[EM] Mae West was interested in voting methods?

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Sat Mar 31 08:57:09 PDT 2007

At 11:15 PM 3/30/2007, Jan Kok wrote:

>On 3/30/07, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>>At 10:58 AM 3/30/2007, Howard Swerdfeger wrote:
>>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.

Right. However, *that is not what is stopping them.* One of my 
slogans is "Lift a Finger, Save the World," and, no, I don't mean 
your middle finger. I mean whatever you use to click your mouse, and, 
of course, I also am referring to the tiny amount of effort and time 
it takes to join an FA/DP organization. Sure, later on, there might 
be more time involved, *but only as you choose.* And you can have a 
major effect simply by helping build credibility through naming a 
proxy. You can pick *any* FA/DP organization. The Range Voting Free 
Association is reasonable, or Metaparty, or BeyondPolitics.org itself 
(register on the wiki), or roll your own, we will assist if you want 
and in any case would list you as FA/DP simply if you claim to be so. 
Rolling your own, of course, takes more time.

The tools needed to make choosing a proxy, etc., will be developed as 
they are needed. Right now, registering with an FA/DP organization is 
a major first step. It simply indicates interest in the topic, it 
does not signify agreement with *anything*, beyond the legitimacy of 
discussing the topic.

If you don't join one or at least indicate interest in starting one 
-- for any topic -- then I'd really appreciate comment on why not. 
Sure, as in the Nasrudin story, we may be pouring yoghurt in the 
lake, trying to make it all turn into yoghurt, but we are not asking 
you to supply the yoghurt, nor to watch us pour it unless you want 
to, but, just think! What if it works?!?!

(A closer analogy, of course, would be that we are seeding the lake 
with some organism that, if it can live and grow there, will shift 
the lake's ecology, in a way that we think highly beneficial, or not, 
at least without harmful effect except on those who wasted their time.)

So if you aren't registering, why?

Of course, nobody is obligated to answer this question, but I'll be 
happy if even one person does. I can imagine answers, to be sure, but 
I haven't actually heard *any*, beyond this:

They won't let you get away with it.
People are too apathetic.
Corruption will find a way.

These all boil down to two words: cynicism and despair.

>>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...)

Yes, easily. To be sure, some problems are difficult, but not all. 
Consider a person who is always bumping into things. He tries to 
solve the problem in various ways. He tries to arrange his 
environment so that nothing is in his way, he tries to cover 
everything hard with cushions, he buys bandages and other medical 
supplies to deal with the bruises and broken bones, he complains that 
nobody is helping him, he blames anyone who moves things, and so forth.

Or, he opens or uncovers his eyes so that he can see. If he can see, 
he can easily avoid the obstacles. Life would, indeed, become a tad 
easier, don't you think?

Okay, so his eyes have been damaged and he *can'* see. Okay, so he 
gets help. He finds someone, an intelligent being, who *can* see. A 
guide dog or another person who'll warn him.

The proxy.

>... the name of this list creates a sort of
>virtual box within which we usually confine our thinking.
>What's outside that box?

Well, we don't have a crisp definition of the box. What is the most 
general definition of "election method"? I'd suggest that it is a 
process or procedure by means of which a person or collection of 
persons finds and chooses between alternatives.

There are, of course, more specific definitions, but they exist 
within that larger context and we blind ourselves if we will only 
look at deterministic methods of analyzing ballots to fix choices.

For example, standard deliberative process is Condorcet-compliant, in 
a more sophisticated way than a single-stage poll can ever be; so 
sophisticated -- if the group is sophisticated -- that it is *also* a 
Range method, and, for efficiency, might even incorporate Range 
Voting as part of the process.

>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.

What happens is that people fix on a solution or class of solutions, 
and then work to get society to use those solutions. What to me is 
truly ironic is that there are organizations with the word 
"Democracy" in their title who will use whatever trick they can find 
to exclude people who don't agree with their specific solution from 
being represented in the process of deciding on reforms.

If you trust democracy and you want to enhance democracy, you will 
not want to exclude anyone from the process. Not even statists or 
royalists or supporters of the status quo or "them" of any kind. You 
will trust that a full and complete democratic process will reveal 
conflicts between special interests and the general interest, and 
resolve them in a wise and maximally satisfactory manner. There is 
nothing wrong with having a special interest. *All* of us have 
special interests.

The fears about democracy are mostly based on a fear of what can 
happen if the people are given or take power without having 
mechanisms in place for ensuring that complete process. The "people" 
take over -- which really means that demogogues or leaders of 
revolutions take over -- and, first step, of course, is to eliminate 
*them." Those non-people. The landlords. The rich. The established. 
The "corrupt intellectuals." The reactionaries and running dogs. Etc., etc.

And, of course, all those "enemies of the people" are not thrilled at 
the idea of being exterminated, and so they undertake their own 
programs -- or pogroms -- in the other direction.

No, we need complete democratic process as a protection *before* the 
system changes. With that process, we can prevent harmful changes and 
begin to move toward better ones, and we will keep what is beneficial 
and prevent continuing harm. Why would we do anything else?

Only if we are asleep.

>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.

Another irony is that if we had FA/DP, it would be easy to get it. 
(Or, in fact, to get something better, if possible.)

>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.

It should be understood that this tool is pretty primitive. I expect 
we will have better in fairly short order. There are people working 
on software for delegable proxy. As long as the proxy tables and the 
communication structure are open, and so anyone can validate 
software-reported results, it's safe. Some people are working on 
encrypted systems, and I personally consider this dangerous, 
substantially more vulnerable to corruption.

We are proposing FA/DP for nongovernmental applications initially 
specifically because we do not need to solve, at first, the security 
issues, which could be formidable. This strategy has the possible 
benefit, as well, that if it is successful, *it may not be necessary 
to change the existing formal and legal structures.*

Plurality voting, for example, works quite well in with Yes/No or 
two-option questions, and, alternatively, in elections where the 
public already knows what it wants and the election by secret ballot 
is merely a confirmation of this.

>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!

 From my point of view, of course, our growth has been outstanding. 
It's just that it started with one, or with a few people scattered 
around the globe who were not in communication with each other (and 
the latter situation is still largely true, though there has been 
more contact). When you start with one, it can be a while before you 
have the critical organizational mass that growth accelerates. People 
like success, and it generally takes more than one or two people to 
create the image of success, and that image is necessary to break 
through the cynicism and despair that I mention above.

So, at this point, *every person counts.* A lot.

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list