[EM] Helping the Pirate Party to vanish

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Fri Mar 15 13:27:46 PDT 2013

At 04:16 AM 3/14/2013, Kristofer Munsterhjelm wrote:
>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.

Kristofer is asseting as a serious problem something on which there 
is zero experience. It's not clear that "vote-buying" is *ever* a 
serious problem. A system that seeks broad consensus, where possible, 
is only "vulnerable" to *truly massive vote-buying," where it is more 
like "negotiation" than "vote buying." I.e., Walmart will donate 
$100,000 to the town if voters allow a store to be sited there. Much 
more likely to be successful than trying to pay voter $100 or 
whatever and run legal risks.

First of all, Kristoger is assuming exercise of power through 
delegable proxy. I don't recommend it for that, not without 
substantial experience first. I recommend it for *advisory 
structures.* Advice *can* be powerful, but with advice, created by -- 
and validated or transmitted through proxies, who can advise 
differently than the "majority," there is essentially no danger of 
vote-buying, I covered this years ago, the buyer, would, at great 
expense, end up with a mouthful of hair. Most likely. We can't say 
"impossible" to anything.

>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.

I've made two proposals: first, delegable proxy in NGOs, advisory in 
nature. I strongly recommend that all proxy assignments in this 
organization be public.

The other proposal is for NGOs and for governmental organizations, 
running public elections, and that's Asset Voting. There is a tweak 
for what I've called "difficult situations," meaning places and 
circumstances where an isolated individual with certain views might 
be in physical danger, but Asset Voting, I generally assume, does 
have a secret ballot input. The *electors* empowered by this election 
would, I assume, vote publically, except under very unusual and very 
dangerous situations. These situations do not exist in major democracies.

(And there are ways to address this issue, but they complicate 
matters greatly. I don't recommend anything but electors being public 
voters, under ordinary circumstances. Note that I've lived in a small 
town meeting town, and how citizens vote on issues before the Town 
Meeting is very visible. And, yes, it can take courage to confront a 
fake consensus; basically you need to know what's real, and one of 
the things that an FA/DP organization that is *not* "in control" can 
do is to measure consensus. And it can do it with process that is 
largely hidden, i.e., is only direct communication between proxies 
and clients.)

>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.

Beyond a possible initial assignment of voting power through Asset 
Voting, I *highly recommend* total transparency, while not preventing 
or even discouraging private discussion between willing participants.

What I expect would naturally arise when there are large numbers of 
voters, and no inhibition on candidate numbers, is that the number of 
*initial voters* per candidate will stabilize at a ratio of 
voters/elector that optimizes communication efficiency, generally. 
Some voters with low interest might add to that, without increasing 
communication burden on the elector. You get what you pay for.

>Thus there seems to be two standard solutions. The first is to keep 
>everything private, and the second is to keep everything public.

And the hybrid, where initial assignments are secret. For FA/DP 
organizations that, as Free Associations, do not collect and exercise 
power by majority vote, but operate to structure and negotiate and 
collect and report on consensus, I *highly* recommend that it all be 
public, within the organization. I.e., any recognized member may 
access the proxy table.

It's essential for the most efficient and effective communication model.

>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.

Open is highly desirable.

Imagine an open system. Not *everything* is open. There is a web 
site, say. There are rules for registration, these are essentially 
membership rules. In a pure FA, membership is by declaration, and 
"expulsion" is somewhere between rare and nonexistent. However, 
*participation* in particular structures might be restricted as 
needed. (Those who are restricted would have alternate avenues for expression.)

On that web site, anyone willing to serve as a proxy sets a bit 
indicating that. On the web site, there are discussions under way, 
some discussions are totally public, some are moderated -- but there 
may be large numbers of "moderators," able to approve posts. People 
can see the discussion of other members, but, if this is an 
organizaiton with local meetings, people can also meet others face-to-face.

The web site does not display direct contact information (though 
individual members may put up their own direct contact information, 
if they choose.)

However, there is a direct proxy nomination process. A registered 
member designates somone as a proxy, and an email or text message is 
sent to the nominee. The proxy is not considered effective unless 
acknoowledged. The nomination provides direct contact information for 
the nominator to the nominee. Who may negotiate, then, acceptance, or 
simply accept. Accepting will automatically provide direct contact 
information for the nominee to the nominator. So an accepted proxy 
represents two people who have the option of direct, independent 
communication, either in person, or on the phone, or by email, or the 
like, and I'd expect proxies to generally set up mailing lists for 
their clients.   Which they would moderate.

I conceived of delegable proxy as setting up networks of mutual 
trust. That is, in my view, crucial for the idea to work as 
powerfully as possible.

While this can be done with secret systems, there then needs to be 
"watchers," secure software, the whole nine yards. And secrecy 
inhibits communication.

Consider that I have something to say to a VIP, who has joined the 
FA/DP organization. There s/he is, on the membership roster. But s/he 
hasn't volunteered to serve as proxy, or ... has volunteered, but has 
a message that s/he is not accepting clients. So, I can look for two 
other channels to communicate with him/her. I can look for someone 
who has named him or her as a proxy, if that's been done, or I can 
look for the person s/he has named.

I can analyze the proxy table and look for a communications path 
between someone in one of their "natural caucuses" and someone in a 
natural caucus of my own. So I can find someone with access to this 
person, and I can communicate with *that person.* Not necessarily directly.

Yes, the person I'm trying to reach could be the President of the 
United States. And the proxy netword filters traffic.

It is that filtering function that could allow FA/DP organizations to 
beat the "Problem of Scale in Democracy." And then these 
organizations can *advise* individuals and traditional organizations. 
The DP network, created as I described, involves a "concentration of 
trust." Not of power, in an FA. The distinction is crucial, it is, in 
fact, the old separation of the judicial and executive functions.

>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).

Again, the criticism is largely invented. If it's an FA, and someone 
coerces you, you have options. Besides being a crime, you can easily 
just go along with it, and make a note to yourself that whatever 
advice this person gives you, it's probably the opposite of what you 
want to do. If they can coerce your "proxy assignment," which is 
worth very little, and is created at great legal risk, they they 
could also take your money, your property, and about anything else.

No, these questions arise in attempts to use delegable proxy for 
*public exercise of power.* In public elections, any kind of vote 
coercion, even vote-buying, is generally very illegal. And easy to 
investigate and prosecute, if the target complains.

Under "difficult conditions," I've proposed schemes whereby electors 
pre-designate alternates with registration, so that if anyone gets 
less than N votes (like 2 might be adequate, or more, under some 
circumstances), their vote is transferred automatically and not 
reported publically. So they don't know if they got (with N=2) one 
vote or none. So they don't know if any particular individual did not 
vote for them.

But this is all imagining a problem and calling it "serious" that may 
not exist at all.

>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.

The small-town effect has been exaggerated. Again, the distinct 
problems of public elections, where direct power is being assigned, 
and the naming of an advisor in an advisory association, are being 
confused. They need to be distinguished, because they have distinct 
solutions, if the problem arises.

If you live in such a small town, you will need to know where it is 
safe to express your real views, or you are *in trouble* and it has 
nothing to do with the voting system.

By the way, in an FA/DP organization, measures can be taken to 
protect member identity. Wikipedia went to an extreme on this; they 
never should have allowed secret administrators, people with the 
power to block and ban and censor. But for general membership, it may 
have been a decent idea.

It is possible to set up secret polling, as well, in an FA/DP 
organization. FAs can do all kinds of things that are more dangerous 
in power structures.

In power structures, then, what is at stake makes the effort of 
securing the voting process worthwhile. And we do know, generally, 
how to do that, even though it's not always done.

Risk, then, with a public process -- and Asset was designed for 
public process -- is confined to those who voluntarily take on the 
risk by declaring themselves as electors (i.e, as "candidates," but 
Asset actually creates electors, not necessarily "winners," directly.)

And *then* the electors know what they are getting into. They will be 
voting *publically.* There is no other way to ensure the security of 
the system and its relative immunity to corruption.

Again, it's *possible* to do it secretly, but ... what, exactly is 
being protected that is worth the very substantial risk of corruption 
of the system.

>If only one could solve this problem, liquid democracy could be really good.

While the "problem" might be real in some sense, there is no clue 
that in any related activity, it's been a real problem. Where it is, 
measures can be taken.

>  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.

And then, you have to trust the programmers and administrators of the 
system, and you have *no way to check.*

While clever schemes can be devised which *might work*, again, what 
*exactly* is the problem? Just asserting it as a general problem, 
when, under most conditions, it is no problem at all, is counterproductive.

There has only been one Asset election that we know of, the election 
of a 3-person steering committee for the Election Science Foundation, 
a few years back. 17 voters. The second-largest vote getter was Clay 
Shentrup. The only candidate with a quota, directly, was me, and I 
had enough votes to create another seat for Warren Smith (the 
third-largest). So how would vote buying and coercion apply in this 
real situation?

What, Clay would threaten me? Clay didn't even talk to me! Rather, 
within a day or so, he made his decision: he transferred his votes to 
create the third seat. This is the kind of thing Asset can do. This 
move was completely unexpected. It was unpredictable from the votes 
themselves. (Clay is now on the Board of the Center for Election 
Science, last I looked, and doing a great job. My sense, back then, 
was that he wasn't quite ready. Maybe. I wanted to see what happened, 
so I waited, instead of just electing him (which was the other 
reasonable possibility). What he actually demonstrated was maturity 
and caring about the purpose of the organization, instead of personal 
power. In the long run, that was more important.)

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

Why in the world would one choose to live in a place where this was a 
serious problem?

In such an environment, there are limits to what one can do. Those 
limits are natural, i.e., don't arise merely because some election 
method is being used. Asset Voting is secret-ballot input, public 
thereafter, just as members of the Town Council of Abusiveville vote openly.

To change the abusive situation would take courage, no matter how you 
slice it. The equivalent would be requiring that Town Council votes 
be secret. After all, someone might say something nasty to a Council 
member! -- or worse.

People *do* say nasty things, but actual harm is rare. If Brave 
Disestablishmentarian is on the Council, he or she is going to need 
to be careful, to know when winning is possible, and possibly to 
abstain on certain votes. That is, if *results* matter. If what one 
wants is self-immolation or martyrdom, that's open as well.

If you are going to shoot the King, don't miss.

Now, if we are talking about situations where differences of opinion 
don't trigger people shooting each other, why should we turn a system 
on its head to avoid a problem that would be rare to nonexistent, and 
that has other solutions if it arises? 

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