Responses to Concerns About Flux
Email, 23rd Jan 2016
I would like some clarity on a couple of your stated objectives.. One being your goal of giving industry (or experts as you refer to them) free reign to write policy.. Clearly Industry and corporations dictating policy is a major destructive element globally and in our society.... Secondly your statement @the best explained (or sold) policy being implemented over or despite the number of voices.???? Sounds very contradictory to the theme of empowering people.. Yes we need change desperately , but handing more control to Industry to dictate even more , clearly doesn't work for people.. I would love an explanation
We don't want to give anyone free reign over policy, rather we would like specialists and interested parties to have the smallest barrier possible to improving policy.
Clearly Industry and corporations dictating policy is a major destructive element globally and in our society
Yes, it currently is. However, industry is also one of the largest groups to gain from good policy. To pick a non-contentious example: financial businesses have a huge compliance burden in validating every client (Know Your Customer regulations). I'm aware of several efforts from several fronts to solve this problem (knowing your clients aren't terrorists while reducing the cost and liability of holding private data) involving banks to insurance companies and even small forex exchanges. If they could independently come up with better legislation and had the potential to put it forward, that saves the country, and the economy, millions or billions of dollars a year (current compliance costs are in the range of $2 Billion if I'm not mistaken, just in Australia alone). If the industry did put something forward that was good, and we reject it only because it came from industry, then we'd only be shooting ourselves in the foot.
So the question is how then do we encourage that sort of development of policy? In such a way to ensure nobody really has much of a problem with it (which is the case with most legislation, we'll get to the other stuff in a moment). I think the answer is in letting boring (good) policy through. When good policy is suggested it must have a good explanation behind it. When that's the case there will be few parties that strongly disagree, thus in a vote sharing market there will be low demand for the votes, and thus it's very easy to acquire said votes, helping the legislation pass. There is, of course, the rest of parliament to contend with in the early days.
However, if the policy is bad then there will be people out there that don't want it to pass (particularly because it will fail / have bad side effects / etc). In some cases bad legislation would stop here. In other cases it will pass and quickly be noted that it's bad. Flux then focuses on undoing that mistake as quickly as possible; or an improvement. This relates back to the idea that people will argue till the end of days about theoretical matters, but when real progress happens it's hard to ignore. Before rocketry there was a huge debate in the scientific community where one side claimed rockets couldn't possibly work in space. As soon as it happened it ended the debate. Flux hopes to help bring this sort of quality into politics.
Secondly your statement @the best explained (or sold) policy being implemented over or despite the number of voices? Sounds very contradictory to the theme of empowering people
In some cases it's the only way to empower people. Take a situation with 100 people, 1 or 2 experts, and 98 people who are specialists in other things, but not in this case. Perhaps our experts suggest a policy, and given direct democracy the other 98% might vote no. However, in an ecosystem where those other 98% want to do their own thing more than participating in this one policy, they might swap their votes between issues, and thus our 1 or 2 experts can acquire enough votes to help their legislation pass. If it is bad legislation everyone else will start to take notice, however, if it's good then everyone keeps doing what they're doing and we get better legislation. In order to provide real democratic potential to every person we need to allow them to do things like this, otherwise all the good ideas from our experts get lost, the experts become tired and bitter, and we don't improve as a country.
Yes we need change desperately , but handing more control to Industry to dictate even more , clearly doesn't work for people
Remember that every bit of legislation that comes before Flux / Parliament will have votes distributed to every participant. So nobody has anything close to the ability to dictate policy by default (unlike the Westminster system). This means that when something unjust is suggested it is very simple to stop it.
Keep in mind, when thinking about this, that Flux only works as an ecosystem. It doesn't work for one or two issues, it works for hundreds, and we live in a country lucky enough to have hundreds of problems with hundreds and thousands of groups already set up to tackle these issues. Flux is a big step up because it allows us to bridge the real world and Parliament, giving real democratic reach to the people who already care enough to do something about it.
Hope this helps clarify, Cheers, Max Leader, Flux
PS. We're going to release some videos after registration that go into more detail on exactly these sorts of concerns.
Email, 14th Jan 2016
What happens if everyone decides to vote for a policy that is contrary to some of the higher principles you have. For example everyone registered decides to vote to [insert terrible actions here]?
Flux, like any democratic system, is able to be used for evil as well as good. What we focus on is the ability of Flux to correct mistakes, instead of pushing through the 'right' policy from day one (which we think is part of the problem with canonical democracy). Ultimately we always make room for the possibility that whatever is current policy is wrong, and this means sometimes we might exist in an intermediate place that isn't ideal. To answer your first question: the integrity of Flux is of the utmost importance, so we vote in such a way to maintain that always. Simply: if Flux maintains integrity it is still able to fix mistakes later on, but if we try to vote on personal morals (ignoring the direction of the Flux system) we destroy the integrity of Flux and thus can't use it to fix mistakes later on (or at least the ability is diminished), thus we err on the side of protecting Flux.
The Flux way of dealing with this problem is not to tackle it head on, but rather to incentivise the creation of new options. Some people might call this 'finding a middle ground' but this is misleading because it implies compromise and a mix of two policies. Rather the new options that can solve these sorts of issues are orthogonal to that middle ground. It's difficult to come up with examples because that would solve the problem in and of itself, though I'm sure there are good ideas out there which aren't being considered (and is one of the reasons we're creating Flux).
I want to assure you that if we thought Flux would be to the long term detriment of humanity we wouldn't be pursuing it.
Because of the sharing and swapping marketplace Flux creates (for political power), maintaining long term bad policy is very difficult and expensive. Particularly, in a case where there are two clear sides determined to 'fight it out' each side can continuously introduce amendments and cause the other side to engage (lest legislation passes). [Aside: This is particularly a case where 100% of the parliament used Flux to keep it simpler.] This causes each side to focus their energy and resources on two paths: directly defend the status quo (or attempt to alter it, respectively), and submit amendments or new policy strategically. This sort of system produces an equilibrium that is unstable in the direction of better policy. This itself is a really fantastic feature, but isn't immediately obvious or easily explained (yet!).
If you don't mind long books: The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch lays the framework for the explanation. The book is about a way of understanding knowledge and particularly the behaviour of knowledge (which might sound like an odd thing to say, but what I mean is it answers questions like "what do all good explanations have in common" and "what sort of conditions are necessary for progress").
I'm thinking of starting to make some videos where I just answer different questions. The one you've asked is probably the biggest one to answer, and might require an essay in itself.
Unfortunately I'm short on time at the moment, so I will have to leave the explanation somewhat incomplete, though I hope you can see the scaffolding.
 Some definitions:
'bad' policy: formed without an explanation behind it, just an ideological position rather than explanation, arbitrary, etc
'expensive': in the Flux marketplace tokens exist to swap. When attempting to acquire a monopoly position in a vote it becomes asymptotically difficult due to demand and supply.
Written by Max:
- What is Flux?
Flux is a platform for the redistribution of political power: it moves us towards issue based politics. You can think of it like an app that runs in parliament. Normal apps let you do something with your phone you couldn’t do before; Flux lets us do things in parliament we couldn’t do before. Particularly it puts a direct impact on policy within an arm’s reach of all Australians, even if that will be small at first.
- How is it different to other parties?
Other parties come from a top-down, authoritarian point of view: “We think this, these are our policies, this is how government should work, this is who should rule.” Even parties which are pro-democracy can’t help but provide an authoritarian answer to “Who should rule?” We come at it from a very different angle: we ask “How do we can consistently produce better and better policy?” Flux is our answer, and is centered around removing bad policy, instead of focusing on what is Right from the outset. Our answer means we don’t have policies of our own, but want to help Australians combine all their opinions and political efforts in a different way to get better results. Particularly, Flux helps produce higher quality policy, helps undo bad policy or amend it, gives every Australian a direct way to influence parliament, and increases accountability for decision makers - even if they aren’t part of Flux (like the Government). Without all of these mechanisms we can’t consistently improve policy.
- Why did you start Flux?
We both believe Flux has an incredible potential to help humanity. Not only is good democracy hard to implement (evidenced by many of the less stable democracies around the world), even the highly regarded democracies suffer from low approval ratings and constant dissatisfaction. We want to create a democracy that doesn’t suffer from the same diseases. Because of the potential for good Flux presents, it is a challenge we are unwilling to postpone.
- What is Flux's platform, (as it's very different to most parties platforms)?
Flux’s platform is to change how decisions are made, and, for each issue, to help put the comparatively best people in a position to solve it. There is no way to know who the best person is for a given issue, so we use a market system which allows voters to reorganise themselves. This allows communities, specialists, activists, and other voters to directly influence the policy we pass in parliament, and to stand in the way of unjust, badly formed, or arbitrary policy.
- What do you see as the most influential ideologies for Flux?
The biggest influence is David Deutsch and his breathtakingly profound book, The Beginning of Infinity. Other influences include Bernard Lietaer and his work on complementary currencies, Satoshi Nakamoto and his work on Bitcoin and Blockchains, and Karl Popper and his work in political philosophy. The guiding philosophies behind Flux are fallibilism and realism.
- What issues have Flux members so far identified as important?
We’ve had an incredibly diverse response from our members. Some are disenfranchised LNP voters (at least one of whom is interested in an NDIS), some are far left and express concerns about human rights and refugees, some are IT specialists and are dismayed at the quality of legislation around the internet and cryptography. We really have had an incredibly diverse set of people respond. There is one thing they all have in common though: the current system isn’t good enough.
- What are your backgrounds? (career backgrounds)
I’ve been working all my professional life in IT, starting in support and now working in software development and blockchain consulting.
- So called microparties are a big thing in Australian politics and since the 2013 federal election especially, have become very influential. Why do you think that these smaller parties are becoming more popular in Australian politics
I think minor parties, since the early 90s, have always been viewed in the negative light they’re portrayed in now: Keating famously referred to them as ‘unrepresentative swill’. The difference now, I suspect, is our system is struggling to produce good policy, either because we have more criticism of policy, or because the agendas that are being pushed are themselves not resistant to criticism. This results in the lashing out at minor parties we see. Despite this, minor parties play a very important role in preventing tyranny (in the same way that a proportion of randomly elected parliamentarians would play an important role).
Australians can sense the lack of good governance, and minor parties are becoming increasingly popular (among some voters) because none of the major parties (LNP, ALP, Greens) are able to represent those voters. When you think about it, a system of democracy that isn’t able to deal with a diverse votership can’t be that good at the end of the day.
The problem of their unrepresentative power is, of course, the same as the ‘third largest party problem’ in the UK, whereby the decision lies with whomever finds themselves on the margin. This isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, though is often abused.
- Australian politics has been quite turbulent over the past 6-7 years. Do you think that is a problem and if so what does Flux want to do to remedy it.
Yes, it is a problem, though it is a symptom of something larger. Volatility in itself isn’t a problem in the same way as, say, CFCs and the ozone layer were a problem. Rather it is a problem in the same way that UV rays are: it’s harmful but simply making it go away isn’t how we can solve the problem. The problem of bad governance has never been solved before, and thus we need a solution that hasn’t been tried before: Flux is that solution.
- Flux advertises itself as new kind of democracy. What in particular is new and why?
The main difference is not engaging with the ‘who should rule?’ question. Particularly there is an emphasis on a lack of permission: anyone is able to contribute, and provided their policy is uncontested it should pass with relative ease. (This is not exactly how it will go when Flux has less than a critical mass of parliament, since all other parliamentarians will vote on proposed legislation too.)
A secondary difference, that is also philosophically significant, is the jump to universality: Flux is able to host a democracy of any size, with any makeup of voters, across any distance without losing the ability to produce good policy. In other words: it scales really well. (NB: there are a few technical issues that arise currently simply due to the constraints of technology, so there are practical limits at the moment, however, I suspect within 5 or 10 years the state of technology will mean Flux can support all 7-8 billion people on Earth.)
- Flux allows members of other political parties to join, which is very different! Why is that - and what do other political parties think about that?
We haven’t really talked to any other parties about our multi-party policy, but really it comes down to the AEC rules for registration. As long as someone hasn’t helped another party register recently we’re happy to have their support.
I don’t really see it as anything different to, say, dual citizenship.
- Flux seems to be marketed mainly at youth. How do you think young people and students see politics these days?
We’re trying to market across the board as much as possible, though the site does certainly have a younger feel to it. Most of our members are Gen X or older (we have more than a few retirees in our ranks), so if anything this (slightly) confirms the myth that millennials and students are largely apathetic and disenfranchised. This also lines up with my personal experience. We hope that Flux can offer them an outlet to help reinvigorate real political interaction instead of sideline activism (which was, at least, my experience at uni).
That said, there’s also a lot of emotion in student political groups, as if political motivations are really unevenly distributed. This leads to a dichotomy which either promotes apathy or almost extremism to the point of violence, neither of which are healthy in the long run. I really hope that means both groups are just looking for a way to express themselves, and so far haven’t found it.
- What do you ultimately hope to achieve?
Our ultimate purpose is to bring real democratic potential to every hand. Because Flux can deal with a democracy of any size without straining -- unlike Direct Democracy, Representative Democracy, or Liquid Democracy -- we hope to provide the beginning of a framework to unify every person in one productive, accessible, and just system of governance (without coercion).
- Is there anything either of you want to add or elaborate on?
If anyone is looking for more details our website is voteflux.org, and my personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone with questions can email me directly, or chat with us on twitter (@voteflux) or facebook. I’d also like to recommend everyone read The Beginning of Infinity; it truly is the most significant book I’ve ever read.