[EM] Mae West was interested in voting methods?

Jan Kok jan.kok.5y at gmail.com
Fri Mar 30 20:15:36 PDT 2007

I invite and urge the people on the EM list to take a closer look at
Abd's FA/DP (Free Association with Delegable Proxy) ideas.

My own "FA/DP Manifesto" (only about one page long) is at
http://metaparty.beyondpolitics.org .

On 3/30/07, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> 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. ...
> 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.

And being busy with other things like making a living or taking care
of kids, and also having whatever free time is available for activism
split among various causes.

With (delegable) proxy, if you have some interest in some issue, but
can't spend a lot of time studying it, you can find someone that you
trust who is also interested in that issue and perhaps better informed
than you, and designate that person as your proxy. You can negotiate
with your proxy about how much communications you want to receive
about the issue, thus allowing you to be represented without having to
spend much time following the issue. Note that the representation you
get through proxy is much more flexible than our familiar
representative democracy, because you can change proxies any time you
like, and you can also override any vote your proxy makes for you by
voting directly.

> 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. ...
> 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.

(Not sure about "easily", but anyway...)

> 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.

Yes. I admire Abd for doing some thinking outside the box.

It amazes me that in the whole world there are only a few hundred
people who are interested enough in election methods to participate in
this list. Some of us are quite imaginative about inventing and
analyzing voting methods. But the name of this list creates a sort of
virtual box within which we usually confine our thinking.

What's outside that box?

> 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. ...
> 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. ...

[Abd then tells about Alcoholics Anonymous as an example of a
large-scale and very successful Free Association]
> 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?

How can we we make decisions that are satisfactory to a large majority
of the people if we don't have people representing all sides of an
issue talking/negotiating with each other?!

The situation we have now, for the most part, is organizations that
support one side of an issue. The organizations try to rally people to
their side, conduct letter writing campaigns, advertise, lobby... But
the organizations don't generally talk to each other, especially those
on different sides of an issue.

Free Associations are quite different. They are strictly neutral. They
(should) strive to make sure all sides of an issue are represented and
heard. Imagine a newsgroup or blog in which the leaders or
spokespeople of each side present their views and reply to the other's
messages point by point.

When an FA is organized with Delegable Proxy, and the number of
members grows into the thousands or more, the DP network can act as a
filter and communication network, to keep communication traffic at the
top level at a manageable level, to avoid redundant messages, but to
allow unique ideas from the lower levels of the proxy trees to flow up
to the top and get discussed. Assuming people would choose people they
trust and generally agree with as their proxies, it should be easy for
good and unique ideas to flow to the top.

Since an FA does not take a a position on any controversial it really
_can't_ wield any power. As Abd says:

> 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.

So, members of like mind can band together into other types of
organizations (not FA's) that can collect money, take a particular
stand on an issue and try to wield some power. But, the members will
be far more effective if they can reach consensus before attempting to
band together and exercise power.

> 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.
> ...
> 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.

It seems obvious to me that "participation" (i.e. speaking or writing
directly to the top-level assembly) rights and voting rights can be
separated and handled by different rules. But I think the proxy trees
would also tend to be the main and default communication network,
because if you trust someone enough to be your proxy, you probably are
in good communication with that person as well.

> 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.

As Abd says, all it takes to form an AA meeting is a resentment and a
coffee pot.

All it takes to form an FA/DP is to establish a meeting place (could
be in cyberspace, e.g. newsgroup or teleconference) and form the proxy
relationships. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RangeVoting/database can
be used as a template for creating FA/DPs using Yahoo groups.

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

There are a couple of forums on topics of current interest already set
up and ready to go at
http://metaparty.beyondpolitics.org/tiki-forums.php , namely:

US - Iraq Conflict
Impeach Bush?

It would be good to get people on each side of those subjects involved
in those discussions. (I haven't been promoting or participating in
those forums very much because 1. I've been spending most of my
available time promoting Range Voting, and 2. I feel relatively
unqualified to spout my opinions about those subjects. There are other
people who have studied those subjects far more than I have.)

It would also be good to have more than four people participating in
an FA/DP. Is FA/DP a good, practical, useful idea, or are Abd and I
full of hot air (maybe with a high CH4 content)? Let's give FA/DP a
try and find out!

- Jan

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