Request for Clarification: Executive/Administrative Acts

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Claude Desmoulins
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Request for Clarification: Executive/Administrative Acts

Post by Claude Desmoulins »

The proposed rewrite of Article II refers to Administrative Acts while the proposed civil service bill refers to Executive Acts. I'll take a stab and work from the start point that these two are the same thing.

1. Exactly what is an Administrative/Executive Act? Could you provide examples?

2. Why do we need them?

3. In what way does this not constitute an usurpation of the RA's legislative authority by the executive?

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Gwyneth Llewelyn
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Clarification

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Perhaps one thing that always excited me about Neufreistadt was the requirement of keeping up with legislation, procedures, and constitutions of a dozen countries at the same time :) Claude, I think that the other day you listed the current citizenry in Neufreistadt to come from at least eight different countries. Naturally, each and every one of those are familiar with different concepts — and they might be confusing at first for people who have never heard of them.

As you know, I'm usually present at the CSDF debates, and the separation of Legislative Acts/Executive Acts/Administrative Acts have always made sense to me, since they're frequently used throughout many European countries. Recently I had to read through 600 years of British history to understand better how the British system (one of the fundamental models for democratic government) changed over the centuries to come to its current form — which is surprisingly close to the much "younger" democracies in Europe. You also know how I'm fascinated with the Swiss "direct democracy" model, the single exception to the rule (both in space and time) that direct democracy can work in very special and unusual circumstances. And I feel strangely attracted to the Japanese government, which influences the economy in a way that most Europeans and Americans would find shocking in a capitalist country — but Japan is a solid and liberal democracy, and their model works incredibly well. I must admit that my knowledge of the Skandinavian systems, for instance, are mostly derived from talks with Diderot, who has carefully explained some of the interesting points there; the German system was something I did indeed study quite well during my high school days, but have mostly forgotten. Other interesting cases (this is all in my personal opinion, of course) are the Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand systems — examples of countries without a Head of State residing inside its national borders. And finally, there is always European Law to consider — bureaucracy going to the extremes and punching a hole beyond :) paling the UN's own bureaucracy by several orders of magnitude (I'm still amazed that the European Parliament actually does pass some legislation once in a while; the complexity of the "checks and balances" system is so overwhelming that for a layperson like myself it seems almost impossible to get an agreement!)

Anyway, I'm rambling. When in doubt, I consult the Wikipedia — and this time, for the first time, it failed completely to provide a quick explanation for a layperson. I was forced to conclude that the concept of "administrative acts", for instance, are not embodied in US law, which surprised me to an extent, but perhaps not too much (although recent measures — "recent" in the 230 years of US history, I mean — seem to be pushing towards a similar method).

Posting a bill referring to terms that are not clear to everybody is definitely not a good idea; I hope that Moon (or someone else at the CSDF) is able to define them better, according to their political programme. I can only try to attempt to explain some rough guidelines. Mind you, the CSDF's proposal is more in line with countries using civil law; however, British and British-influenced countries (ie. common law systems using the "Westminster" type of government) tend to have developed similar concepts as well. If they exist in US law, I need one of you experts to explain them to us.

Answers.com tries to bring some light into the subject with this simple definition:

Administrative Acts
Whatever actions are necessary to carry out the intent of statutes; those acts required by legislative policy as it is expressed in laws enacted by the legislature.

If a city commission votes to create the position of park superintendent, that is a legislative act that can take effect only if the commission follows all the steps required for formal legislation. When the same commission votes to rezone a parcel of real property from single-family residential to business uses, however, that is an administrative act that does not require the same formality as legislation. It is administrative because it is carrying out the zoning laws already in effect.

Put in other words, legislation defines policy and frameworks. When the frameworks are big enough, they're sometimes referred as "Organic Law" (this is the case of France, for example, but countries like Portugal have them as well; other countries have the concept, but perhaps not a word for it), and the Constitution might even point out what frameworks have to exist.

These frameworks are, so to speak, the "building blocks" for the legal system. This means that laws are not created in a "vacuum" (ie. added to the body of the Code of Laws mindlessly, created "on demand" to address specific issues). You might have, for instance, an Organic Law on Arts and Culture. This would roughly define the priorities of governments when establishing policy regarding arts and culture; like establishing that all budgets to be approved have to have an item for spending in culture & arts; or that the State is allowed to enter partnerships with the private sector for promoting the arts; or that universities, museums, etc. can be created under specific rules.

In Neufreistadt, for instance, the rough guidelines we have for creating a new sim — the notion of covenants, of tying citizenship to land ownership, of having supervising roles by the government in the urban development — would be part of an Organic Law. A framework, so to speak, that would address how to create further laws. So, even in a hundred years, while the whole Code of Law might have changed, the concepts on "how to create a sim under the CDS" would probably remain the same: we would still have covenants, citizenship tied to ownership, and the government as a regulatory and overseeing body of urban development.

Naturally enough, this falls in the scope of the legislative body. It's the RA that emits the Organic Laws. They're not part of the Constitution; the Constitution does not need to say "all land owned in NFS/CDS has to have covenants"; that would be a legislative (and not constitutional) issue.

The specifics fall into place by emitting Laws (and there could be several types of Laws; even in the US, both the executive and the legislative branch can emit laws, for instance; in our case, however, there are absolutely no legislative functions outside the RA). These laws would be tied into specific Organic Laws (ie. the frameworks), and all legislators would (ideally) know where to place them. Going back to the case of urban development, in this case, the Laws to be emitted by the RA would fall into the following aspects:

  • creating the covenants

  • roughly defining the percentage of commercial/residencial/public land

  • establishing the entities that supervise and oversee compliance with the covenants

  • delegating the task of paying LL, and charging citizens their fees

  • establish what to do in the case of non-compliance with the law, ie. what sanctions to apply, and in which circumstances

Defining all those items would be "establishing policy". Notice that on a subsequent term, a newly elected RA would not need to "reinvent the wheel". They would just create an amendment to the Organic Law For The Establishment of Urban Development, and replace, say, the law mandating that commercial space is 50% of the sim to just being 35% (ie. applying a different policy, according to their election programme). Or that now taxes can be applied additionally to the land fees. Still, the broad framework would be still familiar.

But it doesn't stop here. So the RA has voted (for example) that a new sim is to be bought, and that it should be budgeted for. Now it's time to execute that law. This falls into the hands of the branch holding the executive powers (please don't confuse it with the "US executive branch" — a sad case of slightly different things using the same word). They would now read the law, and emit a Executive Act.

This would be much more detailed. The branch with the duty to execute the Law would now need to define a lot of things: what name to give the new sim (if not agreed), where to place it, who at LL to contact, what form of payment to use (PayPal, credit card, etc.), establish contracts with builders to hire, sit with them around a table to discuss the planning and rolling out of the build, supervise promotion, creating a new governmental entity for handling the supervising and overseeing of the building stage and the later compliance of the citizens with the covenants established by the law, handle non-conformities (even sending the citizens to hearings at the SC level, if they forcefully disobey the laws), and so on.

These are the executive aspects: receiving a Law from the RA, and then implementing it. In a way, now the hard part of the work starts :)

But it doesn't stop here. Since the branch with executive powers will have to do that for all laws — past and present! — they won't be able to do everything by themselves. They'll have to delegate to a group of professionals (in the sense that these will have specific roles, assigned to them, and will do those tasks according to their job description — for all laws, not just some of them — each one according to their competence, skill, and duty). These are commonly referred as the Civil Service, or in some cases the (Public) Administration.

So, in the above case, the branch with executive powers would establish an Executive Act saying the following:

  • Treasury: make sure you get all the money we need: for paying the builders, for paying to LL. Collect the fees from citizens. Make a report so that we are not overstepping the RA's budget.

  • Urban Planning Department: meet with the builders. Get them working on a plan. Define milestones. Get back to us when you're finished.

  • Police Department: make sure you watch over those citizens. Fine the ones that don't comply with the covenants. If they persist in their non-compliance, send them to the SC.

  • Promotion Department: Get two press release out: we need builders to apply. And then we need to make sure the world knows about us. Develop packages and special promotions for existing/new citizens.

and so on...

As the Civil Service complexifies, they will need to break these things down even further. For instance, the Promotion Department will see that they don't have all the required tools for properly promoting the sim. So they'll look at their budget (let's assume they have L$5000), and the Civil Servant heading the Promotion Department will emit now an Administrative Act:

  • Spend L$2000 on a new website. Hire a web designer and get the executive branch's approval.

  • Hire a marketing expert to write the press releases. Get the exec's approval. Spend L$500 on each for making sure it goes into the SL media. Pester them every day until they publish something.

  • Buy some ad space on SL-related sites for L$1000. Get a list of available sites. Meet with the exec, and have them pick 2 or 3 choices. Then set up meetings with the web site owners to negotiate a campaign. Draft the necessary agreements and contracts, if needed. Have the exec sign them.

  • Establish a job description for potential builders. Set up a website for doing the planning, and sign them up on the site. Prepare the contracts with the builders; get both the builders and the responsible exec to sign them. Liaise with the Urban Planning Department to make sure the builders are going to keep the mandated schedule.

... and similarly for all other departments involved in this procedure, of course.

Before you all faint with the complexity and bureaucracy that all these steps apparently include, think for a moment of how this works right now :)

1. RA approves a new sim in February 2006.
2. Claude and Sudane pester other people to start them thinking about the sim. Eventually, a discussion on the forums follow. Many participate.
3. A contest for the new sim is approved by the RA. No promotion is done, since there is no one to delegate that promotion; so, everyone tries to help a bit. Still, although there was a quite large time frame for the contest, only one group presents a suggestion.
4. What now? Help!
5. RA discusses some more. What are the next steps? Who will make the decisions?
6. More months pass. The RA establishes the Sim Planning Commitee. It's neither a "spin-off" of the RA; nor an executive commitee (it has no powers, no charter, no defined responsabilities). Still, it meets, and proceeds to draft a rather good plan.
7. Informally, one of the Civil Servants is notified that this might be a good time to think about promoting the new sim. There is no budget, no guidelines, no overseeing, but one expects the Civil Servant to perform admirably well (which she usually does :) ) and come up with some bright ideas. Informal discussions are spread, some bright ideas are discussed informally, since there is no time (or no quorum!) to discuss them elsewhere. The Sim Planning Commitee acquires executive powers, as delegated by the RA, but only de facto, never de jure.
8. Emails are sent; sites are put up; builders are gathered; timelines are tentatively drawn; bills are drafted allowing the Treasury to raise money.
9. Half of the points above are documented, either as transcript logs or posts on forums. Others are recorded in emails; a few on non-SL chat logs; some are not recorded at all. Timelines are on a semi-official "planning" site, but not really followed by the people involved in the process (who are they, anyway?)

Notice that this is not a criticism of the current model, just a description. We have what some people ironically call an "adhocracy" :) Under this model, decisions are made by whomever is present at the time. Many authors recommend this model for quickly solving problems, and then disbanding the group altogether. It is a working model commonly used by libertarians and anarchists; it also opposes the common model of bureaucracy, which is a "necessary evil" to be used sparingly to keep a working society.

I won't go into much more detail, just trying to recap by answering Claude's answers:

1. Acts can be of (at least) three different types, depending mostly on their scope.

Laws are Legislative Acts; they are issued by a representative assembly. They define a framework and a policy, with more or less detail, and often include means of verification. Interpretation of laws is left to the judicial branch. A Code of Laws, or Body of Laws, can be made of Organic Laws or Frameworks with several supporting individual Laws.

Executive Acts are the effective implementation of a Legislative Act, issued by a branch of government with executive powers. They are not "laws" and neither do they constitute policy. Instead, they provide orders, structure, guidelines, allocation and management of resources, etc. in order to implement a Legislative Act.

Administrative Acts are tasks executed by professionals that are usually hired (or outsourced...) by government officials that will implement an Executive Act. By themselves, they neither define policy, nor step outside the guidelines established by the Executive Act. In project management parlance, they are the tasks and milestones of a project — a project which is defined by the Executive Act, which in turn is the implementation of a policy defined in a Legislative Act.

2. Reasoning for bureaucracy is always a complex issue. Let me just mention a few key ideas:

  • Clear delegation of powers

  • Allocation of people and resources

  • Accountability

  • Management

  • Transparency

  • Overseeing

All nice buzzwords. But consider adhocracy as the opposite of all those principles, and you'll understand much better what all this means :)

In essence, the purpose of "bureaucracy" and a separation of legislative, executive, and administrative powers is to allow each level to work at its most efficient level: thus, the branch with legislative powers defines policy; the branch with executive powers defines strategy (to accomplish that policy); the branch with administrative powers defines tactics (to fullfill the strategy).

Having, for instance, the branch with representative powers also dealing with tactics for implementing policy (ie. "micromanagement") results in inefficiency. Defining policy is done "occasionally" (ie. two RA sessions per month). Defining strategy is done "often" (ie. most likely every other day). Implementing tactics is done regularly every day for several hours.

3. For several reasons:

"Legislative authority" is the establishment of policy. None of the levels below can define policy; at all times, the branch with legislative powers is always able to delegate, control, manage and supervise all levels below.

"Executive authority" is the implementation of a strategy. It does not define, per se, any possible policy at all. A simple example: the legislative branch defines that taxes on property are to be raised to the level of 1%. The executive branch cannot define another tax level, or refuse to raise the taxes from the citizens. All it can do is to hire some tax collectors, raise the required amount — not more, nor less — using any appropriate means, and present a report to the legislative branch, which will validate it. If the executive branch fails to raise the stipulated amount as per the legislative branch's policy — or exceeds the amount raised — they are found guilty of corruption :) and promptly dismissed/sanctioned/relieved from their office/sentenced to death (whatever is appropriate :) )

There is never any issue regarding "what is policy" and "what is implementation of policy". It's the legislative branch which defines it. If they weren't clear ("oh, I thought you meant this, not that...") it's up to the legislative branch to clarify the issue and revert any wrongly implemented policy (with appropriate sanctions).

An executive branch, by definition, cannot issue legislation. They can only implement it. There is a similar parallel to the SC, which also cannot issue legislation, only interpret it and enforce it (although many, in our history, had [wrongly] claimed that the SC had "legislative" powers as well. It doesn't. Not under the current Constitution). This is obviously the "pure" form of separation of powers; in RL, things can quickly become much more complicated, but let's ignore that for a moment.

All levels get their powers delegated from above; all levels oversee and keep in check the levels below. Ultimately, all powers are derived from the citizens who voted for their representatives in the RA.

---

Please don't interpret my very long post as "establishing policy" :) In my role as Dean of the SC, my purpose here is only to try to clarify what all these "unusual" terms mean. I would naturally ask the proponents of any bills to clarify all terms before the bill is voted at the RA (if at all). I feel that it's important that everyone knows what is being discussed and what is meant by any bill, approved or not. The problem with "vague" bills that "everyone knows what is being talked about" (when in reality just a few know) is that it would fall into the hands of the SC (again) to try to interpret what is actually meant with them. The SC, being humans (mostly :) ), will possibly make serious mistakes if things are not clear enough for ensuring proper interpretation, if the need arises. Please :) We have lived with too many "vague" definitions already.

Thus, I don't endorse publicly (as Dean) any model whatsoever, but since both parties have included in their programmes a way to separate executive from legislative powers (both currently held by a single branch, the RA), it helps to clarify what exactly is proposed.

(sorry, I had no time to do a proper review of this article; the hour draws near, I still have some things to do, and hopefully I'll be able to sleep a bit in the mean time!)

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US Administrative Law

Post by Jon Seattle »

A good note Gwyn! Actually the US does have administrative acts, starting with executive orders and presidential directives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_order

There is a whole area of legal practice that has to do with administrative rule making instead of what we would call laws:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_a ... rative_law

from this:

[quote:2k7nnitu]Federal administrative agencies have the power to promulgate rules that have the effect of substantive law. The power to do so stems from the agency's organic statute, and extends to all regulations necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act, rather than being limited to powers expressly granted by the statute. The power extends to substantive rules as well as procedural rules.[/quote:2k7nnitu]

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Post by Sudane Erato »

Gwyn, a fabulous post.

We're going into a period of discussions of mind-numbing complexity (at least my mind is starting to feel numb already :) ). A period when competing visions will tax people's ability to (1) produce a result of the highest caliber, worthy of our ground-breaking status in human culture, and (2) create this result while maintaining an atmosphere of good will and respect. I believe that ultimately, the strongest plan arises from a consensus understanding of all these competing visions.

Your post goes a huge distance to making that process possible. Thank you.

Sudane

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Gwyneth Llewelyn
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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Jon, thanks for the explanation! I was really intrigued about the lack of those.

After reading one paragraph on the powers of the US executive branch, it seemed to imply that the "executive orders" can, in fact, establish policies as well. This is not uncommon, as said, since most RL countries are often not so "pure" in the separation of policy vs. implementation of policy. Also, the "executive orders" of the US President are more a tradition than a law (since they're not even embodied in the Constitution). Like so many similar things, "tradition" tends to get codified (ie. structured, organised, documented) over time.

It's fun to compare the US, British, and French systems in their respective views of the way "executive acts" should be passed :) (the British, as usual, have the more humourous traditions; the French system is solidly codified). Regardless of the differences, there is a common view to all of them:

  • They imply an execution of a law, and not a policy

  • They are issued always by the branch with executive powers (and never by the one with legislative powers)

  • They can always be overruled by any contradictory new law by the branch with legislative power (ie. when it is felt that the executive act is establishing de facto policy, and not simply implementing it); in some cases, the executive act can also be deemed inconstitutional.

In Neufreistadt's case, since it's the same branch that has both legislative and executive powers, it's not unusual that both types of acts are issued — ie. laws and their implementation. Looking back in time, we can easily see that the NFS RA has issued many more executive acts than legislative ones, although, with such a small Code of Laws, it's not easy to see the difference between "laws" and "executive acts" in some cases.

Either way, I hope this helps to clarify both roles. The NFS RA is, to a degree, a one-cameral system with both legislative and executive powers. Modern democracies tend to separate these two powers, mostly because that adds an additional degree of validation, while increasing efficiency — "legislative bodies rule, executive bodies govern" — since the scope of both powers is rather different: the legislative is about overall policy, the executive about managing a strategy for implementation.

I just wished to point out that, when trying to implement a separation of those two powers, it should be clear to everybody concerned where exactly the separation is done, what precisely the "powers" are, to which extent they can be exercised, and how they are balanced and checked.

The exact model on how this should be implemented is naturally the role of "policy" set by the RA; to my understanding, both parties at the RA have proposals in that regard. To my mind, this all makes sense; after all, a company (a mini-government by itself!) cannot be managed on a daily basis by the Shareholder Assembly. They have it to settle on overall policy, and then elect among them a CEO (and possibly some VPs) to handle the running of the company on a daily basis. Companies are not democracies, though :) but they certainly have similar concepts.

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Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Hehe thanks Sudane. Actually, this is also part of the fun of Neufreistadt, and my role in it — to learn more :)

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Post by Justice Soothsayer »

I think some confusion has been caused by the use of the term “Executive Actsâ€

Claude Desmoulins
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Post by Claude Desmoulins »

Thank you Gwyn. Your and Jon's comparisons to administrative policy and (USA) Executive Orders were very helpful in clarifying this for me.

I'm very willing to let some sort of administrative policies happen. Salzie has hinted at the need for these for some time, and the RA certainly doesn't need to vote on every detail of implementation. I think the provision for a Sim Planning Committee in the expansion act was an attempt to move in this direction and take the detailed planning of CN out of RA meetings.

Executive orders make me a bit more wary. As an American, I'm hearing a lot about those lately. A significant proportion of the time in my country, executive orders are used to circumvent the legislative process when a given proposal simply doesn't have the votes, or the executive wishes to keep a course of action secret.

The executive orders can be for good (think emancipation proclamation) or perhaps not so good IMHO (NSA wiretaps sans FISA). But I am troubled by them generally to the extent they may seek to replace the legislative process.

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