Threlkeld: Referendums not ideal for public input

Referendums not ideal for public input on laws, taxes

Simon Threlkeld
The Spectator [Hamilton, Ont] 16 Dec 1998: A11.

Monday, Mike Harris tabled his Balanced Budget and Taxpayers Protection Act. The act requires the Ontario government to get public consent in a referendum vote before increasing corporate, personal, retail, gasoline and employer health taxes.

One of the basic ideas of democracy is that the government ought to carry out the wishes of the people. In a fully democratic society, government would not be able to impose laws the public does not want. Instead, the government’s laws would require public consent.

Mike Harris and his cabinet think public consent is a great idea for certain tax increases they happen to oppose. But when it comes to requiring public consent for any legislation they might support, it’s no thanks.

However, the democratic approach is for all laws to get public consent, not just those hand-picked by a particular government.
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Lasserre: Sortition in politics – the false good idea, part 2

This is the second and final part of a translation of an article by Tommy Lasserre. The first part is here. Again, proofreading and corrections of the translation are welcome.

Sortition eliminates popular participation

While fewer and fewer Frenchpeople bother vote, the membership of parties evaporates, the feeling of powerlessness intensifies, the advocates of stochocracy seem to think that the new selection mechanism could revitalize popular participation. After all, since each person could be called upon to assume political responsibilities, or see their spouse, their neighbor, or their colleague be called to assume them, it is natural that they would grow interested in political questions. Likewise, the disappearance of the political caste would restore the enthusiasm which multiple betrayals have drained over the years. However, this argument in favor of sortition seems unconvincing.

First, everyone must know that the chance of finding yourself sitting in the assembly, or even seeing one of your acquaintances sitting in the assembly, remains extremely small. Using the proposal discussed in the introduction and considering the existing electorate, there are 45 million registered voters (that is without considering those who meet the criteria but are not registered, or expected population growth), the sample selected for exercising the sovereignty for the people in the assembly would represent 0.004% of the electorate. This means that each year only one person in 25,000 would be drawn. Of course, this is better than the chance at the lottery, but it must be admitted that the chances of knowing someone who was allotted remain tiny.
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