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Re: RFD: amendment of Debian Social Contract

On Sun, Nov 02, 2003 at 12:28:22PM -0600, Manoj Srivastava wrote:

[snip rationale 13]
> 	This by itself does not matter as much as you think it does,
>  since the voter has no choice here.

Well, then, how much *does* it matter?  Why did you include rationale
statements in the text of the ballot for the disambiguation of 4.1.5?

Also, you elided part of the message to which you replied, and I would
like to hear your thoughts on it:

> > If the Social Contract had a provision proscribing the Debian
> > Account Managers from disabling developers' accounts, and we voted
> > by a landslide to remove that proscription, would it follow that the
> > Debian Account Managers should immediately disable all developers'
> > accounts?
> >
> > After all, they'd have a mandate, right?

Please explain to me how the above is materially different from the
proposal to remove clause 5 from the Social Contract.

>  Heck, I know that the rationale said that, but it does not affect my
>  intent. So, people overwhelmingly voting to remove clause 5 would
>  still mean a mandate for removal of non free.

I continue to disagree with this analysis.  It means a mandate for
removing the presence or absence of "non-free" from the scope of the
Social Contract.

There are plenty of things that Debian does that aren't directly
addressed by the Social Contract.

> Now, if this were part of the ballot; if I could chose 
>    a) remove clause 5, but do not remove non-free from the archive
>    b) remove clause 5, and clear the way to remove non-free as well
> 	then yes, we can remove clause 5, and clearly know whether or
>  not there was a mandate.

I'm confused; you just said we clearly know anyway -- "people
overwhelmingly voting to remove clause 5 would still mean a mandate for
removal of non free.".

I mean, my proposal either means what I say it does or it doesn't, but
either way, its meaning is clear, right?  And if that's not the case,
why doesn't my rationale statement matter?

>  Lacking this, I think people shall vote for
>  the proposal on its merits, and their intentions are not limited to
>  what the rationale says is proper motivation and intent.

Of course not.  But it's generally unwise to leap to conclusions.  In
the text of my proposed amended Social Contract, what *forbids* us from
distributing non-free software as something other than "our

> 	Lacking a clear choice made by voters, no amount of "people
>  who chose this proposal believe in chaos theory" style assertions in
>  the rationale carry any weight.

I agree, which is why I do not understand why it makes sense to assume
that someone's failure to say "I shall wax my car at least once a year"
means "I shall NOT wax my car at least once a year".

> > Which of us is expressing the lower opinion of the electorate,
> > again?
> 	I certainly am not. You seem to think that stating something
>  in a rationale binds peoples motivations;

Not true at all.  A rationale statement can serve a few purposes:

1) It can attempt to persuade people to adopt the position the rationale

2) It can help clarify the intentions of the author of the position so
that others can assist him or her in expressing him- or herself more

3) It can be used as reference material for understanding the scope of
and motivations behind the proposition in question.

Item 3) is most important when studying why a proposition passed or
failed retrospectively.  However, such information is seldom more than
suggestive, and almost never dispositive -- because, as you note, a
rationale cannot bind voters' motivations, and they may have reasons for
accepting or rejecting a proposition that are wholly irrelevant to the
stated rationale(s) for that proposition.

>  like they were sheep to change their reasons for voting just because
>  you said so in the rationale. 

Is it your implication that a person who is capable of having his or her
mind changed through persuasive argument is a "sheep"?

If not, why have you constructed this position and ascribed it to me?
It is terribly unflattering, and does not seem apropos for a serious

G. Branden Robinson                |      We either learn from history or,
Debian GNU/Linux                   |      uh, well, something bad will
branden@debian.org                 |      happen.
http://people.debian.org/~branden/ |      -- Bob Church

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