Please note that these are only notes towards a book that will probably never be finished. The "book" is only about 1% there. Perhaps these notes will make interesting reading in the meantime. -- bayle

Table of Contents for Governance Systems Design


This book is for readers who are interested in designing governance systems. The focus is on procedures, structure, and mechanics. In 'governance system' I include both parliamentary procedures and organizational structure at the level of bylaws/constitution. I include governance for private for-profit corporations, for private non-profit organizations, and also for actual governments.

By 'governance system' I mean a system of procedural rules and structures for group decision-making and organization.

Some would say that the procedural rules are the least important part of an organization, that an organization's success or failure is rather determined by one or more of: the objective realities of the situation it finds itself in, its strategy and policy choices, the character and political acumen of its leadership, its execution and management, or the community of people involved. My opinion is that none of these things are unimportant. It just so happens that this particular book is about procedure and structure. There are other books about those other things.

Historical examples may be found where defects in procedure led to substantive failures. Some particularly notable examples of these are given in the chapter 'root exploits'; one example might be the rise of Stalin to absolute power. Although Stalin's rise was certainly due to multiple factors including non-procedural ones, one important factor was Stalin's influence over nominations and appointments due to his role as general secretary [1] [2].

There are less dramatic examples where procedure had a demonstrable effect on policy. For example, the 'spoiler effect' in the first-past-the-post plurality voting system used in US Presidential elections may have caused the paradoxical result of the entry of leftist candidate Ralph Nader 'splitting the vote' and causing the election to go to a more rightist candidate [3].

Perhaps most importantly, it stands to reason that as organizations have a great impact on human welfare, it is of paramount importance to improve the quality of decision-making in organizations. Since such a large proportion of humanity's resources are allocated through organizational decision-making procedures, even a small improvement in the 'intelligence' of these decisions could lead to a significant improvement of human welfare.

Some would say that despite potential importance, a matter of practical necessity founders or leaders can't waste time or political capital on procedure; they need to focus on formulating and executing the goals of the organization, and on gaining the support of the individual people with whom they are collaborating. Others would say that innovations in governance are dangerous, and that it is wiser to simply adopt an existing governance system than to try to 'design' a new one. I don't disagree with either of these viewpoints, but it is a fact that if humanity's group decision-making procedures are to improve, then someone is going to have to think about how to improve them, and then some organization is going to have to try out the improvements. Perhaps only a small proportion of leaders and founders should or want to learn about procedural design, but it is for this small fraction that this book is written.

I will briefly note what related literature exists, and how it differs from this book. In the academic study of law and political science, there is a a large body of study of comparative constitutional law; in law and in business and economics, there is literature on private corporate governance. There are also various practical how-to guides for members of organizations using various popular procedural systems. These are all useful sources and we will refer to them. Most of this literature tends to analyze various extent systems of governance; to explain what they are, what their effects have turned out to be, and how to achieve personal success if you find yourself interacting with them. The goals of this book are somewhat different; here, we assume that the reader is not a passive participant (whether member, lawyer, or parliamentarian expert) seeking to understand what can be expected from a governance system that others have forced upon eim, but instead that the reader is contemplating the design or amendment of a governance system. There is also literature in economics and mathematics on the provable properties of voting systems; this is part of what we'll cover here, but we also cover the softer, unproven properties of various design chocies for rules of parliamentary procedure and for formal organizational structure.

This book includes principals, rules of thumb, and examples. We start with asking, "What are the goals of governance system design?", and we'll find that there are a variety of answers. Then we give an overview of different types of governance systems, different approaches to governance system design, and some major principals of these approaches. Then we'll arrive at the main meat of this book, a large number of brief discussions about various details, grouped into the topics of ??todo, judicial systems, voting methods, numerology. After this we'll review some historical and contemporary examples of governance systems. Finally we'll review related literature.

Please note that i have no first hand experience or credentialed expertise in this topic, and most of this book is only a compilation of things i've read in various places. I have not read all of all the links and references herein. If you find an error, please let me know so that I can correct it.