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

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jan 16 09:09:47 PST 2009

Two observations.

1) Most countries of the world have
decided to base their democratic
processes on secret votes. It would
be difficult to change their current

2) The biggest problems may not be in
large coercion/buying campaigns and
explicit coercion/buying but in small
scale and voters' own independent
decisions. There may be intentional or
imagined pressure at homes, work and
many types of communities (village,
friends, religious, professional).


--- On Fri, 16/1/09, Michael Allan <mike at zelea.com> wrote:

> From: Michael Allan <mike at zelea.com>
> Subject: Re: [EM] The structuring of power and the composition of norms by communicative assent
> To: election-methods at lists.electorama.com
> Date: Friday, 16 January, 2009, 2:20 PM
> Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
> > The general problem is that if there's a way of
> finding out what a certain 
> > person voted, or whether a certain person voted in a
> particular way, one 
> > can apply pressure to get that person to vote a
> desired way (to the one 
> > applying the pressure). That can be simple coercion,
> be it formal (in 
> > "democratic" countries that aren't fully
> democratic yet), semi-formal (mob 
> > bosses, or "vote this way or you're
> fired"), or informal (social pressure). 
> > The coercion is "do it my way or something bad
> happens" - it can also 
> > easily be changed into "do it my way and
> something good happens", as with 
> > vote buying.
> If coercion is a problem in this case, then it is strictly
> a social
> problem.  If the private sphere of individuals, families,
> employers,
> and so forth, is restricting the public communications of
> individuals
> wrongly, in defiance of the norms, then society itself has
> a problem
> in the relations between its private and public spheres.
> It is not a problem for a voting medium that functions
> exclusively in
> the public sphere.  The purpose of the medium is to
> accurately mirror
> public opinion, and so it must also mirror the distortions,
> including
> those caused by private coercion.  If people cannot *speak*
> their
> minds freely, they ought not to *vote* them either.  This
> connection
> between speech and voting is especially crucial to a voting
> system
> that is based on communicative assent, as I propose here. 
> It is
> essential that the voters, delegates and candidates all be
> engaged in
> mutual discussion.  If the votes were not public, then the
> discussion
> would die out, and voter behaviour would cease to be
> informed by
> communicative reason.
> None of the above applies to traditional voting mechanisms,
> of the
> sort normally discussed here in election-methods.  Those
> mechanisms
> are not designed for the public sphere.  They are designed
> for the
> private sphere, opening a private communication channel
> from
> individuals to the government.  Traditionally, the only
> communications
> that become public are those of the reverse channel, in
> which the
> voters are informed via the mass media, as a passive
> audience.
> > Any sort of voter-reconfigurable proxy democracy has
> the kind of feedback 
> > that enables coercion or vote-buying. ...
> Re vote buying: Although the vote is public and compliance
> may easily
> be verified by the buyer, there is no guarantee of
> *continued*
> compliance.  The voter may take the money from one side,
> then shift
> her vote and take it from the other.  Vote buying is likely
> to be a
> poor investment.
> > ... if the conspirators assume law X has near-majority
> support, they
> > can buy the votes of enough to get a majority, and
> then pay them if
> > X does indeed pass ...
> Such a deferred and contingent payment will be unattractive
> to someone
> who is selling her vote for a few dollars.  She probably
> wants the
> money right away.  If her payment is contingent on
> subsequent
> administrative action by the government - what the buyer
> really cares
> about - then the delay is apt to be too long.  In a
> legislative
> context, for example, the assembly must schedule a
> separate, in-house
> vote.  The vote buyer must then engineer a massive shift in
> public
> votes, just prior to the in-house vote.  But caveat emptor,
> because of
> the:
>    i) cost of buying votes in vast numbers;
>   ii) risk of discovery in such a large operation;
>  iii) likelihood of the assembly ignoring the vote shift,
> knowing it
>       to be a momentary artifact.
> Crucial to (iii), public vote shifting for/against the
> proposed bill
> will continue non-stop, even after the assembly accepts or
> rejects it.
> So the assembly members will have ample opportunity to
> learn from the
> public's past voting behaviour, and avoid
> mis-interpreting it.  They
> will have ample incentive too, because their seats will be
> the issue
> of public voting in separate polls.
> For another example, consider an electoral context, where
> the issue is
> an office.  The issue depends on the public voters
> recasting their
> votes come election day.  Only then can the buyer see the
> outcome, and
> know whether to pay or not.  But he cannot tie that outcome
> back to
> the public votes that he bought, because the translation
> was carried
> out by the voter themselves, in secret ballots.  The best
> the buyer
> could hope for, once again, is to engineer a massive shift
> in public
> votes just prior to election day, thus attempting to
> persuade other
> voters to go along with it.  But the same cost/risk
> considerations
> apply (i and ii).
> And caveat voter too, considering the:
>   iv) embarrassment of being implicated as a vote seller,
> in a scheme
>       that was subsequently exposed.
> -- 
> Michael Allan
> Toronto, 647-436-4521
> http://zelea.com/
> ----
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