Concept 12

ORIGINAL SHORT FORM VERSION:  “The Conference shall observe the spirit of A.A. tradition, taking care that it never becomes the seat of perilous wealth or power; that sufficient operating funds and reserve be its prudent financial principle; that it place none of its members in a position of unqualified authority over others; that it reach all important decisions by discussion, vote, and whenever possible, substantial unanimity; that its actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy; that it never perform acts of government; that, like the Society it serves, it will always remain democratic in thought and action.”

Principle of the Concept:


One Thing You Need To Know:
This Concept Simply Reviews the 6 Warranties

This Concept Simply Reviews the 6 Warranties

So, while they are all pretty self-explanatory, let’s review them:

1.) The Conference shall never become the seat of perilous wealth or power.
Does this mean we should have NO money and NO authority? Nope! It means we should have SOME money and SOME authority. For example, as long as we continue to hold individual members to a certain giving amount annually, remind groups to not give in excess, and continue to not take outside contributions; we are likely to not see excess wealth as an issue. Regarding the idea of power, as long as we remain focused on “spiritual” power and not “human” power, the Conference will continue to function effectively.

2.) Sufficient operating funds, plus an ample reserve, should be it’s prudent financial principle.
Doing the work of A.A. for the newcomer requires a measured balance of time, talents, services & dollars. As long as we continue to make prudent business decisions with our spending, keep a fair amount of money in reserve to cover any losses that could cripple us; we can continue to remain solvent and do the work of carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic.

3.) None of the Conference members should ever be placed in a position of unqualified authority over any of the others.
While this has been extensively discussed in Concept 4 (Participation/Voting), it was important enough to be re-stated and to be the subject of this Warranty. Bottom Line: This Warranty is an expression of deep and loving respect of the spiritual liberties of our fellows and ensures we remain ever vigilant to it.

4.) That all important decisions be reached by discussion, vote, and, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity.
While there may be some that believe A.A. moves at a snails pace at times when doing its business, this Warranty helps us safeguard against snap decisions and harsh or overbearing simple majorities (read: bleeding deacons). It also helps to make sure the minority opinion is always heard. Time permitting, we need to allow for extensive debate to secure a heavy majority (substantial unanimity) for all critical decisions. On a very rare occasion, time may require we take only a majority, but the practical and spiritual results of the practice of substantial unanimity have proved invaluable time and time again.

5.) That no Conference action ever be personally punitive or an incitement to public controversy.
This Warranty guarantees A.A. will never inflict personal punishment upon individual members for violations of its principles, for their beliefs, or for their behavior. We need never resort to methods of personal attack. It goes against every sound spiritual principle we stand for. For much the same reason, we do not get involved in public controversy – even in self-defense. Nothing will tear down our unity faster than members getting involved in a public discourse, no matter how promising the payoff might be.

6.) That though the Conference may act for the service of Alcoholics Anonymous, it shall never perform any acts of government; and that, like the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous which it serves, the Conference itself will always remain democratic in action and in spirit.
This is simple. We abstain from any form of authoritative government. We must always stay democratic in thought and action and maintain a spirit of mutual respect and love – one member for another. This approach helps to provide mutual trust where no action be taken in anger, haste or recklessness. Brought together, these practices are the very essence of democracy – in action and in spirit.

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

This Concept consists of the General Warranties of the General Service Conference. It is cast in stone; that is, although Bill leaves the door open for alterations and changes in the other Concepts and points out that the rest of the Conference Charter “can be readily amended,” these General Warranties — like the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions — be changed only by “written consent of three quarters of all A.A. groups” in the world!   Why?

Because “these Warranties indicate the qualities of prudence and spirituality which the Conference should always possess . . . . These are the permanent bonds that hold the Conference fast to the movement it serves.”

The Warranties also express spiritual principles which apply to all other A.A. entities as well. Let us, then, consider these principles one by one:

Warranty One: “The Conference shall never become the seat of perilous wealth or power.” The Seventh Tradition protects us against the accumulation of too much money. So long as we refuse to take outside contributions and limit individual member’s donations, “we shall not become wealthy in any perilous sense.” And if we live by Tradition Two — that “our ultimate authority is a loving God” and that “our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern” — then we are safe from perilous power.

Warranty Two: “Sufficient operating funds, plus an ample Reserve, should be its prudent financial principle.” Although many of us as active alcoholics were free spenders, when it comes to supporting “A.A. service overhead, we are apt to turn a bit reluctant.” Yet, in A.A. the cost of the service office is relatively low in terms of the number of groups served, and if the need for support is made clear, the contributions are forthcoming. The Reserve Fund should be one full year’s operating expenses of the G.S.O. and the Grapevine. The Reserve Fund comes almost entirely from income from the sale of A.A. literature, which also is used to make up the deficit between group contributions and the cost of group services.

Warranty Three: “None of the Conference members shall ever be placed in a position of unqualified authority over any of the others.” This principle is discussed earlier in Concept IV, but “it is so important, we have made it the subject of this Warranty” — a “strong stand against the creation of unqualified authority at any point in our Conference structure.”

Warranty Four: “That all important decisions should be reached by discussion, vote, and wherever possible, by substantial unanimity.” This Warranty is, on the one hand, “a safeguard against any hasty or overbearing authority of a simple majority; and, on the other hand, it takes notice of the rights and the frequent wisdom of minorities, however small. This principle guarantees that all matters of importance, time permitting, will be extensively debated, and that such debates will continue until a really heavy majority can support every critical decision.”

Warranty Five: “That no Conference action shall ever be personally punitive or an incitement to public controversy.” Although practically all other societies and governments find it necessary to punish individual members for violations of their beliefs, principles or laws, Alcoholics Anonymous finds this practice unnecessary.

When we fail to follow sound spiritual principles, alcohol cuts us down. No humanly administered system of penalties is needed. This unique condition is an enormous advantage to us all, one on which we can fully rely and one which we should never abandon by resorting to personal attack and punishment. Of all societies, ours can least afford to risk the resentments and conflicts which would result were we ever to yield to the temptation to punish in anger.

For much the same reason, we cannot and should not enter into public controversy, even in selfdefense. Our experience has shown that, providentially, A.A. has been made exempt from the need to quarrel with anyone, no matter what the provocation. Nothing could be more damaging to our unity and to the worldwide goodwill which A.A. enjoys, than public contention, no matter how promising the immediate dividends might appear.

Some situations which may require Conference consideration are:

A.A. may come under “sharp public attack or heavy ridicule” — perhaps “With little or no justification in fact. Our best defense in these situations would be no defense whatever — namely, complete silence at the public level. If the criticism of A.A. is partly or wholly justified, it may be well to acknowledge this privately to the critics — with our thanks.

Public violations of A.A. Traditions.

Our own members may try to use the A.A. name for their private purposes. “Aggressive or punitive action, even in this area, must be omitted. Privately, we can inform Tradition-violators that they are out of order. When they persist, we can use such other resources of persuasion as we have. in the long run, though, we shall have to rely mainly on the pressures of A.A. opinion and public opinion.”

“Another kind of problem is the severe internal disagreement that comes to unwelcome public attention.” As G.S.O. “is not a police operation,” we can only offer A.A.’s experience as a matter of information.

Warranty Six: “That though the Conference may act for the service of Alcoholics Anonymous, it shall never perform any acts of government; and that, like the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous which it serves, the Conference itself will always remain democratic in thought and action.”

The A.A. Traditions accord the individual member and the A.A. group extraordinary liberties. In fact, we A.A.s probably enjoy more and greater freedoms than any Fellowship in the world. We claim this as no virtue. We know we have to choose conformity to A.A.’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions or else face dissolution and death.

“Because we set such a high value on our great liberties and cannot conceive that they will need to be limited, we here specially enjoin our General Service Conference to abstain completely from any and all acts of authoritative government which could in any way curtail A.A.’s freedom under God. We expect our Conference always to try to act in the spirit of mutual respect and love — one member to another.

“Freedom under God to grow in His likeness and image will ever be the quest of Alcoholics Anonymous. May our General Service Conference be always seen as a chief symbol of this cherished liberty.”

The text above is an excerpt from the A.A. conference approved pamphlet (P8) The Twelve Concepts for World Service Illustrated.  Download your own copy of the full pamphlet.


  1. How do we guard against becoming a “seat of perilous wealth or power”?
  2. How do we practice prudent use of our Seventh Tradition contributions and literature revenue?
  3. Do we insure the spiritual liberties of all A.A. members by not placing any member in the position of absolute authority over others?
  4. Do we try to reach important decisions by thorough discussion, vote and, where possible, substantial unanimity?
  5. As guardians of A.A.’s traditions, are we ever justified in being personally punitive?
  6. Are we careful to avoid public controversy?
  7. Do we always try to treat each other with mutual respect and love?

This checklist offered as part of Service Material from the General Service Office (SMF-91).  Download your copy of the complete checklist.