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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Suggestions for Transition to Voting for Management of NTOS

Suggestions for Transition to Voting for Management of NTOS

Santiago V.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 170
Well, I noticed nobody made such a thread yet. I assume everyone got and read the email about the topic of last night's meeting, even if you were unable to attend. To summarize the only real solid conclusion that came from the meeting was it was time to get some suggestions going, so that Todd and other people who have the time/interest in thinking these things through could consider any rational idea presented here.

First thing's first, if I may grab some authority in this thread - some ground rules. I would ask that any suggestions be backed up with a reason why you think that method would be appropriate for the overarching goals of the NTOS; I think it is fair to say that a suggestion without a reason would place an undue burden on the people who will be looking through this and is just a good policy in general whenever suggesting anything in a rational context.

The ovearching goal (and I ask Todd to correct me if I'm not exactly right in this) of the NTOS is to create an atmosphere which will encourage growth and further participation, both in the form of attendance and financially, from the members of the NTOS, while simultaneously taking the ownership of the group out of any one person's hands, in order to give the NTOS staying power beyond any one person's generosity to organize and host all of the social events up to now (ie, Todd.)

One additional thing I would add that was mentioned at last night's meeting: the KISS principle should be adhered to here as much as you possibly can.

Lastly, I ask that you keep things as much as possible in principle, rather than specifics. For example, the email you received laid a suggestion down for how much weight one person's opinion would carry in a vote, in order of importance, to whit:

(1) Being an adult, e.g., at least 18 years of age and
otherwise competence to contract.

(2) Personal participation in the Society, e.g., one vote of
representation for each social event attended during the course
of the year before an election, perhaps with some minimum
number of attendances to be eligible at all.

(3) Financial contribution to the Society, e.g., one vote of
representation for each $20 contribution to the Society during
the course of the year before an election, perhaps with a limit
on how may votes could be had based on financial contributions

This has been kept in general terms inasmuch as possible - the suggestions are done in order of importance, with the specifics as to exactly how much weight each attendance gets, each financial contribution, etc left out (except for very simple examples which are not, I do not think, meant to be taken as the literal suggestion, but for illustration.) If you really do think you have hit on a good set of numbers (and know why they are good,) of course post them. But please keep it clearly separated from the system you are advocating in principle.

Thank you and I hope this thread sees many contributions,

Edited for clarity and 1 additional thought.

Organizer's Note:
I only edited the title of this discussion thread, which I do occasionally to help its placement on our Table of Contents -- which I need to update again soon.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 392
To all,

Thanks to Santiago for starting this thread and setting some initial suggestions.

The only clarifications I would like to make are not directed to Santiago's initial post on this thread, but in response to some other feedback.

First, I am not getting tired of running NTOS, Julia and I are not getting tired of hosting in our home at "the Ranch," and I do not think Dan or my parents Franco & JulieAnne, are getting tired of offering their assistance, either.

There is no need for us to think of buying or renting a building right now to replace my family's hospitality at the Ranch, although in time we may outgrow it.

Our hospitality at the Ranch has been a source of confusion in one unintended respect, however. I have too often heard it is "my" house, so I can do what I want. Yes, it is my house, and I retain rights regarding what goes on there, as would any host on his property.

But NTOS is not intended to be about my house and a few of my friends. If I cannot get that out of our members' minds, by offering our home I may be failing in my goal to build something much more than that.

Second, while it is necessary for a local Objectivist society to be started by someone, I am not committed to building NTOS just to see it collapse when I do get tired.

No matter how much you think I can do, I am challenging our members to start thinking much, much bigger than that.

I do not just "feel" like writing a Constitution because I have nothing better to do. I do not just "feel" like having a Board of Directors.

This will take more work to set up. And working with a Board will take more time to get some things done than just doing them the way we have been. But that is not the point.

It is impossible, regardless of desire or determination, for a few people to support, control, and manage what we are trying to build. I cannot truly "own" or control the relationships between us. All I can "own," initially, is the business "goodwill" of the starting organization. It does not even make sense for me to try to continue to "own" NTOS, because doing so would surely limit it to what I and a few of my friends can do.

On the other hand, NTOS cannot be managed by everybody at once. A system for a sustainable self-governance is required. That is what a constitution is for, and there are some excellent corporate governance models that we can adapt to our purposes.

This step is necessary, and I think it is timely.

We must continue to be successful in persuading others in this group that participating in NTOS is important for our lives and will make a difference. And our members who do participate must have a way to take ownership and responsibility for our fledgling society so that we all will feel like owners and know that we can sustain what we are investing in.

If our members remain content with our current management, see no need to do anything more, and see no need to plan for sustaining NTOS in the future, then ultimately nothing I, Julia, Dan, and my parents do will make any lasting difference in our lives, and NTOS will suffer the same fate as virtually all of such efforts at having a local Objectivist community, the bones of which can be seen littering the Internet.

There is a good thing about seeing all the bones of such other groups on the Internet. They show a lot of interest in having such local communities.

NTOS is drawing on such interest, but looking to try different methods than those that have generally not worked to date. I suggest that we do not follow the lemmings off the cliff. We should choose our own direction, and if nothing else, at least try something different than running off the very same cliff that others have already tried.

Please participate in NTOS. Please show an interest in taking it to the next level. Join us to help make it both valuable and sustainable.

-- Todd
Chris J.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 48
I came on to start this thread and am pleased that it has already been done. This is an issue that has occurred to me, but I am sad to say I had not made a contribution to the discussion. Now that Todd has unintentionally shamed me into addressing an issue that I have been thinking about, I shall attempt to contribute something meaningful.
I have not been the most active member of NTOS lately due to other commitments and some illnesses and deaths in my little world, but as things are settling down I am looking forward to seeing you all again and resuming active participation. I have always felt a little disadvantaged at the meetings because my knowledge of O'ism is lacking(especially when viewed relative to others) but my appreciation for the application of rational thought, and my growing affection for the members of NTOS makes this issue important to me. I have thought that I would pick up the torch if the 'Ranch' were suddenly unavailable due to some unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance. My house is not as spacious, but could comfortably accommodate our group. I know that a physical meeting place is not the main point of this, but it could be an issue if NTOS needed to make a change.
Todd makes a very valid point and I believe that it is something that needs to be addressed and there is no better time than now. It has been brought up, so let us discuss it. I think that a 'board' of sorts is a capital idea. Not as a governing body, just something that provides a natural line of succession if and when that becomes necessary. I also think that a board could be used to manage NTOS, in effect taking some of the weight off of Todd's shoulders. It has been mentioned here, and I will say it again for myself and any others who wish to echo it: Many of us are eternally grateful to Todd for his hard work and commitment to organizing our little community. However, the community is getting larger, and shows signs of longevity. Not only is long-term management a concern, but we should also be considerate that all of the work should not be resting on one person.
A governing group should exist for these, and perhaps other, reasons. I think that considering the nature of the group, and the cordiality among the majority of members, that a volunteer force could fit the bill right now. Perhaps if a large number of people want to participate, another means for choosing may be implemented, but I doubt that it is necessary right now. I am sure I will have more thoughts on the issue, but right now I should do something resembling work;) Any other suggestions? I am interested to hear what others have to say about this.
Plano, TX
Post #: 372
The first thing that needs to be done, in my opinion, is to break down responsibilities that should be transferred first. Identify those areas first, and taking on a few volunteers to start taking over those tasks slowly before anything gets turned over to a committe, board or otherwise.

I forget which member said it at the meeting, but I believe it is true that leaders will present themselves once theses tasks/responsbilities are identified. The idea of voting as to which members can or should do what doesn't make much sense to me until this is done.

Until there is specific identification and breakdown of such, then it will take forever and a day.

I am not opposed to bylaws, or as it was referred to a 'constitution' but something in the lines of a business plan with job descriptions I think is a much more urgent start. (Nothing too indepth, starting with an outline.)

By the way, I thought Todd's idea for a Newsletter was great. Sign me up.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 393
After a few initial comments, perhaps this basic illustration will help further explain what we are looking for.


----------------- "Shareholders" or "Eligible Voting Members" ----------

------------------------------------ to elect -------------------------------------

----------------------a staggered "Board of Directors" --------------------

--------------------------------------­ to appoint -------------------------------

-------------------------------- Executive Officers ----------------------------

The eligible voting members will elect the seats for the "Board of Directors." After its initial adoption, changes to the "Constitution" of the Society would probably require ratification by the eligible voting members. This would be to promote basic stability regarding the essential characteristics of the Society, similar to the purpose of requiring that proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, after approval by Congress, must then be approved by the member States.

The Board of Directors would probably start with 5 seats, and grow to preferably 7 or more, but to avoid itself becoming unwieldy probably should be no more than 11, even after we grow considerably. It would set general policy, make or change bylaws, establish general goals, set directions, and establish general priorities, etc. E.g., What kind of events should we have? What kind of speakers should be invite? What kind of projects should we undertake or not undertake in the name of our Society? Who would be the best Executive Officer(s) to carry out the day-to-day operation of the Society? Who should replace an Officer that resigns or is not doing his job?

A "staggered" Board of Directors is a common structure used to promote stability in management. Seats would be elected on a rotating basis, just one or two at a time, not all at once. It is like the U.S. Senate, where 1/3 of the seats come up for election at a time, as opposed to the House of Representatives, where all the seats come up for election at the same time.

I would probably appoint the initial members of the Board of Directors, i.e., myself and our current "Assistant Organizers," Julia, Dan, and my parents, Franco & JulieAnne. After that, we would elect in two more seats, then start putting some of the other seats I had initially filled by appointment up for election until over some period of time all the seats were filled by election. We may or may not elect the same people again, but regardless of that, it would transition to reflect the values of those electing, rather than just my values. This would also help us make a smoother transition from me to a fully elected Board, and get us all used to the process and changes over time.

The Executive Officers, who probably will be selected from among the Board Members (but not necessarily), will actually manage the day-to-day details, e.g., enforce the bylaws, collect dues, make and sign contracts, keep records and bank accounts, write checks, set the calendar, engage speakers, etc., etc. The various types of tasks may be divided between several officers. The purpose of the Executive Officers will be to carry out the purposes set in the Constitution of the Society and the particular goals set by the Board of Directors and to report to the Board of Directors. While a popular Executive may be desirable, appointment by the Board would help ensure that a person who is merely popular but not a good executive or administrator does not become an Executive Officer. Most of us can appreciate that being popular would not necessarily have any correlation to being good at paperwork.

Others may help an Officer, help with events, host events, etc., but would be expected to coordinate with or report to the Executives regarding planning, etc. For example, we mention a newsletter. That need not be a function of the Executive Officers, but may involve some supervision from them to make sure it furthers the purposes and standards of the Society, as may be set by the Board of Directors.

There are some tedious details to consider and work out. Dan in particular will be helping me with those details.


All of these governance matters, regardless of particular structure or particular functions, depend on answering a very basic question: After transitioning from me, who, and in what proportion of representation, should have a say in selecting the management of NTOS?

For example, does anyone have any comments on the idea that a person who personally participates in 15 of our events over the course of a year gets 15 votes in an election for a seat of the Board of Directors, whereas a person who participates only 5 times during that same year gets only 5 votes? In other words, someone who participates 3 times as much gets 3 times the share of "ownership" in the Society. Is that a good idea? What benefits would such a system provide? Would it provide stability? What disadvantages? Would it discourage changing to different kinds of events that others who are not participating as much might prefer?

-- Todd

Edited to add explanation of tentative planning re an initially appointed Board.
Sam L.
Plano, TX
Post #: 1
I would rather see an attendance threshold for voter qualification (after participating in x events you are entitled to 1 vote), rather than being entitled to some number of votes proportional to your attendance. I am concerned that over time the proportional scheme could lead to a lack of diversity of events, a sort of in-breeding. Maintaining a diverse membership seems to me important in a robust organization. On the other hand, I see the desire for rewarding those who participate frequently to have a larger say in planning.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 249
I'm kind of leaning against the idea of porportional voting based on attendance too. On one hand it would give the people that show up more of a say in a way about what happens with future events, but it might shut the door on some great ideas that in the end might boost attendance. Kind of funny, that whole democratic thing.

- Travis
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 392
I really appreciate the initial comments we have received, including some that I have discussed directly with a few of our members. I have some of the concerns that Sam and Travis mention, too, as I first mentioned above.

On the other hand, not to compare us to the United States, but I do think that we could learn from the U.S. Constitution and from various business corporate models, too.


The "democratic thing" was actually rejected by the Founding Fathers of the United States, who instead chose to create a Constitutional Republic. They were quite aware of the potential evils of democracy, and chose to limit the federal government using several devices, including some based on who selected the governmental officers.

The U.S. Constitution is not based on democracy, but on checks and balances such as bicameralism, which divided the legislative powers between two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is interesting to note the differences between who was to choose the Representatives and who was to choose the Senators.

Article I, Section 2: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature. . . ."

The Senate, however, was created to represent to States qua States, not the population. Article I, Section 3: "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; . . . ."

I can't claim much knowledge of this history, but my understanding is that the purpose of having the State legislatures choose the Senators was to protect the rights of States to govern themselves, prevent the federal government from grabbing too much power from the States, and ultimately from grabbing too much power from the people.

The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913 changed who chose the Senators: "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, . . . ."

The Founding Fathers recognized that representation was important, but that unlimited democracy would overwhelm the rights of the individual, which they wanted to protect against the tyranny of majority rule. Accordingly, they did not just divide the government powers, divide the legislative powers between two chambers, and divide how the officers of the chambers were chosen, they also intended to preserve the separate and diverse governmental powers of the States against the federal powers as part of the system of checks and balances. The Seventeenth Amendment removed the voice of the States, qua States, in the federal government, and hence removed one of the checks on the power of the federal government.

My understanding is that the Seventeenth Amendment is largely responsible for the mushrooming of federal power. Without really delving into the details, which I do not really know much about, here is a link to a website that purports to summarize some of this important history and seeks to undo the amendment: http://www.lewrockwel...­

While the issue of this history is fascinating to me, and I wish I had more time to study it, the details of this history are not really my main point here, just a reference as food for thought. I refer us to the basics of this history to address two ideas:

(1) The idea of "one person, one vote" is not how the United States was originally intended to be governed.

(2) Who chooses government officials makes a big difference.


Of course, NTOS is not a government of a country, and the U.S. Constitution can only offer some ideas to us by analogy, not itself be the best model.

Business corporate models are more analogous to NTOS. But they are usually not democratic, either. They are normally based on the idea that each shareholder gets one vote for each share that he owns based on financial contribution to the company (for the same class of voting stock, anyway).

Imagine the consequence of applying democratic principles to a business. If I put $10 into a company and receive one share, and someone else puts in $10,000,000 into the same company and receives one million shares, would it be just that each of us received the same voting rights in selecting the management of the company? Would such a system not offend the property rights of the larger shareholder, effectively discounting the value of his contribution in favor of giving a smaller shareholder an equal say in selecting the management?

Consider a different hypothetical corporate business constitution or charter that provided: Anyone who owns 1 - 499,999 shares gets 1 vote, anyone who owns 500,000 - 999,999 shares gets 2 votes, and anyone who owns more than 1,000,000 shares gets 3 votes. Again, assume each share is worth about $10. Would this be a just voting system?


Social clubs are the most analogous to NTOS, of course. Usually anyone who pays membership dues gets one vote. But most of those organizations are based on altruistic principles. Most of us would not want our organization to be based on such principles. Still, I have looked at the constitutions of those types of groups for ideas, as some of them are highly successful by the standards of having high membership and participation. However, I doubt they are successful in these regards based on the rationality of their constitutions, so I look at those ideas very cautiously.


Sam used the term "inbreeding" to paint a colorful image regarding a concern about voting in proportion to participation. (I don't mind the term, because in a sense it helps make the issue more graphic and real to us.) Another term that might be used is "fostering" the purposes of those who have the greatest interest in NTOS.

Do others have any further or other thoughts on this? There is no rush to decide anything, and I am continuing to request comments and suggestions.

-- Todd
Santiago V.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 171
A simple solution to the "too much power in those who attend every time" idea is to limit the amount of extra voting power the individuals get.

For example:

Suppose there are 100 people who attend enough to get a vote. But Bob attended 75% of the events last year, so he gets 2 votes. Dan attended 90% of the events, so he gets 3.

This allows you to reward people with an extra say in matters who attend regularly, but also set the bar very high for how much you have to participate in order to earn that extra say.

As the above illustrates, it is very easy to work around problems of this nature. Practical issues only require time and thought to fix - the main issue that should be considered here is not the possible problems of any one system (of which there are an infinite amount, since we're talking so generally one can make up any situation one wishes to and claim it is a problem,) but the question of what system, in principle, is most proper to the NTOS?

So I think bringing up problems such as "too much power in the hands of people who attend" is very much jumping ahead of ourselves. If and when a system is decided upon in principle, these issues need to be addressed. Until then we need to talk about what sort of system is just and proper to an organization such as NTOS, not about problems with the practical implementations of a system who's specific form we have yet to determine.
A former member
Post #: 168
Speaking of the Constitution of the United States, I think we ought to avoid the mistake made by the Founding Fathers of this country. Note that the Constitution has no ideological content -- i.e. it is only about the operation of the government rather than including the principles that are behind the government. For example, there is nothing in the Constitution that points to the Declaration of Independence or other writings that were the ideological foundation of forming the new country. This made it possible over time for non-freedom ideologues to take over so long as they followed the procedure of the government -- i.e. so long as they could get elected and put anti-freedom ideas for laws into a vote, they were permitted to operate, eventually leading to our current semi-free, semi-enslavement country.

To avoid that for NTOS, I think we need to explicitly tie the About page -- our statement of principles -- into the operating constitution for NTOS. I would also suggest that we explicitly deny managerial positions to those who support anti-Objectivists, such as David Kelley and Nathaniel Brandon. I would actually prefer that such supporters are denied even membership in NTOS, since a procedure only constitution could lead to a hostile take-over of non-Objectivists.

Of course, in the end, the strongest power of voting for the managers (or office holders) will be the power to warn and then to kick people out of membership; whereas the power of voting for the members will be to withdrawal their positive sanction of NTOS by leaving the club.


Philosophic essays based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand­

Applied Philosophy Online .com

Where Ideas Are Brought Down to Earth!

All rights reserved 2006 by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

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