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Notes taken at convergences

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

December 1, 2003 Convergence

Max, Mollie, JP, Alison, and Malivika were present

● We started off discussing format:
- Mollie suggested the UN format with the Preamble and such
- The articles can include our specific details
- Thus, we can have two versions, one with just the Preamble and a longer one with the
articles
● It was asked whether we should list the basic human rights (creating a very long list) or not and just list the major ones that we feel are being violated
● All agreed that we liked the basic format and ideas in Tim’s email
● A few basic sentences were thrown out
- Equal access for everyone to provide their own food and basic necessities
- Equal and adequate systems that allow all people to provide for physical, social/emotional and intellectual/political empowerment.
● Some key points:
- We’re looking at victims and systems of oppression – both social and political
- Economics and politics versus ‘the other stuff’
- Human rights versus human attributes: full expression of those biological attributes can be extended to the social realm. The idea that people are fundamentally equal.
● Equality in food and basic necessities versus equality of decision making
- Right to engage in rational decision making, everyone participates
- People should be able to make decision for how they get their physical resources allocated
- Everyone gets to participate in process to the extent that they’re affected. We see that the workers and the communities are left out of corporation decision making.
- Thus, if decision making is fair, the, fair distribution of resources. So first there is equal participation, which will lead to later equal distribution of resources.
- But, then the point was brought up that the extreme situations of unequal distribution of resources need to be taken care of first, before those people will be able to participate equally
● A thought from JP
- We could be called, “Stanford Social Forum” (and in the spirit of Stanford, “SoFo” for short)
- We want social movements embodying what they want to see in society at large, so that they are ‘operating by the mechanisms they create’
● Specifics of wording
- Take out ‘government of the US and put in governments of the world
- Taylor to Stanford as well
- Need to say why the Stanford group needs to get together
o They need to unify to be more effective
o Want to affect the microcosm of the Stanford structure – the world on a small scale
o All these groups have a large distribution of resources and putting them together will make it stronger
● Including the environmental side of things
- Have a ‘whereas’ with sustainable goals as the focus
- Discuss equality of ‘life’ in general which will include the plants and animals as well as the humans
o This doesn’t mean that you have to put a tree at the same level as a human, but that you have to take the tree’s life into consideration
- We should have it, but such specific wording about sustainable environments may not be necessary because much of what we try to fix environmentally is for human benefit
- It’s fundamental to have respect for life
● Sustainability for next quarter
- Keep people on the lists, keep them in contact, www.blogger.com
- Hammer out this statement and get people to reply and sign on
- Faculty involvement
- Keep on top of the planning for Old Union and use this statement we have to show the importance of this ‘convergence’ and all who support it
- Try to arrange the Centro space
- DISOs
- Find the THINK server
- Calendar – www.sundial@stanford.edu

Monday, December 01, 2003

What we believe in:
>Economic: The current economic system is not the best option for "society"
>[scare quotes for ambiguity of term]. In particular, the system of
>institutions that is associated with what are generally called "free
>markets" (setting aside whether they are actually free) unfairly privileges
>certain groups over others and is not the best option for society as a
whole.
>Political: Similarly, our current political system unfairly privileges
>certain groups over others. [Could also be phrased as "unfairly privileges
>certain groups' rights over others'."]
>Reinforcement: Moreover, both the economic and political systems as they
>are now tend to reinforce unfair inequalities rather than diminish them.


When we dis' a system, we must provide a preferable alternative, or
at least a way to improve it, do people agree on this? On these
lines, I might phrase what Max said more like this:
Politics and Economics: The current systems of resource and
power allocation in the United States need revision because they fail
to treat individuals and sub-groups equally, to the extent that
political machines and complexes survive and accumulate power and
wealth throughout generations. This cycle is extremely dangerous as
history has shown; as long as this problem isn't addressed, peoples
will continue to oppress other peoples, and we risk the eventual
explosion of the system in a chaotic struggle for power.
We propose a system which gives individuals equal weight in
society according to aptitude and choice, not according to heritage
or force.


>Action: By acting in various ways, we and others can reduce these unfair
>inequalities or increase the probability that these unfair inequalities
>will be reduced. It is morally right (perhaps even obligatory) for us to
>do so.
>Attitude: We seek to distinguish ourselves from certain other groups that
>may do similar work and may even use similar methods. The difference may
>be in attitude: we wish to empower those who are currently disadvantaged
>(and we may be the "currently disadvantaged" at times!) so that they can
>wield effective control of their own lives and reduce their disadvantages,
>rather than merely apply aid in response to these disadvantages. To the
>extent that a group working to address inequalities does so with this kind
>of attitude, they are in agreement with us on this particular principle, no
>matter what they are called.

I'm not completely clear on the attitude bit. Are there specific
groups we want to distinguish ourselves from? If so, maybe the
wording could be:
Strategy for Change: We must act to make these improvements
wherever possible. We have seen that tactics/strategies such as ____
are ineffective because _____. Instead, we think that working
towards empowerment of disadvantaged peoples will be more effective
at long term change. And a rose by any other name would smell as
sweet.

REVOLUTION RESOLUTION
Whereas: The biggest social problems of today are not issues of
efficiency, but of equality. We, as a global community, have the
necessary technology and understanding of the various human and
natural systems to provide healthy amounts of food and other life
necessities to everyone, but have failed to implement them
appropriately to do so.
The government of the United States of America is part of
this problem, and must be part of the solution.

Whereas: There are many individuals and groups that already recognize
these truths, and many more that have the aptitude to recognize them.

Whereas: Lack of communication, organization, and cooperation between
these individuals and groups have prevented, and still prevent us
from utilizing our full potential to create positive change and
continue to educate others.

Therefore be it resolved that: We should unite in resources,
objectives, and understanding in order to more fully realize our
potential for positive change and understanding. We CONVERGE!

We believe that the current system does not hold up to the ideals upon which it is founded. We
believe that the current institutions of the free market system take advantage of their situation
and unfairly privilege a few at the expensive of the society as a whole, especially in terms of
future sustainability. There no real mechanism in the free market system and the political system
that allows for the safe-guarding of the future†for both the people and the environment. Thus, we
believe the system does not inherently provide equality and sustainable allocation of scarce
resources. Coupled with the current political administration and the ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US^"s position abroad, we see the need to
empower those who believe the mainstream patterns are pointing in the wrong direction and we
would thus like to†create an open environment where those who want to engage in this topic in any
civil, non-violent manner may do so freely. We would like to create the space for dialogue to
educate and inform and empower those to live their beliefs and work toward change within their
communities.

I like the content of Max's version better (more below), but the structure
of Tim's version brings to mind the language of international diplomacy
(check out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and I find that
appropriate. I'm sure some new version was thrashed out today; I look
forward to reading it.

Aside from that, I find it difficult to disagree with Tim on the need to
propose some alternative vision, or at least a vision of some alternative
principles around which to construct a just society, but I find some gaps
in his proposal. I accept, for instance, that "current systems of resource
and power allocation [...] fail to treat individuals and sub-groups
equally," but is it true that they do so only "to the extent that
political machines and complexes survive and accumulate power through
generations"? Unless political complexes somehow includes such issues as
gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, and so on, it seems to me that
something is missing. Or maybe this is the old base-superstructure issue:
remove economic structures of oppression, and all other forms of
oppression will follow. In this case, I would argue that the argument is
short-sighted from both a conceptual and a strategic perspective. The
conceptual flaw is that it seems clear to me that the various structures
of oppression reinforce and replicate each other: gender and race
oppression would soon lead to the reemergence of economic oppression, even
if it was somehow eliminated (Max makes a version of this point as well,
but still seems to prioritize economics and politics). The strategic flaw
is that we shouldn't put aside issues of importance to our natural
constituencies: the victims of oppression are less likely to come on board
if our movement deprioritizes (or fails to explicitly prioritize) issues
of importance to them. Incorporating this stuff is a resolution could be
tricky, because we don't want to leave anything out, and we might not even
be aware of all the things we want to put in: who knows what crazy
arbitrary categories tomorrow has in store? Generic language like "and
other structures of oppression" is probably the solution (should we find
this to be a problem in the first place).

I strongly disagree with Tim's proposal that "We propose a system which
gives individuals equal weight in society according to aptitude and
choice, not according to heritage or force." The last two criteria are
rightly rejected, but the former two, especially "aptitude", seem
dangerous to me. Specifically, the following scenario seems all too
likely: a group of people with the right aptitudes (determined how?)
choose to exercise their power to deny that other people with different
aptitudes can make the choice to participate equally in decision-making,
because they feel that they themselves are best equipped to make the
decisions that face society. Note how this fairly accurately describes
both the United States and the former Soviet Union, systems we do not want
to duplicate.

As an alternative, suppose I believe, as I and surely many others do, that
equality is a fundamental human right (I might personally go further and
say: a fundamental human attribute). Then a system of governance that
accords equality on any basis other than the mere fact of humanity is
incompatible with my belief. Suppose I then find that the ability to
participate in rational decision-making requires certain aptitudes. Now I
must argue for a society in which those aptitudes are cultivated and
allowed to develop in every human being. This means that equal
participation in decision-making, as a means to cultivate the proper
aptitudes, is a prerequisite for achieving the society which my belief
forces me to desire. This leaves us with Max's statement that we must seek
the empowerment of "those who are currently disadvantaged [...] so that
they can wield effective control of their own lives and reduce their
disadvantages". I weakened Max's formulation from "we wish to empower..."
to "we must seek the empowerment of..." (Tim says something similar)
because I don't believe that it's our business to do the empowering: it is
for the currently disadvantaged to decide the extent to which we
participate in their empowerment.


I take JP's point on political complexes well; they are not
the only significant means of bias and inequality in our society. We
probably shouldn't deal with the relative importance of various
biases, agreed? So the refined sentence could go something like,
"...political machines and other societal complexes of unequal burden
are allowed to survive and accumulate power through generations." Is
that too ambiguous, vague, or awkward?

Equality and assignment of power are sticky issues. I would
love a society in which everyone had equal weight in decision making;
consensus is one form of this, right? This structure works well in
small groups, but is it realistic on a national scale? Decisions in
society must be made. Whoever has control over those decisions (or a
part thereof) has that much power. The only way to totally equalize
power would be to give everyone equal weight in making every
decision. I think we all agree that this would be impossible, I'm
curious if you all agree with my logic in saying that there is
therefore no way to give everyone truly equal power in society.
JP and I (and probably everyone on this list) agree that the
matter of 'Who will make these decisions (have these powers)?' should
not be decided by heritage or force. JP has further proposed that
everyone should make these decisions, that no one should be excluded
(except maybe by personal choice). I have argued (above) that this
might be ideal but that it is impossible. Instead, I think that some
people will have to be in charge of making various decisions, and
that the people should be chosen on the basis of their ability to
make high quality decisions, and their desire to do so.
JP raises the important point, how should aptitude (or
quality) be evaluated? For lack of an objective test, the best
realistic answer (at least in the political system) seems to me to be
some form of representative democracy, where the people choose whom
will get the power, or some portion thereof (and thereby in some
sense share in that power). There are, of course, many similarities
or examples of this in our current system, but many failures as well:
the 'winner take all' scenarios fail to give proportional
representation, the power of (at least partially inherited)
socio-economic standing, false dichotomies preclude true choices
(true power) etc.

If we choose to use the Revolution Resolution to go into the issues
Max brought up, this is the revised draft of what we could say,
taking the discussed issues into account:
Politics and Economics: The current systems of resource and
power allocation in the United States need revision because they fail
to treat individuals and sub-groups equally, to the extent that
political machines and other societal complexes of unequal burden are
allowed to survive and accumulate power through generations. This
cycle is extremely dangerous as history has shown; as long as this
problem isn't addressed, peoples will continue to oppress other
peoples, and we risk the eventual explosion of the system in a
chaotic struggle for power.
We propose a system which gives individuals equal weight in
society to the fullest extent possible; that people ideally have
equal power in making decisions, or can at least choose a
representative to make those decisions, so that power is assigned as
equally as possible, and not according to heritage or force.

It's possible that JP and I are in agreement here; that we're
merely using different words. Do you guys agree with these changes
and the rest, or are you thinking on different lines?

Also, what are people thinking about the depth of the
resolution? Should we include some version of this discussion on
Politics and Economics in the first Whereas, and/or some discussion
on Action and Attitude in the Therefore? Here is the (as yet
unchanged) resolution without these inclusions:

> I would love a society in which everyone had equal weight in decision
> making; consensus is one form of this, right?
Well, so is one-person-one-vote, a more realistic procedure because it
scales up; and not actually a bad one if you have some sort of IRV/ranked
choice thing going.

There is in my opinion a principled reason to depart from universal equal
weight in decision-making, which is implicitly accepted in our current
society, when no powerful interests are at stake: people participate in a
decision if and only if it affects their lives, and do so to the extent
that their lives are affected by the potential outcomes of the decision.
That means constituencies are based on the expected outcomes of decisions,
not on geographical divisions. Votes are weighed according to individuals'
expected affectedness. (Yes, extensive knowledge of the fabric of society
is required. Do we have it? How do we get more?)

As far as the idea of representation is concerned, I personally find it
kind of nefarious. I don't want to surrender my decisional power to
someone who inevitably knows less about my best interests than I do.
Suppose we substitute delegation for representation: some manageable group
debates an issue, and elects delegates to debate the issue with the
delegates of some other groups, and so on up however many levels.
Delegates represent in debate the group that elected them, and report the
debate to that same group. Debate is informed by expert opinion at all
levels, but expertise confers no additional decisional power. Decisions
are taken at the bottom level. Society is structured so that people are
educated to take part in this process, and are expected to do so, just as
we are today expected to work. (Unmanageable? Assume groups of 30, each
electing 2 delegates which debate in groups of 30 delegates, and so on;
then you get 1.5 million people at the bottom of a 5-level structure, 342
million with 7 levels, and 5.1 billion with 8 levels.)

Where do we get the time to do this? If you assume something like
participatory economics (see the book "Parecon" by Michael Albert, Verso,
2003; also parecon.org), then you eliminate all the effort that goes into
producing thing people don't want and the effort that goes into making
people want it. (How? Consumers' and producers' councils, which overlap in
membership and are structured as above, negotiate to match aggregate
demand and aggregate supply, understood broadly to mean all economic goods
and services that are today subject to the "market", except for the
parasitic speculative stuff; note that this takes care of a good chunk of
overall governance as well, and it frees up lots of capital for productive
uses.)

Anyway, nothing of this sort should go in our resolution, but my point is
that it's possible to envision a society (albeit a radically different
one) that doesn't compromise principles that I think are broadly shared,
even far beyond our little group. As I see it, the role of social
movements is to spread a vision of alternative institutions, which are
embodied in the movements themselves as far as possible, and to encourage
debate about those institutions, so that the movements evolve into society
itself. Is some version that last sentence a candidate for the resolution?

I might
add something about not just everyone deserves food, but also universal
human rights like health care, participation in government, freedom of
expression, etc. As a good example, check out the UN's Declaration of
Human Rights:
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
Perhaps this is something we could make reference to, or at least use it
as a basis for human rights, though there are far too many to list in a
simple resolution. Perhaps we should add something like "all people
deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, adn equality"

we could put tim's thing as the "preamble" and include some of max's
points in the artilces.


I also like jp's sentence "the role of social
movements is to spread a vision of alternative institutions, which are
embodied in the movements themselves as far as possible, and to encourage
debate about those institutions, so that the movements evolve into society
itself. " This is probably a good candidate to include in some version of
what Max wrote, as a more detailed summary of beliefs.

I would remove this sentence from your comments/proposal, tim "we risk the
eventual explosion of the system in a
chaotic struggle for power." b/c i think that it implies that we are
worried about the masses rising up and not about basic human rights.

I agree with Tim that it's most helpful to have an alternative to the
current structure when trying to make change. I didn't want to restrict
group membership by trying to formulate such an alternative, which is why I
described the issues in terms of what we're against, as opposed to what
we're for. I think at the last convergence (two weeks ago) we talked about
how all of these groups are attacking the same problem (or roughly the same
one) but in different ways; it was in that spirit that I used the negative
language. I think there even is some positive language in my original,
when it talks about reducing the unfair inequalities. But it's a good
point, and I think it's a matter of how specific/restrictive we want to be
in our vision of the Convergence.

As for the "Attitude" portion of mine (distinguishing ourselves from other
groups in that we have an attitude of empowerment), this was a reference to
our attempts to distinguish "activism" from "community service". I didn't
want to use the latter term, though, because I felt it might alienate
people needlessly. I think there are some groups that are doing things
that are traditionally community service, but they go about it with this
"activist" attitude of empowerment. It seems like they should be as
welcome in the Convergence as any of the "traditional" activist groups. So
I didn't use the term "community service" but I thought it was important to
note the differences.

JP notes that many forms of oppression are social, as well as economic and
political: race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I actually was going to
have a "Social" section along with my "Economic" and "Political" sections,
but I decided not to since there is a lot in parts of our social structure
that I admire (ideals of caring for other members of our community, among
other things). I'm not sure why this stopped me, since I admire parts of
our political and economic structures as well. Social structures
definitely seem less centralized than political and economic ones, but they
can be just as pernicious. I agree that it's something we need to keep in
mind.

And thanks for the rewrite on the empowerment bit, JP. I was trying to
imply what you wrote, but I didn't quite get it right.

On to other random bits...

I like pretty much everything everyone's said. I think Peggy is right
(others have said similar things) in that we use the original structure and
a lot of what Tim wrote (with some adjustments) as a brief statement and
then use my stuff and other things as part of a longer list of principles
that we can keep working on or just have as a reference. Interestingly, I
actually think that Tim's original statement is more specific than mine,
especially in the first "Whereas..." and I might broaden it.

Who? Victims of Oppression.(none deprioritized.)

Economics – remove economic structures of oppresion
Class
Race/Gender/Orientation/Culture
Tomorrow? And other structures of oppression

Economics and Politics, vs ?
Aptitude and choice vs heritage and force

Right vs attribute.

"...political machines and other societal complexes of unequal burden
are allowed to survive and accumulate power through generations."

Expected outcomes of decisions vs geographical divisions (sometimes one includes the other)

What we want?
Equality vs Equal participation.
"we must seek the empowerment of..."

Proposing alternative models, yes, but careful of deviation, like consensus, who has power etc.

the role of social movements is to spread a vision of alternative institutions, which are
embodied in the movements themselves as far as possible, and to encourage debate about those institutions, so that the movements evolve into society
itself.

They operate by the mechanisms they wish to create

Preamble:
Article.

REVOLUTION RESOLUTION
Whereas: The biggest social problems of today are not issues of
efficiency, but of equality. We, as a global community, have the
necessary technology and understanding of the various human and
natural systems to provide healthy amounts of food and other life
necessities to everyone, but have failed to implement them
appropriately to do so.
The government of the United States of America is part of
this problem, and must be part of the solution.

Whereas: There are many individuals and groups that already recognize
these truths, and many more that have the aptitude to recognize them.

Whereas: Lack of communication, organization, and cooperation between
these individuals and groups have prevented, and still prevent us
from utilizing our full potential to create positive change and
continue to educate others.

Therefore be it resolved that: We should unite in resources,
objectives, and understanding in order to more fully realize our
potential for positive change and understanding. We CONVERGE!
What we believe in:
>Economic: The current economic system is not the best option for "society"
>[scare quotes for ambiguity of term]. In particular, the system of
>institutions that is associated with what are generally called "free
>markets" (setting aside whether they are actually free) unfairly privileges
>certain groups over others and is not the best option for society as a
whole.
>Political: Similarly, our current political system unfairly privileges
>certain groups over others. [Could also be phrased as "unfairly privileges
>certain groups' rights over others'."]
>Reinforcement: Moreover, both the economic and political systems as they
>are now tend to reinforce unfair inequalities rather than diminish them.


When we dis' a system, we must provide a preferable alternative, or
at least a way to improve it, do people agree on this? On these
lines, I might phrase what Max said more like this:
Politics and Economics: The current systems of resource and
power allocation in the United States need revision because they fail
to treat individuals and sub-groups equally, to the extent that
political machines and complexes survive and accumulate power and
wealth throughout generations. This cycle is extremely dangerous as
history has shown; as long as this problem isn't addressed, peoples
will continue to oppress other peoples, and we risk the eventual
explosion of the system in a chaotic struggle for power.
We propose a system which gives individuals equal weight in
society according to aptitude and choice, not according to heritage
or force.


>Action: By acting in various ways, we and others can reduce these unfair
>inequalities or increase the probability that these unfair inequalities
>will be reduced. It is morally right (perhaps even obligatory) for us to
>do so.
>Attitude: We seek to distinguish ourselves from certain other groups that
>may do similar work and may even use similar methods. The difference may
>be in attitude: we wish to empower those who are currently disadvantaged
>(and we may be the "currently disadvantaged" at times!) so that they can
>wield effective control of their own lives and reduce their disadvantages,
>rather than merely apply aid in response to these disadvantages. To the
>extent that a group working to address inequalities does so with this kind
>of attitude, they are in agreement with us on this particular principle, no
>matter what they are called.

I'm not completely clear on the attitude bit. Are there specific
groups we want to distinguish ourselves from? If so, maybe the
wording could be:
Strategy for Change: We must act to make these improvements
wherever possible. We have seen that tactics/strategies such as ____
are ineffective because _____. Instead, we think that working
towards empowerment of disadvantaged peoples will be more effective
at long term change. And a rose by any other name would smell as
sweet.

REVOLUTION RESOLUTION
Whereas: The biggest social problems of today are not issues of
efficiency, but of equality. We, as a global community, have the
necessary technology and understanding of the various human and
natural systems to provide healthy amounts of food and other life
necessities to everyone, but have failed to implement them
appropriately to do so.
The government of the United States of America is part of
this problem, and must be part of the solution.

Whereas: There are many individuals and groups that already recognize
these truths, and many more that have the aptitude to recognize them.

Whereas: Lack of communication, organization, and cooperation between
these individuals and groups have prevented, and still prevent us
from utilizing our full potential to create positive change and
continue to educate others.

Therefore be it resolved that: We should unite in resources,
objectives, and understanding in order to more fully realize our
potential for positive change and understanding. We CONVERGE!

We believe that the current system does not hold up to the ideals upon which it is founded. We
believe that the current institutions of the free market system take advantage of their situation
and unfairly privilege a few at the expensive of the society as a whole, especially in terms of
future sustainability. There no real mechanism in the free market system and the political system
that allows for the safe-guarding of the future†for both the people and the environment. Thus, we
believe the system does not inherently provide equality and sustainable allocation of scarce
resources. Coupled with the current political administration and the ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US^“s position abroad, we see the need to
empower those who believe the mainstream patterns are pointing in the wrong direction and we
would thus like to†create an open environment where those who want to engage in this topic in any
civil, non-violent manner may do so freely. We would like to create the space for dialogue to
educate and inform and empower those to live their beliefs and work toward change within their
communities.

I like the content of Max's version better (more below), but the structure
of Tim's version brings to mind the language of international diplomacy
(check out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and I find that
appropriate. I'm sure some new version was thrashed out today; I look
forward to reading it.

Aside from that, I find it difficult to disagree with Tim on the need to
propose some alternative vision, or at least a vision of some alternative
principles around which to construct a just society, but I find some gaps
in his proposal. I accept, for instance, that "current systems of resource
and power allocation [...] fail to treat individuals and sub-groups
equally," but is it true that they do so only "to the extent that
political machines and complexes survive and accumulate power through
generations"? Unless political complexes somehow includes such issues as
gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, and so on, it seems to me that
something is missing. Or maybe this is the old base-superstructure issue:
remove economic structures of oppression, and all other forms of
oppression will follow. In this case, I would argue that the argument is
short-sighted from both a conceptual and a strategic perspective. The
conceptual flaw is that it seems clear to me that the various structures
of oppression reinforce and replicate each other: gender and race
oppression would soon lead to the reemergence of economic oppression, even
if it was somehow eliminated (Max makes a version of this point as well,
but still seems to prioritize economics and politics). The strategic flaw
is that we shouldn't put aside issues of importance to our natural
constituencies: the victims of oppression are less likely to come on board
if our movement deprioritizes (or fails to explicitly prioritize) issues
of importance to them. Incorporating this stuff is a resolution could be
tricky, because we don't want to leave anything out, and we might not even
be aware of all the things we want to put in: who knows what crazy
arbitrary categories tomorrow has in store? Generic language like "and
other structures of oppression" is probably the solution (should we find
this to be a problem in the first place).

I strongly disagree with Tim's proposal that "We propose a system which
gives individuals equal weight in society according to aptitude and
choice, not according to heritage or force." The last two criteria are
rightly rejected, but the former two, especially "aptitude", seem
dangerous to me. Specifically, the following scenario seems all too
likely: a group of people with the right aptitudes (determined how?)
choose to exercise their power to deny that other people with different
aptitudes can make the choice to participate equally in decision-making,
because they feel that they themselves are best equipped to make the
decisions that face society. Note how this fairly accurately describes
both the United States and the former Soviet Union, systems we do not want
to duplicate.

As an alternative, suppose I believe, as I and surely many others do, that
equality is a fundamental human right (I might personally go further and
say: a fundamental human attribute). Then a system of governance that
accords equality on any basis other than the mere fact of humanity is
incompatible with my belief. Suppose I then find that the ability to
participate in rational decision-making requires certain aptitudes. Now I
must argue for a society in which those aptitudes are cultivated and
allowed to develop in every human being. This means that equal
participation in decision-making, as a means to cultivate the proper
aptitudes, is a prerequisite for achieving the society which my belief
forces me to desire. This leaves us with Max's statement that we must seek
the empowerment of "those who are currently disadvantaged [...] so that
they can wield effective control of their own lives and reduce their
disadvantages". I weakened Max's formulation from "we wish to empower..."
to "we must seek the empowerment of..." (Tim says something similar)
because I don't believe that it's our business to do the empowering: it is
for the currently disadvantaged to decide the extent to which we
participate in their empowerment.


I take JP's point on political complexes well; they are not
the only significant means of bias and inequality in our society. We
probably shouldn't deal with the relative importance of various
biases, agreed? So the refined sentence could go something like,
"...political machines and other societal complexes of unequal burden
are allowed to survive and accumulate power through generations." Is
that too ambiguous, vague, or awkward?

Equality and assignment of power are sticky issues. I would
love a society in which everyone had equal weight in decision making;
consensus is one form of this, right? This structure works well in
small groups, but is it realistic on a national scale? Decisions in
society must be made. Whoever has control over those decisions (or a
part thereof) has that much power. The only way to totally equalize
power would be to give everyone equal weight in making every
decision. I think we all agree that this would be impossible, I'm
curious if you all agree with my logic in saying that there is
therefore no way to give everyone truly equal power in society.
JP and I (and probably everyone on this list) agree that the
matter of 'Who will make these decisions (have these powers)?' should
not be decided by heritage or force. JP has further proposed that
everyone should make these decisions, that no one should be excluded
(except maybe by personal choice). I have argued (above) that this
might be ideal but that it is impossible. Instead, I think that some
people will have to be in charge of making various decisions, and
that the people should be chosen on the basis of their ability to
make high quality decisions, and their desire to do so.
JP raises the important point, how should aptitude (or
quality) be evaluated? For lack of an objective test, the best
realistic answer (at least in the political system) seems to me to be
some form of representative democracy, where the people choose whom
will get the power, or some portion thereof (and thereby in some
sense share in that power). There are, of course, many similarities
or examples of this in our current system, but many failures as well:
the 'winner take all' scenarios fail to give proportional
representation, the power of (at least partially inherited)
socio-economic standing, false dichotomies preclude true choices
(true power) etc.

If we choose to use the Revolution Resolution to go into the issues
Max brought up, this is the revised draft of what we could say,
taking the discussed issues into account:
Politics and Economics: The current systems of resource and
power allocation in the United States need revision because they fail
to treat individuals and sub-groups equally, to the extent that
political machines and other societal complexes of unequal burden are
allowed to survive and accumulate power through generations. This
cycle is extremely dangerous as history has shown; as long as this
problem isn't addressed, peoples will continue to oppress other
peoples, and we risk the eventual explosion of the system in a
chaotic struggle for power.
We propose a system which gives individuals equal weight in
society to the fullest extent possible; that people ideally have
equal power in making decisions, or can at least choose a
representative to make those decisions, so that power is assigned as
equally as possible, and not according to heritage or force.

It's possible that JP and I are in agreement here; that we're
merely using different words. Do you guys agree with these changes
and the rest, or are you thinking on different lines?

Also, what are people thinking about the depth of the
resolution? Should we include some version of this discussion on
Politics and Economics in the first Whereas, and/or some discussion
on Action and Attitude in the Therefore? Here is the (as yet
unchanged) resolution without these inclusions:

> I would love a society in which everyone had equal weight in decision
> making; consensus is one form of this, right?
Well, so is one-person-one-vote, a more realistic procedure because it
scales up; and not actually a bad one if you have some sort of IRV/ranked
choice thing going.

There is in my opinion a principled reason to depart from universal equal
weight in decision-making, which is implicitly accepted in our current
society, when no powerful interests are at stake: people participate in a
decision if and only if it affects their lives, and do so to the extent
that their lives are affected by the potential outcomes of the decision.
That means constituencies are based on the expected outcomes of decisions,
not on geographical divisions. Votes are weighed according to individuals'
expected affectedness. (Yes, extensive knowledge of the fabric of society
is required. Do we have it? How do we get more?)

As far as the idea of representation is concerned, I personally find it
kind of nefarious. I don't want to surrender my decisional power to
someone who inevitably knows less about my best interests than I do.
Suppose we substitute delegation for representation: some manageable group
debates an issue, and elects delegates to debate the issue with the
delegates of some other groups, and so on up however many levels.
Delegates represent in debate the group that elected them, and report the
debate to that same group. Debate is informed by expert opinion at all
levels, but expertise confers no additional decisional power. Decisions
are taken at the bottom level. Society is structured so that people are
educated to take part in this process, and are expected to do so, just as
we are today expected to work. (Unmanageable? Assume groups of 30, each
electing 2 delegates which debate in groups of 30 delegates, and so on;
then you get 1.5 million people at the bottom of a 5-level structure, 342
million with 7 levels, and 5.1 billion with 8 levels.)

Where do we get the time to do this? If you assume something like
participatory economics (see the book "Parecon" by Michael Albert, Verso,
2003; also parecon.org), then you eliminate all the effort that goes into
producing thing people don't want and the effort that goes into making
people want it. (How? Consumers' and producers' councils, which overlap in
membership and are structured as above, negotiate to match aggregate
demand and aggregate supply, understood broadly to mean all economic goods
and services that are today subject to the "market", except for the
parasitic speculative stuff; note that this takes care of a good chunk of
overall governance as well, and it frees up lots of capital for productive
uses.)

Anyway, nothing of this sort should go in our resolution, but my point is
that it's possible to envision a society (albeit a radically different
one) that doesn't compromise principles that I think are broadly shared,
even far beyond our little group. As I see it, the role of social
movements is to spread a vision of alternative institutions, which are
embodied in the movements themselves as far as possible, and to encourage
debate about those institutions, so that the movements evolve into society
itself. Is some version that last sentence a candidate for the resolution?

I might
add something about not just everyone deserves food, but also universal
human rights like health care, participation in government, freedom of
expression, etc. As a good example, check out the UN's Declaration of
Human Rights:
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
Perhaps this is something we could make reference to, or at least use it
as a basis for human rights, though there are far too many to list in a
simple resolution. Perhaps we should add something like "all people
deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, adn equality"

we could put tim's thing as the "preamble" and include some of max's
points in the artilces.


I also like jp's sentence "the role of social
movements is to spread a vision of alternative institutions, which are
embodied in the movements themselves as far as possible, and to encourage
debate about those institutions, so that the movements evolve into society
itself. " This is probably a good candidate to include in some version of
what Max wrote, as a more detailed summary of beliefs.

I would remove this sentence from your comments/proposal, tim "we risk the
eventual explosion of the system in a
chaotic struggle for power." b/c i think that it implies that we are
worried about the masses rising up and not about basic human rights.

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