How to introduce sortition in policy-making without constitutional change

The salient feature of modern democracy is that those who wield legislative and administrative power are chosen by popular vote in open competition between candidates. In practice the candidates generally present themselves as representatives of a party with a distinct ideological emphasis. Some voters who share a particular ideological position will normally support the same party, though they may disagree on many matters of policy. Others, less ideologically committed, are “swinging voters”, taking a more pragmatic view of which party to support. In either case, voters are constrained to chose between packages of personalities, policies and promises. The processes by which the parties arrive at these packages are not very transparent and are widely distrusted. For good reason, as I shall attempt to explain.

The alternative I propose is that the policies we adopt in any specific sphere of public decision-making should be determined by bodies that are statistically representative of those most directly affected by what happens in that sphere. These bodies would have no formal constitutional status. They would depend for their authority on community recognition. We would constrain our elected representatives to activate those decisions in legislation and administration on penalty of not being elected or re-elected.

Instead of being consumers faced with a choice between packages over whose contents we have little influence, we forfeit any attempt to impose an ideological flavour on the whole range of public decisions and concentrate on getting sound decisions in those matters that affect us most. The focus of these bodies would be on specific problem areas. There would be no attempt to prescribe for every possible eventuality. The whole would be treated as an ecosystem that mostly looks after itself, as various interactions adapt to eacn other. It is far too complex and unpredictable to be planned, but its stability and development are constantly being threatened by various human activities that may need to be regulated or eliminated.
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