Making A Case for Democracy By Sortition

Google Alerts found the following proposal and discussion, going much along the standard lines.

The Athenian magistrate system had many problems during it’s long life, and one of them was the issue of rule via oligarchy: in a democratic system driven by voter elections (as championed by Socrates), magistrates could effectively buy their seats. In turn, the Greek administration created by popular vote came represent only the interests of the wealthy.

This problem was solved by discarding elections in favor of sortition – simply drawing from the public at random whom would hold what seat for a given term.

I think this is a system that ought to be seriously considered for use today (of course it will never be, but whatever, I can pretend that this is totes up for debate somehow & somewhere).

…So you just pick people at random, and boom, there’s your government?

In essence, yes. There’s an annual lottery (or bi-annual, or however many times over ‘X’ time period you want to rotate people out), and everyone that meets eligibility criteria (so, presumably, no children) are included in said lottery. If your name / SSN / whatever is drawn, you fill a seat. It’s a paid position, just like today, and you otherwise do exactly what government officials do (or are supposed to do) right now.

The contagion effect

Although the following is not an example of sortitionally selected participants, it does highlight the ‘contagion effect’ of a focused, widely-reported deliberation by diverse and contending political positions.

I suppose a comparison could be made to Fishkin’s Deliberative Democracy events. This one was in Canada in 1991.

Excerpting from a message from Tom Atlee of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation:

I’d like to highlight what I think of as the most innovative example of that “contagion effect…beyond direct participants” — the 1991 Maclean’s “The People’s Verdict” initiative.

Maclean’s is Canada’s big glossy newsweekly.  Key features of their initiative and July 1, 1991 issue were:
a.  a citizen deliberative group chosen to embody the diversity – specific differences – found in the conflicted Canadian population;
b.  powerful group process and facilitation (by Roger Fisher of GETTING TO YES fame)(even though the group ultimately transcended the process for their key interpersonal breakthrough);
c.  an article early in their multi-article coverage that featured half-page bios (with pictures) of each of the dozen participants, which allowed readers to learn which participants they identified with and which ones they initially viewed as adversaries;
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