Rulings and rationales
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(First copy, to debian-ctte on the 8th of November, was lost:)
I'm about to send another Call for Votes regarding getaddrinfo.
I'm writing separately in this message to explain what I think TC
members should do about the question of rationale.
I agree with that rationales for decisions are useful. They can help
interpret a decision and explain it to readers; they can help convince
those who might otherwise wonder why we decided something which is
superficially strange. And of course any errors in the reasoning
which leads to a decision can be more easily seen if the rationale is
However, formally, there is no need for the rationale to form part of
the committee's decision. When the committee is exercising its
powers, it is deciding, not discussing. Not including the rationale
in the resolution makes it possible for the committee to come to a
clear decision even if the individual members cannot agree on the
reasons; it avoids delaying a decision because of discussions of
background questions which do not need to be decided; and of course it
helps avoid someone presented with an unfavourable decision from
arguing that perceived flaws in the rationale invalidate the decision
and undermine the need to comply with it.
I think we should more or less follow the lead of that much more
serious institution, the UK Law Lords (the highest domestic UK
court). What they do is have each of the judges write an opinion, but
the opinion itself does not have direct effect and serves only to
guide lower courts and future decisions; at the end of the opinion is
a short statement saying what court orders the court would make -
analogous to our actual resolutions.
To avoid having to each put in the whole work of writing an opinion,
they frequently resort to saying something like `I've read the opinion
of lord so-and-so, which I wholeheartedly agree with, and I would make
the order he proposes'.
So I think what we should do have someone propose a short resolution,
for voting on, but accompany it with a longer opinion to back up their
vote. Subsequent TC members can quote, along with their vote, the
proposing member's rationale and explain how they see it, or indeed
write a rationale entirely of their own.
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