Not direct democracy, not the rule of the people

Michael Allan mike at
Sun Jun 21 03:12:18 EDT 2009

Hi Fred,

> You say above:  "I think that new media (like Votorola) will remove
> decision making (and much of politics) from the hands of power."
> However, in Section 2.  The Communicative Structuring of Power, in The
> Structuring of Power and the Composition of Norms by Communicative
> Assent, don't you make the opposite point?

And here's the flip-book animation:

> "But a communicative election may extend its effects deeper into the
> power structure by influencing the selection of subordinate officers.
> The rationale for the selection of subordinates will vary, but the
> main qualifications are perhaps competence, compatability and
> patronage.  All three may be found in abundance among the principal
> delegates who voted for the executive."
> That certainly seems to say that decision making will be placed
> precisely in the hands of power.

Taking a before/after view in (1) and (2):

(1) As things stand (without communicative primaries), a newly elected
executive has the power to appoint subordinate officers.  For example,
a new mayor appoints a treasurer, a chief of police, a director of
public service, and so forth.

This speaks of *formal* power.  We need not go into the rationale for
each appointment, and the factors that weigh into each decision.
These would include the *actual* powers behind the scene, but they
don't matter for the argument.

(2) Add a communicative primary (Votorola-like).  There is no change
to the formal power of the executive.  The only difference is that she
now has primary electoral support.  Her support takes the form of the
20 or so principal delegates who voted directly for her, and their own
voters, in turn.  She knows who these people are, and this influences
the choices she makes with regard to subordinates.

This is an example of decision making that is transferred from the
hands of power.  The *formal* power of the executive to appoint
whomever she pleases is not diminished, but now a constraint is
imposed on *actual* power, and it is imposed entirely by the prior
decision of the voters.  They have delegated their *assent* to the
executive, and she in turn delegates her *power* back to them.  She
does this by appointing from her immediate voters (the principal
delegates), and they in turn from theirs.

So here (from 1 to 2) decision making is transferred to the voters.
Speaking more precisely, they take it upon their own initiative to
make decisions regarding the structure of post-election power.
Likewise a measure of post-election power is transferred to them, by
delegation from the executive.

  Q: From what source is the decision making and power transferred?
     Who is diminished by this transfer?

  A: The actual powers behind the scene (1) are diminished.  It
     doesn't matter who they are, except to say, they are not the

Your Practical Democracy takes a slightly different approach.
Although it promises to insultate the executive from behind-the-scenes
power brokers, and although it does so using a deep delegate
structure, it does not constrain her to follow that structure when
delegating power to her subordinates.

Maybe none of this answers your concern.  Maybe your concern is more
focused on what happens after the election, say in mid-term?  Or in
the run-up to the next election?

Mike Allan

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