Frijters: Against sortition

Paul Frijters is a Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland and an Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University’s Research School of Social Sciences.

Frijters has written a post titled “Would sortition help against corruption?” in which he lays out his thinking about “what is likely to happen to the problem of special interests in Australia in two different scenarios: if we’d select our MPs randomly, or if we’d decide on mayor policies via citizen juries.”

Frijters’s concluding paragraphs:

I used to be quite charmed of the idea of citizen juries for policies and even for deciding on who would be in parliament. It sounded so democratic, such an elegant solution to the problem of special interest groups worming their way into our democratic institutions. It seemed like a magic solution for hard problems.

On reflection though, I find myself on the side of Edmund Burke and Socrates, who both denounced the idea as silly and unworkable. I agree with them: it is hard to see what use small random groups of citizens would be for policy-making in modern Western institutions.

An interesting discussion follows the post, with several discussants who seem to be aware of the idea and who seem to have given it some thought.