Accountability and Sortition

In some sense, sortition side-steps the entire issue of “accountability,” in that none of the “legislators” on an allotted jury have any constituents to hold them accountable. For legislators, “accountability” assumes a division of interests or preferences between constituents and legislators, typically with elections (and the threat of removal) being used like a leash to keep the legislators in line, and prevent them from straying too far.

Jane Mansbridge of Harvard, who became president of the American Political Science Association in 2012 and authored the book “Beyond Adversary Democracy,” points out two approaches to accountability. The first is the “sanction” model of accountability (the dog leash). The other is selection of representatives who naturally, without external incentives, seek to represent the interests of constituents because they are congruous with their own.

Sortition expressly seeks to prevent “accountability” of legislators to the rationally ignorant, ill-informed, and fleeting preferences of the general population, while also preventing accountability to political and monied elites. I want my legislators to act as I would act if well informed, not as my current superficial understanding may suggest. So, with regards to legislative performance, sortition needs a different term than “accountability,” as a measure of its performance.

However, I think accountability absolutely IS the appropriate term for discussing the performance of the executive functions of government. But the accountability should be to allotted juries that are well-informed, rather than merely to an ill-informed and media-manipulated citizenry. Here sortition can play an important role in constituting juries for constantly monitoring the performance of government, with the job of hiring and firing executives.