Thursday, July 8, 2010

Robert Dahl, Procedural Democracy, Thoughtful Thursday

"Procedural Democracy" by Dr. Robert Dahl which appeared in Democracy, Liberty and Equality and Contemporary Political Philosophy--the latter which shows up in Google Books.

What procedures are necessary for democracy and who must have a vote or right to particpate?

Certainly, we need decisions to be made! But there are two types of decisions, rules and individuals. In the doctrine of rule by law, everything is a law. We have a tax code? In rule by sortition, each case is decided independently and we rely on the law of large numbers to remove the arbitrariness and to achieve some measure of consistency? If we always take a random sample of 1000 people and we present them with similar individuals This also resolves Dr. Dahl's claim that "equally valid claims justify equal shares." This is a tautology--Dr. Dahl admits it is close to one. we should not automatically decide cases in favor of a particular ethnic group. We claim that each person's claim is equally valid even though one person is from ethnic group A and the other from ethnic group Q. A bigot would say that group A is inferior to group Q and therefore, their claims are not equally valid and it is perfectly fine to rule against the first person solely because they are of ethnic group A.

And the binding decisions should be made by the members, directly or indirectly. And the members can delegate the rights to make decisons. Most of the times this is for convenience. That is the justification for representative democracy rather than having all decisions made by referendum. It is also the justification for administrative boards such as the Environmental Protection Administration at the Federal level or a planning board in a municipatlity. Many nations have generated certain powers to their constitutional court. This allows certain principles to be preserved, typically human or civil rights issues.

And Dr. Dahl said that citizens should have the right to set the agenda as well as vote. That is a major limitation in current systems, and one on which invention, research and implementation should be done to allow individuals together to create complicated legal codes. And of course, a sortition-based approach resolves this problem, as each case rather than a set of cases as defined by a law is brought individually.

Now who gets to vote, or from what pool do we choose the sortition jurors, or otherwise participate in the decison process. Should everyone affected by the decisions of an organization have a right to vote on them. We certainly have voluntary associations. They either invite and admit their own members--some cooperatives work that way. Before one can buy a share and live there, the coop board must screen you. Other organizations have non-discretionary admission process--if you pay the fee, you are a member and have a vote or professional organizations like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers or Institute of Electrical Engineers require a degree of other indicia that you are an engineer. They have associate members who pay dues but have limited voting rights (IEEE Constitution, online). The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has a similar arrangement where members must have eight years of experience as an engineer. This lack of democracy is not a major concern, an associate member aggrieved simply does not renew the folowing year.

Schumpeter suggested that every "demos" can define itself. Thus ethnic group A can govern and simply define that members of ethnic group B have no right to vote. That is what happened to the Cherokee Nation. John Marshall said that the Cherokee were in "a state of pupilage" and the relation "resembles that of a ward to his guardian" and he remarked that should a foreign prince attack the Cherokee, it would be considered as would any other invasion of the United States. Alexander Tocqueville watched one of the Choctaw removals-- he asked one of the Native Americans why they were leaving. He said to be free of American laws. So here is an example of a demos defining itself to affect those who got no vote. (Many Native Americans became United States Citizen by assimilating or by serving in the armed forces. And even after the 1924 law granting citizenship, it was not until 1948 that all had the right to vote.)

Related is the right of the conqueror to set up courts and the like. This was establidged in Hefferman vs. Porter which said that a Union military commander could set up a court in Tennessee. And these decisions would be binding.

Locke and Rosseau said that the Constitution must be approved unanimously, but then laws could be passed by only an approval. But unanimously by whom?

and of course, there is a question of Children. And there are others who might sufficiently developmentally disabled as to not understand the voting process. One might argue that all such wards would vote as their guardians or caregivers directed. But effectively that happens now. Each State is given representation in the House of Representatives proportional to their population. Thus the votes of those groups who have lots of children have more power in Congress than those groups that choose to practice more birth control. Would there thus be any harm in allowing young children or developmentally-disabled adults to vote, knowing full well that their parents would be pulling the lever "on their behalf."

And if we allow exclusion of the incompetents, is that a slippery slope to literacy tests for voting or to become a citizen?

And what about tourists? They are subject to the laws--but do not get a vote. Obviously in conventional elections, where the election is for a four year term, it is not fair to allow a person who just happens to be in the country that week to vote. And in a participatory democracy, it is in appropriate to allow a one-week tourist to vote on a plan to build a nuclear power plant whose construction would start well after they left and would exist for many years afterward. However, for continuous expenditures, there is no problem. Each person gets to cast their vote for the public expenditures on entitlement programs, the police department, etc. they prefer. They also enter their preference of tax rates. They enter all manners of preferences as to numbers, how many minutes busses can idle, the number of years in jail a burglar should receive, etc. All these nubmers are combined by a median to determine the rate. As new voters become competent, e. g., when they reach eighteen eyars of age, their number is included in the median calculation. When they die or lose their voting rights as a felon, their numbers are subtracted. There is no problem for the tourist. They could enter their numbers upon entry to the country and it gets subtracted when they leave at the end of their one-week vacation. If medians are used, if the tourists are very far from the "real citizens," then their numbers would not have much of an effect.

And there is a local question. Non-residents pay property tax. Non-residents pay income tax. New York City has a non-resident income tax. Yet these people do not have a vote. The owner of a business in a state is subject to the laws of that state--yet they certainly have no vote in that State And the blog raised the question, should a person possessing property in multiple states or cities have a vote in each, while a person ownly owning one home only get to vote in one locality. Dr. Bailey proposed many mechanisms in his proposed constitution for a future country that helps address these issues. A person possessing property or a business owner could file a Lindahl tax or a Thompson insurance to express their concerns. Yet since this costs them money, and would cost more money to do it inn three cities than one, it does not give unfair advantage to them.

And states and countries base their residency upon address or abode. This can be a permanent location to which one intends to return, even though one never set foot there. Thus, assume A is working in New York State. A's family moves from Nevada to Tennessee. A never was in Tennessee. But A does intend to join his loving family upon completin of his work project. A is a resident of Tennessee and can vote absentee out of Tennessee. And does a person who is in a state for several years to complete a project a resident? And we hear about countries setting up special polling places in the United States for their citizens who are displaced here.

And immigration is an issue. I proposed a system of panels and allocating of quota by median. A simple rule that might be added is, Noone is admitted into the country as an immigrant who does not receive fifty percent vote from a sortition panel.

Dahl mentioned that Rosseau considered Geneva and Venice as "true republics" but the demos was only a minority. In Venice it was 0.1% of the population.

For Future Thoughtful Thursdays:

"In the Courts of the Conqueror: The Ten Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided" by Walter R. Echo-Hawk.

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