Reimagining democracy


6 Responses

  1. This was “re-imagined in the 1960s by Ernst Callenbach, by Ted Becker in 1976 and 2000 and Lyn Carson and Brian Martin in 1999. This is really re-re-re-imagining democracy. Hope you cite your predecessors. TB


  2. The first “re-imagning” of the modern age that I am aware of is that of CLR James in 1956.

    The author here only cites Van Reybrouck. I am not sure who Van Reybrouck cites.


  3. Ted, do you have a reference of Callenbach discussing sortition in the 60’s? I am only aware of A Citizen Legislature which is from the 80’s, meaning that it is preceded by Dahl’s After the Revolution.

    BTW, the second sortition advocacy piece I am aware of, chronologically speaking, is by Sydney J. Harris.


  4. The cartoon appears to be a reference to lottery voting rather than sortition? This is not supported by Callenbach or Carson and Martin.


  5. Michael Phillips published a piece advocating sortition in the 1970s. I think it was in Co-Evolution Quarterly. Well before A Citizen Levislature by him and Ernest Callenbach.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, David. I found this online:

    New Age Doctrine is out to lunch on three issues

    By Michael Phillips, CoEvolution Quarterly, Summer 1980

    It is easy to criticize excessive consumption, competitive marketplace values, and dollar-dominated political institutions and multinational corporations.

    We would like to suggest that a similar but more courageous critical eye be applied to peer views on three core issues affecting our planet villages, recycling and democracy.



    Democracy is what this country was founded on, what several million men have died for in two world wars, what we impose on nations we defeat in wars (constitutions, elections, etc.), and what our peer group suggests as the solution to the problems of big government, big labor, and big business, and nearly everything else. The universal solution found in all “new age” literature is more local self-governance, decentralized democracy. The reason that this is universally suggested is that we don’t know of any other form of governance than what we call “democracy,” which is really elected representation.

    Elected representation, on any level, local self-government or the U.S. Congress, is a ludicrous farce that needs a drastic overhaul. The same people who want more democracy, when asked about the U.S. Congress in a Gallup poll, say overwhelmingly that their representatives are “crooks.” People view local elected officials similarly; the occupation group that is given the lowest rating is that of elected representatives. The majority of Americans are so repulsed by the election process that they don’t even register to vote. The people who do vote usually have to choose from relatively wealthy male professionals. When elections of local boards were held extensively during the War on Poverty, apathy and corruption were often the result.

    The reason for this institutional failure is that people who are willing to “stand for election” are significantly unrepresentative. They are aggressive, verbal, self-serving, needing of excessive attention, and are efficient in suppressing their feelings and emotions.

    We need much more experimenting with our governance systems before we ask for more of the same. One alternative is to have random legislatures. With this approach, decision-making bodies are selected by lottery from all the people affected. It is truly representative.

    Another alternative would be to modify our current election system by offering the voters a ballot choice of “none of the above.” When a majority voted for “none”, a new slate of candidates must be chosen.

    Many traditional cultures, and some modern non-violence organizations, use pyramids of electors, with a rotation of elected positions, and use the consensus decision making process.

    Many forms are available when we seek them out; we need to experiment with them.


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