CAB-October-meeting.0.png

Jackson Hts., NY, October 3, 2012 - We’ve scheduled a first discussion about an effective governance model for the .nyc TLD for Thursday, from 10 to 11 AM. While the city’s signing a contractor agreement to operate and market the TLD has limited the city’s oversight options, there are a number of open issues, e.g., the name set-asides for civic and government domain names. As well, over the life of the TLD, changing circumstances will best be addressed with broad public input.

Following up on earlier statements about engaging the public in developing plans for the .nyc TLD, the city announced some initial steps for public engagement steps in its Digital Roadmap,

“…the City of New York will establish a community advisory board and convene public listening sessions to encourage meaningful input into the development of the .nyc strategy.” 

Our initial thoughts on the proper structure for the community advisory board (CAB) were presented in a recent wiki post, which said about CAB membership:

“Reflecting the multistakeholder model, CAB members should be selected by government (the city council and mayor), business, and civil society.”

Some have suggested that the Multistakeholder model is flawed, placing it outside the scope of democracy’s evolution. The following is adopted from writings of Parminder Jeet Singh of ITforChange, and describes the stages of that evolution.

  • Version 1.0 was when elected officials assumed full authority to legislate and execute, once they were elected, without any reliance on any auxiliary democratic processes of public consultations. Ministries were steeped in deep secrecy and considerable aloofness from the public.
  • Version 2.0 begun when elected officials started to employ some processes of democracy beyond elections, like undertaking public consultation on various legislative proposals, stakeholder consultations with those directly affected by any governmental measure, forming ad hoc or standing committees with civil society and outside expert participation, instituting right to information legislation  etc….. However, at this stage, public participation was still largely ad hoc, mostly on the terms of the government, and largely not institutionalized.
  • Version 3.0 of democracy … is about strong institutionalization of means and processes of participation (outside of elections) in an ongoing manner, whereby the agenda of such participation can be set with a greatly curtailed influence of the government, if any, the processes are largely out of control of governments… It is independently institutionalized, funded, legitimized, etc. However, there is never a doubt that actual policy making authority remains with representative democratic bodies… There has always to be sufficiently clear difference between institutions of participation, while they have to made as strong and inclusive as possible,  and those of legislation and execution.

Thursday’s discussion will begin a search for an appropriate model for New York’s TLD. [Sorry if you missed the discussion. See this wiki post to see the follow up.] (Commons graphic courtesy of avistadecerdo.)

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Filed October 2nd, 2012 under Domain Name, City-TLDs, Civics, Governance
  1. I recently read the following comment by Paul Lehto on the Civil Society Internet Governance Forum. It succinctly presents a vital difference between Multistakeholder vs. Democratic governance.

    Tom Lowenhaupt

    Message Subject:

    In Multistakeholderism, those who would be Lobbyists become Legislators, & nobody else has a vote.

    Message Body:

    The subject line says it most succinctly: In Multistakeholderism, those who would be Lobbyists become Legislators, & nobody else has a vote.

    In a democracy, it is a scandal that lobbyists have so much influence that they even write the drafts of laws. But in multistakeholder situations they take that scandal to a whole new level: those who would be lobbyists in a democracy (corporations, experts, civil society) become the legislators themselves, and dispense with all public elections and not only write the laws but pass them, enforce them, and in some cases even set up courts of arbitration that are usually conditioned on waiving the right to go to the court system set up by democracies.

    A vote is just a minimum requirement of justice. Without a vote, law is just force inflicted by the wealthy and powerful. Multistakeholderism is a coup d’etat against democracy by those who would merely be lobbyists in a democratic system. So yes, I think it is misleading at best to use the word “democratic” in reference to multistakeholder systems.

    Paul R. Lehto, J.D.

    Paul R Lehto, J.D.
    P.O. Box 1
    Ishpeming, MI 49849
    lehto.paul@gmail.com

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on October 24, 2012 at 8:03 am

  2. To this comment, Dr. Alejandro Pisanty Baruch added:

    Paul,

    the theory in your posts is on track IMO.

    However it does not model the processes being discussed and therefore the conclusions are rather a non sequitur.

    Going back to the ICANN election which in part sparked this discussion, the electorate is not well formed. There is a basic, small electorate which pre-exists the election, and then there is the chance that each candidate will add a pool of followers whose vote is predetermined.

    As mentioned some time ago, this is the equivalent of the situation in poor regions of my country and others in which the party with the money or the power carries hundreds of voters to each precinct by trucking them in. The level of capture is unacceptably undemocratic even if there is no money exchanged nor any other benefit traded.

    A vote in this context can only work if the electorate comprises a huge fraction of the world’s population. I hope the delusion of a single global government scares you as much as it does me, or at least appears as much of a delusion.

    We are left with multistakeholderism and managing its deficit if we actually want to get something done, while the larger issues get fixed or remain unsolved. Full awareness of the problem helps us curtail the abuses. And a lot of principled people are involved, genuinely invested in keeping the game fair and open. Checks and balances, as well as mechanisms to review, revise, and redress decisions, due process, etc. are being put in place and tested

    This may be a poor remedy for our haughty aspirations. But the alternatives are being tested as well and turning out worse.

    Yours,

    Alejandro Pisanty

    Dr. Alejandro Pisanty
    UNAM, Av. Universidad 3000, 04510 Mexico DF Mexico

    Blog: http://pisanty.blogspot.com
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/pisanty
    Unete al grupo UNAM en LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/22285/4A106C0C8614
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/apisanty

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on October 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

  3. And on Wednesday Oct 24, 2012 at 1:03 AM, Paul Lehto responded:

    — Paul,

    — the theory in your posts is on track IMO.

    Thanks, though it is more than just theory, it is an explication of fundamental human rights that clearly state (in somewhat different but equivalent words) that legitimacy in governance is created only from representative governance.

    — However it does not model the processes being discussed and therefore the conclusions are rather a non sequitur.

    I derive a series of “tests” from this related to minimum standards that are applicable to all governance systems creating enforceable laws or regulations, and then I apply these tests to any process being discussed, so there is no possibility of non sequitur in terms of whether my tests apply to governance fact patterns or not, only the question of whether the tests are being applied correctly or not.

    Justifications for MS rest on the alleged expertise of stakeholders and the alleged ignorance of voters. As to ignorance, this is always the justification for non-democratic systems. But if you think about it, even experts and informed voters do not become fully informed until “the last second” - after a process of becoming informed and listening to other points of view. The allegation that someone is presently uninformed about a question that is not coming up very soon for a binding vote of some sort is to be expected of nearly every voter and even nearly every expert, at least until the last moment. Nobody has all the answers in their own head, this is why we have meetings and discussions to access the wisdom of the whole. But as to democracy, centuries of input by many generations have perfected the minimum standards for democratic justice and these standards have been ratified in innumerable treaties and constitutions, starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    — Going back to the ICANN election which in part sparked this discussion, the electorate is not well formed. There is a basic, small electorate which pre-exists the election, and then there is the chance that each candidate will add a pool of followers whose vote is predetermined.

    — As mentioned some time ago, this is the equivalent of the situation in poor regions of my country and others in which the party with the money or the power carries hundreds of voters to each precinct by trucking them in. The level of capture is unacceptably undemocratic even if there is no money exchanged nor any other benefit traded.

    The fact or allegation that more democratic means can be and sometimes are corrupted does not mean that more just and democratic means should not be sought.

    — A vote in this context can only work if the electorate comprises a huge fraction of the world’s population. I hope the delusion of a single global government scares you as much as it does me, or at least appears as much of a delusion.

    MS systems with worldwide impact - which presently exist - are forms of world government/governance. I don’t agree that this hobgoblin of “world government” necessarily should scare anyone away from minimum standards of democratic justice in the form of a ballot. Many voters are more than happy to stay away from voting in elections which they do not feel themselves sufficiently informed on, and are also willing to inform themselves sufficiently if there is real reason to do so in the form of a binding vote coming up in the very near future.

    — We are left with multistakeholderism and managing its deficit if we actually want to get something done, while the larger issues get fixed or remain unsolved. Full awareness of the problem helps us curtail the abuses. And a lot of principled people are involved, genuinely invested in keeping the game fair and open. Checks and balances, as well as mechanisms to review, revise, and redress decisions, due process, etc. are being put in place and tested

    I think the main take away, and the main cause of this most recent discussion in this thread, is not ICANN per se but the suggestion that MS systems are democracy, perhaps even in its highest form. This idea is nonsense. Rather, MS systems - if they are necessary for the moment because no electoral systems are presently set up - need to constantly work towards legitimacy by instituting voting for representatives instead of holding themselves up as “democratic” when they are not. Voting for a representative is a far cry from the technical sophistication that may often be required in the votes that the representative makes after being elected.

    — This may be a poor remedy for our haughty aspirations. But the alternatives are being tested as well and turning out worse.

    There is no worse alternative than being subject to the regulation of a body that can not be democratically dissolved or changed if it is oppressive or ineffectual because there is no voting…. When you say something is “worse” you are implying, but not stating, some standard by which you are judging this. Though I don’t know your standards, most often one of these standards is the desire for “correct” and “wise” positions. Here, some humility is in order because all of us always think we have the “right” answers after we’ve informed ourselves, and that other answers are therefore wrong. We may fear changes in policy and regulation and believe that such would be “wrong”, and the prospect of expanding the franchise for governance purposes raises the specter of “right” decisions being reversed and becoming “wrong.” But we also know intellectually after reflection that we are not perfect and are occasionally or frequently wrong without even knowing it at the time.

    Each one of us, once we arrive at what we think is a “good idea”, tends very highly to have a little dictator inside of us that wishes to enforce this good idea on everyone else because we feel it will be right or in the best interests of all. But our own egos — even should they be right - is insufficient justification for denying those who will be governed the minimum standard of a vote on the representatives who will make regulation and policy.

    Perhaps if I were somehow appointed as a MS official I would relate more to the fears that others will make big mistakes if they too are allowed a say in governance. But right now I don’t have that conflict of interest, and I can see that if I were to say that it would reflect my own judgment being impaired by the fact that I hold power and don’t wish to let that power go even in part because I would think that I’m doing the right thing and acting in the public interest. But this feeling - the one that gets in the way of further democracy - is really a delusion of the ego of those who are invested in MS processes and have disproportionate power and don’t wish to give it away.

    Again, once people are recognized as having a vote, and once it matters, they do get informed, and usually do so at the last second before a binding election or vote. The alleged fact that people are ignorant about some question that it would be idle for them to inform themselves on at the present moment really says nothing against further democracy.

    Anybody holding power in a MS system, IMO, should never be satisfied with present governance systems by rationalizing that other alternatives are somehow unacceptable. Instead, they should be perpetually unsatisfied until democratic systems of governance can be instituted.

    Paul Lehto, J.D.

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on October 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

  4. To finish off this thread, our hope is that the introduction of a democratically organized .nyc TLD can provide bottom-up legitimacy that can pass through to the oversight of ICANN and other Internet governance institutions.

    Tom Lowenhaupt

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on October 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

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