Date: Dec 25, 2012 5:08 PM
Author: kirby urner
Subject: Re: Would effective gun control laws be 'unacceptable social engineering'?

On Mon, Dec 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM, GS Chandy <> wrote:

<< SNIP >>

> I repeat that what we achieve through the 'power to vote' (without those
> further structural changes) is only 'nominal democracy'. [I believe that
> this is what Kirby Urner is getting at when he discusses the "Occupy"
> movements, for all their flaws and weaknesses (mainly, I believe, that they
> are not about to give us anything like a 'sustainable democracy' that can
> be applied across society)].

You should think of me as an empirical scientist wanting to give more of my
fellow humans more chances to experiment (successfully and unsuccessfully)
with ways of self-governance.

Such experimentation is happening already, as people practice steering
school boards, small businesses, county governments, small countries,
mega-states, religious organizations, non-profits, unions, zoos, game
parks, naval fleets and so on and so forth.

Institutions in other words.

Humans develop them (institutions), sometimes from shared, open,
thought-out designs, and sometimes more haphazardly, or in response to
shamans or diviners who instruct based on intuitions (visions, prophecies).

What I'd like to see continued, is the possibility of humans coming
together on the basis of shared values and visions, to create communities
and civilizations in great numbers, partially overlapping and engaged in
the exchange of goods, services, and personnel.

In the Occupy movement we saw a great many encampments spontaneously
forming and individuals actively exploring ways to form community. A
system of arm bands was spontaneously adopted with people semi-choosing
their roles. Forms of governance were tried.

I'm not claiming some bold success, only there seemed a lot of pent up
willingness to creatively explore institution building. I'd like to
facilitate more of that happening.

Where a lot of self governance is clearly needed and has to be there
already in some form, is in refugee camps, especially those of long
standing. I would like to facilitate the positive synergetic outcomes that
might result from greater cross-fertilization not just of abstract ideas,
ideologies, meme-plexes (complexes), but of artifacts, such as GIS and GPS
devices, smart phones and the like.

I'm not into dealing in outward weapons (as a trade), so lets say roughly
"civilian goods" though straying into para-military in that "survival gear"
might be army surplus and you have more than just usual urban skills
needed, such as maybe the training to jumping from an airplane with a
parachute (I've only done that once so far).

In addition, there are categories of software that might be developed that
distill a lot of practice and wisdom in an easy to use form. The minute
taker at the meetings is entering into the shared database, so minutes are
easily called up later. Roles have been defined, and committees.

You might be thinking of a congress right now, with its shared speaking
chambers and smaller meeting rooms. That would be apt. The congressional
record flows to the electronic archives, and goes out to the people via
Web. Or call it a "general assembly" -- it might just be virtual much of
the time, or a combination (we played with this at Occupy, having a general
assembly with live feeds). Smaller meetings: also virtual much of the
time. That's why the telephone was and is so convenient: you don't need
to burn fuel to get the sense of the meeting.

Finally, when it comes to localizing an encampment, you want a "not tacky"
aspect, which means good feng shui with the environment, not just rows and
columns. Encampment architects have more to work with as we fill the
inventory with new catalog items, including but not restricted to new kinds
of dome.

J. Baldwin's "pillow dome" is promising in that the triangular shell panels
are like sealed pillows of inert gas that's non-filtering or UV-damping as
required. The Eden Project in Cornwall (UK) shows off similar concepts.

Could a people evolve new forms of government out of the blue? They bring
a lot of cultural baggage with them. However, skilled designers could
create small self government communities from zero and get them going, set
them running, themselves as participants. This was the promise of moving
to a New World not so long ago: many peoples immigrated to North America
hoping to start over with new patterns for civilization. The USA itself
was such a project. We can argue how successful.

The point being: how do we allow many such experiments to continue and/or
get off the ground? Low barriers to entry is part of it. The open source
movement, in not enforcing intellectual property rights, but rather
encouraging sharing, is starting over with the basic machines a
civilization might need.

Exactly which 50 or 100 machines those would be is worth discussing, but
there's no need to reach some "right answer". The goal is to get a lot of
people launched within their chosen experimental communities, and to have
better than adequate shelter (protection from extremes) and nutrition in
the process.

The Occupy encampment we created in downtown Portland, was in no way a full
cycle, full service community. It was "half-assed" by any account. I was
fine with it being taken down when the time came. However, as an
experiment, I consider it both successful and a source of personnel. New
contacts were made. Community building happened, and has continued

The role of voting and polling is somewhat complicated. I have this book
'Democracy Despite Itself' to think about as well. It's not like we expect
humans to be suddenly more rational or logical than they are. The book's
thesis is participation in and of itself smooths the pathways for
governance to happen, in a somewhat "between the lines" way sometimes.

It's like when individuals guess "how many jelly beans in a jar": their
individual guesses are often wildly off, but the aggregate intelligence is
actually spot on. The effects of "averaging" are not as simple as the
operations of adding and multiplying in arithmetic would lead us to

"Groupthink" is both a descending spiral, a bad trip, and a soaring to
higher levels, i.e. the power of groups to work for better or for worse is
amplified beyond the idea of "individuals working independently" in some
simple-minded simple sum. Homeostasis, equilibrium, stabilizing
self-governance, a balancing act -- whatever you wish to call it, it
sometimes happens, even when no one individual is the homunculus of the
leviathan's intelligence (allusion to Hobbes).

Many will seek to "channel" and / or claim to "predict" the group mind, all
of which is just more welcome participation.


> You would clearly understand all of this if you actually worked out what
> democracy really means - "government OF the people; BY the people; FOR the
> people". That takes some doing - both in terms of 'understanding' and in
> terms of 'practice on the ground' (and there is very little experience in
> the world of that needed practice).
> What the power to vote provides is only some initial, halting moves
> towards government BY and FOR the people.
> NONE of the above means I am dumping on the 'power to vote' or on those
> who died to bring about that important - even crucial - step to democracy.
> But we all do need to recognize that the 'power to vote' by itself will
> bring about nothing more than 'nominal democracy'. This is something that
> many proponents of 'anti-democracy' realize pretty well but that very few
> 'pro-democracy' proponents adequately realize.