[EM] Trees by Proxy

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Mar 27 07:45:37 PDT 2007

At 12:49 AM 3/27/2007, Dave Ketchum wrote:

>I count Abd's direct voting as torture.

Ketchum treats direct democracy as if I invented it.

He doesn't state who is tortured. Perhaps he's tortured because he 
doesn't like to consider ideas that didn't come from him, I don't 
know. He hasn't said. He just said that it would be "destructive," 
without specifying what would be destroyed, and he has yet to answer 
that question, and he now called it "torture," without stating who 
would be put into pain.

If he thinks the voters would be inconvenienced, I'd not agree. Only 
those voters who wanted to vote directly would need to do so. This is 
quite different from non-proxy direct democracy, where not voting 
represents a serious loss of power. When there is a proxy in place, 
direct voting becomes a free option.

In small organizations, and likewise in small communities where some 
structure hasn't been imposed from above, direct democracy is the 
default. As organizations and jurisdictions grow, traditionally, 
direct democracy is generally considered to become impractical. It is 
*not* that people can't understand issues and vote with reasonable 
wisdom. The impracticality arises on two levels, efficiency and complexity.

Complexity means that decisions become more and more complex, 
indicating that they are properly handled by experts, or people who 
have the time to devote to the issues. However, in my view, the 
decision as to whether or not a particular voter is competent to vote 
on an issue is, by far, best left to the voter. This is the fact in 
small organizations, where voters who do not feel competent may 
abstain. It does not really change with large organizations, in 
principle, only in degree *with some issues.*

Efficiency refers to the problem that as participation rises in a 
meeting, the meeting becomes increasingly intractable. This problem 
actually comes well before the size of many legislative bodies, such 
as the U.S. House, which deals with the problem through a committee 
system (and, by the way, quite a bit of loss of democracy, as certain 
key persons become gatekeepers).

What is a new concept is to separate voting rights from deliberative 
rights, allowing the latter to be restricted. NO reason has been 
shown here to restrict the former. Just Ketchum complaining that it 
would be "destructive" and "torture," with no explanation at all.

I'm not sure why I'm continuing this thread, because applying proxy 
democracy to public agencies is pie in the sky for the moment, and 
I'm not one, generally, for spending a lot of time on sky pie 
recipies, worrying over how much salt to put in.

But the fundamental question of direct democracy and why it is and is 
not practical is a crucial one for me. Spreading understanding of 
this is a very important part of my own agenda. This is particularly 
important because the received wisdom is just plain wrong, mostly for 
two reasons: proxy voting has been totally neglected by the political 
scientists, even though it is very common in business, and delegable 
proxy, which can create a hierarchy which distributes the 
communication load that is the reason why the political scientists 
generally consider the problem of scale in democracy insoluble, 
subject forever to the grating compromises of electoral representation.

>      I reject loading down my basic proposal with such.
>      However, if anyone thinks it is worth the pain, they could add 
> it - I see no conflict with the basic proposal.

Which is exactly what I said. It did not conflict with the basic proposal.

>>>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.

[my response was not quoted by Ketchum]

>We are splitting hairs.

He split the hair, then realizes "we" are hair splitting when I point it out.

Interspersed posting seems to be a new thing for Ketchum, who has 
generally displayed the irritating practice of quoting prior posts in 
their entirety at the end, even when he wasn't commenting on what he 
quoted. Among other things, future generations of people searching 
for relevant material will find this ... quite irritating, since 
searches will pick up multiple hits that add nothing.

But now he has started only quoting prior conversation, *his* part, 
omitting the responses to which he is *actually* responding. Weird.

>>*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?
>Constitutions, and laws imposed by higher legislatures, must be obeyed.

Sure. But we are talking about the rules of assemblies, how they 
conduct their own business, how they allow floor access in 
particular. These are almost never subject to the authority of 
constitutions or higher legislatures.

Now, must the state legislature obey the state constitution? It's an 
interesting question, and the answer isn't as obvious as one might 
think. In Massachusetts, the state legislature is constitutionally 
mandated, when presented with a petition properly signed by 
sufficient voters, to approve or reject a proposed constitutional 
amendment. There is such an amendment pending in Massachusetts, an 
amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. For 
three years, since the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 
that the state constitution permits same-sex marriage, such has been 
lawful in Massachusetts, and there are now many such recognized 
marriages. It's a not issue here. Two years ago, the legislature 
punted. It adjourned without voting on the petition. Romney, the 
Republican governor with presidential aspirations, sued attempting to 
force the legislature to fulfil its constitutional duty. The Supreme 
Court refused to do this, and the reason was, as I recall, that it 
would not intervene in the process of another branch of government.

So we have here a case where the State Constitution specifically 
instructs a constitutional body to do something, and it refuses, and 
it cannot be forced to do it, to "obey the constitution." So it 
cannot be unconditionally stated that "Constitutions ... must be obeyed."

Generally, assemblies set their own rules. That's a very strong 
tradition that seems to have been utterly missed by Ketchum. You can 
constitutionally mandate the composition of the assembly and its 
powers, but you generally can't tell it how to make its decisions. 
Many of the principles I've been promoting for FA/DP and other DP 
applications are really just common sense and common law. Freedom is 
*important.* Intelligence requires freedom!

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