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Re: supermajority options

On Fri, Nov 22, 2002 at 12:04:34AM -0500, Raul Miller wrote:
> On Tue, Nov 19, 2002 at 05:54:30PM -0500, Raul Miller wrote:
> > > [1] The simplest: discard supermajority entirely.  Nothing special is
> > > required to override "important decisions".  This has some elegantly
> > > simple mathematical properties but I don't know of any other argument
> > > for it.
> On Wed, Nov 20, 2002 at 12:12:03PM -0500, Branden Robinson wrote:
> > I support this.  I'd rather see whether or not we screw up in the
> > absence of supermajority requirements instead of just assuming that we
> > will.
> Why would you rather see whether or not we screw up?

Because I value facts more highly than assumptions, and evidence more
highly then prediction.

> Also, what do you think of imposing some kind of quorum requirement
> (like maybe 1% of the voters need to vote in an election which changes
> the constitution, or some other such thing quite a bit more severe for
> our current set of developers than that of any draft I've proposed)?

While it is true that I think quorum requirements are superfluous as
well, I don't see perceive them carrying the same baggage as
supermajority requirements, so I would not object to your above

You didn't rebut my assertion that we've had non-election votes in which
the winning option won by a regular majority but would not have won in
the event of any integral supermajority requirement, so I'll continue
in my belief that I'm correct about that.

On the other hand, we've never seen a vote fail due to lack of quorum
(though we have seen proposals expire due to inaction from a Project
Secretary[1]), so I don't oppose the quorum requirement you propose.

> > In my opinion, if Debian's developers are so militantly, determinedly
> > "wrong" about something that they force it to a vote and win a majority
> > of the votes cast, then hope is lost for the "old guard" anyway, and
> > relying upon a technical or procedural mechanism to serve as an escape
> > clause will likely just delay the inevitable and promote acrimony.  The
> > face of the Project has changed while they weren't looking.
> I think the primary justification for supermajority requirement isn't
> "keep people from making mistakes" it's "let's be able to rely on some
> fundamental decisions".
> I've said that already, and I'm mildly disappointed that you've not
> attempted to address that aspect of the situation.

While I admit that I haven't independently worked through the
mathematics presented in John Robinson's linked paper, and therefore
cannot adopt as strong a stance as I would like to, I am fairly
persuaded by the arguments presented in it, and I think anyone defending
our supermajority status quo should read the paper and rebut it as best
they can.

In any event, I have to place my trust in the NM process to keep Debian
from being overrun by agents provocateurs.  If they fail, then an
overturn of our Social Contract, our Constitution, and any other
document that a supermajority requirement is designed to protect is only
a matter of time, and the supermajority requirement will only delay the
inevitable.  Once some offensive coup like that does take place, the
numbers will render it almost impossible for the defeated group to
reverse the bad trend (if the newly victorious group keeps the
supermajority requirement in place, which they likely would for the sake
of political expediency, having been radicalized on their way from a
50.x% majority to a 66.7% or 75% majority, stonewalled by the minority
every step of the way).

At least with a simple majority requirement, if you have slumbered while
the bad people have run through an offensive GR, you can wake up, rally
the troops and overturn it.  The paper to which John Robinson linked
goes to some trouble to explain why cycles aren't necessarily a bad
thing, and contrasts the coalition governments we see in European
parliaments versus the pendulum politics of the U.S. government.

[1] not the current one, so setchyerassdown

G. Branden Robinson                |    I've made up my mind.  Don't try to
Debian GNU/Linux                   |    confuse me with the facts.
branden@debian.org                 |    -- Indiana Senator Earl Landgrebe
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |

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