Short refutations of common objections to sortition (part 4 of 4)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

16. Why not use direct democracy?

“Direct democracy” is not a democratic mechanism – it suffers from much of the same fundamental problems of electoral systems.

Much in the same way that an electoral candidate has to have the backing of powerful people or organizations in order to become well-known enough to have a chance to be elected, so a proposition has to have powerful backing in order to become well-known enough to have a chance to appear on the ballot. Just like people have no real way to know how well a particular elected official represents their views and interests, so it is difficult to know what the effects of a particular proposition will turn out to be.

In addition, there is too much for government to handle for the cumbersome proposition mechanism to handle. Much of the business of government will necessarily be handled by professionals. “Direct democracy” offers no mechanism for controlling those professionals as they carry out the day-to-day workings of the government.

17. An electoral career provides training for statesmanship.

That is a very questionable assertion. An electoral career provides training for manipulation and self-promotion. A person habituated in such ways of thinking is not likely to pursue policy which serves the public.

18. 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?

Yes. Opinion polls show that elected government is unrepresentative according to the simple criterion of whether people believe that it serves them – they don’t. And, no, according to measures of wealth and income distribution the elites are not less powerful today than they were a century ago. Finally, no, the median standard of living has been stagnating or falling for the last few decades.

Sources for some of the objections:

2 Responses

  1. […] in one way or another. (In particular, all of these objections have been addressed briefly in the series of 4 posts titled “Short refutations of common objections to sortition”.) The comments here relate […]


  2. […] Some years ago I wrote a set of posts refuting several standard arguments against sortition (1, 2, 3, 4). […]


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