Luck of the Draw – a screenplay

Posted as a comment by Ronald Mercer (coach1640280)

Narrative description:

Time: Not too distant future.
Setting: America after the second democratic revolution.
America has undergone a second democratic revolution where the constitution was significantly altered to adjust to new global economic, climate, and security (terrorism) conditions.
A constitutional convention was held. A new congress was formed, among other things, keeping the basic congressional house structure and reforming the senate by making it a chamber of 300 sortitioned senators serving 5 year terms.
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Women’s seat reservation lottery in India

India, the ‘world’s largest democracy’ proposes lottery-cum-rotation to encourage women’s representation: Rajya Sabha (upper house of India) passes Women’s Reservation Bill  Mar 9, 2010

 NEW DELHI: The controversial yet historic Women’s Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in Parliament and state legislative bodies, was passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday after two days of high drama that saw suspension of seven members who violently disrupted proceedings.

 The bill seeks to reserve for women 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 out of a total of 4,109 seats in the 28 State Assemblies. 

(It seems that the 1/3 of constituencies to be reserved for women will be decided by a (one-off?) lottery; after that the ‘reserved’ constituencies will be rotated.) Continue reading

Dahl’s arguments against an allotted legislature

In his 1970 book, After the Revolution?, Robert A. Dahl suggests appointing by lot advisory committees for the president of the U.S., for congresspeople, for state governors and for large city mayors[1]:

Let us imagine that the membership of each advisory council were to consist of several hundred constituents picked by the same procedures used to ensure randomness in modern sample surveys; that the citizen selected would be required to serve […]; that suitable provisions would insure against hardships arising from the obligation to serve – for example, the citizen selected would not only have all relevant expenses taken care of but if he (or she) were poor or unemployed he (or she) might receive a stipend, while an employed person would continue to receive his (or her) regular pay; that one would serve for a year and be ineligible for a second term; that a council might meet at intervals for a total of several weeks in the course of a year; that it would have its own presiding officer (and a professional parliamentarian); that it would invite the elected official to meet with it, to answer questions, hear the debate and discussion…

A timid thinker would have focused on making the argument supporting such an idea against “conventional critics” who would argue that “the proposal goes too far”. Dahl, however, dismisses those critics with one paragraph, and spends the rest of the discussion (pp. 150-153) arguing against “a less conventional critic” who argues that the proposal “does not go far enough” because it does not suggest using the lot to replace elections for selecting government officials.

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Media vouchers

Anticipating the supposed upcoming collapse of the corporate news system, Robert McChesney and John Nichols are looking for ways to fund the news media (book, interview). They support a voucher system.

The idea is very simple: every American adult gets a $200 voucher she can use to donate money to any nonprofit news medium of her choice. […] This funding mechanism is the centerpiece of our policy recommendations, and we mean for it to apply to public, community and all other nonprofit broadcasters and the new generation of post-corporate newspapers as well as Internet upstarts. […] Qualifying media ought not, in our view, be permitted to accept advertising; this is a sector that is to have a direct and primary relationship with its audience. These media can accept tax-deductible donations from individuals or foundations to supplement their income. […] We would also suggest that for a medium to receive funds it would have to get […] at least 100 people to sign on.

The authors do not state this explicitly, but it seems that their conception of the voucher system for news media is very similar to the standard conception of the electoral system for government. Continue reading

Jorge Cancio: Invitation to a Debate

Invitation to a Debate: Sortition and Sortition Chambers as Institutional Improvements of Democracy by Jorge Cancio. The English abstract follows. Main text is in Spanish.

I start off inviting my readers to exercise their imagination and then explaining a proposal of creating new “sortition chambers” on all administrative levels – from a chamber at the same level as the present-day Spanish Congress and Senate down to sortition chambers for each municipality. They essentially would be an addition to present-day institutions and would partake in the powers which are held today by elected representatives and officials, although the proposal envisages that in the short run they could be out-voted by the elective institutions. They would exercise their powers according to deliberative procedures.

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More Keith Sutherland on openDemocracy

Where’s the Democracy?

The annual British Academy lecture was delivered this week by M.H. Hansen, a leading authority on Athenian democracy and the ancient Greek polis. Professor Hansen’s thesis was that Montesquieu’s doctrine of the separation of powers – the model used by the founders of the American constitution – is well past its sell-by date. This is because a) the leaders of modern ‘democracies’ have assumed powers that are normally associated with seventeenth-century absolute monarchs and b) because the prerogative of modern legislatures is regularly usurped by the judiciary.

Positive action or a portrait in miniature?

Trevor Phillips, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, claimed on Sunday that it is time for “positive action” to end the predominance of “white, middle-class lawyers” in parliament. Speaking ahead of an online conference, Human Rights in the Post-Election UK, he called on the three main party leaders to ensure that the next generation of MPs more accurately reflects the social makeup of the population.

Lotteries for Cab Licenses

Just when you thought the anti-lottery arguments couldn’t get any stupider…

I would suggest that anyone who thinks that simply entering a lottery for a cab license is “blasphemous” needs to read Thomas Gataker’s The Nature and Use of Lots (now back in print thanks to Conall Boyle). It’s almost 4 centuries old, but it’s more up-to-date than the religious texts that many of these folks are using to control their lives.