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Re: [ox-en] Re: Free administration

On Sat, 15 Dec 2001, Stefan Merten wrote:

Yesterday Graham Seaman wrote:
On Fri, 14 Dec 2001, Stefan Merten wrote:
Do you mean that the government beaurocracy, not only the ministers themselves
get voted? The question then would be how such a government will be able to
carry out long-term plans, with the people executing these plans changing
and trying to please the public all the time (so they get voted again).

Good point! Representative democracy is indeed pretty interruptive for
administration processes and when looking at the use of these
processes that's not always a good idea.

Well in democracies of our brand you need to interrupt the latest
dictator you elected since you have no other chance to get things
changed. But I think it would be far better if more people have a say
in political processes so they don't need to be interrupted just to
change their direction.

Do you think it's possible to make any extrapolations from the way free 
software projects are run?

They also have the problem of continuity.

Sure. But here the reason for the problem is inherent in the process
and not an external demand like in representative democracies. I think
this is an important difference.

It sounds like your model of representative democracy is one where there
are elections every x years. But if there is the possibility of 
replacement of any representative at any time, so that not all are 
normally replaced together, then surely there is no more problem of
continuity than there is when a representative becomes ill?

There are several models: at one extreme there's Linux, with one person in 
overall charge but people rising and filling the 'administrative' posts
as they fall vacant; at the other, more organised elective systems (eg.
Debian), and in between ones with semi-formal rotation (perl, Apache).

Yes, there are a lot of models. I'd be interested in more explanation
about these models - after all I'm not involved in any Free Software
project until now and I *love* to have as much reality-check as
I'll let someone else do that ;-) But isn't oekonux itself (the current 
mailing list, not the future society) an example of one model? :-)

What they have in common is that the people in charge are only in charge
as long as they're doing what people want;

And *that* is the important point. Seeing it this way they are
providing a service to others in the project just like coders,
web designers, testers, ... do.

on the other hand, they also
set a direction.

Yes. They lead in a way. But because of above they need to "feel" the
consensus (i.e. a situation where nobody has to object a decision) of
the people they're "leading" - otherwise...

And they only get to be there by showing they're good at

...they would not stay there. At least at a large scale it is not
possible to "take over" a Free Software project because a leader not
"feeling" the consensus has no way to stay a leader. Being a leader of
a bigger Free Software project has no point when nobody is interested.

This is different from hierarchical models where the use of power is
an option.

It seems like the best kind of democracy to me.

No, it's not a democracy, because there is no power concentrated in
the hands of the leaders. So it's no `something-cracy' at all. Perhaps
it's just crazy ;-) .

But it is still
representative, not like Athens, or a kind of government where 
everything is decided by referendum. 

Well, is it? Or better: Is it more representative than what coders,
web designers, ... do?

On the other hand, is this kind of management something that only works
for 'technical' issues (like software), not for things that affect
everybody's daily life?

I don't think that it is limited to technical issues. I think the
point is the structural absence of power. Everyone in a project needs
each other and vice versa. If the self-development of the single
person is the precondition of the self-development of all, and if
we're striving for a common goal, it is in my very own interest that
everyone else can self-develop as much as one can.

I'm not completely following your argument here. What functions in a
gpl-society are both necessary and inherently require power of a kind not
present in software projects?

I think we already have the case of the 'minister for water' as an
example: imagining we already lived in a gpl-society, then if Matt's 
project were successful, he might be considered minister for water 
quality. To have become successful, he would have had to learn a huge
amount about testing water quality; involved many people in testing water
quality, and in finding ways to do something about it if that quality
was poor. For a large area, that would probably mean spending all his
time working on this. He would not directly have the power to order
a polluting organization by a water source to change their ways, but
if he had involved enough people in his testing then surely they would
have to listen to him, so in that sense he would have power. It is
power as a representative, since not all people involved in testing
water quality with him would have the same power. But if 
he told people to pour chemicals in the drinking water, no-one would 
listen to him, and one of the other people involved would take over -
his power could be lost at any time. 

I think that example is very similar to a free software project. What
examples of necessary government functions aren't?

Also, this is a very abstract argument (getting close to the classic
'replacement of administration over people by administration of things') 
- maybe its not a fruitful one to be spending time on, since it's about
something so remote?



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