and 
does not permit, when it comes to their own rules? Generally, courts 
won't touch this with a ten-foot pole. Where courts can and do get 
involved is where legislative self-regulation interferes with 
established rights. For example, if a legislature, not for any known 
legitimate cause, and apparently for reasons of racial 
discrimination, refuses to recognize a member, there comes to be a 
civil rights issue that can trump the power of the legislature to 
make its own rules and interpret them for itself.

What was the point of this? Something quite interesting has been 
uncovered by this discussion, and it is the basis for distinguishing 
between voting rights and deliberative rights.

Voting rights represent the power of the people to regulate their own 
affairs. But when the scale becomes large, the *process* by which the 
people can do this, which is necessarily deliberative, becomes 
cumbersome if simply performed directly, far too cumbersome, 
impossible in fact. But there is no reason to restrict *voting* 
rights, only full participation in deliberation. Now, *who* restricts 
deliberation? Who decides who can fully participate and who must 
merely watch (and vote if desired and it's practical)?

Well, *the deliberative body.* Why that body? Because those who 
participate in it are the ones affected by deliberation. They are the 
ones who must sit through the speeches, or read them, if they are 
doing their duty. They are the ones who have trouble gaining floor 
access if too many people are seeking it.

There might seem to be a bootstrap problem, but in ordinary 
organizations there really is not. We can assume that an organization 
starts small and as it grows and scale begins to impact it, it begins 
to restrict participation in some way. This is totally normal. And 
the restrictions are implemented by vote of all members, according to 
the rules. So far, those restrictions don't eliminate the right to 
vote, only the right to stand up and make speeches and to enter motions.

Without proxy voting, though, this only helps to a degree. Allowing 
proxy voting, and in particular delegable proxy, which scales 
indefinitely, allows the maintenance of the complete sovereignty of 
the membership with regard to the exercise of power -- i.e., voting 
-- but simultaneously the deliberation is handled by chosen 
representatives. And, routinely, these representatives also exercise 
held votes, and probably the large bulk of total votes. They are the 
ones who will suffer the most if too many persons are admitted, so 
they should be the ones who would propose the rules. The general 
citizenship, though, has the right to be represented, so it should 
consent to whatever rules are proposed, and, if they can vote on 
ordinary motions, directly or by proxy, they can exercise or withhold 
this consent.

Voting rights, properly, should be inalienable, but deliberative 
rights are something which can -- and should -- be decided by 
majority vote. The true power is the power to vote!

(If exclusion from deliberation becomes a serious problem, those 
excluded can collude to vote as a block; they can undertake their own 
independent deliberation to decide how to vote. Basically, you can't 
stop deliberation completely, and what is properly controlled is 
deliberation within an official setting, i.e., the legislative record.)

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