augustin's book

In this section, I would like to present not only my thoughts and objectives for this site, but also my ideas regarding election methods, taxation, law making, etc.

Web site objectives

It occurred to me that I have not clearly written about the various goals that I am trying to attain, with regard to community organization. Simply allow me to highlight some of the key aspects of the vision I have.

These are rough notes that need to be polished.

Contribute something positive to our society

This is the end goal. I spent a lot of time, effort and money to develop and maintain this web site, and I did not do so because I seek financial gain, fame nor to boost my own ego. The ultimate goal for this web site is to achieve something significant and positive that would benefit our whole society. This is a very ambitious goal, and needless to say, we are a very, very far way off from reaching it. Still, I perceive many of the same problems as you do and building this web site is my little contribution in promoting solutions.

If we exclude spambots and other kinds of spammers, all the people who have ever joined this site all shared the same desire to improve our society. This is something that makes me very happy. I would like this site to be able to fully harness this strong thirst for actual change in our world.

All of the provisions discussed below are all strategies towards that goal.

Be open and inclusive

Welcome every one, regardless of their political or religious views. Under the provisions discussed below regarding a peaceful, respectful debate, I personally welcome everyone to express itself here. For example, I am not a monarchist at all, but should a monarchist come by, I would allow it to express its views just like everyone else is allowed to, with access to a personal blog, a Personal Book area, etc. Left wingers, right wingers, progressives, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, etc. are all welcome here.

Encourage respectful dialogue

I will not repeat here what is already written there:
http://en.minguo.info/wiki/terms_of_use

Highlight agreement over disagreement

Let me be very clear: it is perfectly OK for any two people to disagree. Disagreement is a natural occurrence and properly handled, it can be healthy.

However, I want to do everything I can to avoid sorry flame wars that are so common throughout the internet, especially on a political web site like this one. A friend of mine, with whom I agree on 99% of the issues, was so caught up in the 1% he couldn't make me agree with him, that he went away from my home, slamming the door, and burning all bridges behind him. It is a strong tendency that we all have, myself included, when replying to someone, to disregard all the points on which we agree, and only highlight the points of disagreement and exclusively reply on those divisive points.

This confrontational attitude helps nobody, only serves to make people upset at each other, and certainly does not empower us to band together to actually make a difference in our fucked up society.

So, again, diverging points of view are welcome, disagreement are expected to occur, but I want to organize the site in a way that helps people to figure out the common ground on which to stand.

I want to unite people. Look at US politics: there is certainly no need for further divisions!

We already know what a liberal and a conservative would disagree on. I'd be much more interested in figuring out how much they can agree on.

Increase the signal/noise ratio

I already wrote about increasing the signal to noise ratio:
http://en.minguo.info/blogs/augustin/focussing_discussion_high_signalnoi...
Just about every web site out there, and search engines as well, favour new content over good content.

Allow individuals to present the best of themselves, for example with the use of personal books, which can be edited, completed and improved over time.

Facilitate teamwork

Allow the community to come together and work in unison, working for common goals.
The use of wiki will be encouraged so that our collectively written articles can be a shining beacon, attracting ever more like-minded users to this community.

Promote better voting system

Here we go back to the very origins of this web site, which was originally created as a voting tool with delegable proxy. The proxy feature is currently disabled but I carry on improving the voting feature, featuring better voting methods (approval voting, score voting, emocracy, etc.) that should replace our current broken system.

Have a bigger, more active community

It's obvious that this site could do with a bigger, more active community. I'll continue working to make it happen, so that a greater number can achieve greater things. I hope that by organizing this site differently than other political blogs, people will slowly start to notice the difference and be drawn to join. Achieving all of the above is also a strategy towards that goal.

Dispell fallacies in political discourse

Fighting and dispelling fallacies in political discourse is one major objective of this site. I do not wish for this web site to become yet another political forum where people are free to spew their falsehood and distorted logic.

Disagreement and differing opinions are very welcome. The goal is not to impose a certain ideology.

However, I would like to empower the members of this site to point out fallacies commonly found in political discourse. I would like the structure and organization of this web site to help bring out the best of political discourse, that is the best of what each individual has to offer, and the best of our collective endeavours.

To this end, I'd like the community to help establish a wiki page on each commonly found fallacy. We will create tags for each of those so that users can tag content where such fallacies are being discussed. I would like to empower the community to gently point out the fallacies found in the arguments of any member, so as to give it an opportunity to rephrase its arguments.

see: Spotlight on fallacies in political discourse
http://en.minguo.info/blogs/augustin/spotlight_on_fallacies_in_political...

Features to implement

Here is a random list of features I would like to implement.
Their implementation depends on their complexity and the time I have available to develop them.

- Automated list of polls per project. Some polls are specifically created for a particular project, and are tagged appropriately. I'd like to find the most appropriate way to display the list of polls on the project's home page related to it.

- Allow trusted members of the community to adjust the tags on any content on this site. Any such changes should be logged in a way that the whole community can see (and monitor) who has done which changes. The goal is to have the site organization be a collaborative work so that the best content can be easily found in the most appropriate places.

- Link book page with discussion regarding the page: http://en.minguo.info/blogs/augustin/users_personal_books#comment-1242

The measure of success

This web site is still a very long way away from where I would like it to be. As the host, obviously I wish for this site to be a success. Here, I would like to simply define success, both in terms of shallow success, and meaningful success.

Shallow success

In today's internet, success is measured in many different ways, more or less quantifiable:

  • Traffic in general.
  • Page rank.
  • Number of hits.
  • Number of visits.
  • Google ranking, or ranking of selected key words in search results.
  • Number of users.
  • Number of blogs/discusion threads/comments.
  • Number of new blogs/discussion threads/comments per day.
  • Etc.

I personally wouldn't mind this site to rate higher on any of the metrics above. However, this is not the end goal. Most importantly, I will not blindly pursue higher results in those metrics at the cost of the end goal.

As a political web site, it should be easy to get a community engrossed in discussions, commenting back and forth, with each member trying to convince the others that they are wrong. There are many political web sites and forums that provide venues for such "discussion" and that are highly successful according to all of the above metrics. The common wisdom would be for any other web site which seeks success to copy the model established by the web sites that have already achieved such success. However, many if not most of those supposedly highly successful web sites are mostly failures, according to the metrics that I personally value.

It really depends what the end goal is. From their perspective, the owners of such web sites are successful because they have achieved very high scores in the metrics they most care about:

  • Number of advertisement impressions.
  • Number of clicks on advertisements.
  • Income generated.
  • Market share.
  • Etc.

Sure, if all they want is to achieve high scores along these metrics, then it's perfectly appropriate to let their politically-conscious user base mistakenly believe that their arguing back and forth amounts to something meaningful. From my perspective, such web sites, even web sites which on the surface espouse political views very close to my own, have become part of the problem. Not that there is anything wrong with generating financial income: I wouldn't mind that either. But in those web sites, I mostly see missed opportunities, and, worse, I see contributing factors to the worsening political climate and to the degradation of political discourse.

I have no desire to copy them. What would be the point?

Meaningful success

Other web sites, including other politically engaged web sites, are free to adopt their own definition for success. Here I will try to express what I would define success.

From the very beginning, this web site aimed to be a contributing player in the "Cultural Creatives" global movement. We try to make an honest appraisal of our society: we see both its failures and its potential, and try to promote and implement ways to improve our culture in pursuit of the Common Good.

The specific area of interest of this web site, and the reason it was conceived of in the first place, is electoral reform. It started from the recognition that the Election Method used in current elections is about the worst one we could use, leading to all sorts of maladies that our society suffers from today. That is why polls using better election methods are prominent in this site. I will cover those points in finer details elsewhere.

Minguo is not limited to covering electoral reform. It can cover topics that any of its members deeply care about. I would like to provide a platform that empowers the members, both as individuals and as a community. I would the structure of the site to facilitate the coming together of like-minded individuals so that they can more efficiently work and lobby for change. It is hoped that together we can make a meaningful impact on our society.

The site is organized around "Community projects", the focus of coordinated efforts towards a common goal. This site aims to facilitate collective endeavours. I would like members to be able to identify their common ground and do something constructive together that will be of value to the larger society.

I will measure success not in terms of audience, but in terms of meaningful impact the site has on the rest of the world. The former (audience) does not necessarily lead to the latter (making a difference), but properly channelled, mass participation can facilitate change. In other words, web site traffic shouldn't be viewed as an end goal, but as a means to an end. I will not sacrifice the goal for mere traffic.

So, here is finally a rough list of end goals for this web site. I will qualify the success of this site according to the extent we have been able to achieve those goals:

  • Empower individuals to present the best of themselves.
  • Empower individuals to clearly present the best of their own ideas and ideals.
  • Improve political discourse.
  • Dispell fallacies in political discourse.
  • Heal deeply rooted divisions in our society.
  • Unite people by helping them find a common ground, their common values and aspirations.
  • Facilitate collective endeavours to make a difference.
  • Create an authoritative series of collectively written wiki pages.
  • Improve such wiki articles to the point that people on the wider internet refer to them and link to them from other web sites.
  • Create meaningful, active Community projects, focus points of collective endeavours.
  • Allow clear, useful information to be easily found at the appropriate places.
  • Empower members to individually and collectively have an actual, meaningful impact on our society.

Site governance

By and large, I would like the whole site to be governed by the whole community.
However, I will provide in the subsections below some basic guidelines and explain how I mean to enforce them.

There will be thus two levels of governance:
At the first level, there are the most basic guidelines that I will set and enforce myself.
At the second level, there are the complementary guidelines as developed by the community and enforced by it.

See also the basic terms of use:
http://en.minguo.info/wiki/terms_of_use

"No Politics! No Religion!"

In many places, whether at the dinner table, at work or on some internet forums, we can hear the mantra: "No Politics! No Religion!".

The logic behind this plea is that those hot topics are considered divisive. People tend to have strong opinions about them and tempers tend to flare. Thus, in order to prevent disputes in some social settings, we are often encouraged to avoid discussing politics and religion.

This approach is short-sighted and even damaging.

I believe both politics and spirituality to be the most important topics of all. They touch to the core of who we are as individuals and who we are as a community.

Politics, in its most noble aspect, is the discussion about the organization of our society, our life in common, and the management of our common property, hopefully in view of the common good. For a collectivity, there cannot be any more important topic.

Spirituality, or religion, is about our inner selves, our inner growth, as human beings. We may have different opinions or perspectives on the topic. We may be theist, deist, atheist, monotheist, polytheist, agnostic, humanist, pagan, etc. and we may disagree on many things. But certainly we can agree that seeking self improvement is a good thing.

We absolutely need to learn to respect our differences. We need to learn to build on what unites us, instead of lettings ourselves be divided by those differences. So by saying "No Politics! No Religion!", we are actually telling people that they do not need to learn mutual respect, mutual acceptance. They see differences as so many insurmountable barriers. This attitude prevents people from seeing what is good in the other person's perspective. The "No Politics! No Religion!" invective robs us from the opportunity to face our demons and from the opportunity to overcome them.

So, my rallying cry is: "Let's discuss politics and religion!! Those are the most important topics of all!" However, this is important, we need to learn how to do so in the utmost respect for different perspectives. Instead of striving at any cost to make people see that "we are right and they are wrong", we should simply make our case calmly and in the best possible way, listen to the others' thoughts on the matter, in acceptance of whatever outcome there may be. Importantly, we need to learn to be swayed by others. Sometimes, we are wrong, not them!

I posted this article in the site governance section to make it plain that: not only is discussion about politics welcome here, but so is discussion about religion. Let each member feel free to say whatever they want to say about those topics. However the usual moderation policies will prevail: I will not tolerate flame wars, insults, coercion, etc. Instead, together, we must nurture a spirit of acceptance, collective and individual freedom of belief and opinions, mutual respect, mutual understanding, and personal humility.

The laws to which this site is subjected

This page is not a legal document, nor is it comprehensive in any way. It simply aims to provide pointers and reminders with regard to various legal obligations that affect this whole site, including myself, as your host, and each and every member.

French law prevails

This site is being hosted in France. As such, it is subjected to French law.

Holocaust denial and denial of Crimes against Humanity

I am quoting wikipedia's article on Laws against Holocaust denial:

In France, the Gayssot Act, voted for on July 13, 1990, makes it illegal to question the existence of crimes that fall in the category of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter of 1945, on the basis of which Nazi leaders were convicted by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945–46.

I personally stand both by the spirit and the letter of the law. When in doubt whether the French law is applicable or not to specific comments, I will err on the side of the spirit of the law and censor the said comment.

The question of Free Speech does not enter the equation. I personally agree with all those who would question the motives of the people who would want to deny the Holocaust. In particular, consider the case in English court of Irving v Penguin Books Ltd:

David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt is a case in English law against American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books, filed in an English court by the British author David Irving in 1996, asserting that Lipstadt had libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust.

The court ruled that Irving is "an active Holocaust denier [...], anti-Semitic and racist".

See:

Laws against promotion of violence and racial hatred

TODO.

Draft articles and ongoing discussion

The pages below are mere drafts and unfinished articles, where I gather my own thoughts related to ongoing discussion.

Read at your own risks!

About debates and discussion

See sub-pages.

Beware how you use the verb 'to be'

This page is a public draft.... Right now, it's only a collection of disjointed points that I wish to expand on later.

- state vs action
- Chinese
- ad hominem
- attack human dignity
- oversimplify complexity of human psychology
- use in positive or uncontroversial statements.
- use with historical figures (napoleon despot)
- use with living people, in derogative sense.

Hierarchy of solutions

This is a draft article.

For want of a better term: Hierarchy of solutions.

From worst to best:
- fight/criticize people who do wrong.
- fight/criticize what is wrong.
- expose/point out wrong ideas.
- talk about the problem in order to seek a solution
- talk about/propose/promote solutions.
- support people who propose solutions.
- actively be part of the solution.

I also tell people:
- Understand the problem.
- Understand the solution
- Make small changes in one's life
- Tell people.

Election methods

Election method: one of the most fundamental issues

The election method used in our public elections is one of the most fundamental issues of our society and affect the very nature of our democracies.

Our elected representatives have tremendous power over us and over our whole society. It is their job to make the laws that govern us. As long as we use an election method that favour party politics, and that make it easy for media and special interests (which are not working for the Common Good) to control the outcome of the election, we will be facing an uphill battle trying to work on the issues that we truly care about: personal liberties, environment protection, economic justice, etc.

There are many good politicians out there, who would receive the support of the electorate. The problem is that the system is rigged against them.

Law making: the Intent of a Law

Coming soon...

Meanwhile, check:
http://en.minguo.info/blogs/augustin/comments_on_freds_thoughts_on_gover...

The principle of subsidiarity

These pages are mere drafts and unfinished articles, where I gather my own thoughts related to ongoing discussion.
Read at your own risks!

The world today is caught between two contradictory movements: one for more globalisation, trade agreements, world government often decried as a New World order, and a movement in the opposite direction which calls for independence, dividing countries into smaller ones, etc.

Those two movements can be justified. We live on a shrinking planet with limited resources that we must share, and in many ways we have no other choice than to learn how to live peacefully together. On the other hand, people crave for peace, security and freedom, things many feel they can only have with self-governance.

It is important to understand the principle of subsidiarity, whereby we must strive to find the right level of governance for each topic or policy item.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidiarity