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

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jan 21 09:59:37 PST 2009

--- On Wed, 21/1/09, Michael Allan <mike at zelea.com> wrote:

> Juho Laatu wrote:
> > I see two valid ways to form opinions.
> > - opinion formation based on mass media
> > - opinion formation based on mutual discussion
> > 
> > Individuals may use one or both
> > approaches when forming their private
> > opinion, and also when forming their
> > public opinion (public ballot or
> > other public expression of their
> > opinion).
> That's true, both are valid.  But mutual discussion is
> in short
> supply.  The vacuum is filled by mass media, giving them
> too much
> leverage as instruments of manipulation.  So we need to
> facilitate
> mutual discussion.

Yes, it is good to facilitate mutual
discussion better. My aim with this
discussion is to study if one can
combine that with the good old
privacy / secret vote principles.

> > I don't see any big conflict. They are
> > free to speak even if the society does
> > not provide them with tools to prove
> > to others how they voted. (And they
> > can still tell others how they voted.)
> But can private voting fit in the public sphere?  There are
> at least
> two practical problems:
>    i) Given the protections of free speech, there is no way
> to
>       generally enforce a secret ballot.  So a competing
> system that
>       allows for public voting cannot be excluded.  Mutatis
> mutandis,
>       that system will win the competition, because at
> least some
>       people will prefer to cast their votes openly.  The
> most likely
>       outcome is that individual voters will have a choice
> - secret or
>       open ballot.

I see three alternative approaches
(for each individual voter) here.

1) The vote is forced secret. The
voter can tell how she voted
(=freedom of speech). But she can
not prove to the coercer or buyer
how she voted.

2) The voter can choose if her vote
is public or secret. She can also
tell what her secret vote was.

3) The vote is public.

What I mean is that also enforced
secrecy and free speech can be

>   ii) Harder to verify the results.  Verification based on
> full
>       disclosure of all voter data is easier and more
> transparent.

Yes, secrecy makes verification more

> And one theoretical problem:
>  iii) The asymettry between private voting and public
> discussion is
>       ugly (seems to me), and may lead to unforseen
> problems.  We
>       could switch to private discussions, but that sits
> poorly with
>       the aim of public consensus.

I think current systems rely on
private voting and public discussion
(although different than the proxy
based discussion). It may be possible
to enrich this with better mutual
discussion / delegable voting rights
without sacrificing secret votes /

I don't see the need of a
representative / proxy to know who
her voters exactly are to be crucial.
In some aspect it is better that she
doesn't know (no vote buying,
services to those that voted, no hard
feelings against those that this time
voted someone else etc.).

The (secret) voters on the other hand
will get more power when they can let
several representatives / proxies
understand that they got or may get
the vote :-).

> Leaving aside secret/open ballots, the other design
> features in
> support of mutual discussion are:
>   a) Peer-to-peer voting as a stuctural support for large
> scale
>      discussion - keeping it de-centred, so it doesn't
> collapse to
>      inaccessible, mass communication.

Yes. Having a rich hierarchical
discussion structure is one key
benefit of the proxy structure.
(Also secret voters may participate.
Some of the proxies are low level
and nearby in any case.)

>   b) Continuous voting to make the issue more concrete, and
> to
>      thematize the discussion.  There will always be lots
> to talk
>      about because the results are continuously revealed,
> and never
>      final.

Yes, continuous talk may improve the

This topic has however also the other
side. One reason behind terms of few
years is that this way the
representatives will have some time
to work in peace. Continuous voting
may also make the system more
populist (no tax raises ever since
all those representatives might be
kicked out right away, without the
calming period before the next

It is possible to have also some
hysteresis in the system. This allows
for example short protests by the
voters and allowing them to still
change their mind before the
representative will be kicked out.
In some systems and at some levels
it however may not matter if the
representatives / proxies change


> -- 
> Michael Allan
> Toronto, 647-436-4521
> http://zelea.com/
> ----
> Election-Methods mailing list - see
> http://electorama.com/em for list info


More information about the Election-Methods mailing list