[EM] The structuring of power and the composition of norms by communicative assent

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Mon Jan 19 08:28:34 PST 2009

Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:

> Could not these domains work together? To my knowledge, that's what happens 
> now. People discuss politics and find out what they're going to vote. Any 
> sort of improvement on the availability of discussion, as well as of 
> information of representatives' actions will help that domain. Then, when 
> the voters actually decide to vote, they have privacy. Their opinions may 
> change based on what they hear or discuss, but at the end, it's a private 
> decision who they'll give their vote to.

I was thinking along the same lines, replying to your previous post!
Here it is:

Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote (previously):

> You may put it that way, but I think that goes the other direction as well: 
> if it is true that distortions (by carrot or by stick, e.g vote-buying or 
> coercion) degrade the public sphere so that one have to use a secret ballot 
> in ordinary elections, then the distortions will remain when using a method 
> that relies on public sphere information (that is, what you call 
> communicative assent), yet the means of masking that distortion no longer 
> applies, because it's no longer a private matter of voting, but a public 
> one of discussion.
> Or to phrase it in another way: the distortions of action can be called 
> corruption, since this is really what happens when you're letting the 
> distortions govern how you act when you're supposed to be acting either in 
> accordance to your own opinion, or as an agent of someone else. For obvious 
> reasons, we don't want corruption, and we would seek to minimize it, but 
> it's still a problem.

Consider all three types of voting system, the two existing, and the
third proposed:

  Voting System   Individual                Collective
  --------------  ------------------------  ------------------------

  State           --                        manipulation by mass
  Electoral                                 propaganda, financed by
                                            campaign contributions,
                                            or by influence peddling

  State           Party discipline,         --
  Legislative     the whipping system

                  Vote buying, influence

  Public Primary  Social pressure from      --
  (Electoral and  employer, school,
   Legislative)   church, union, etc. *

                  Vote buying, influence

   * family pressure is more nature-like than systematic, so
     consider it separately

> The secret ballot came into use to protect voters from the distortion. 
> Presumably the distortion was real and sufficiently severe to need such 
> measures. If we remove the protection, the distortion will again be 
> uncovered. It may be a problem with society, or with the method, but it'll 
> be there, whatever the cause.

That protection will not be removed.  No changes to the existing
voting systems are proposed.  On the other hand, we cannot extend the
same protection to the public system, not even partially.  To enforce
a secret ballot would violate the guarantees of free speech in the
public sphere.  Ad hoc, people can make public voting a fact.

We can take any of the corruptions (Table 1), and investigate it in
detail.  That's one approach.  Another (as suggested in your other
post) is to consider how the two categories of system (state and
public) will interact.  There could be a positive synergy between
them, with the corruptions of the state being weakened by the public
system, while those of the public system are filtered out by the
state's secret ballot.  I would argue this is generally true, for all
of the corruptions listed in the table.

> The vote-buying effort would, of course, be a this-for-that endeavor. I 
> provide money, you provide the vote - I "buy" your vote. After you've 
> voted, I got what I bought, and I may buy another vote later.
> Alternately, it can be continual: for as long as you, as a proxy, mirror 
> me, I'll pay you. Stop doing it and I stop paying.
> In both cases, the vote is the commodity.

Only the latter case would apply, as the commodity is continuous.
There is a single vote on the table, and the voter can shift it around
or withdraw it, at any time.  So the payments must be meted out
continually in nickles and dimes (as you suggest), or deferred.  These
types of payment will be less attractive to typical vote sellers.
They won't be banking their returns, but spending them immediately.

In addition to this, and the other factors (i to iv) that weigh
against vote buying, I would add:

  v) Vote sellers may be identified by pattern analysis, and simple
     record keeping.  Once identified and marked with a probability
     label, their collective behaviour may be tracked.  The tracks
     will lead to the vote buyers.

> I thought the system would have a deferred direct democracy component, as 
> others have talked about in previous descriptions of proxy democracy: that 
> each voter has a vote but can assign it to a proxy...

Yes, it's essentially the same voting mechanism as Abd's delegable
proxy (and others too).  But the application differs.  It's a primary
system - nominating candidates for the state ballot, and candidate
bills for the state legislature - and so the deferral of action works
not only through the internal proxy structure (relatively fast), but
across voting systems (slow).

>                                                 ... If that's the case, 
> then though each decision has less value, there are more of them from which 
> to gather feedback.
> I'll grant the part about assembly voting, though I'll note that if an 
> elected assembly votes, then the composition of that assembly can be done 
> by using ordinary secret voting, in which case there is no problem.

Yes, the state assembly is elected by the usual methods.  The only
change is external, in the addition of a primary that uses public
voting.  But it's a cross-party primary, so if the turnout is high
enough, then it would predict the winner of the general poll.

The accuracy of the prediction would be reduced if the primary was
corrupted.  Ordinarilly, the secret ballot on election day would
filter out most of the corruption (I suppose), delivering the
corrected result.  But a truly massive corruption could overwhelm the
filter, because the prediction would be self-fulfilling, to some

Michael Allan

Toronto, 647-436-4521

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list