[EM] Conceiving a Democratic Electoral Process (Primary Thoughts)

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Thu Jul 5 14:38:58 PDT 2012

Juho and Fred,

> > (a) a *primary* electoral system
> > (b) one that sponsors candidates for *public* office
> > (c) where voting is restricted to *private* members
> > 
> > Specifically (c) is no longer possible. ...  In such a world, what
> > *other* form of political domination could take hold? ...  I would
> > argue that domination is no longer possible.  For better or worse,
> > we would be free.

Juho Laatu said:
> I agree that getting rid of the financial ties and getting rid of
> the party internal control on who can be elected would reduce
> oligarchy within the parties and power of money. But I'm afraid that
> humans are clever enough to find some new ways to find power and
> control the processes in ways that are not very beneficiial to the
> society. The threat will be present even if we would get rid of some
> of the key mechanisms that cause us problems today.

Yes, and we should expect this.  Even where freedom is a fact and
takes center stage, domination remains in the wings as a possibility.
Consider the choices:

      What is     What might be
      ----------  ----------- 
  1.  Domination  Freedom

  2.  Freedom     Domination

If no obvious forms of domination remain after eliminating (c), then
we might look at the possible forms of freedom.  Especially
interesting would be anything that undermined (c), since that would
pave the way for a continuous transition from 1 to 2.

> I used the soviet example to point out that even in a system that,
> according to its idealistic supporters, was supposed to get rid of
> the evils of the past, people soon found ways to corrupt the
> system. Maybe the same applies to the U.S.A. too. It is known to be
> a leading fortress of democracy, but now I hear some complaints
> about how it works. No doubt, also new systems, especially if
> generated from scratch, would find some ways to corrupt
> themselves. Hopefully they are better than the previous systems, but
> not always. So we better be careful with them and too hgh doses of
> idealism. But maybe we can trust that, despite of all these risks,
> we are on our way from the laws of jungle to something better.

Yes, I agree.

Fred Gohlke said:
> I'm sorry, Michael, but I cannot make such an assumption.  I can
> imagine universal equality but I cannot imagine a party where the
> "primary decisions may no longer be restricted to members".  Such an
> assumption defeats the party's reason for being.  I am unable to
> imagine an entity that does not include its essential
> characteristics.

Yes, I agree.  The party could not exist.  It follows that if (c) were
eliminated, then the party would also be eliminated.  Right?

> Is it necessary to imagine 'party' as existing before universal 
> equality?  Would it not be better to imagine 'party', and the 
> exclusivity that is inherent in the concept of 'party', as a natural 
> outgrowth of universal equality?

(I try to explain my aim at bottom.)

> Moreover, since one non-party individual can only join one of the
> existing parties, the individual's influence on and reaction to the
> influence of the party is indeterminate.  As an imaginary example,
> an assertive, strong-willed non-partisan may influence and be
> influenced by a liberal party to a completely different extent than
> the same person would influence and be influenced by a conservative
> party.

I may misunderstand.  To be sure, one needn't join a party.  A single
individual (member or not) may participate in the primaries of every
party, or no party, or something in between.
> This is the assumption I cannot accept.  It defies the party's
> reason for being.  I can imagine a system where parties nominate
> candidates that advocate the party's position, and then subjects
> those candidates to the judgment of non-partisans, but I cannot
> imagine a party operating outside the dictates of its membership.

Exactly.  So the parties are gone.
> I agree we need to let the people impress their moral sense on their
> government.  That is not possible when parties choose the candidates
> for public office.
> Is there a way we can pursue this line of inquiry without making
> assumptions that strip political parties of their essential nature?

We agreed that parties are incompatible with a substansive democracy.
One way or another, they had to go.  So we aimed straight for the
heart and now they are gone.  Could we proceed otherwise in reality?

Whatever else we do, we cannot avoid trespassing on the essence of the
party system and displacing it *en passant*.  But I wanted to be clear
about the form we'd be displacing, the particular form of exclusivity
that parties depend upon, because I think it tells us something about
the practical means of moving forward.  (Persuasion won't work.  The
parties cannot be beaten on that ground.)  How exactly do we proceed?

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 416-699-9528

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