[EM] Helping the Pirate Party to vanish

Kristofer Munsterhjelm km_elmet at lavabit.com
Thu Mar 14 02:16:20 PDT 2013

On 03/13/2013 05:09 AM, Michael Allan wrote:

> If the experts in the Election Methods list can't find a serious fault
> with this method, then it might be possible to bring down the party
> system in as little as a few years.  Mind you, it would be no bad
> thing if it took a while longer, given the disruption it might cause.

Regarding liquid democracy methods in general, I think the vote-buying 
problem is pretty serious. Or rather, that's not the worst part of it, 
but it's a symptom of a more general aspect.

This general aspect is that the network of delegation can't decide when 
the power vested in a person is sufficiently great that he should be 
public, and conversely, when the voters have sufficiently little power 
that they should be anonymous.

Intuitively, for proxies with great power, the need for transparency 
outweighs the repercussions of doing so, while for individual voters the 
opposite is the case. But the voting method has no way of knowing where 
one changes into the other.

Thus there seems to be two standard solutions. The first is to keep 
everything private, and the second is to keep everything public. The 
first is rather more difficult than the second, since one has to know 
something about the proxies in order to subscribe to them; and neither 
is really desirable.

I should clarify that vote-buying is only one side of the 
transparency/anonymity problem. If you have a version where everything 
is public, then vote-buying is not the only weakness. There could also 
be vote coercion ("subscribe to this proxy or else") or small-town 
effects (try being a liberal proxy in a particularly conservative town 
in the Deep South).

Now, some people say that this isn't a problem, and more broadly that 
complete disclosure is no problem. I've had that discussion on EM 
before, and I know of people who think that, more broadly, Brin's 
"Transparent Society" would be a good thing. Both from small-town 
effects[1] and from vote-buying, I disagree.

If only one could solve this problem, liquid democracy could be really 
good. I imagine it would be possible with judicious use of crypto, but 
that would obscure the system quite a bit. You'd also have to code into 
the system the "sorites" decision of where power becomes great enough 
that transparency outweighs privacy.


[1] The "Law of Jante" is a Scandinavian term, after all. Similar things 
exist elsewhere, e.g. the Japanese "nail that sticks up".

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