[EM] Mae West was interested in voting methods?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Mar 30 09:02:53 PDT 2007

At 10:58 AM 3/30/2007, Howard Swerdfeger wrote:
>It is not voters or citizens  who are to blame.
>It is the people who are in power, that fear a loss of power that would
>come with a new system. These are the people to blame. They are the ones
>that conduct disinformation campaigns on comparisons of democracy. They
>are the ones drag there feet in democratic reform committees. They are
>the ones that try to maintain the status quo.

What are we to think of "blame" that avoids responsibility? If 
citizens wanted to do something about this, they could. There is no 
power on earth that could stop them.

Except apathy, ignorance, inertia.

If the kids in my house are tearing the place up while I sleep, who 
is to blame?

The idea that those in power are to blame for what is actually made 
almost necessary by the *structure* is one which then creates the 
cycle that has been going on for centuries, a cycle that periodically 
"throws the bums out," to replace them with a new set of people who 
rapidly become new bums.

Perhaps it might be time to recognize that the system creates bums? 
We could imagine that all these people are just bad people, greedy 
for power, who want to dominate others or to enrich themselves, and 
then we become justified in all sorts of destructive actions to get 
rid of these parasites.

But, in fact, the problem is the system. And who is to blame for the system?

We could look at who created it. Hundreds of years ago or more. 
Should be blame them? Useful, it avoids all responsibility. Perhaps 
we could burn them in effigy.

Or we could look, instead, at who maintains the system. These are the 
people who are placed in positions of power by it. Blaming them can 
be troublesome because it is difficult to remove them, but 
periodically the forces of revolution manage to pull it off. At 
tremendous cost. And for what ultimate gain?

Or we could look at those who *allow* the system to continue. And I'm 
afraid, Mr. Swerdfeger, that this is *us*.

There are some of us, many, in fact, who are working on this or that 
symptom of the problem. It's like pushing the rock up the hill. While 
the symptoms must be addressed -- people are dying or living in 
oppression and harm because of them -- if that's all we do, we are 
doomed to forever struggling against problems that could easily be avoided.

Avoided by what?

By the development of a broad understanding, among a few people, of 
what the *real* problem is. I have my own opinions about that, but 
what I see is that even the question is rarely asked. I want it to be 
asked, so I'm asking it, and I only give my answers as one attempt. 
Without understanding the problem, we will never solve it, unless 
somehow by chance, random combination, a solution arises. Could 
happen, given a billion years.

I'd rather see something sooner.

Okay, the problem is that the people aren't organized. Obviously, I'm 
not the first person to think of this! However, usually what happens 
is that those who realize this then proceed to organize the people, 
using traditional organizational methods.

*And those methods are "the system."*

So ultimately, they reproduce, through their "reform" efforts, the 
problem, in a new form, with a lot of sweat and tears.

No, something quite different is needed. And, it turns out, it 
already exists, though not generally applied.

Direct democracy is generally considered a very nice thing, in small 
groups. As the scale increases, though, the general opinion of the 
informed is that direct democracy is impossible. I find this quite a 
strange opinion, actually, and I see the reason behind it as being 
that the problem is not considered in its most general sense. If it 
were, existing solutions would be seen as relevant.

The general problem is how to organize human activity for 
communication, cooperation, and coordination. What is the most 
efficient and effective way of doing this?

Dictatorship would seem efficient, but it is hardly effective *in the 
long run*. It fails to take full advantage of the tremendous 
distributed intelligence of the community, and so, ultimately, it 
cannot compete with democracies, which generally are more effective at this.

If we realized the general nature of the problem, it is not only a 
"political" problem, we would immediately see quite a number of 
solutions. And one of the most successful of them is proxy democracy, 
which is standard in corporate business. Yes, in business, it is 
"shares" which vote, but corporations have been able to form and 
function on large scales because of the voluntary association and 
coordination of capital, made possible through proxy democracy.

Yet we see, everywhere, in politics, proxy voting prohibited. One 
might well ask why? Prohibiting proxy voting is a restriction on the 
freedom of citizens, it does not enhance that freedom at all. Proxy 
voting, if we are only considering single proxies, could be quite 
powerful, but it too runs into problems of scale. The problem of 
scale can be solved, once and for all, by a practice of considering 
proxies as delegable, so that the proxy of a proxy represents all 
those represented underneath. This creates a spontaneous hierarchy, 
organized from the bottom by the actions of individuals, not imposed 
from the top, not even by a collective "top."

And if we realize that the general problem was faced by individual 
cells long ago, and solved, we might notice that this proposed 
solution is quite similar, it creates the same kind of fractal-based 
communication systems that are involved in higher intelligence. There 
is nothing new under the sun.

Okay, that's a theoretical basis for democratic organization that may 
not suffer from the systemic difficulties of electoral 
representation. However, how to get from here to there. As Mr. 
Swerdfeger is aware, existing power structures tend to maintain 
themselves, they resist change toward equity, because equity will 
remove power from those who are selectively enabled by the structure 
and, by the conditions we have stated, these people have excess power.

It is a ubiquitous effect, and it happens entirely aside from greed 
and any kind of blatant hunger for power. Those who are in charge 
typically have more experience with the business of an organization, 
and they imagine that reducing their power to empower others will 
harm the business. They might even be right. We do not have to blame 
the players in the system to understand the problems of the system, 
and these players are not the ones who created the system. They 
merely take on necessary roles in it.

So what to do?

Well, just as with the problem of scale in democracy, this particular 
problem was solved. I can find ancient biological analogies for the 
solution, but first I'll give the immediate inspiration. In the late 
1930s and early 1940s, Bill Wilson, a stockbroker and alcholic, 
discovered that he could stay sober if he was active helping other 
alcoholics stay sober. So he needed an organization. To make a long 
story short, this was the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Bill 
W., as he is known in AA, was the theoretician. He studied what had 
gone wrong with prior attempts to create temperance organizations, 
there had been many attempts that failed.

He then set up a set of traditions, partly from the prior 
counterexamples, and partly from immediate experience, because many 
different things were tried in the early days. He created the model 
for what I call a Free Association. It's embodied in the AA 
publications called the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and 
Twelve Concepts for World Service. The Twelve Steps are a "spiritual" 
program that attempted to be totally nondenominational and, indeed, 
nonreligious in the sense of organized religions. But they aren't my 
focus here, they really are personal. The organizational concepts are 
in the Twelve Traditions and Concepts.

AA, as a result, was phenomenally successful. It grew rapidly until 
it is in every small town in North America. If it were a religion, it 
would quite possibly be the largest in terms of "congregations" and 
active members, certainly it would be significant.

I won't go into detail on the Traditions here, but will give a few 
characteristics of a Free Association:

1. It does not take positions on controversial issues. This is 
absolutely the most counterintuitive of the traditions. How can 
anything be done if we don't make decisions on these things? Well, 
you could ask the same thing about the human brain. It functions best 
when it is *not* bound to existing ideas. Intelligence must be free. 
What we can see this leads to is a separation of intelligence from 
the exercise of power. Power requires decisions on controversial 
issues. And much of the remaining traditions come from this avoidance 
of institutional power; power remains in the hands of individual 
members, who can use it by acting in concert, if they freely choose to do so.

2. It does not collect money beyond its immediate needs and a 
"prudent reserve," which means enough to satisfy legal obligations in 
shutting down if all new funding were to cease.

3. It does not exercise authority over its members, rather the 
members exercise authority over it.

4. It seeks consensus, but structurally it does not require 
consensus, because members remain free to act independently. Anyone 
can start an AA meeting, the saying is in AA that all it takes to 
start a meeting is a resentment and a coffee pot. AA thus actually 
harnesses resentment over how things are being done into expanding 
the program.... that's quite a brilliant trick all on its own.

The entire set of AA traditions is worth looking at.

AA, because of the very narrow focus on "a desire to stop drinking," 
does not need a complex decision-making system. The national office 
is operated by a corporation which is elected at an annual delegate 
conference, but because of the other traditions, it really doesn't 
matter who elects the board. If AA members don't like board 
decisions, they just ignore them, and possibly stop sending in 
contributions. But it doesn't happen, because the corporation 
understands its position, it is continuously dependent upon the 
members because it hasn't accumulated funds. It does not accept large 
bequests. You can't donate $10,000 to AA, they will return it.

They don't need it.

The delegate conference is, in the plan put forward by Bill W., 
elected at the regional level by supermajority. If no supermajority 
is obtained within a reasonable number of ballots, the winner is 
chosen from the top two by lot. This provides a rough proportional 
representation with a heavy slant toward consensus.

I don't consider it adequate for a Free Association in the political 
field. Instead, I propose what Bill W. might have liked, being a 
stockbroker: proxy democracy, with proxies being delegable. This is 
an idea whose time has come, it was independently invented in at 
least four different places around the world. Delegable Proxy is what 
I call, it and so does James Green-Armytage. Michael Nordfors calls 
the proxy an "advisor." The concept has been called "Liquid Democracy."

It is ideal for a Free Association, because it does not require a 
central structure to organize a centralizing hierarchy.

Now, if someone is looking for a solution to the basic problems of 
democracy, I've already written enough. But most people aren't ready 
to recognize this. There are hosts of objections that arise. Suffice 
it to say that these objections generally disappear with sufficient 
consideration, but it's extraordinarily difficult to get people to 
that position. There exist barrier after barrier about preconceptions 
regarding democracy and power, for the world has never experience 
Free Association/Delegable Proxy democracy.

FA/DP does not attack existing structures. Rather, it creates new 
ones in parallel. I mentioned above the biological analogy to this 
solution: it is the enhancement of older chemical messaging systems 
between cells by the formation of specialized cell networks optimized 
for rapid communications. Nerves and nerve networks.

These new networks did not attack or destroy the older chemical 
messaging systems, which still exist. Rather, they enhanced them by 
allowing the development of intelligence.

It all beings with an understanding of how it might be possible to 
create peer associations solely for the purpose of communication, the 
efficient development of consensus -- where possible -- and voluntary 
coordination. If voters were members of such an FA/DP organization, a 
political interest group, not in itself biased as to result, so there 
is no motivation not to join, if they could exercise their power in 
communication directly or by proxy -- which solves the participation 
problem, the time necessary -- they could rapidly develop solutions 
to the political problems we face. Essentially, they could outvote 
any special interest. They do this, not by opposing special 
interests, *but by incorporating them.*

A lot of this falls out from two basic principles:
(1) organization through direct or proxy representation, involving 
only free choice, not contests
(2) the rights of assemblies to regulate themselves, i.e., to adopt 
rules regarding participation in deliberation.

There is really nothing new about this. But one point, easily 
overlooked, must be mentioned before I close. The problem of scale in 
democracy is solved by proxy representation, but there remain certain 
technical problems in how a top-level assembly (or any higher 
assembly, actually) might function. That participation rights are an 
aspect of the rules of an assembly, and can be different and distinct 
from voting rights, is mostly new idea. We see some image of it, 
though, in corporate rules that allow all shareholders to vote at the 
annual meeting, but which only allow motions to be introduced upon 
support of a certain number of shares.

This is a general solution to the problem of scale in democracy. It 
deserves to be widely understood, because political scientists have 
generally considered the problem insoluble, they say as much in recent books.

And combining this with Free Associations, which can be formed 
*immediately*, takes it out of the realm of pie in the sky and into 
immediate possibility, impeded only by inertia, not by structural 
constraints. Impossible to stop, actually, without violating Freedom 
of Assembly, which is pretty drastic. FA/DP organizations don't take 
positions that would trigger this under any reasonable government, 
probably not even in places like China, where citizens are free to 
association in pursuit of public benefit, as long as this does not 
conflict with government policy. Environmental organizations, for 
example, are apparently flourishing in China because they are in line 
with official top-level government policy and thus are somewhat 
protected from local corruption which would oppose them.

The medium is the message. If an FA/DP organization is formed for 
*any* purpose, it becomes, to some extent, usable for any other 
purpose, because the DP structure formed by relationships of trust 
can be used for general communication.

There are obvious applications right here in River City. Anyone want 
to propose one?

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