[EM] Time of trouble

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Sun Mar 8 18:37:11 PDT 2009

Juho Laatu wrote:

> [My] claim is based on the
> general assumption that
> systems that aim at some
> ideal state meet also some
> counter forces that lead
> to erosion. Also the current
> political systems fall short
> of their ideal goals.

Which brings to mind the itenarary of our discussion:

  1.  Premise an IT-based DD

  2.  Discuss its potential consequences

Ideals are the theme of (1), particularly in its design and purpose.
The falling-short of those ideals (and worse) is the theme of (2).
But it's hard for us to reach (2).  It's too counter-factual, at this

> I see risks of dilution with many
> systems and many elections. The
> situation is a bit like having
> several opinion polls organized
> by various entities today.

Opinion polls are, in many ways, the polar opposites of OP(f) and PD.
They certainly cannot *do* PD - no quorum, no stable consensus, no
public expression, no grassroots initiative.  From that perspective,
they are lame.  (Their role in RD is to provide feedback on the
effectiveness of propaganda.  Parties use them, and business firms

> Maybe my approach is simply that
> the complex world is likely to
> lead to compromise results and
> constant need to defend the system
> against corrupting forces.

If you still feel that (1) is unlikely, but wish to discover a reason
for your doubt, then another possible approach is:

  1.  Premise a DD based on voting IT

  1b. Show how it may fail, after the fact
This would also bring us closer to (2), which is where I think the
real failures are likely to occur.

I feel the greatest danger is in the extremity of success.  RD has no
defense against DD, because it pretends to be DD.  (A trick it learnt
from Robespierre, of all people.)  So I worry it will either a) leave
off pretending, or b) collapse, in some mysterious way.  Also, the
world has non-RD states.  How will they figure in?

> Also today many voters decide not
> to vote. A democracy and especially
> DD like systems need active citizens.
> Otherwise we may be back in square
> one.

Square one has a turnout of roughly 50%.  Either 50% is the most we
can expect for DD, or we can expect more.  No worries, in either case.

> > I know.  But there you are concerned with e-government, and the
> > domain of administration.  I am concerned with e-democracy, and
> > the domain of the public sphere.  These two are necessarily
> > opposed, like night and day.  (Theory is, there's already too much
> > of the former, and it interferes with the latter.)
> I'll exaggerate a bit and claim
> that those local representatives
> are the lowest level of people
> with considerable interest in
> politics. We can assume very
> local town councils. Under this
> assumption, if you omit them
> there are no active citizens
> left.

You exaggerate more than a bit!  One could exaggerate in other
directions, and characterize the "considerable interest" of those
local representatives in other terms.

Quite without exaggeration, they have an overriding interest in being
re-elected.  Most of their efforts are bent toward that goal.  In
this, they are quite unrepresentative.
> The starting point was very simple.
> Just take the local council members
> and offer them the ability to
> express their opinions at national
> level. The idea is that this could
> be implementable in practice, and
> would represent quite well all
> the citizens. It could also
> improve in time when local people
> with interest in national politics
> would become more interested in
> the local councils.

Looking at it from a distance, I expect it can only win acceptance if
it helps the politicians or parties in their goals of being
re-elected.  As the system itself does not change the mechanism of
re-election, it can only afford a better level of control over it.
That usually boils down to manipulating the electorate.  (That's not
your intention, but it may follow.)
> (If programming was easier and
> less time consuming I'd already
> be implementing this :-).)

You might find someone who's working on a similar idea, and throw your
efforts into helping them.  There's always more needed than technical
programming (as I think you pointed out, in your original post).

> > It also functions as a super-party system, in that it cuts across
> > the boundaries of the traditional parties. 
> It might or might not. It could
> also establish a new de facto
> party system.

I say that it does establish a kind of party system.  Moreover, it
will certainly be a super-party system.  It will cut across the
boundaries of the traditional parties, because it will include their
nominees.  They'll all be included as candidates in the PD(o) primary,
whether they wish to or not.  (Rights of free speech allow for this.)

Maybe it's inaccurate to say that the IT primary swallows the parties
whole.  It cherry-picks the best parts of them - gobbling up the
delegates and candidates, and siphoning off the members - but leaves
all the rest behind.

> > For both of these reasons, the IT can swallow the traditional
> > party system, alive and whole.  (Not sure how long it can live,
> > once swallowed.)
> Is there a need to break the
> existing structures? Will the new
> structure be somehow better?

There is no need.  Neither IT(c=delegate cascade) nor PD(o) requires
the destruction of the party system.  If it survives, then I'd be
curious as to how - that's all.

Will it be better?  Nobody knows.  That's question (2), and it may be
too early to answer.

> I agree that there is a possibility
> of a full revolution using IT, but
> it seems more probable that in real
> life the system will adapt one day
> some of the proposed new ideas and
> build something good or bad out of
> them, or will jump in the new train.
> I don't want to say that the effort
> would not lead to results but I
> encourage considering also partial
> success and reasons why the reform
> might not reach all its noble
> targets.

Que será será.  I have no commercial interests, and no axes to grind.
If I'm impatient to know what the future holds, it's only because I'd
rather see it coming, a little in advance - I have a hunch it'll be
better if we all see it coming.  (It's like a curve in the road.)
> As said, something like Wikipedia or
> Google domination might happen also
> in the area of political opinion
> formation. Paper encyclopedias lost
> the game and were replaced with the
> new tools. But be prepared for
> compromises.

Again I have argued that such domination is logically impossible.  The
voting IT cannot be controlled by a monopoly.  They would have to
subvert it, so it was no longer capable of PD.  In that case, I'm not
sure what it would be a monopoly of, but it wouldn't be a monopoly of
the IT.

> Do you expect that no party like
> groupings will be formed by the
> representatives in the delegate
> cascade system?

No, just as you say, I expect many of them.
> (A more dynamic and more fine
> grained party structure than the
> current monolithic parties could
> also be a target.)

That follows, because the cascade is effectively a party system.
Every delegate is a party leader with her own membership of voters.
In a city the size of mine, there might be 100,000 delegates in the
mayoral primary.  That means 100,000 parties, most of them tiny
sub-parties, all reflected in the shifting hierarchy of the cascade.
I expect it will out-party anything we've seen before.  (But these are
not parties in the modern sense.  One could argue they are the
un-doing of the modern parties, and a reversion to ther grass-roots

That's just for one poll, in one city.  It's still unclear how all the
polls might interrelate - e.g. one poll for the Mayor, one for the
Councillor of Ward 20, and one for the bylaw proposed by the Ward's
residents.  Each of the three has about 2,000 delegates in a single
Ward, and often a delegate in one poll will be a delegate in another.
Beyond this fact (which the IT will express), there is no formal
connection between the "parties" of one poll, and those of another.
Maybe there is a role here for the traditional parties.  (I cannot see
it, yet.)

> But there are individuals who want
> their vote to be the one that will
> count. Ideally all would just
> express their opinions and they
> would be "summed up", but in
> practice many individuals and
> groups will seek maximum impact.

Sally is my local hero.  I vote for her in the mayoral election.  But
that's not enough impact for me.  So, I'm talking with a neighbour
across the backyard fence, and I say to him, "Hey, why are you voting
for so-and-so?  Why don't you vote for Sally?"  He is impressed with
my arguments, so he pulls out his cell phone and he votes for Sally.
He does this by voting for me.  (There's plenty of scope for impact.
I can have as much as I want.)
> > You reach a rather uninteresting conclusion.  You seem to not to
> > consider the consequent action:
> > 
> >   PD -> A
> I thought the purchasing decision
> already was an action. In many cases
> no formal norms or other actions are
> needed (market forces will take care
> of the rest).

You only go part way.  All you get is the status quo on steroids. ;)

PD(product) is qualitatively unlike the status quo.  It's more
proactive.  The consumers of brand X say, "Do A(X)," where A(X) is
something that affects X.  If the equation holds, then the producer
must do A(X).  If A(X) is infeasible, the producer may explain this,
and attempt to negotiate a compromise.  (Meanwhile, the competitors
are looking on gleefully, and meddling wherever possible.)

(Note: We do not here claim that equation PD -> A holds generally.  We
merely assume it, for sake of the question: "What's the
producer/consumer equivalent of DD?")

> ... Cultural consensus works too, although maybe richness in
> multiple approaches may be the target here. Or did you mean norms
> set by the culture? Maybe I lost you somewhere?

PD(culture) is a much bigger topic, because culture is so broad.  The
list of cultural domains is a long one - including art, religion,
science and engineering - and the effects of PD will depend upon the
particular domain.  Note however, we are not considering
political/administrative actions on the topic of culture - that comes
under PD(norm) - but rather pure cultural actions, by actors in the

  PD(culture)  ->  A(culture)

The only cultural domain I have so far considered is a rather narrow
one: PD(utopian vision).  The premise is that society collaborates on
the composition of a work of art, expressing a utopian vision of the
future.  A tentative consensus is reached on this vision.  What then

> I sort of assumed above a new
> higher level of citizen level
> opinion formation thanks to the
> new opportunities offered by IT.

(Sort of, maybe... We demand a full confession, and a signature! ;)
> I agree that "IT-based DD" is
> likely to have a role and impact
> the society, but a full revolution
> or dominance of the new "IT-based
> DD" may not be proven yet.

I guess the proof must be in the building of it.

(The term "revolution" cannot have its political meaning here, as
 there is no seizure of power.  RD is replaced by DD, but the outward
 form of RD remains.  Moreover, the ideals of RD are more fully
 realized.  So it cannot be a revolution.  The necessary revolutions
 occured centuries ago, in England, America and France.)

Michael Allan

Toronto, 647-436-4521

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