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

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Sat Jan 17 06:49:19 PST 2009

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

It's true that most of them decided to use *private* voting in the
state's electoral systems.  On the other hand, they also decided to
use *public* voting in the legislative assemblies.

(These are not "principles", in any case.  Principles are usually not
open to decision.  These are "practices".)

I do not suggest that state practices ought to be changed.  The
changes I suggest are entirely in the public sphere (among ordinary
people) and leave untouched the practices of voting in state elections
and legislative assemblies.  (They will not affect "how" we vote at
state facilities, but they could affect "who and what" we vote for.)

My experience so far is that people are somewhat reluctant to consider
the possibility of voting openly in primary elections.  I can't say
whether this stems from the novelty of casting public votes, or an
unfamiliarity with the purpose of primaries, or some other factor - I
lack the data.

Based on this experience, though, I decided to postpone alpha trials
of the medium until after I've added normative voting.  People may
have a different reaction to the possibility of drafting and voting on
legislative bills.  They can't do *that*, even in private.  And the
traditional practice is that legislators vote publicly, so there
shouldn't be any gut reactions against it.  I will know more, soon...
> 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).

Yes, it's an important point.  But I did answer to it in the post you
quote, which I also quote in this footnote:


The general observation is that private opionion and public opinion
are not equivalents.  In the original post (and link above), I propose
a medium for the expression of *public* opinion.  I also describe how
it will (as best I can forsee) relate to other media for the
expression of both *private* opinion in party primaries and state
electoral systems, and *public* opinion in state legislatures, city
councils, and so forth.  You see a problem in this, but what exactly?

I understand that you are concerned that *some* people cannot
participate in public politics, or cannot participate as honestly as
they would like.  You and Kristopher went on to discuss how you might
solve this problem by precluding the possibility of public expression
entirely (as far as votes go), and falling back to a medium of private
expression.  But that does not solve the problem of public
participation.  It can only contribute to it.  If we preclude public
voting, then it's no longer just a fraction of the population that is
intimidated, silenced and excluded from the public sphere - all are
silenced and excluded.

On the other hand, if we facilitate public voting, then we enable the
vast majority of people to participate in the public sphere, to
discuss problems such as this, and to come up with real solutions.

Michael Allan

Toronto, 647-436-4521

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