Irish senior coalition party wants more allotted bodies

During a recent presentation of their party’s government reform plans, four parliament members from the Irish senior governing party Fine Gael said that “the party wants ’randomly selected’ members of the public to review issues like climate change, Seanad Reform and the Eighth Amendment”, reports. The report adds:

Fine Gael has previously suggested the issue of the Eighth Amendment could be put to a public forum similar to the Constitutional Convention.

The party has expanded on that with its proposal for a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’ consisting of members of the public who could carry out a “detailed review of a limited number of key issues”.

Their findings would be referred to the appropriate Oireachtas Committee and then to the government.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD insisted that the Citizens Assembly would not be a ‘talking shop’ that would put issues like abortion on the long finger: “Because it would be established by the Oireachtas, you could set specific timelines so there’s plenty of scope there to make the Oireachtas involved to a greater degree with the result of the discussions of the Citizen’s Assembly.”

On the issue of climate change, Corcoran Kennedy said that putting it to a Citizen’s Assembly would help make the issue “part of the dialogue of every citizen in this country”.

Why I am not a kleroterian

That is because I don’t think equality of power is the supreme objective or that sortition alone is sufficient to achieve it, or many other important objectives.

If we go back to my 1985 book, most of it was devoted to exploring many problems which have only tenuous links with sortition. All that other stuff was ignored, fair enough, and a group formed with “a passionate belief in sortition” as its bond. I, in the other hand have always emphasised that having good people in positions of power is not enough to ensure good outcomes. Everything depends on the procedures and processes by which those outcomes are produced. In particular, where collective decisions are arrived at by following certain procedures, the logic and dynamics of those procedures are just as important to the outcome as the input fed into them.

Moreover, I want to insist that while we can best understand the logic of such procedures, by studying simple models, the dynamics are always a matter of what works under what conditions and on what scale. For instance decision procedures depend on information flows, which depend on technologies of recording, storing, retrieving and circulating relevant information rapidly enough and in such quantities as the time available demands. What “ought to work” often doesn’t, as we all know.
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