[EM] Trees by Proxy

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 28 23:52:20 PDT 2007

At 01:14 AM 3/29/2007, Dave Ketchum wrote:

>The real topic here is whether new legislator terms start the 
>instant someone gets enough proxies filed, or seats change with 
>enough advance notice for those involved to make needed adjustments.

That's correct. What I'm suggesting is that voting rights immediately 
respond, but that deliberation rights float to some degree. You've 
travelled to the capital, you rented an apartment, and then somebody 
changes their proxy and you lose your seat? No. You simply lose a 
vote. You can still participate, stand to speak, enter motions. If 
you lose a *lot* of votes, maybe then you lose your seat.


The only potential problem that I see: churning. Some group might try 
to churn proxies in order to increase the number of active members 
for their faction. It is not clear that this would actually produce a 
functional advantage, and it would stand out like a sore thumb. And 
the assembly could deal with it. The negative effect of churning 
would be that there would be more active members of the legislature. 
It would have to be a lot more in order to matter significantly. 
There is also the matter of office space, etc.

I've mostly thought about the Free Association context for delegable 
proxy because all these difficulties disappear in that context, and 
my opinion is that we are not likely to see DP in government until 
there has been substantial experience elsewhere, which could include 
more traditional organizations and Free Associations. FAs are 
interesting because they could, in theory, get very large, and cross 
the boundaries of traditional political organization. A large 
political FA could shadow the government and act as a watchdog over 
it. And could effectively run it even without changes in law.

>>Ketchum has here given an example of a possible problem from 
>>immediate effectiveness of proxies. I'm suggesting that it isn't a 
>>problem at all, not if the rules are appropriate. And I am far less 
>>concerned about delay in a proxy becoming effective than I am about 
>>the reverse. If my vote isn't counted, that is a small problem. If 
>>my vote is counted against my specific wishes, that is a large 
>>problem. And we were talking about revocation of proxies, not of 
>>the effectiveness of new ones.
>If a change in proxies means different delays between the old proxy 
>ending and the new one taking effect, the legislature will have either:
>      A period with no support for those voters, or
>      A period when those voters will have double representation.

No. I've been proposing that, as is standard with proxies, the 
proxies take effect immediately as regards voting rights. What 
happens is that the votes cast by a legislator change in strength. So 
there is no double representation. Latency in assuming a seat, 
however, could result in no representation *in deliberation*, which 
is a less serious problem, and there are alternate ways to 
participate in deliberation. Essentially, through another sympathetic 
legislator who has a seat.

Latency in assuming a seat can and should be shorter than latency in 
losing one. I don't expect that much churning that the increase in 
effective legislative size becomes significant, unless some group 
tries using it as a means of increasing the number of legislators 
they have, which would *not* increase their votes, would exhaust 
their own legislators, and would probably irritate the assembly 
greatly, which could then modify the rules as necessary to avoid 
harm. It has to be a *lot* of extra seats to do harm.

DP and other proxy assemblies can be smaller, ordinarily, than 
standard peer assemblies, for a given level of completeness of 
representation. Having ten percent more seats would mean, probably, 
less than ten percent more communication traffic. Not a drastic 
change, particularly if temporary.

Note that with an proxy legislature, periodic elections become 
unnecessary. What I'd see, with the maintenance of secret ballot, is 
periodic Asset elections, to create the electors who then create the 
proxy legislature. Ordinarily, these electors would be, I'd expect, 
pretty stable. If the person I most trust today is X, very good 
chance it will still be X next year. Numbers of votes held will shift 
constantly. In a legislature covering a large territory, legislators 
would never know exactly how many votes they will be exercising, and 
especially if direct voting is allowed, not merely reassignments of proxies.

But that is not a harm. Legislators can and should focus on creating 
the best legislation, and, if I'm a legislator, how many votes I have 
isn't relevant to that. It *does* effect what's practical, sometimes, 
but I'll know closely enough about that. Whether I've got 23,568 
votes or 21,293 isn't going to make that much difference. The motion 
I want to introduce still gets introduced and it still gets seconded 
or not. Both these actions require a seat, not a certain number of votes.

The confusion arises because we think it best to assign seats based 
on votes. But that is just an *indication* of whether or not someone 
should have a seat. I've thought that legislatures might give some 
people seats who don't have any votes other than their own. Again, 
the only harm in this is loss, under some conditions, of physical 
space and meeting efficiency, and presumably people who would be 
given such seats would be people known to *help* with meeting 
efficiency and depth. How would a "standing" seat be given? By vote. 
Majority vote. And they could be removed by the same....

The assembly, properly, is self-regulating. Among its powers would be 
the definition of its size. Once again, if direct voting is allowed, 
there is little or no risk. Without direct voting, a majority faction 
could reduce the size so that it becomes overrepresented. With direct 
voting, it has little motive to do this, and it would quickly 
discover that not allowing the other factions into deliberation is, 
shall we say, counterproductive, since they can still vote. Unlike 
present legislatures where gerrymandering and single-member districts 
can produce a serious advantage to even, sometimes, a minority, that 
has been able to manipulate the districts.

>Direct voting would be a complication that would make the basic 
>proposal harder to evaluate.  Such comparatively minor changes could 
>be considered by themselves later.

It's not a minor change. It is, in fact, is *the* major change. 
Restricting the number of seats, then, is seen as a necessity for efficiency.

But Ketchum should realize that the "basic proposal" doesn't have a 
snowball's chance of seeing the light of day until some very 
significant changes take place first. Existing power structures are 
not at all likely to fade away without protest.

What I'm suggesting is that something will happen when people 
realized that electoral democracy takes away their rights to 
participate, that simply voting once every two years is hardly 
participation. With direct voting, participation takes place whenever 
the voter *chooses* to participate. For most voters, this will only 
be occasionally. And thus proxies who remain much closer to the 
action will cast the vast majority of votes. Only when voters fear 
that the proxies have somehow lost touch with them would large number 
of direct votes be cast. And that is both unlikely and, if it *does* 
happen, is exactly when it should happen.

What I'm trying to do is to decrease the distance between government 
and the people, such that we legitimately come to feel, the vast 
majority of us, that this is *our* government. It is the way *we* 
want it to be. And not just at some narrow point in time, but continuously.

>Also, legislators HAD BETTER not vote until they have at least an 
>opportunity to understand what topic is being voted on (rather than 
>copying the US Congress which is too much in a habit of voting 
>without bothering to understand).

If Ketchum is saying that those who vote should understand what they 
are voting on, great. But who decides who is competent, who 
understands enough? My claim is that the proper one to make this 
evaluation is the voter himself or herself. Direct democracy by DP, I 
expect, will *increase* the participation power of exactly the right 
people, those who are widely trusted by those who know them *closely*.

>>>   I do propose getting voting rights on less proxies than for 
>>> floor rights - which usually would mean paying attention to floor 
>>> activity in order to vote intelligently before getting floor rights.

But once you have separated voting rights from floor rights, there is 
no reason for a minimum number of proxies held in order to vote. 
Voting systems can accommodate large numbers of voters, particularly 
where votes are public (and all votes in the legislature are public, 
they have to be.)

Now, in another thread, I discuss implementation path. It starts with 
Asset Voting, probably for a peer legislature, which is quite close 
to what we have, only much, much better in terms of pure proportional 
representation. Asset Voting creates electors, who are public voters. 
It is a small step from there to allowing voting rights in the 
legislature to float, i.e., it is no longer a pure peer legislature, 
voting powers would differ (though it's possible that the range would 
be limited, it could be required that, if you have more than a 
certain number of votes, you delegate them in some way, they cannot 
be directly exercised by you. And this creates some complications 
that I won't address except to say that I think some of the obvious 
problems have solutions, and, nevertheless, I'd prefer to stay with 
pure proxies, no limit, but effective-date latency for legislation 
passed by a superproxy, allowing time for review and revocation)

And once voting rights float, it could then be allowed for all 
electors to directly vote.

That point should be noted: direct voting is *not* anonymous voting. 
To directly vote, you must be a registered elector who received votes 
in a secret ballot election. It might be only one vote, though I've 
suggested that for security reasons there may need to be some 
minimum, and, again, Asset Voting might start with such minimum 
limits -- very-small-vote electors might be required to secretly 
reassign their votes in a subsequent poll.

But anyone can, subject to possible restrictions, become a voter in 
the legislature. They must be willing to vote publicly, that's all. 
Their votes will be public record. This includes the votes they use 
to create seats as well as any direct votes they cast. All this is 
necessary so that the voters who give *them* their vote know what 
they are doing with it.

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