A common man must ask a man of influence for whom he must vote

Lawrence Lessig points to a quote of Patrick Henry at the Virginia Ratifying Convention in which he points at the weakness of the virtue-based justification for elections:

It has been said, by several gentlemen, that the freeness of elections would be promoted by throwing the country into large districts. I contend, sir, that it will have a contrary effect. It will destroy that connection that ought to subsist between the electors and the elected. If your elections be by districts, instead of counties, the people will not be acquainted with the candidates. They must, therefore, be directed in the elections by those who know them. So that, instead of a confidential connection between the electors and the elected, they will be absolutely unacquainted with each other. A common man must ask a man of influence how he is to proceed, and for whom he must vote. The elected, therefore, will be careless of the interest of the electors. Continue reading

Representation in the electoral system

Theoretical considerations show that the electoral system cannot be expected to produce government that represents the values and interests of the general public. The two mechanisms advanced for the idea that the electoral system is representatives – the virtue based mechanism and the rewards based mechanism – both do not withstand scrutiny. The widespread support for the 2011 anti-government protest movement in the West indicates that in many countries the public sentiment is that government is indeed not representative.

In a 2005 paper called “Inequality and democratic responsiveness” Martin Gilens makes an empirical study of representativity:

Abstract By allowing voters to choose among candidates with competing policy orientations and by providing incentives for incumbents to shape policy in the direction the public desires, elections are thought to provide the foundation that links government policy to the preferences of the governed. In this article I examine the extent to which the preference/policy link is biased toward the preferences of high-income Americans.
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Lottery – our cunning little ‘Swiss army knife’?

Randomness – using a lottery – can be a crafty little tool in many ways other than selecting Citizens Juries. How it works depends on human psychology. We know what selection by lottery is meant to do – keep Human Judgement out of it! Or to put it more formally: it is either its ‘sanitizing’ effect (Peter Stone) or the arrationality effect (Olly Dowlen).

But human psychology comes into it as well. Which is more valuable – a gift of 1 Euro or a lottery ticket with a 1 in a 1,000,000 chance of  500,000 Euro?

Easy, say you hyper-rational kleroterians! Take the money.

Not so! The General Public are quite happy to buy tickets every week for such a lottery with an expected loss of 50% of your stake. There’s something about lottery prizes that makes them more valuable than the expected  prize – and can also make a small loss more painful than a large gain. The statistician Jimmy Savage discovered these ‘irrational’ traits of the human mind when developing Decision Theory.
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Sortition noted by far-right group


Although electoral representation is a discredited system, White Nationalists should not give up on the idea or virtues of democratic representation but should seek alternative ways of achieving this through sortition — the selection of representatives through a randomized process like a national lottery.

The political potential of sortition is virtually unknown in White Nationalist circles. Edgar Steele mentioned it briefly in his book Defensive Racism arguing that juries, which are selected by sortition, should not only decide questions of fact, i.e. whether the accused has broken the law, but also importantly that they also be allowed to rule on the legitimacy of the law in question.[1] This essay goes far beyond Steele’s proposals and argues that sortition should play a decisive role in the political process itself, so much so that bad laws never see the light of day and are killed in their drafting stage.

Citizens Jury on alcohol related violence in South Australia

news.com.au reports:

A “CITIZENS’ jury” will deliberate on Adelaide’s future and deliver their verdict to the State Government.

Forty randomly selected South Australians will consider how to make the city both vibrant and safe and their recommendations will go to Parliament.

Premier Jay Weatherill will outsource this latest incarnation of “debate and decide” to a not-for-profit organisation, the newDemocracy Foundation. It boasts the support of a range of luminaries and former politicians and is dedicated to finding a “better system” of government.

It will invite about 20,000 randomly selected people to apply, then use an algorithm to find 40 people who are broadly representative of the community.
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Louis offers sortition to the Belgian parliament

A commenter draws attention to a recent speech by Belgian MP Laurent Louis:

According to the description on the YouTube page, Louis is presenting a proposal based on the ideas of Etienne Chouard which is laid out in detail here: http://www.lachambre.be/FLWB/PDF/53/2860/53K2860001.pdf.

An automatic translation of the introduction of the proposal (with my touch-ups) is as follows:

A motion for a resolution on the revision of the electoral system and the establishment of the draw members of the Federal Parliament of the Kingdom of Belgium

Ladies and Gentlemen,


The Kingdom of Belgium has gone through its history, a plurality of policies by landscapes from the bipartisan confrontation (1830-1893) to extreme multiparty (1965-present), all with a common point, the election. Belgium claims, like all Western countries which have adopted the same system, to be a representative democracy. Representative democracy is a “system in which elected representatives by the people develop and pass legislation.” This system, highly controversial for many years, does not give the people the opportunity to express itself and to pass laws (as in a direct democracy), but has “the great disadvantage of vesting the decision making power, not in the people themselves as the idea of ​​democracy suggests, but in representatives elected by the people and governments designated indirectly, not to mention even more indirect selection of public agencies and other institutions.”
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Nicholas Gruen: Establish special-purpose ‘democratic’ elites

Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics, Chairman of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation, an entrepreneur involved in a number of internet startups, wants to use sortition to “cut through the weaknesses of ‘vox pop democracy'”:

It turns out that it’s in the opposition’s interest to oppose government policy even where most informed people think the government is right, perhaps even where most of the people think it’s right. Whereupon the process of undermining community sentiment begins apace. On abstract and complex subjects, lots of effort can be expended emphasising uncertainties, nursing resentments, breaking the law to obtain emails and then using them to smear scientists’ motivations etc. Who cares that careful investigation showed that these emails didn’t illustrate what they were taken to illustrate? By then the caravan has moved on.

Other areas where there’s been strong consensus based around expert opinion which have then been exploited by oppositions include tax reform of virtually every hue from the mining tax to CGT, FBT and GST reform.
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Sortition in The Nation, fleetingly

A review of David Graeber‘s book, The Democracy Project, in The Nation makes a brief mention of his offer of sortition. The Nation‘s verdict: “That sounds nice, but it’s far easier said than done.”

For many who were attracted by slogans like “banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” the fetishization of process seemed like bait and switch. Horizontal decision making at general assemblies and small groups could go on for hours. Far from being democratic, the time-consuming process discriminated against people with jobs, those who had to take care of children or sick people, those with health problems of their own and those unfamiliar with anarchist culture and jargon, among others. Just as is the case with liberal structures, horizontalism encourages democracy in some contexts and dampens it in others.
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“Tennessee’s GOP Governor Rejects Medicaid Expansion, Leaves Residents To ‘Health Care Lottery’”

“Tennessee’s GOP Governor Rejects Medicaid Expansion, Leaves Residents To ‘Health Care Lottery’”

Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN) announced on Wednesday that he will not pursue Obamacare’s optional expansion of the Medicaid program, which would extend health coverage to an additional 140,000 uninsured Tennesseans […].


Since there are a significant number of low-income Tennessee residents whose annual incomes put them above the cut-off for TennCare coverage, but whose expensive medical bills make them unable to afford to purchase private insurance on their own, the state holds a “health care lottery” twice a year to allow those residents to call in for a special application for TennCare. The phone lines are flooded, and many people are unable to get through. Many of those people would be eligible to gain public health insurance coverage under the Medicaid expansion, and would no longer have to desperately dial a state number in the hopes of winning an elusive lottery to access the care they need.

Not the most edifying use of a lottery–a bit like cannibalizing someone by lottery because you’re feeling too lazy to go to the supermarket.

Machiavelli and the principle of distinction

In chapter XLVII of his Discourses, Machiavelli tells two stories:

The Roman People having become annoyed with the Consular name, and wanting to be able either to choose as Consuls men of the Plebs, or to limit their authority, the Nobility in order not to discredit the Consular authority by either change, took the middle course, and were content that four Tribunes with Consular power be created, who could come from the Plebs as well as from the Nobles. The Plebs were content with this, as it seemed to them to destroy the Consulship and give them a part in the highest ranks. From this a notable case arose, that when it came to the creation of these Tribunes, and they could have selected all Plebs, the Roman people chose all Nobles. Continue reading