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

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Fri Jan 23 07:22:13 PST 2009

Juho Laatu wrote:

> 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.

The most significant combo (I think) is that of the existing general
electoral systems of the state (private/secret ballot), and the new
primary system of the public sphere (public/open ballot).  There's a
synergy between them - both together are better than either would be
alone.  Likewise for state legislative voting (closed, inaccessible)
and public voting on norms (open, accessible) - synergy there too.  So
we rationalize society's voting systems.

> > 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....

> 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
> combined.

Not in the public sphere - neither (1) nor (3) is enforceable - only
(2) is allowed.  It is the nature of the public sphere, and part of
the legitimacy it confers on the process.  More on that later...

> 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 /
> privacy.

Yes, it might be *possible*, but I think it would be difficult in
practice (and not ideal in principle) to do so within a *single*
voting system.  The most rational design is separate, special purpose
systems (primary and general) that work together.
> 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 :-).

All of this is easier, more natural, if agreement (voter for
candidate/delegate) is *actually* expressed.  Then it's more human.
We weren't *built* to deal with the strange paradox of private
expression (collective mass opinion).  There's no natural correlate
for it.
> 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.)

Yes, and there *will* be secret voters in the public primaries.  We
cannot disallow secret ballots, and enforce purity.  Nor would it even
be ideal - some allowance for extreme situations is better.  But
hopefully there will not be *too* many private voters, as they will
not be able to participate properly (more on this later).
> > 
> Yes, continuous talk may improve the
> discussion.
> 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
> elections).

There is no direct action as a consequence of primary results.  The
public cannot *force* anything.  All power remains with the
administration, the general electoral systems (non-continuous), and
the legislative assembly (inaccessible to public).

But those systems are *informed* by the public system, and this can
amount to effective control.  It sounds paradoxical, because we've
separated control from power, but it's actually the rational thing to
do.  In engineering theory, the control/guidance systems and the power
systems are kept well separate from each other, and their designs are
radically different.  The pilot in the cockpit does not reach his
hands into the engine turbines, or forcefully move the elevator,
ailerons, and rudder.  The cockpit is fitted with low power
instruments and controls, at a safe distance from the engines etc.

> 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
> frequently.

Hysteresis and other decoupling is provided by the separation of the
two types of voting system - the system of public controls (as it
were) and the system of administrative power.

More in reply to your other message...

Michael Allan

Toronto, 647-436-4521

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