April 10th, 2013

WSFS Logo

Popular Ratification

A longer version of this post is in a comment over here, but I'll say it here for the record again:

I am in favor of replacing the current system of ratifying changes to the WSFS Constitution (a vote in person at the Business Meeting of the Worldcon following the one where the proposal first passed, with only persons present in person eligible to vote) with what I call Popular Ratification. In my proposal, anything passed by the Year 1 Business Meeting would be submitted to a vote of all of the members, supporting and attending, of the Year 2 Worldcon at the same time as the Hugo Final Ballot. Anyone eligible to vote on the Hugo Final Ballot could vote on the ratification question. Voting would close at the same time as the Hugo Final Ballot (about four weeks pre-Worldcon). The results would be announced at the Year 2 Preliminary Business Meeting, but would not take effect until the end of Year 2 (just like amendments today don't take effect until the end of the Worldcon that ratifies them). Any proposal that gets more yes votes than no votes passes. No quorum. No minimum vote requirements. No voting fees (other than you have to be a member of the current Worldcon to vote).

While I think the regular BM attendees would consider this to be a radical, dangerous proposal, and I'm thus reluctant to work too hard on putting it through the Business Meeting, I also think it would go some way toward cutting the legs out from under the argument that it's "unfair" that members have to be present in person to have any say in the constitutional amendment process.

Aside: I would include as a rider on this particular proposal that it would have to be ratified by both the existing system and by its own process. In other words, it would have to pass in Year 1, be ratified by the Business Meeting in Year 2, then be submitted to the members for vote in Year 3, and if they approve it, it would take effect at the end of year 3. Amendments passed at Year 2 would be subject to ratification in Year 3 by the existing process. Amendments first passed at the Year 3 Business Meeting would be subject to the new process, submitted to the members of Year 4. (You can do this because you know the results of the ratification vote at the start of the Year 3 Business Meeting.)

Cons: This would raise Worldcon administrative costs. It would remove the Year 2 Business Meeting as a "House of Revision" able to reduce the scope of pending amendments; ratification would be strictly up or down. It would still not allow non-attending members to send primary legislation straight to a ratification vote (like the California initiative constitutional amendment process does).

Pros: It would allow non-attending members who already have Hugo voting rights a voice in the process. It would improve the "legitimacy" of WSFS government by removing the requirement of physical presence at a Worldcon Business Meeting at every stage of the process. It would reduce the plausibility of the argument that the entire WSFS governance process in the hands of a "bureaucracy" that never lets "real fans" have a say.
Not Sensible

Different Worldviews

I find myself wondering what Jonathan McAlmont and Danny O'Dare do to put bread on the table, and musing over whether whatever that is compared to my Day Jobbe is one of the reasons we are talking past each other to the point where I have taken Mary Kay Kare's advice about saying anything else over there. (In short, I am "Just [letting] people be wrong on the Internet…", as he asks.)

My Day Jobbe, which I should be doing right now and will be again in a few minutes, is a computer database programmer. I primarily write and maintain Microsoft Access-based small database application for quick deployment. (Warning: People who snark that Access isn't a "real database" will be considered discussion derailers and treated accordingly. I'm allowed to do that on my home turf, evil person that I am.) Being a programmer gives me a certain view of how I approach the world, process-wise. The character traits that led me into computer solutions engineering possibly are what drew me to an interest in parliamentary law, which is also a large rule-set that a knowledgeable person can "program" to accomplish certain tasks. I find satisfaction when the rules have been followed and everyone has had their say within those rules, even if I don't necessarily get my way. (Besides, if I lose, I often have a way to come back another day when the conditions have changed.) That doesn't necessarily mean I like the result, but if the decision was legal, I have no grounds for attacking on that basis.

(Example: the Mark Protection Committee's decisions in Australia in 2011 2010 were legal within the rules framework, even though their substance infuriated me. I therefore worked within that same framework to overturn the decision legally. I never claimed the decision was illegitimate, only ill-advised, and I'd have a very difficult time having a meaningful discussion with someone who doesn't see the difference.)

Not everyone thinks rules are worthwhile. That doesn't make them inherently evil (c.f. the Dungeons & Dragons "chaotic good" alignment; I'm probably lawful good on that scale, recognizing that paladins and their ilk can be a right pain to be around), but it often makes it nearly impossible for me to have a useful debate with them, on account of we differ so badly on basic assumptions. It's as though I brought a golf club and they have a tennis racquet, and we're standing in the middle of cricket pitch trying to play the game. (Of course, being adverse to rules, they probably aren't interested in any competitive sports anyway, but that's another story.)