The role of interest groups and political parties in Practical Democracy


The role of political parties has become a recurring theme is our discussions.

In particular, Fred and myself briefly discussed the role of special interest groups in his Practical Democracy. Their role is only passingly mentioned in his book:
I don't recall that there is a section that details the role of special interest groups in Practical Democracy.

So, I'd like to give Fred an opportunity to describe in greater details his vision.
What role if any would political parties play in Practical Democracy?
What role would special interest groups play in PD?
How are the initial triads organised, with regard to interest group affiliation?
Are such affiliations taken into account at all?

We agree that our current system is rotten. The present use of Plurality Voting has forced special interest groups to evolve into political parties which are not much more than breeding grounds for political hacks.

Together, we can document the role of political parties, and create interesting, well-documented wiki articles that will inform the future readers of this site. The present discussion thread is part of this effort. See also:


Triad reduction

Do triads proceed up levels within their declared interest group? As per the illustration of 25,000, Will their common opinion end up with one representative at level six? 729 people in reducing triads 243-81-27-9-3-1.

Special Interest Group Triads

Good Morning, ran_in_93

Yes. Each interest group advances the best advocate of the group's common interest for as long as the group has enough members remaining to form a triad.

If an interest group forms that only has 3 members, that group will only form one triad and advance one person. Assuming they advance one of their members (which is not a requirement), that person will be placed in the largest group remaining.

If an interest group forms with (for example, as you suggest) 729 members, the progression will be as you show, provided each triad makes a selection. However, it may not always be that smooth. If a triad is unable to make a selection, it will alter the number of active triads.

There are a several reasons why triads may not make a selection. When members of the electorate are grouped with their neighbors, personal affection or animosity may influence the triad's choices. That concern will diminish as the levels advance.

Special interest groups are more likely to make selections than non-partisan triads because people concerned enough with their circumstances to announce membership in an interest group are more action-oriented than lay citizens.

An important aspect of triads that fail to make a selection is that none of the three members have demonstrated the ability to persuade two people of their ability to represent the others. If they are unable to persuade two people of their value, they are not going to be good political leaders for the community, so the triad's failure to make a choice benefits the process.

However many levels a special interest group persists, it will have a tendency (but not a certainty) to advance the individuals who are the best advocates of the groups interests. The effectiveness of their advocacy will depend, in part, on their support of the special interests of the group, but it will also depend on their perceived ability to persuade others of the value of those special interests. This will tend to mellow the influence of the more extreme members of the group.

Limit special interests to special occasions only

Public office elections have a much wider scope than any specific special interest. As wonderfully multifaceted as they present themselves to be, they have their pet project, their preoccupation. Therefore, if this is a democracy, especially a practical one, we should be together in choosing who represents us. After the decision is made, that chosen person is a representative for all of us. In triads at level one, I appreciate the limitations of geography in forming triads so that they can meet face to face while incurring nothing more than the smallest costs in time, travel and meeting space. Equally, I appreciate that immediate family matters. Day to day relationships should not be obstacles in a first level triad meeting. With voluntary identification, an electoral commission could work with that. I also am pleased to agree with the five meeting rule. Familiarity could hamper open discussion of an issue, similar to family. With these reasons for agreement, I am wondering why we allow factions at all. Factions are the very definition of the familiarity that practical democracy does not want. Allowing groups to voluntarily form at the first level is saying “my political family needs to be together”. Why do that? Some people may prefer that we force their formation so as to say “please keep these people away from me for as long as possible”. Why not do that? In a democracy of equals, we should start from the very first level, unafraid to meet everyone else. Keeping only the five meeting rule, geography and immediate family as criteria, the electoral commission will have a much simpler task of putting triads together for all the right reasons.

Answers to 4 questions about triads

re: Is the "no family" database built on voluntary disclosure?

As far as I'm concerned (which may not be the final determinant), ensuring that one's name and family membership are properly recorded in the community's database should be voluntary.

re: With the 5 meeting rule, does that mean the minimum number required to form a group is 11?

No. The provision is that the "random grouping mechanism must insure that no two people are assigned to a triad if they served together in a triad in any of the five most recent elections."

If you and I were assigned to the same triad in the 2016 U. S. Congressional election, we cannot be assigned to the same triad until five more elections have passed. Congressional elections take place every two years, so we could not be assigned to the same triad before 2026.

re: can people unilaterally leaving a group, but joining one where they are not wanted?

Triad assignments are made by an Electoral Commission and may not be changed. However, participation is voluntary. One may drop out of a triad at any time; the remaining members may continue. If two members drop out, the third can report him- or herself as the person chosen to advance. If more than one person claims to have been chosen to advance, their entire triad is disqualified.

Membership in (special interest) groups is entirely voluntary. Dropping out of a special interest group triad is no different than dropping out of any other triad.

re: Do you see budget limitations, regarding geography, becoming a veto on groups forming?

This will depend on those who implement the process.

The process is most apt to be adopted in relatively small communities, first, and the community should provide meeting facilities, as requested, for the first several levels. At the lowest levels, rooms in the local schools can be made available. At the more advanced levels facilities in the town hall or other arrangements can be made.

As the process spreads and is adopted by larger communities, it will involve more levels. At the very highest levels, when state and federal candidates are meeting, the government should arrange the necessary facilities.

In general, there should be no compensation for candidates, although they may need job protection like that provided for military service or jury duty. It may also be necessary to provide transportation to distant triad meeting locations.

frequency in a large community

How frequently do you see the first level triads meeting in a large electorate? In a practical America, would there be one of these every year? I could see multi-year cycle of electing a mayor one year, a representative to the state in the following year, etc. In my part of Canada, there are fixed date municipal elections every 3 years (voting for a mayor, a city councillor, and a school board trustee), a provincial election up to 5 years apart for district representation, and a federal election up to 5 years apart for district representation.

I see voter fatigue if there is too much politics. I worry when one person shows up a meeting and gets to up a level.
I would like a participation threshold where, for example, a seven level process is dissolved when say 50% of the basic triads are no longer represented. It points at a problem.

Frequency and Enthusiasm

Initially, the frequency would be set by present practice. In time, I'd like to see an election every year, each electing people to replace officials whose terms of office are expiring. In the final analysis, though, it doesn't matter what I think. The frequency will be set by those who implement the practice.

I'm less inclined than you to worry about voter fatigue. I think participation and enthusiasm will increase when people see they can actually influence political action. Right now, there are a lot of people who are fed up with politics, but that's because all they can do is rant and rave. They can't have an actual impact on political events.

There will always be people who don't care, but their number will diminish sharply when (1) they can have a significant impact on the choice of the people's representatives, and (2) there is a genuine chance they can reach public office on the strength of their character and ideas.

A participation threshold may be necessary. I don't think lack of interest will be a problem because the people who advance will always be the most motivated people. I'm more concerned about the interactions within the triads at the higher levels. I think they might be very intense. When you have three motivated people, each wanting to advance, it might get very heated.

Don't you think the ones who transcend in this environment will tend to be good leaders?

Followers all

Does a particular election flow through triads until a workable number of participants can make a decision together? In the simplified illustration, 25 thousand becomes 12 at the end of 7 levels. I guess the 12 meet in one room and decide. It seems like triads at the first few levels are answering a different question than the ones at the higher levels. If it’s time to elect a state governor, most of the initial 8334 triads will have no one wanting to run for "leader", but they will want to put forward a representative who will pick a good "leader". What happens if you accidentally end up with no one wanting to run for "leader" at the highest level? Oops, all sheep.

Filling Open Seats

I'm sorry for the delay, ran_in_93, I had a few down days.

re: Does a particular election flow through triads until a workable number of participants can make a decision together?

That's the basic idea. The actual mechanics will depend on the circumstances, but I'd think a town of 25,000 would have several local offices expiring; seats on the Town Council, seats on the School Board, and perhaps the mayor. In addition, it might have candidates for county, state and federal offices (who will compete with candidates from other communities).

Your idea is pretty much what I had in mind: When the process selects just enough candidates to fill the open seats, the chosen individuals decide which individual will fill each seat.

It's arbitrary, but let's say there are nine open seats: three on the Town Council, two on the School Board, one State Senator, two State Representatives, and one Federal Representative, so the process stops when 12 individuals have been chosen, and those 12 decide, by consensus if possible, by vote if necessary, which person will fill which seat.

That means three people will not be chosen for any seat and four will continue in a competition which may not advance them. That's a tough situation, but I believe they will work it out.

I don't think "no one wanting to run" will be a problem. Competitiveness is a strong human trait. Folks who have little or no interest in public office will drop out long before the process reaches the seventh level. Those who have advanced this far know what the risks of non-selection are and are willing to take that chance.