Readers’ responses

This is my summary of points raised in the comment thread for my article in Haayal Hakore.

Representativity of sortition

  1. Would the sampled delegates produce representative policy?

    1. Would they bother to spend the effort to study public policy?

    2. Wouldn’t they be easy to manipulate?

    3. Wouldn’t they be easy to bribe?

    4. Wouldn’t they promote narrow interests, hoping to be rewarded later?

  2. Since there are many population characteristics, the sample would be unrepresentative according to some of those.

  3. If people can opt out, then shy people and people with interesting personal lives would be under-represented.

  4. The training and service experiences would likely cause people to change their minds about various issues and in this way become unrepresentative.

  5. Sampling probabilities – how likely is misrepresentation due to chance variations?

  6. Professionals in the system would be able to manipulate the allotted amateurs.

  7. Vote trading – allotted delegates will trade votes on issues they don’t care about for votes on issues they do care about.

  8. What would be the delegate training course? The organization controlling the training would wield significant political power.


  1. Is current government policy really unrepresentative? Isn’t the elite less powerful today than it was 100 years ago? Isn’t the standard of living increasing for everybody over time?

Areas of application of sortition

  1. Wouldn’t it be better to start at a non-national level?

    1. At the municipal level?

    2. At the workers’ union level?

    3. At a political party level? What about a party whose candidates are selected by sortition among its members?

    4. What size of organization is suitable for sortition?

    5. How should organizations that are not suitable for sortition be governed?

  2. Using sortition for appointing judiciary:

    1. Should justice be democratic? Isn’t political use of justice dangerous and typical of dictatorial regimes? Is this idea close to those of Carl Schmitt?

    2. Juries are more vulnerable to populism and rhetoric than a professional judge.

    3. Medicine is not democratic.


  1. Democracy is not the rule of the people, but popular participation in government.

    1. The public cannot and should not set the political agenda, but rather only express general satisfaction or discontent that should be a guide to the government.

    2. Democracy should involve the people but at the same time limit its caprices – this is the function of the electoral system.

  2. The way to represent the public is to request its renewed vote of confidence.

  3. Unelected bodies – the military, the courts – enjoy higher popularity than elected bodies.

Advantages of the electoral system

  1. Elected politicians possess proven organizational skills.

  2. Political parties provide the service of aggregating political opinion, averaging out extremist position and creating ideological concreteness and continuity.

  3. Elections provide accountability, sortition doesn’t.

    1. Some narrow or selfish interests require long term governing. Since holding to government power requires providing good public policy, this motivates elected officials to do so.

  4. Political movements select as their leaders and spokespeople their most intelligent and articulate members. With sortition they are represented by their typical members.

  5. An electoral career provides training for statesmanship.

  6. A chamber without party affiliation would be unable to reach decisions due to lack of organization.

  7. Individuals without party backing would be easy to buy and manipulate.

Shortcomings of average people

  1. Only a small minority of people is able to study matters in depth and produce ideas based on understanding and consideration.

    1. Need to apply IQ test-based filtering.

    2. Maybe have those who are drawn and do not meet the standards select substitutes who do.

  2. Do we really want the typical legislator to have the typical IQ?

  3. Do we really want the typical legislator to have the typical level of bargaining skills and cunning?

  4. If average people got as much media exposure as elected politicians do, we may find out that we don’t like the former any more than the latter.


  1. Why not use direct democracy?

9 Responses

  1. Here are my points about publicity, and I will post the substantive comments separately. That way you can delete these PR comments when they’re outdated. I am offering to volunteer with the PR bit.

    The more I explore Equality By Lot the more I’m impressed by the quantity of information and the quality of the discussions.

    When Yoram linked to some informative posts from 2 and 3 years ago, I realized that a lot of the work you Kleroterians are doing is virtually invisible on the Internet. I know it because months ago I actively searched and only happened upon one or two posts.

    There are some quick, easy remedies for the issue. Here are three.

    First, “tags” help posts appear in search results. For example the page we’re on should not only be filed under its current “categories” but it should also include tags taken from the post itself and words that someone is likely to search under. On this post, “direct democracy, deep democracy, participatory democracy, electoral systems, alternatives to elections, sortition, selection by lot, sortition in the judiciary, experts and democracy, representation, etc….” The more the better. You can create a template of recurring “tags” and then adjust it to the particular post by adding or deleting.

    Second, a “@Kleroterians” or “@EbyL” on Twitter could spread the word about new posts from and anything that you would like out to the general public. If you’d like, I could to set-up and (co)manage either account, and to spread word through my own social media circles as well.

    Third, is the easiest. This blog should have a .com or .org. It costs $10 for the first $5 for the second. To keep everything the same, i.e. have the url changed (redirected) WP asks $13/year. It is something to consider, that would make it just a bit easier for someone to find EbyL or to type it into a browser.


  2. Ahmed,

    Thanks a lot for your comments. I’ll republish them as a post to create a suitable space for discussion.


  3. Regarding the representativeness and demarchy or deep democracy in general, here are my two cents.

    It was raised that whether the aim of sortition is a) representativeness or b) curbing corruption could entail different institutional details. I call these the “pro-active” and “prophylactic” motivations. Related to these, is the fundamental question, “Why make decision as a group in the first place?” That is, why democracy at all. To me there are two main justifications usually mentioned for democracy or “group wisdom”: a) cancellation of errors and b) the power of deliberation.

    It seems that “error cancellation” would suggest direct democracy merely using a “like” button where the law of large numbers could fix everything. I do not think this is what we imagine to be good government, and I state the obvious that too many important issues are not “quantifiable” in this way. So, that leaves us with deliberation as the ultimate justification for democracy, or the deeper democracy that sortition aims to achieve. Instead of making nice distinctions on the different senses of the word “represent” let’s ask: “How do we make deliberation better?”

    I’ll leave that there because there is another ultimate driver of democracy, which is more pressing, “political equality.” If we want to achieve it, it seems clear to all of us, and is becoming clear to more and more people in the US, Europe, ME, that elections do not work.

    Which brings me to my most crucial point. If we want to have a new kind of government, one built on reflecting the collective knowledge, values, goals of a society and coordinating that society’s social action, we need new ideals and some new language to reflect them. We also need new words able to move and “e-move” people.

    Whether you call the form of the regime “demarchy” “sortitive democracy” “participatory democracy” or “lottocracy,” if you call it “government” you betray the ideal of equality and representativeness — and you miss a chance to articulate the new values of a new type of state.

    The word “govern” means to rule over, ultimately coming from the Greek ” kybernân = to steer and kybernḗt = helmsman. You cannot “govern” over equals, you can only govern inferiors or those who lack something, knowledge, virtue, money, that you have.

    To that end, I thought about this last week and gave it a (first) try at a new type of ideal state:

    Politdoche = representative coadjument entity organizing a body politic. Gr polis (city) + doche’ (received).

    This type of organization would receive/reflect a people rather than command them. If you do not like this word, please help me find a better one. Because language matters, as evidenced by the way “democracy” now has come to mean something rather undemocratic.


  4. Yoram,

    Congratulations for posting this. We need to study the objections that people bring up, so this is a very useful article.
    I hope you were able to answer them effectively.
    I think this list of objections could become the basis for an FAQ.
    It’s great that you’re getting to the outside world, and not just trading punches with Keith and me.

    On the subject of this blog, would it be possible to have links to all articles by a particular contributor? If this doesn’t involve a lot of work for someone it could be useful.


    We do seem to have a problem with terminology. Use an existing term, and it carries connotations for the reader which are not necessarily those you intend. Invent a term, and you’ve got to explain it every time you use it, if you want outsiders to understand. For my part, I think we should be economical with neologisms.


  5. Yoram, did you get any favourable responses?


  6. Campbell,

    > would it be possible to have links to all articles by a particular contributor?

    It turns out there is a widget for looking up posts by author. I just added it to the bottom of the right hand sidebar.

    > did you get any favourable responses?

    Nothing very enthusiastic. There were a couple of “pretty cool”s. This is more or less in line with my previous experiences. I did see that there were a couple of visits to this site coming through the links on that post. I hope it got some people thinking.


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